The Clinic

Late 1994/Early 1995(?)


I really don’t remember how it all came about, all I know is that one morning while in high school I got pulled out of a classroom by my dad and we drove away to a place in a nearby city that I’ve always referred to as “The Clinic.” In reality, it was an outpatient therapy group for naughty and wayward teens - which again, I don’t recall agreeing to do, but fuck it, I was told I’d miss school for two weeks. Apparently as I left the school with my dad, other kids were watching out of the windows and speculating about what was happening, the prevailing thought being that I was being taken to rehab. That wasn’t the case (as I was at best a casual pot user), but I did end up in a small group with kids who were in rehab. I was just there because I was failing out of school, angry, anxious, depressed, and an all around ne'er-do-well. In other words, pretty darn cool.


I arrived at a doctor’s office and went upstairs and waited for the other scumbags to arrive. While waiting, I observed a young married couple discussing how “(Name) had been drinking water from the potted plants.” Based on all the turmoil and angst I had been used to, I assumed they were talking about their fucked-up child (it dawned on me years later that they were likely talking about a dog). The first person who arrived was this cute girl who had sort of a combo alternative rock/citified look, and she ended up being my buddy. She seemed to be able to relate to the thoughts of alienation I was having, more so than the other three kids who eventually arrived. There were two other girls there for drugs (mostly auxiliary characters for the purposes of this story) and this tall, preppy boy who walked in wearing a scarf and a rich kid coat. I think we thought he stuck out from the group, but then when we were introducing ourselves and explaining what we were doing there, it turned out he was pretty fucked up. He fancied himself a proud Italian who disliked Black people and who was able to manipulate and steal from neighborhood drug dealers. He told of an incident where he was riding in a car with a friend, and he threw the emergency brake from the passenger seat while they were going 65 miles per hour just for shits and giggles. There was more I’m sure, but that gives you an idea of what’s to come.


In addition to just talking with each other, we would do things like paint, make plaster masks out of our faces, play games, ya know, all stuff so we could be analyzed. I remember one day they asked us to draw a picture that we felt represented how we were feeling, and I drew a pile of shit with hypodermic needles sticking out of it. We were asked to bring in specific songs that we felt reflected who we were, and the group would draw along while listening. I brought in “Shitlist” by L7, and I recall the alterna-girl writing out the names of other girls she considered her enemy. She brought in “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine,” and the preppy said he related to the “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me,” refrain in the song. Me and the other alterna-girl were all about doing the wacky fun things, whereas the boy was a little proud. He wasn’t an unfriendly person either, but you could tell there was something seriously off.


We did all the things you’d expect bad kids to do, including one incident where we shared a cigarette inside the meeting room when the young female instructor/guard stepped out. (In my mind, I remember her as looking like a shorter Kelly Kapowski with glasses?) She was understandably pissed and demanded answers when she came back to the smell in the room, and I admit I turned a little chickenshit by doing that thing where I spoke first like “Ok, I’LL take the blame for ALL of us!,” because I knew that’d be a misdirection, and alterna-girl laughed at my cowardice. In the end we all shared blame, but thankfully it didn’t get back to my parents. I remember this incident where I went to the restroom and there was shit smeared all over the walls and sink. I don’t think we knew who did it, but I told Ms. Kapowski about it, and when she went to look she simply remarked out loud, “That’s pathological.”


There was this guy in his 30’s who was also an instructor/guard there, and we got along quite well. I think he saw me as a younger version of himself (except that he said that he’d “done every drug that you can think of”). He sort of looked out for me, and I remember one day when he wasn’t there this other instructor guy insisted I take a piss test, even though I wasn’t there for drugs. I would have protested, but fortunately for him I enjoyed peeing in weird places. (And I swear, I have this faint recollection of peeing on the floor of a meeting room in one of these types of offices around this time, but that could just be an amalgam of some inaccurate memories).


The whole experience lasted only two weeks, though I sometimes question that, because it seemed an eternity. One afternoon all us kids were hanging around and goofing off in a stairwell of the building, and the preppy boy decided to take a fire extinguisher off the wall and shoot off some of the powder. We then walked to another stairwell where I grabbed a different fire extinguisher and tried to fire it, but thankfully (as it turned out) I didn’t know enough to remove the pin, so I just put it back.  The boy then grabbed it, removed the pin, and shot the hell out of the thing all over the stairwell.  We then went back to the other stairwell, where he emptied the first one we were messing with, then unceremoniously (but accidentally) dropped the canister down the stairs, nearly missing two of the girls. The thing about fire extinguishers, if you didn’t know, is that once you fire that shit in the air, it STAYS in the air. The stairwells were completely filled with yellow dust and nitrogen and who knows what else type of compressed chemicals. We left things as they were and went back to the unmonitored meeting room, where the boy proceeded to grab the fire extinguisher in there and fire off just a little bit of the contents, which turned out to be his undoing.


The 30-something drug instructor guy eventually came into the room, and asked what was in the air that was burning his eyes. We all waffled a bit, and the boy offered the explanation that he burned a pop (“soda” for you non midwesterners) can inside of the room, and that’s what was causing the noxious smell. The instructor angrily informed the boy he was going to call his father about the incident, and they both temporarily left the room. Alterna-girl turned to me and excitedly asked, “Should we tell (the instructor) about the fire extinguishers?!,” and even though this was a narc move, we all kind of hated him and maybe wanted to see it go down. I didn’t rat on him, but she was more than happy to, and I followed them both out to the stairwell, where after viewing an impenetrable ocean of yellow dust, the instructor had a look on his face that I can only describe as murderous. It didn’t even occur to me that a crime had been committed, but the building sure as shit called the police. When the cops arrived I was sitting in a chair next to the preppy boy, and according to the instructor the cop pointed at me first and said, “He did it?” After a brief discussion with all of us in the meeting room, the cops arrested the boy and cuffed him.  “Ever been handcuffed before?” the cop asked him. “Yeah,” the boy replied. “Do ya like it?!” the cop fired back. The boy shrugged, and was led away.


Alterna-girl had a boyfriend that she would talk about often, and would talk openly about how they’d have unprotected sex, much to the chagrin of the instructors. One day she was talking about how well-endowed he was, and how the previous night she “came 5 or 6 times” during intercourse. Her tales put the instructors on edge, and one day she let it slip that she missed her period. She took a home pregnancy test, which came out positive. She confided in the Kelly Kapowski instructor, who after some consideration, let her mom know. This set alterna-girl into an all out frenzy, yelling “I thought you were my friend!,” and calling some older woman there “A fucking bitch” for reasons I can’t remember (possibly because she talked Kelly into ratting her out). She ran screaming and crying out of the building, and I think that was the last I saw of her until we all reunited at the office later on with our parents for a debriefing of sorts.


The final meeting/debriefing was weird, all of us there with our very different parents. We were all asked to share with our parents how we were feeling about everything, and what they could do to help us, but I didn’t really have anything useful to say. I stammered out something about my dad relating better to me, but I honestly just needed a reset button on everything. That came a few months later in the form of my almost dying in a car accident, which wasn’t a preferable option, but I guess it was the express version. I didn’t use the names of the kids in this retelling because I don’t remember them, and I’m glad I don’t, because then I’d have the option of finding out what happened to them, and I’m sure it wasn’t good. But it turns out alterna-girl wasn’t pregnant after all. 


This one is for all the troubled teens,