It is 2010. I live in Beacon, NY.
When I get home from Woodstock I go straight to the kitchen drawer that holds the burner phone designated for Eric. It feels radioactive in my hands. I pull the battery out of it in the hopes that that will make it safer while it's still in my possession. I walk-run to the waterfall by the old mill and, as hard as I can, I pitch the dangerous piece of plastic into the churning water. It's gone.
It feels good, even if it is way too late.
Before returning to my apartment I go to the coffee shop so that I can - on one of their computers, not mine - google Eric Canori. It is hard to stay in my body as I create a false username. It is even harder to keep coming back from dissociation-land as I read what comes up on the screen. What I am reading is the worst you could imagine happening to you if you are in this business. It takes me a very long time to read what has happened to my friend and colleague.
I go home and call my lawyer, Len. I have known Len since 1993 when I was intent on getting the arts into public schools (where they belong!) and was forming a not-for-profit to do it. Len is a pioneer of NFP law and also an educator of it. He knows how to convey legal things in laymen terms so you get it. He is the kind of lawyer every girl wants -- whether she’s breaking the law or not.
Len has no idea I am in extremis and is happy to set up a meeting. He suggests a bakery in the Kingston Rondout near where he lives. Given all I have to convey it’s not my first choice of a meeting place, but I strongly suspect that my phone may be tapped and I don’t want to sound anything other than light and breezy, so I say sure, great.
My boyfriend Rob will come too, to support me. I am in need of a lot of support. I’m thoroughly shell shocked. If it requires the frontal lobe, I can’t do it.
Rob drives us up to Kingston the next morning.
The three of us get our coffees at the counter and choose a table. I want to tell Len the nature of the trouble I am in but my voice won’t work. My mouth is dry. My breath won't flow. Sound just won’t come out. Even as I am trying to push the words out, I am also trying to keep my voice especially low. I see there are undercover agents at the table by the window trying to overhear us.
Len begins to understand the level of my distress as I move us over us over to another table. At the new table I still cannot manage full sentences, just disjointed facts.
One of the reasons I love Len as I do is no matter how bad what I have to tell him, he can be counted on to say, “Oh, that’s nothing. Don’t worry.” And I get to experience immediate relief. But this morning more than I want to hear the words “oh that’s nothing don’t worry,” I want to be able to believe him when he says it.
I manage to get my story out in breathless little bursts of dramatic detail.
“Oh, that’s nothing. Don’t worry.”
“But Len, I am worried. I've… emailed him!!”
He nods, “So what.”
I search for a way to describe my situation better. He is not getting it.
“It’s not enough,” he assures me.
“Well, no, that’s probably not enough, BUT you have to add to that the phone he uses just for me was confiscated when they took everything from his house and they can -- I mean, can’t they? -- track it to the phone I use just for him. So now… they know exactly where I am... with GPS or something, right?”
“Maybe. But so what.”
“That’s not SO WHAT, Len!” I am tormented by visions of my apartment door being broken in and a SWAT team rushing in and tackling me.
Len shakes his head, “If they can’t prove anything, it’s ‘so what.’”
In times such as this -- when I’m reluctant to tell the things that are going to make me look foolish -- I remind myself of a salient Len-ism: “The one person you don’t leave anything out when you’re telling them what happened is your lawyer.”
“OK, well, there’s another thing and this part is really bad, I think, because it’s so stupid, but it’s why I think they CAN prove something. You remember how I was writing a screenplay and I was having my friend Deborah help me with it? Well, I emailed a draft to her. AND I went back to the email... to see how bad, how incriminating... what I sent her, and I described EXACTLY the setting of his house and exactly what Eric looks like!”
“…‘So what’ ...even to that?”
He shrugs, “It’s a work of fiction.”
“Don’t worry!” he says this with a smile-yell. Len has to yell because his voice is really soft and raspy due to his larynex being compromised by something genetic. He sounds like Miles Davis.
“Just don’t communicate with him anymore! And don’t do any business either! You’ll be fine! But I’ll call ___ who ___ , and between the two of us if anything happens to you we can have you out of there within 36 hours.”
