Growing Pains

It was a little before six a.m. when I heard my mom shouting from her bedroom

“Angie, Miguel, wake up! It’s time for school.”

I turned over in my bed and groaned, pulling the pillow over my head as I continued to sleep. A few minutes seemed to go by when I heard the small footsteps of my six-year-old brother headed to the bathroom to wash up. Any minute now, I thought. I squeezed my eyes shut to get the last few seconds of uninterrupted sleep.

“Angie! Get your ass up. It’s almost 7:30! Don’t make me come in there!”

I didn’t move or answer. Moments later I heard loud footsteps approaching my room. Aww shit here we go. I tightened the covers around me. I listened as my mom approached my bed, then she stopped. I could feel her; I could feel her breathing and glaring down at me. I could feel the anger spewing out of her like water from a whale’s blowhole. She was p-i-s-s-e-d pissed. Slowly I lowered the covers from my face to reveal only my eyes. I stared up at her waiting for her to say something.

“You do know that you were supposed to walk Miguel to the bus stop by eight, right?” She spoke stiffly. You could tell she was holding back screaming and ripping my face off.

“Uhhh…” I tried to think of something fast. “I thought you were taking him today, mom.”

“You knew I didn’t have time for that. I’m still doing work and I have to meet a deadline by 8:15 and I’m not even close, now get your lazy ass up and take him to the bus stop!”

 I stared up at her and completely tuned her out once she started giving me a lecture about being responsible and how hard life is blah blah blah.

It seemed as though I was looking at her face for the first time in years. I noticed the wrinkles on her forehead and the slight ones on the side of her mouth. When did those get there? She was only forty-two. Her lips were thin and chapped and the freckles on her nose seemed to be fading. Even her creamy tan skin seemed to have a grayer tinge these days. My eyes drifted to her hair, which was bunched into a chocolate-brown messy bun, I could see the red rubber band she used to tie it up. What happened to her? She used to be so beautiful and lively; I remember when she was happy and youthful. She used to smile all the time and she hardly ever yelled at Miguel and me. I remember braiding her long dark hair and telling her how much I wanted my hair to be exactly like hers. But that was forever ago, before we moved to the Bronx.

“Do you understand me?”

I jumped, as I focused back to what my mom was saying.

“Yeah, yeah, I heard you.” I watched as she left the room, slamming the door behind her. Bitch. I lay there in my bed starring at the ceiling for a moment before I finally got up. I checked the time on my phone—it was only 7:45, plenty of time. On my way to the bathroom I heard Miguel stomping his feet on the hardwood floors, waiting for me.

“Yo! Miguelito! Gimme, like, five minutes, OK?” The bathroom was cold and uninviting as I stared into the dirty mirror. My chest length hair was messy and tangled and it looked darker than normal in contrast to my pale skin. I brought my face closer to the mirror to examine myself; my eyes were still bloodshot from last night’s party and I had a small cut on my lip. Great. I ran back into my room and examined my wardrobe. I looked at the ugly tan-and-gray uniforms lodged in the corner at the back of the closet in disgust and threw on a black Roosevelt High hoodie, some medium wash skinny Levi’s and my favorite bleached-black Vans. As I started brushing my hair my brother called out to me

“Angie! C’mon! I’m gonna miss it,” he whined.

“Alright alright I’m walking down the steps now.” I tied my hair up into a messy bun and applied a thick coat of cherry lipstick before running down the steps.

“Lets go.” I said.

We walked the short block to the bus stop and waited for the bus. It was 8:02.

“Shit, I hope we didn’t miss it.”

We both looked up the street to see if the bus had passed but the street was empty.

“Hmm. Maybe it’s just late,” I tried to reassure him. Miguel hated being late for school.

“What time do you have to go to school, Angie?”

“Uhh, like around now, I guess.” I looked down at him and smiled.

“Are you late every day?” He said, with a shocked expression on his face.

“You could say that, but, uhh, Miguel, did you remember your lunch?”

I tried to change the subject. He stopped for half-a-second to think about it.

“Aww man! No, I forgot it on the counter! Should we run back for it?”

“Chill out, man,” I chuckled to myself as I took out a crumpled twenty from my pocket. We both looked down the street when we heard the engine of the old rusty school bus. When it pulled up to the stop Miguel gave me a hug. I leaned down to hug him back and kissed him on top of his little mop of sandy brown hair.

“Keep the change, buddy,” I whispered in his ear before he walked on the bus.

