Hailey Gets Arrested
by Donna Smith Fee
Leo usually shoots me up but this time I am on my own.
Eight flower boxes on a brand new house designed to look old among turn-of-the-century Victorians on Boulevard had to be installed today. Inspired by an historic Queen Anne house in-town that belonged to a favorite daughter of a long-dead UGA law professor, it stood enormous and new among its lesser neighbors. From my perch on the top of the ladder, I installed the flower boxes on the upstairs windows. The air is so good up here, full of magnolias, pine and Varsity onion rings.
The O’Brien’s insisted on naming their Athens, Georgia retreat Key Cottage. The thinking, or lack there of, was the name was a clever nomenclature to show their wealth came in the form of lucky real estate transactions. No homage to the fact that the initial investment came from family money and a lot of it. Some of the transactions had been so profitable that Uncle Sam raised an eyebrow and was currently given thought to the O’Brien’s source of four-leaf clovers and creative accountants.
I could not miss my 7 o’clock shot for any reason. My body must have the elixir at the same time each day until the lining of my uterus was thick and layered like baklava. The smell of scented geraniums in the newly installed window boxes reminded me how simple it all was for the birds and bees.
The O’Brien’s loved the idea of an herb and vegetable garden and had asked that I make it happen after the installation. They had an Architectural Digest meets Martha Stewart image of their house in mind. I was surprised they didn’t petition to have pedicured goats on the perfectly green and stunningly short lawn. About two hours remained for me to dig the ten feet by ten garden before my shot. The tiller comes out of the truck but not before I check on my syringe and its contents of progesterone in sesame oil. The progesterone is supposed to keep me ready for eggs and sesame oil is simply the conveyer. The thick concoction goes in easier if it is warmed a little so I put the loaded syringe on the dash of my truck. The late afternoon light makes the contents look so pleasant, like honey or bourbon. Leo and I have wondered if we could also use the leftover drugs for stir-fry. Tofu, soy, and those tiny little corn on the cobs.
The needle is a gleaming inch and a half long and every bit of its length will need to penetrate my thigh. It’s so much better to take the shot in the ass where my flesh is thick with years of ice cream and beef stew and cold Guinness. Six months of yoga and downward facing dog has not make me limber enough to administer this shot in any place other than my thigh. The needle’s thickness has its own measurement. That part of the needle is measured in gauges, like a shotgun. My needle is a 22 gauge, which means it is going to hurt like a bitch going in. I wish I had a shotgun filled with progesterone.
Before the progesterone, we shot up with Follistim and Repronex, which are supposed to pump me full of eggs like a springtime frog. I looked up Follistim on the Internet when it was first prescribed to us. Its origins make for an ironic subplot to my current dilemma.
The urine of post-menopausal nuns heavy with hormones originally produced the drug. Pure pee from Italian nuns working for the Pope. Full-bladdered, I imagined them walking single file across a vineyard with ancient vines. Entering a barn that housed barrels of burgundy strictly for religious purposes, they would hoist their heavy black robes above their knees and release the gold from their bladders. A previously selected nun would take the urine-filled cups into a special red cooler marked Medical and rush it off to Rome for processing. She would ride in a pumpkin-orange Karma Gia convertible, her habit flying behind her as she sped away from the holy convent.
Now the drugs are made in a lab. Nothing of interest in the sterility of white lab coats and austere technicians. The new drugs are more pure than those derived from the nuns but I’d rather hang my chances on a nun who drinks red wine than a lab tech who watches Bladerunner over and over and therefore, can’t get laid.
I pull the tiller out of the truck and begin turning newly greened lawn under the red clay soil. It still smells like my grandmother’s garden. I plant seedlings of heirloom tomatoes, green peppers, summer squash and cucumber. I know frost could still kill them but it is unlikely. I add basil, sage and rosemary. The garden looks beautiful and I am aware that the earth does not care what kind of seed you give it. I completely lose track of time and let 7 o’clock quietly pass. I hook up the sprinkler system to the garden and watch as the soil darkens with water as the sky follows suit. The basil releases its heady scent and sends my mind to the thought of chopped garlic searing in olive oil. Oil. Sesame oil …
Oh no! I panic and run to the truck, stumbling on the brick patio and careening into an assembly of empty terra cotta pots. A shard of pottery cuts my arm right in the crook of my elbow and my knees are scrapped like a kid’s first bike ride gone bad. My arm is bleeding like crazy and the dirt and sweat I’ve built up all afternoon is commingling with my blood. I take the bandana off my head and wrap it around my laceration.
I brush myself off the best I can and try to focus on this shot. Sitting on the lowered tailgate, I use the little alcohol swab that comes with the meds and clean a square of skin on my upper thigh. I look at my taunt legs and usually find comfort and pride in their strength. My legs are shaped well with rounded muscle that propels me on the beach, on my bike, and anywhere else I want to go. For the first time in my life I hate my thighs. I wish they were made of chocolate pudding so the needle would glide in effortlessly as a warm spoon. I take the needle and pretend Jeanie, our nurse from Atlanta’s premier infertility clinic, is next to me. She’s telling me the needle is just a dart. Be the dart, she says. You are the dart. Jeanie has the unenviable job of teaching woman like me and their partners to jab needles into our bodies like any common junkie. I am the dart. My left had squeezes the muscle of my thigh and I steady the needle over its target. I am the dart. I have to move fast to get the needle all the way in. I jam it into my leg and release my squeeze. The needle is not all the way in. It bends over like a poorly placed beach umbrella in shifting sand. I pull it out and have to start over again.