I feel so light, so free, when Rob and I step out of the bakery.
Even though I am now officially unemployed I take Rob out to a celebratory lunch on the waterfront. It is a pretty day in late June and barely noon, but we order wine so we can toast to my freedom. We raise a glass to Len, my most awesome lawyer! I am so lucky to have such a great lawyer in Len, just like I am so lucky to have such a great boyfriend in Rob. It’s not every boyfriend who would be able to handle such an unconventional situation in the life of a relatively new girlfriend. Rob is being a real prince through this.
Post-Len meeting I feel safe. But as the days pass I feel safe for shorter and shorter stretches of time. I don’t feel safe. I do feel safe. I don’t feel safe. The bouts of woe and paranoia come more frequently. Why can’t they just be gone? Why can’t I trust what Len said, that I am going to be fine?
Well, because of what I have seen reported online. And because I am getting a lot more hang ups and “wrong number” on my real phone than I ever used to. I know I shouldn’t pick up calls that come from numbers I don’t know, but I do. It’s the Need To Know.
Convincing myself I am safe is now my life.
Telling myself “I am safe” isn’t working, so more and more often I have to say to Rob, “Tell me again why it’s all going to be OK?” And he does.
Until I ask too many times and he can’t take it anymore and he shouts at me to “Just stop it!” And I do. Because he is right. Of course.
Trying to hold in the knowledge that I am sure I am going to jail this very evening or maybe tomorrow, despair overtakes me and my body crumples to the floor and writhes as I wail, “I’m going to jail! I’m going to jail!”
Poor Rob can only look down at me, unable to help.
Hyper-vigilance is my best and most well-honed survival skill. I perfected it as a kid. Where will the next blow come from, mom or dad? What will it be for? What will I do wrong that will get me hit today? Excessive alertness is back in action and working overtime for me now.
Will the blow come from the state police or the Feds? What part of what I have done wrong will they come after me for? Transporting it? Selling it? Buying it? If they only knew what good things I was doing with my ill-gotten gains they would be forgiving. Or would they? My parents weren’t forgiving even when they should have been.
It’s that old feeling of feeling helpless to help myself. That is what feels so awful about this. I feel so helpless to help myself. I have to find the help outside myself.
The problem is so many of the people in my life have no idea of the truth of my lifestyle, so I cannot get their help. Most who do know, do not live in Beacon. And I cannot call them up to talk about it.
Someone I worked with when I was on staff at IMS comes to visit. JP is a true confidant and also happens to be a registered nurse. I spill my whole sordid story. His response? He offers me some of his meds - what he takes to alleviate his anxiety - and tells me to get a prescription of my own asap.
His drugs do a certain amount to lessen my anxiety, but not enough. JP is right, I need a real psychiatrist of my own for this. I call Frank to get the name of his shrink. I call Dr. G and get an appointment.
During my session with Dr. G where I must tell him what I am dealing with, he tells me, “That is legitimate fear you are experiencing. There is nothing wrong with you.”
“I know, but what can you give me for fear? Please make it strong. The fear is ruining my life.” He prescribes me two different things -- but they are just for the short term.
While in the city I also get my haircut. I’ve been seeing Cassie since the late 80’s so she knows me through 20 years of various
I give her the highlights of my predicament while she’s cutting. She responds with, “Fuckin’ Jeanne! Fuckin’, fuckin’ Jeanne!” She is Brooklyn-Italian and this is her style of comforting. I do feel comforted. Cassie gets the gravity of it all.
“...I told you! Didn’t I tell you?” she says waving her scissors at me. She gives my hair a final fluff and hugs me hard, “I love you, Jeanne-baby. Let’s hope you’re OK.”