I waited for the bus to turn the corner before heading back in the direction of my house, but there was no way I was going back there—I had other plans. I walked two doors down from my house and hopped the gate, landing onto the overgrown lawn. I got up on my tippy-toes and tapped the window three times. Five minutes passed before my friend Carlo came to the window and smiled.

“Ahh, you’re early.” He chuckled while letting me in through the window.

“I know, I had to walk Miguel to the bus.”

“He didn’t ask why you weren’t wearing a uniform?”

“Nah, he’s cool, he kind of lets me do my own thing, you know?”

 I walked into the smoky dark room and fell lazily onto a dark blue worn couch. I closed my eyes for a few moments and was startled when I felt something cold on my hand.

“Hey, munchkin!” I squealed, as the little gray cat brushed against me again.

“Yo, where’s Tim?” I asked Carlo.

“He’s out getting it now. He’ll be back soon, don’t worry.”

I watched Carlo as he walked to the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water. He was very muscular and tan, very good looking. He was 20, older than I was by three years. I’ve liked him for as long as I could remember, but I didn’t know if he knew it or not, which was weird because I had been coming here every morning for the past year.

It didn’t take long for me to realize I was sweating.

“Oh my god, why is it like four thousand degrees in here? You do know that it’s May, right?” I laughed.

“Well, if you’re hot, why don’t you take that hoodie off? Not all of us can pay for central air,” he said.

I felt my face go red as I remembered I didn’t put a shirt on under the hoodie because I was rushing out of the house. Shit, what am I gonna do? Do I just sit here and bake? I can’t go home because I’m supposed to be in school. I sat there awkwardly for a moment and thought about what to do.

“So are you taking that off or no?”

I stared at him and smiled. “I’m Taking it off.”

 I pulled the hoodie over my head revealing my pale skin, inked in black flowers, and a black bra. Carlo laughed at me when he saw I wasn’t wearing a shirt and shook his head. He walked out of the room for what seemed like at least ten or twenty minutes. He walked up to me and threw a pale yellow faded Beatles T-shirt on my face.

“Here, wear this. Rose must’ve left it here.” Embarrassed, I took the shirt and quickly put it on. All right, well, that didn’t go the way I thought it would. I sulked quietly.

“You sure your girlfriend won’t mind that I’m wearing her stupid shirt?” I glared up at him.

“I’m sure she’ll be happy to know you weren’t here alone with me shirtless. I think borrowing her shirt is pretty harmless in comparison.” He smiled.

I sank lower on the couch and tried to hide my face. I didn’t know how to make it any more obvious that I liked him. Why doesn’t he get it?

At that very moment, Tim walked in the room.

“What’s up, Tim.” It didn’t seem like he heard me because he walked right passed me, as if I wasn’t even there, and tossed a huge Ziplock bag to Carlo.

“That’s all of it, man.” Carlo looked at the substance in the bag.

“You really came through, Tim.” Carlo smiled and shook his best friend’s hand, then turned to look at me.

“Ready to have some fun, Angie?”

 I sat up and looked at the two guys standing in the kitchen doorway and managed to mutter.

“Of course.”

The guys walked over to the couch and unfolded a small table leaning against the wall and sat down. Carlo dumped a little bit of the white substance from inside the Ziplock bag onto the table. He took out a card and started to etch small lines across the table top —three long white lines about a millimeter in width and centimeter in length. I remember the first time I did this; I was scared out of my mind. I remembered asking Carlo if it hurt to snort, and if I should do more than one line. Since then it’s been almost a year since I started doing coke, and every morning at nine since then we got high. I loved it. I craved it.

We all took turns taking hits, Carlo went first, then Tim, and I was last. It was exhilarating, the feeling of getting higher and higher. I felt as though I was coming out of my own body and seeing the world as a completely different being—most times not even human. I felt numb and happy, as if we were the only three people on the planet and no one could tell us what to do. We were unstoppable; no annoying distractions like parents or girlfriends or lousy friends who leave you in the dumps and eventually forget about you entirely because they think they’re too good and can do better.

I looked over at Carlo who was leaning back against the cushions of the couch and staring up at the ceiling fan. I wondered what he was thinking about, or who. I studied his face. I noticed his green eyes were extremely dark and looked almost black. The front of his hair was pasted against his sweaty forehead and his lips were pursed tight and turning a grayish color. I stared at him for what seemed like an hour before I realized he hadn’t blinked the entire time. I moved my hand slowly to try to hold his, but he jerked away from me as if I had just burned him. His face suddenly came to life and he stared at me, then at Tim, who had also noticed his sudden movements, then back at me, and started laughing hysterically.

