Another Saturday night massacre over. The final rounds were spent in the dark, into Sunday morning. In that quiet interlude, between the night and the yawning light of a Sunday morning, sleep prevails. These hours are inhabited by the deep REM dream sleep, a surreal realm where Biafra’s mythical Frankenchrist sprinkles anthrax powder upon the pillowcases of the elites; a vain attempt to seed justice where none will grow.
Needles land in littered gravel lots, in the shadow of dumpsters, to collect amid bottle caps and grease spills. Like spent shell casings falling in slow motion in some action film firefight. Some are lost within the tangle of urine soaked sheets on a hotel bed. Sad, lonely places populated with voucher recipients, the chief driver of the local gas station economy. Some are left neatly arranged upon a nightstand in quiet suburban homes. All the same: all empty, like the shell casing a remnant of their once lethal content. These are the remains from the heavy ordnance. There are also the spent remains of lesser caliber in the form of emptied or spilled pharmacy bottles. These don’t leave the big, gaping holes, but a higher rate of fire. Spray and pray.
Sunday morning and we are awakened by the chorus of sirens. As the survivors stir from their dens they discover the lifeless remains filling the space once occupied by their junk buddy. Or their boyfriend. Or mom. We’ve come so far as a society that we now have parent/child hypodermic relays.
Sidney, Ohio. A small, rural community off of I-75 just north of Dayton. Thirty years ago MADD was on the march, the greatest scourge of the county was the drunk driver. Today? Eileen Watts, age 48, recovered at the local Days Inn at 8:22 AM with an apparent drug overdose. Still breathing, unresponsive, rushed to County Hospital where she was pronounced DOA at 8:37 AM. Her son Danny, aged 22, made the call. They had kitted up together, sharing the same needle just a little over five hours before.
How does this happen? In Sidney, Ohio? A tragic tale. Thirty years ago Eileen had been a promising young star of track and field, an 18 year old kid bound for college and the vaguely promising future that this path portends. College was, as for many of her peers, not for Eileen. Thankfully she figured that out before she got in too deep. Eileen wanted to do something, but she didn’t have a plan. So she stayed in Sidney and just let life happen. Just like millions of others.
Marriage to a guy from a local family with at least average prospects, followed a few short years later by motherhood, Eileen had settled for the life not unlike her mother’s. Not unlike the way things had been done in Sidney for nearly 150 years. Without a specific plan of her own Eileen spent a life going along with or acting at the suggestion of others. She committed that fatal error of so many. Coasting through life in safe spaces one never meets their demons. Safe spaces are filled with enablers who vanish at the first sight of anyone’s demons.
Sidney, Ohio today is similar to countless other rural, Midwest towns. It is inhabited by a largely graying population. In recent years it has been noted by some of it’s younger citizens that there seemed to be a marked increase of sirens blaring on weekend mornings. The assumption was quite often that another “help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” moment had occurred at one of the numerous senior care facilities in town. This would, on it’s face seem to be a reasonable presumption. It is thankfully, while at the same time sadly, an incorrect conclusion. County EMS logs tell the true tale: over half of the EMS calls Friday nights through Monday mornings are in response to drug overdoses. Stocks for the manufacturer of Narcan are soaring.
When Eileen’s life began to go off of the rails her demons began to emerge from hiding. In 2009 the factory where her husband worked closed it’s doors with little warning. They had a little savings, but not enough to sustain a prolonged interruption of income. With two old and beat up cars in sore need of maintenance, gasoline at $4 per gallon and their removal from a population center with prospects for gainful employment, they had entered the realm from which our demons emerge. Desperation is alcohol on steroids, for no other poison clouds one’s judgement so completely.
Her husband by necessity had to take a lower paying job in Troy. Not across the world, but a commute of 20 miles at least, consuming $100 of an already depleted family budget just to getting to and from work. They managed, economizing where ever they could. Eileen took on a part time job waiting tables at the local Bob Evans. They were just keeping afloat. The drive to Troy wasn’t horrible in the spring or summer, even the fall was tolerable. It was in winter this and more came to an end.
The landscape on the prevailing north-south roads between Sidney and Troy are nearly barren in the winter months. The region is prone to ice storms, falling in the boundary where most winter weather systems turn from rain to a full blown snowstorm. It was on one of these roads that Eileen’s husband met his end on an early morning in February, 2010. Black ice underneath a drift blown across a lonely county road. They found him after daylight, unmistakably dead on impact with a utility pole.
From that one point in her life the rest all began to unravel. Husband and father lost, the primary income, the car and…. Part of their economizing had included letting their car insurance lapse. Eileen found herself being sued by the local power company for the damages and cost of restoration from the accident. From here things snowballed on Eileen until a few years later they had sold the house, gaining little but at least escaping the mortgage. She and Danny moved home to her mother’s house, she was able work up to a store manager at Dollar General. By 2014 it began to look like their lives would stabilize and they would again take up housekeeping on their own. This was not to be.
Eileen suffered a serious back injury at work when a deranged customer had picked her up and thrown her into a refrigeration case. This was all covered under workers compensation and Eileen did receive some supplemental insurance benefits from her employer, but extensive surgery and rehab were required. This, of course, included only the best pain killers that the modern Pharma giants can provide. Prior to this Eileen was a holiday beer drinker and nothing more. She had never been any part of the “drug culture”. A few cans of Budweiser had never tickled the button to release her own personal demon. Vicodin, on the other hand, was the handsome stranger that enticed her damsel to stray from the plantation.
As long as Eileen had remained compliant with physician’s instructions and all of the proper documentation was in place, the medical community and the insurance monopolies that feed it were only too happy to also feed Eileen’s demon. Once all of the protocols have been observed and exhausted Eileen is given a stamp of approval and sent on her way. Once treatment is completed you get to leave with an emesis tray, some slippers and whatever Jones they’ve handed you in the process.
There is only so much one can do on the black market, out in the dark dirt of Ohio’s western counties, to get hands on those precious white tablets. A trip to Columbus is too far, but the slums of Dayton beckon less than 50 miles away. Here one can set up their meet by text over burner phones and within an hour drive up to a nondescript corner where for $80 a nice young black man will hand you a foil wrapper with enough heroin to get you through the first half of your weekend. No scrips, no insurance, no problem.
And so, here today, we say “Goodnight Eileen”
Ford Wenty report end, 2 September 2018