I hate Leo for not being here. I hate Athens for being so far away from Jeanie. My anger helps and this time the needle goes in straight and I try to relax as the thick potion slowly leaves the syringe and enters into me.
A blue and white police car pulls into the driveway. I look up at him. I wonder if I’ve set off some weird wireless alarm.
“Stop!” he yells. He turns on the siren even though there is no traffic to alert and he’s parked in a driveway. He gets out of the car and walks fast towards me. I see his flashlight swing against his hip. He is pale and bald and seems anemic.
“Turn that thing off, you fool!” I laugh.
I take the syringe out of my leg and wrap the spent needle in a towel.
“I’ll need that,” said the pale-faced cop. He left the car door open to his cruiser and I hear Rush Limbaugh ranting from his speakers.
“Evidence,” he squeaked, his voice giving his tenderness and ignorance away.
“Of what?” I can’t imagine why he wants a used syringe from a barren woman.
“Possession of an illegal substance, m’am. Now please hand that over.” He stood there with his hand out. He looked a like a trick-or-treater dressed up a like a cop and asking for candy.
“Okay, here you go. Careful you don’t stick yourself. Don’t know what that stuff will do to you.” The progesterone might soften him until he is more marshmallow than man.
I rub my leg where the shot went in and look at my arm where the bandana has stopped my cut from bleeding. The tiller has to be loaded back into the truck and I have to collect the rest of my tools before it gets too dark to see which it almost is.
“If you don’t mind, I must get back to work,” I ask him if he’d help me load the tiller. He does after putting the towel-wrapped syringe in his front pocket.
“What’s in the syringe?” he asks after I close the tailgate.
“None of your business.” I’m certainly not going to discuss my ovaries with this boy.
“I’m afraid it is,” he says and uses the two-way radio on his belt to call into the station.
“I have a female here, approximately 25 years of age. Neighbor called in complaint. Said person was next door with drug paraphernalia.” His voice squeaked excitedly. I can’t help but be delighted that he thinks I’m only 25. Maybe he’ll say how much I weigh. If he under guesses that by ten then I’ll be doubly stroked.
“Yes,” he said into the mike. “I have confiscated a used syringe.” A pause followed by undecipherable codes and static. “Yessir!” The young cop practically jumps up and down and then calms himself by a visibly deep breath.
“I’ll need to take you downtown,” he said. He couldn’t contain his smile.
“What?” I asked. “Downtown for what?”
“For possession of heroin. You know there’s a major epidemic here.
“Oh for God’s sake, don’t be ridiculous. Do I look like I use heroin?” He looked at me and measured every single detail from the bloodstained bandana to my sloppy, dirty work clothes and mud-encased boots. Maybe I do look like an addict but I had no idea what a heroin addict look like. I guessed they looked like everyone else. People who came to Athens for the music scene and the University sometimes lose their dreams here. Drugs help them forget what they can’t seem to find. Now a pipe and some weed is a different story entirely. I’d grow that if I could get away with it.
He reached for his handcuffs and held his hand out to grab mine but I yanked myself away from him and tried to get into my truck. Before I could open the door, his hand clamped around my wrists and slapped on the cuffs. He must have practiced this move at the academy with his bunkmate.
“I’m placing you under arrest for the possession of an illegal substance. You have the right to…”
“Don’t bother,” I said. “I’m not listening.”
“Well, I have to say it anyway.” He kept talking but all I could think about was Leo. Mean, absent Leo. His job as a wood carver had taken him to Boston to meet with wealthy clients. They wanted a full scene out of Moby Dick depicted on a mantle for their Nantucket estate. It would easily cost over $10,000 so Leo felt he had to go where the money was. What about me? What about my eggs? My shot? This would teach him. Suddenly I couldn’t wait to call him from jail.
On the ride downtown, I looked out the window. Boulevard had once been the home of Athens’ one and only streetcar and was therefore the widest in-town street. The houses were all beautiful, even the neglected ones. Those were my favorite as I had come to identify with them. Their systems were aging but with the right owner and financing, they could be jewels yet again. Along the sidewalk, every demographic in Athens was represented: the disenfranchised, the slackers, the academics, the townies, and the wanderers.
The jarring of the tires on the curb at the police station brought me back to reality. We were downtown and they were going to take me in. Someone who knew me was going to see me and suddenly my secret was going to be out. I, Hailey Thaxton, was infertile. Unable to have a child. Dried up. All those years of birth control and praying to whoever would listen for a negative pregnancy test were now a mockery. All I wanted was a baby.