I’m on a Metro North train traveling back from the city. I am looking at my Blackberry. On it I see an email from an address I do not know. It is about orchids. Orchids? Someone is thanking me for orchids? It hits me hard: Eric and I have an email thread titled ‘Orchid Care’ because I gave him an orchid for Christmas and he didn’t want to kill it so I sent him a link to beautifulorchids.com. My very stressed brain jumps very quickly to a conclusion:
They are onto us. And now they are fucking with me. They are letting me know that they have seen our emails. They are coming in for the kill. A sting is about to occur… ON ME.
As the train pulls into the Beacon station where Rob is waiting to pick me up, I am sick and sweaty with fear. Confirming my understanding of what is going on I see three police cars parked side by side near the train station drop off area. All the policemen are out of their cars, standing and resting themselves on their doors. Out the train window I am seeing my own sting unfold before my very eyes. I wonder if I have any options.
Should I stay on the train until the next stop? But then what? The doors of the train open. I must decide before they close. I push myself off the train.
On the walk across the platform to the stairs, up the stairs, across the overpass, down the stairs, out into the parking lot, I understand something. I understand Hell.
“This is what Hell is. To be surrounded, engulfed, by these kind of thoughts and feelings ALL of the time.”
I end up in the parking lot, but I don’t know where or why. Rob scoots up beside me in his car. I fumble the door open and fall inside, whispering, “They’re here!”
“Them, they’re here for me,” I say pointing at the police.
“They are, the police!!”
“You don't understand, I got an….. email.”
“An eeeeeeee-mail! They know!”
I am ducking below the dashboard now.
“Jeanne, stop it.”
“Jeanne, they are ALWAYS there. That’s where they hang out. They’re not there for YOU.”
I feel foolish, but so happy they are not there for me.
Give me a sign give me a sign give me a sign!!!
I get a sign… a GOOOOD sign … Then I need another sign to affirm the last sign so I can know the sign I asked for was a real sign.
Pulling rhunes. Using a pendulum. Picking Angel Cards. Hating when I get cards like Responsibility or Honesty or Truth or Obedience or -- God forbid! -- Surrender!
On my drive to and from the gym I have a game. A very serious game. When I turn on the car radio, the lyric of the song I come in on is a personal message to me. If it’s a positive message like "every little thing is gonna to be alright" I am safe. If it is a negative message like "when all hope is gone sad songs say so much" I am in big trouble.
At the gym I swim. Swimming, flutter kicking, is a way to kick OFF what I need to be free from. I exhaust myself trying to kick it off. When I reach the end of a lap where I’ve kicked so furiously the whole way that I have to hold onto the edge of the pool and catch my breath, I ask, “How is it now? Am I OK now?” More often than not I AM NOT OK, so I push off the edge and kick some more.
On the positive side, I now know to feel the simple joy of simple freedom as the greatest thing a person could ever want in life. Why is it only when something is threatened that you’re able to even begin to appreciate its astonishing qualities?
Then, this realization hits from out of nowhere like a blow to the head. It comes while I’m washing my face. I am looking in the bathroom mirror when it pops into my consciousness.
“IT'S MY VIN NUMBER!!”
The trailer we use to transport the pot from Saratoga to points south is up in Saratoga on Eric’s property. Ordinarily it wouldn’t be, but after the last run it was decided it needed to be outfitted with a cooling system for the summer months.
“I bought the trailer. The VIN number on the trailer will take them to me. That is prove-able.”
As the damning realization hits me, my face goes from tense-looking to harrowed. Devastated. Demolished. Stripped. I have never before seen my face look so stripped of the artifice of the Jeanne I present to the world. Every mask-like aspect of my face has melted away.
It is almost beautiful.
I feel like I am having an enlightened experience. I understand something I’ve never before understood about being human. I understand how… being a person is…
...It's to go through a series of incarnations -- all within one life. The incarnations seem to follow one another (like a series of books) and blend and overlap, and... but, yes, just that: There are many incarnations within one life.
The moment of enlightenment passes. I am still looking at the face in the mirror. I have no recollection of having passed through an enlightened moment. I’m dazed. Dissociating. In disbelief that something this bad could be happening to ME. All I want to know is HOW.
How on earth did Jeanne Demers get HERE?