Seconds later, all three of us were laughing uncontrollably and decided to take another round of hits. As I leaned over to take my second hit I felt my phone vibrate. Thinking nothing of it I answered it without even looking to see who it was.

“Hello?” I answered.

“Angie, you left your book bag on the counter this morning. I’m on my way to your school now to drop it off. Do you want me to stop somewhere and pick up some lunch?”

I froze. My heart sank low into my gut. I had to come up with something quick.

“Mom, no, it’s fine. I have most of my books here so I don’t even really need it. You don’t have to worry about bringing it all the way up here.”

“Are you sure? I’m almost there. I’m about five minutes away.”

Shit! Shit! Shit! What am I gonna do? I looked over at the guys and they stared back at me with blank faces.

“Mom, I’m sure. Besides… Uhhh… I have a test right after this period so I won’t be allowed to leave the class. Trust me, mom, it’s fine. I’ll survive with out my bag for one day.” I laughed but it sounded panicked and uncomfortable. I prayed she couldn’t here it in my voice.

“Oh, all right then, Angie. I’ll see you when I get home.”

“Bye.” I hung up and screamed at the top of my lungs.

“That was so close! If she went to my school my life would’ve been so over, you guys, like you have no fucking idea. Yo! She could’ve found out I haven’t been to school in month’s, man. You know how hard it is to cover that shit up, dog? Like, I really put some work into that.”

Tim laughed and grabbed my hand. “Angie, baby! I love you girl. You really do this shit. I got mad respect for you. When I was your age I wasn’t even into this shit. My ass was in school, man. My dad made sure of that. But I’m a grown-ass man now, so he can’t make me do much, and he better not open up his mouth to say anything ‘cause I toss him that check every month.”

Tim laughed again and slapped his hand on the table. I looked him in his glossy eyes and pulled my hand away.

“Yeah, I’m a grown-ass woman. Nobody runs me.” I said in a joking way.

We took three more hits each within the next couple hours and I was feeling great; I was no longer aware of what was happening around me. I saw the world in just a bunch of lights and swirls. I hadn’t even realized that Tim left and Carlo’s head was in my lap. I looked down at him and saw him staring up at me. I smiled nervously.


“Oh, I can’t look at you now?” He slurred.

I felt as though my heart was beating out of my chest. We had never gotten this close before when we were alone. He looked at the worn t-shirt I was wearing and started to lift it slightly.

“When did you get this tattoo?” He traced the pattern of the leaves and flowers along my ribs.

“Uhhh…Errr… I think it was like a year ago or something. I’m not sure exactly, but a while ago.” I said nervously trying to pull my shirt back down. Why am I acting like this? Isn’t this what I wanted, for him to notice me? And eventually want to be with me? I stared down at him and got very quiet. He started to sit up. He grabbed my face and pulled me close to him and forcefully kissed me. It was hard and uncomfortable. It didn’t feel like how I’d pictured it at all. I pulled away.

“What are you doing?”

“Isn’t this what you wanted, Angie?”

“No!” I lied. “You have a girlfriend.”

I tried to get up from the couch but he grabbed my arm and pulled me back down. His eyes were wild and his hair was tousled; he looked like a mad man. I could tell his mind was no longer here and the cocaine had taken him to a whole other place.

“Carlo, chill out! You’re freaking me out.” I tried to think of a way to leave. I saw my phone on the table and reached for it.

“Angie. Come on. Why are you acting like such a little girl? I thought you were a grown woman who did what she wanted? Why all of a sudden are you worried about Rose?”

“I’m not. I just thought you’d regret this when you’re sober.” I started playing with my phone, acting as if I had an important message to reply to, to preoccupy myself and come up with a good excuse to leave. He leaned over took my phone out of my hand and put it in his pocket.

“Stop being so uptight. I’m giving you what you wanted. I’m not blind, you know. I knew how you felt about me this whole time, so you might as well take advantage of the opportunity, right?” I heard a dark twinge in his voice, one that I’ve never heard before. He sounded like a stranger.

“I’m gonna go.” I stood up slowly and turned towards him with my open palm, waiting for him to give me back the phone.

“You don’t wanna stay with me? There are still two more lines to take?”

“Nah, I’m cool. I actually have to start sobering up. I have to be at my little brother’s school by 2:30 to pick him up, and that’s in only two hours. Can I get my phone?”

Carlo glared up at me as he handed me back the phone. His face turned from serious blank stares to anger, coldness and rage. I took it and backed slowly away from him.

