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RENÉE/Carolyn Michaels WHAT REMAINS FINALLY of the early afternoon in November 2001 when I was told that my daughter was shooting heroin? Before: girls' voices tumbling down the stairs, the thrum of the washing machine, an irritation at being interrupted, curiosity about who was in my house. And after: the still, gray light in the unlit kitchen, pink, thread-like scars (vestiges of a recent car accident) bisecting the outermost eyebrow of each girl—Vanessa's left and Jenna's right—and a nauseating vertigo. Renée's two best friends, notorious at the high school for their flamboyant lesbian relationship, sat across from me at the kitchen table, all angular bodies, pierced faces, dreadlocks and assorted tattoos, talking awkwardly and breathlessly Ui disjointed snippets . They looked at each other, gestured with their hands and finished each other's sentences. Jenna was the one who blurted out, almost apologetically , "Renée's in trouble; she's shooting heroin." The weight ofthose words hovered between us. The gtils had whisked Renée out of school that morning Ui order to confront her about what they already knew. The three of them drove first to Jenna's mother's house. Renée had belligerently denied everything before locking herseti Ui the bathroom. When she emerged fifteen minutes later, her antagonism had vanished. She Indifferently showed them the tracks on her arms and said, "Whatever." That had been a half-hour earlier, and now here they were. I was their last resort. Ifyou met Renée, even during this time when she was shootingheroin into the deticate blue veins ofher forearm, it would take you minutes or less to discern her sweetness and her warmth. You would see close-set brown eyes, flawless skin and thick, dark hair, and you would notice an absence of the defiant posturing adopted by some of her peers. There was no way you would think heroin addict. She was neither Ustless nor rude nor in-your-face rebeltious, not outwardly angry or depressed. She was a senior in high school, kind and polite; the second-oldest of four. If pushed to label her, I would have caUed her the easy chtid, quiet and undemanding. Her older brother, Will, was going to coUege Ui Boston; Grace, five years younger, had just started middle school; and Mike was Ui fourth grade. Thatsummer Renée and WUl and thetifriends had been going to raves, all-night dance parties in Springfield, Massachusetts, and Lewiston, 56 · The Missouri Review Maine, and the fact that no alcohol was served and the buildings were patrolled by police officers, while definitely comforting, overshadowed another fact—that nearly everyone at these raves was doing Ecstasy, a synthetic psychoactive drug with amphetamine-like properties . Ecstasy makes it easy to dance aU night, makes the user happy and empathetic. They were all doing X—Will, Renée and their friends—but they hid it well. The discovery the previous winter of some pot and a couple of pipes Ui Renée's room had been mildly shocking given that she had shown no previous signs of rebellion and was especially vigilant about her own fitness (until the year before she had been a disciplined gymnast, working out three and four hours a day, four days a week; she was also an enthusiastic convert to vegetarianism). But she Insisted that she'd only smoked a couple of times, and we had no reason to disbelieve her. One ofthe things I tell mysetiUt an attempt to grasp how I could have been so ignorant of the extent of my daughter's drug use is that, being a naturally quiet girl, Renée was good at keeping up appearances and hiding what she was feeling. Since elementary school she had been, for lack of a better word, agreeable, whether because she was genetically predisposed to be that way or because it helped her cope in a busy, often chaotic household. She has told me since that she was painfully shy in middle school and had few friends there, but shy was not a word that would have occurred to a spectator watching her on a gym floor. The only...


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