Officer Carson pulled up to the station and quickly opened my door and helped me out. He held the evidence of my foray into infertility in his hands. If I just told them what it was, we could all have a good laugh and go home. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t say the words out loud. How could I admit that I was failing in the most human of endeavors?
We went into a small glassed-in room and sat down on metal chairs. I smelled burnt coffee and eyed the box of Krispy Kream donuts. What a cliché but I would happily eat several if offered. Especially if they were original glazed. Officer Carson left me there and told me someone would be right with me.
As my hunger grew, so did my anger. I was mad at Leo most of all but also mad at the doctor, my miscarriage a year ago, Jeannie the nurse, and mostly at myself for being such a loser. I knew I should not be ashamed for not getting pregnant. I knew it was not my fault. But what if it was? Had I eaten the wrong thing or partied too much in college or been born under the wrong zodiac sign?
Detective Mack walked into the room and sat down across from me. I knew him but not well. I’d seen him around town and we both followed the same bands. He had helped me out once when a guy I was dancing with mistook my enthusiasm for the music as an invitation to stick his hand on my boobs.
“Hello Hailey,” he said. His voice was deep and had a sweetness to it that helped calm me down. He put his elbows on the table and leaned into me just a bit.
“Hi,” I said. I’m not saying another word. He can call Leo.
“So, this is quite a predicament,” he smiled and offered me a cup of coffee.
“No thanks,” I said. I was really hungry now, almost starving. What I really wanted was dinner.
“I have to apologize for Officer Carson. He’s young.”
“Perhaps you should wean him before he starts cuffing locals,” I said. “I’m not a goddamn student.” I knew I was being obnoxious.
Detective Mack sat back in his chair and continued smiling at me.
“Look,” he said. “I’m pretty sure that’s not heroin in your syringe. You’d be curled up like a baby if you’d shot up less than a hours ago.”
At the word baby, I wanted to smack him and tell him he was cruel.
“We are going to ship it off to the drug lab in the morning but you could save us some time and just tell me what it is.”
I didn’t want it sent to a crime lab in Atlanta. I didn’t want the report to come back to a clerk at a desk who might tell what it was while standing in line at the Post Office.
“If I tell you, will you give it back?” I felt my voice give way as my eyes began to betray me. Don’t cry. Don’t cry.
“Depends on what you tell me. You’re here now so let’s just wrap this matter up and get you home.” He seemed to understand that at the very least I was not a druggie. At least not of an illegal kind.
“Insulin,” I lied.
The smile left his face and he stood up.
“Wait!” If he left then my chances of keeping this incident quiet would be blown to little bits. I already ran the risk of being in the on-line police blotter.
“I’ll tell you but I need to know that it won’t go any further than this room.”
“I can’t promise that until I know.” He sat back down and looked straight into my eyes. This was unbearable but I could play stare-down as good as anyone.
I slid my chair as close to him as I could. I cupped my hands around his ear and whispered in a voice so soft I could barely hear myself.
“Infertility drugs.” With that uttered out loud to a man I barely knew, I burst into tears and begged him to let me go home. I cried so hard that snot formed and ran along the top of my lip. It felt and tasted like a day-old oyster. Every muscle suddenly ached and my head throbbed as though I’d been hit in the head by a falling hammer. Repeatedly.
“You can’t drive home like this,” he cooed. His voice mellowed and he muttered quickly some words I didn’t hear. He quietly exited the room and left me at the table. I tried to take some deep breaths and used the dirty hem of my shirt to wipe my salty face. I was hungry, exhausted and wanting Leo desperately. The room was so bright and the metal table too cold, like a scientific experiment about to happen. I wanted to go home. I closed my eyes and imagined my warm bed with the bedside table stacked with favorite books and an enormous glass of deep red wine that tasted like earth and blueberries.
Detective Mack interrupted my meditation with the opening of the door. He had my towel-wrapped syringe in his hand and held it out for me. I took it and could not say anything.
“You know,” he said, “its none of my business but it’s really no big deal about the drugs. My kids are IVF kids. I got to see photos of them when they were just embryos. It’s a great little black and white shot and it’s in their baby books. It’s cool as cool can be.” He handed me a glazed original from the Krispy Kreme box. It was still warm.
I followed him out of the little glass room and into his car. Not a police car, a fact for which I was thankful. We drove the short distance to my house and did not speak. I thought about all the kids in the world and all the different ways they come into being. I thought about the garden I had planted that afternoon and how the roots were absorbing the water and the nutrients and the starlight. He pulled into my driveway and when he stopped the car, I opened the door to get out.
“Thank you,” I said. I felt like I should hug him or at least shake his hand.
“No problem. How are you feeling now?” he asked.
I thought about it for a second. I looked at my sweet little house and, for the first time in almost a year, believed that one day there would be kids living there. My kids.
“Cool as cool can be,” I said. And I meant it.
Donna Smith Fee was published in Deep South in February of 2011 with Hot Grits, Cold Heart. She continues to work on her novel when she’s not working in real estate or begging her children to eat dinosaur kale. She lives in Athens, Georgia, and goes to hear music whenever she can.