“You’re not going anywhere, yet.”

I laughed nervously.

 I turned from him and started walking towards the window from which I came, but before I could put my leg through I felt an ice-cold hand grab onto my ankle and jerk me violently back into the room. I heard myself scream as I fell face first into the window sill, cutting my upper lip.

“What the fuck is your problem? Let me go!” I screamed. But my voice was muffled by Carlo’s body as he forced himself on top of me.

* * * * *

I stood across the street from Berkley James Middle School and waited for the bell to signal that school was out. I watched as kids started to pour from all exits of the building—happy kids running to their parents, grinning ear to ear. I spotted Miguel and waved my arms in the air to get his attention. He saw me and ran towards me smiling, just as the other kids had done.

“Hey, buddy, how was school?” I kneeled down and hugged him. I held him for a long time, longer than I remember ever hugging him before.

“It was good, but, umm… Sissy?” He muffled under me. “I can’t breathe!”

I pulled away from him, grabbed his hand and started walking home. I wasn’t quite sober yet but I wasn’t noticeably high either. I looked completely normal besides the fact that the left side of my face was a hideous purple color and the gash in my lips was healed to a thick red line. Thank god for bangs—there was no way I’d have been able to explain it to Miguel, and he’d have definitely run and told mom. We turned on Fifth Street and saw our mother as she was pulling into the driveway. She waved as she tried to park. It wasn’t one of those happy waves, though; it was more like she was just raising her hand slightly, as if she were a shy girl at school trying to answer a question. I didn’t wait for her to park. I walked straight into the house and up to my room. I didn’t feel like dealing with her at the moment. I just wanted to sleep… And do more drugs.

I nudged my bedroom door open and noticed a folded piece of paper on the gray carpet. I must’ve stepped right over this this morning. I picked it up, opened it.


“Yeah, Sissy?” He squealed from the kitchen.

“Come here for a sec.”

I heard his small feet running from room to room and up the creaky stairs. He stood directly under me and stared up at me with his big hazel eyes.


“Did you draw this for me?” I gave him the folded paper. He smiled.

“Yup! And do you know what it’s a picture of, Angie?”

I took a second look at the drawing. I saw four figures holding hands at the beach.

“Is this us, Miguel?”

“Yah and Papi, too. This is a picture of us when we lived in Ecuador, remember that Angie?”

My body stiffened as I looked at the picture.

“Here, Miguel, go hang it in your room.” I said quietly as I pushed the drawing away from me.

He looked confused and stared at his drawing a little harder this time.

“You don’t like it?”

I stared at him coldly.

“Miguel, just hang it in your room,” I said, then walked over to my bed and lied down, burying my face in the pillows. I knew Miguel was still in the doorway. I wondered how long he would stand there. I didn’t mean to upset him, I just didn’t want any pictures of my stupid dad on my wall.

“Why don’t you ever want to talk about Papi, Angie?”

Without moving I muffled, “There’s nothing to talk about, Miguel, now could you please close the door behind you? I’m really sleepy.”

I heard him shut the door and walk back downstairs. I leaned up and sat on the edge of the bed and saw the drawing neatly folded on my dresser. I ignored it and walked into my bathroom to shower.

I stared at my pale naked body in the mirror and began to cry. I was disgusted with myself seeing all those cuts and bruises that covered my torso and arms. How could Carlo do this to me? How could he have lost control and try to rape me? It really was a miracle that I managed to escape him. But the bigger problem was how would I get more drugs? I’d been buying from Carlo for the past year.

After the shower I lied back down and thought about everything that was happening. I didn’t want to just lie there and feel sorry for myself. I grabbed a hoodie from the closet and put it on to cover my bruises then left the room to find mom and Miguel; I didn’t want to sit there alone, left only with my haunting thoughts.

I heard her helping Miguel with his homework downstairs in the study and didn’t know if I should interrupt or not. I stood in the hallway listening to them for minutes before I finally decided to walk into the room.

“Hey, guys.”

I looked at my mom; she looked stressed out and tired from a long day at work. She looked so worn out. I felt a little bad for her. I sat down at the table with them and tried to make conversation.

“So what are you working on, Miguel?”

He looked at me, rolled his eyes and continued counting numbers on his fingers. He was still mad at me from earlier.

“What was that about Miguel? Angie just wants to help, don’t be mean.”

“She’s the one who was being mean first,” He muttered under his breath.

“What do you mea-” my mom tried to ask.

 “I was not! Cut it out, Miguel, and stop acting like that.”

