Recently a good friend of mine was telling me about an old friend who had recently moved back to the area. Years back he had moved to a small town outside Bend, Oregon, and married an older woman with a teenage son, now grown. Like most people I know who move to the rural northwest, he eventually lost his job and had to move back to the Inland Empire. She doesn’t let you go easily.
Leaving his family to find work down in southern California, his wife and stepson fell into the local drug culture. I don’t know the details, but more than likely it was Meth, and a divorce is now on the way.
In an interesting twist, Val knew the town and area as where her uncle would go to pick up the loads of marijuana he would mule to the high desert. He did a good stint in jail when one of these runs went bad. His drug of choice was Meth. Again, unsurprising. This area has long been a center for Crystal. I remember, in 9th grade, when a friend in my FFA class told me how she decided that her new favorite drug was Meth. Riverside was always in the news for busted or blown up labs in those days.
Meth is one of those drugs that turns a good person bad and a bad person into a monster. Val’s uncle is a monster. He fits the stereotypes – desert trailer trash, meth addict, nazi. If you’re white and have gone to jail in California, you are probably aryan brotherhood, as that is the only way to survive. He’s a wife beater, a child abuser, and worse, according to family rumor. The aunt, also an addict, is hardly faithful, bearing five children by three fathers, often shacking up with husband’s best friend when husband is in jail. Getting clean from time to time, she accused her husband of forcibly reintroducing her to drugs whenever he gets out, but God only knows with the lies that family tells. The last time we saw her, she was coming down and that’s a sad way to see anyone.
One of Val’s cousins got the worst of it, being related by blood to stepdad in the talk show tradition (the aunt is Val’s blood relative). He died young, a troubled soul. The youngest daughter spent half her youth being passed around, after my mother in-law took custody. Whether she was better off for it is debatable. The family is full of the abused, abusers, the mentally ill and codependents. When she turned twelve and got difficult, she was dropped back off at the trailer with a head full of crap about a joyous family reunion. What that did to her sense of self worth is unimaginable to me. It wasn’t that long before she was hospitalized for the effects of huffing.
Lately it seems that she’s been changing, making plans for the future at seventeen, which is something in a family where the successful one is a grunt at a Walmart in Reno. Recently she turned her father in to the Law. He hadn’t been out for much more than six months and this time he is going away for years. I don’t know what he did, we don’t talk to the family anymore and only hear things from the periphery, but I’m proud of that girl. The only ones who seem to make it out of the cycle seem to be the ones who realize no one in the family gives a shit about them, and hopefully she makes it.