“What are you two talking about? What’s going on?”

“Nothing, mom, it’s nothing. Miguel’s just being a baby because I wanted him to hang one of his drawings up in his room instead of mine.” I looked at him. “I already have too many, Miguel. Sheesh!”

“No, you don’t want it because it’s a picture of our whole family, and you hate Papi! What did he do to you?” Miguel got up from the table and was crying as he ran upstairs.

We sat in silence for a while before mom said something.

“You know, it’s OK to be mad at him.”

“Mom, I really don’t want to talk about this right now.” I started to get up and leave the room before she stopped me.

“We never talk about it, Angie! We just walk around here like nothing happened and we’re all fine and dandy. You’re so goddamn secretive these days; we don’t get to talk about anything at all!”

“I just don’t have anything to say.” I said quietly. I had been trying to avoid this conversation for years.

“Then sit down and listen.”

I sat back down and dreaded what was coming next.

“I know he hurt you, Angie. He hurt us all. He should’ve been there as a father for you two instead of stealing from us and selling that stupid stuff. He threw his life away; he threw us away for drugs! For drugs, Angie! Can you fuckin’ believe that?”

I saw the tears begin to weld up in her eyes and her arms started to shake. I saw her drift off into the past and relive my dad’s last few years.

“I remember one night when he came home high, and I was feeding you dinner. You were no older than four at the time, and he walked in that kitchen high as hell in front of you. I remember, I said to him, ‘Get away from my daughter like that,’ and he laughed at me and told me to shut the fuck up before he sat down right next to you and started to shoot up right at the damn table.”

“So why didn’t you just leave him?”

“I couldn’t! I didn’t have anywhere else to go! No money, no nothin’ Angie! I wanted to but I couldn’t; believe me I wanted better for you guys, I did. I just couldn’t leave that man. He threatened me all the time; he’d kill me if I even tried to take you kids away.”

“So what! You just let him beat you and treat you like shit for years until he O.D.-ed? He didn’t even know he had a son until Miguel was a year old! He was out of it all the time!”

I could feel my blood boiling and my jaw tightening.

“I did the best I could!” She sobbed. “I got a job as soon as I could and got us out of there. I wanted a better life for our family, a fresh start. I wanted my children to be in school, to be healthy and successful.”

I stared her straight in her eyes and got up from the table and walked over to her. I leaned down and put my hand on her shoulder.

“Well, mom, you’re doing a great job.”

I walked up the stairs back to my room. I saw Miguel sitting on the stairs; he’d heard the whole thing. I looked at him as I walked past—my face was blank I felt nothing. I got to my room and locked the door. I pulled off my hoodie and reached for my phone that had been charging on the nightstand. I had a text. It was from Tim. The message read:

Just got off of work, you tryna match up? I could use a hit or three 😉

I smiled as I replied.


Two weeks passed since the incident with Carlo and we’d been avoiding each other. I still snorted cocaine every day but it was different because I was either alone, which was most of the time, or some nights Tim would sneak into my room and toss me a few free lines. I was grateful for that because coke was hard to come by. I hated having to ration how much I could snort each day. With Carlo it used to be an all-you-can-snort buffet. Free coke, every time. I thought about going back over there to talk to him so I could have a steady supply again, but the thought quickly vanished when I remembered what he did to me. I could never face him again.

Since I had nothing to do during the day anymore, I started going back to school. I was bombarded with questions and hugs and stares from people who knew me. Six months before, I told everyone I had a chronic illness and that was the reason why I couldn’t be in school any longer. I had gone through a lot of planning, lying and scheming. I also had to forge many medical documents to pull the whole charade off, just to end up right back in the same place.

The school day started off as any normal day would; I walked into advisory and took my old seat far in the back and put my head down to wait until the bell rang. I heard kids piling into the room little by little until the class was full. I heard gasps and whispers as my former associates and classmates noticed my return. I lifted my head to see twenty staring faces. I pulled my hood over my head and put my head back down. No one came over to talk to me, not one. It was as if I was invisible.

The rest of the day went on like this. People stared but no one spoke, only teachers, who were glad I made a “speedy recovery” and hoped to work with me one-on-one to talk about what to do with my grade. But I already knew I’d have to repeat eleventh grade so I wasn’t going to bother showing up to the conferences.

I spent my lunch period in the bathroom getting high; I needed as many lines as I could to get through the day. I needed to feel more comfortable and social if I was going to get through the rest of the year.

“Hey, Angie.”

I heard a familiar voice say as I came out of one of the stalls to wash my hands. I turned to look at the girl who had been the first to speak to me all day and almost peed myself.

“Hey, Sandra,” I said quietly.

She rushed over to me and hugged me for a long time before finally letting go.

“How are you? How was Ecuador? How’s your mom? How’s Miguel? Are you feeling any better? I thought I was never going to see you again!”

I could tell she was excited to see me but I couldn’t reciprocate the excitement. This was the girl who forgot all about me when she started going out with her boyfriend and ditched me for other friends who hated me, when she knew I had no one else to talk to in school. She talked shit about me behind my back and was in on many of the pranks her bitch-ass friends pulled on me, just to humiliate me. She was my best friend.

“I’m good. Everyone’s good.” Was all I could say. Who did this bitch think she was? I didn’t want her pity. I gave her a side-glance before leaving the bathroom feeling liberated, and high.

Things at school were getting better for me; I snorted two lines before class and one during lunch. The new routine kept me sane and I was actually starting to warm up to the idea of being back at school. A couple kids even started talking to me, and I would actually respond. I’d called it a breakthrough—the coke was my superhero saving the day.

Things at home were even less stressful; my mom gave me sixty dollars a week for cleaning up the house so I had a lot of extra money to spend on my drug of choice. Every Friday Tim came over and sold me half an ounce. He noticed how much happier I was and was proud of me when I told him I was back at school.

“How’s Carlo doing these days, Tim?” I asked him after buying my weekly dosage.

“Ahh, he’s doing all right. There’s a little beef between him and the guy we cop from, but when the money starts looking right I’m sure it’ll die down.”

“You think he’s in trouble?” I was starting to get worried; I knew how it was with dope dealers. These situations could get pretty bad and end up violently.

Tim looked at me and could see that I was worried.

“You wanna see him?”

I nodded. I did want to see him. I still had feelings for him, but I didn’t want it to be weird between us, especially since he tried to hurt me the last time we saw each other. And he hasn’t tried to call since.

I followed Tim down a couple houses and over a few fences. I felt a nervous twinge in my gut when we got to Carlo’s front door. Tim rang the doorbell.

Seeing Carlo for the first time in months was like watching the seasons change. He looked horrible; his hair was matted and seemed a lot shorter than I’d remembered. He was clearly high off his ass; his green eyes were dark and he had bits of white under his nostrils. His face expression was a mixture of crazed mad man and surprised, especially when he saw me.

“Hey, man, you all right?” Tim looked worried. I never saw him have such a look of concern for his best friend before.

“Yeah. I’m cool,” Carlo said. His voice was low and barely audible, even though he was standing not even three feet away from us. He stumbled as he let us in, and fell face first right onto the carpet.

“Carlo! Man, stop playing around! What’s wrong, dude?” I could hear panic in his voice.

“Angie go hand me one of those towels in the bathroom. And hurry!”

I looked down at Carlo and saw he was unconscious and sweating profusely. I rushed to the bathroom and grabbed one of the pink towels his mother kept folded on the racks.

“Here, Tim.” I handed him the towel and kneeled down on the ground with the two most important people in my life. “Should I call nine-one-one?” I said frantically.

“Yes, Hurry!” Tim screamed.

Twenty minutes later an ambulance arrived and three paramedics rushed into the house where Tim and I were still on the ground around Carlo’s limp body. They asked us a lot of questions and we told them what happened and what we saw. I was surprised when Tim said Carlo had overdosed, and then I got nervous because I thought he was going to ask us about doing the drugs as well. Luckily he didn’t—they just took Carlo away to the hospital and told us we could meet them there. Tim told me to go—he was going to stay and wait for Carlo’s mom to get home and tell her the news.


It’s been almost a week since Carlo died. I cried every day. Neither my mom nor Miguel knew why I was so upset. No matter how much they tried to talk to me I couldn’t get the words out. All they knew is that one of my close friends had died.

I kept myself locked in my room and had been weaning myself off of cocaine. I couldn’t sleep and I barely ate. I was restless and it seemed like every organ in my body was quivering within me. I felt so alone.

I was thinking about telling my mom everything that had been going on with me, but I’ve been afraid; I don’t want her to see my dad in me because I don’t want to be anything like him, even though I know that’s who I’ve become. I want to be better for my family; my mom needs us to be great because of what’s happened to her—she deserves it, and Miguel relies on me for so much. Why does it seem that every choice I have makes me feel like I’m not that grown-up woman I claim to be?

—Yaasmeen Ahmad