From Tharon Ann – a memoir by Jennifer Brookins
“I’m head over heels in love for the first time in my life – with his Cherokee good looks, his soft blue eyes and long black hair in contrast to his fair skin. He’s got a gentle way about everything he does, the way he says my name, the way he lifts my hair and kisses me on the back of my neck. Here I am not even twenty and loving so new to me. I’m also in love with a career I don’t have yet. Now for the reality check. I spend most of my fairy tale marriage traveling back and forth on a bus to Chino State Prison whenever he’s busted for drugs. Each time I visit, I get body searched for weapons and dope. It has a stench about it that follows me until I get home and soak in the tub for an hour. It’s the odor of hell that eeks out the pores of everyone locked up in there. Chino is the only place he’s able to clean up from smack, and that only lasts a week or so after he’s released before he’s back on the street again. When I married him, I had no idea what I was getting into. I was so naïve. It didn’t take long to discover it was heroin that gave him the illusion of being something he wasn’t. Maybe buried beneath the layers of dope is the person he could have been. I smoke pot but I’m too vain to have track marks up my legs and arms like him. Sure I dabble with drugs, but I know enough to stay away from the hard stuff. I’d go so far out, I’d never come back. It’s easy to understand how he became a druggie. At sixteen, he was still in high school, already playing in jazz clubs around Manhattan and gaining a reputation for being one of the best jazz drummers around. One day the telephone rang and the voice on the other end asked for him. Naturally, his mother thought the call was for her husband as they have the same first name. She told the voice he was doing studio work, and that she would give him the message when he got home from work. The caller was the great jazz musician Charlie Parker who had no interest in the father but great interest in his son. Billy dropped out of high school and joined Charlie Parker’s famous band thinking it was the greatest moment in his life, not realizing at the time that it was the beginning of the end. I can’t help wondering why God doesn’t flag the events of our lives that will destroy it. I sometimes wonder how Billy felt playing with the greatest jazz musicians who ever lived – all strung out on heroine. He was the only white boy playing in Charlie Parker’s band. At sixteen, he switched from pot to smack, the perfect way to ward off stress and blend in. But today, he’s just another unemployed, strung out musician.Lots of jazz musicians work in clubs like The Hot Kitty Cat, a well known strip house on Sunset Blvd. Billy was one of them and talked the owner into hiring me as a waitress. I’m nervous about working in a place like that but we’re broke. Lucky for me, someone just quit and I’m hired on the spot. The owner orders me to wear stiletto heels, black mesh hose, devil red lipstick, a bustier and shorts so short men felt free to pinch my ass before I have the chance to knock the bejesus out of them. These horny old men think I’m for sale. I hate working here but I have to pay the rent. Billy shoots our paychecks wherever he can find a healthy vein in his arm or leg. Today the electric was shut off.Several days pass before I finally get the hang of this place. For me to get a tip all depends on how well I play the game. I’m a fast learner when it comes to playing games without being touched. The dressing rooms for strippers are located backstage, directly across from where the bartenders make drinks; they never shut their doors. I can’t help but see what these strippers do in front of the bartenders, waitresses, or anyone else who has the bad luck of being condemned to working in this X rated hell hole. I don’t have a temperament for this crowd. The Hot Kitty Cat, one of the most popular night spots in Hollywood, is packed every night with famous, as well as not so famous, male actors, producers, directors, and men trying to grab a cheap thrill. Some try to get it on with the waitresses by sticking a large bill down their boobs. If one of them tries that on me, I’ll knock him to hell and back. I can’t stand much more of this place. Tonight, as I’m going through my usual drill of wading through smoke and tables so close together that I’m amazed at the balancing act I’ve learned carrying oversize trays of drinks to balding horned toads, I bend over to serve a large group of white haired men, when one old man grabs a handful. I’m so mad I purposely drop the tray of drinks as hard as I can on his bald head, as glasses of booze crash down, scattering here and there in the most unlikely places, staining their Rodeo Drive suits and ties, while at the same time strains of “What the hell you bitch!” and “Someone get this bitch out of here!” are heading straight to the owner’s ear. Do me a favor and fire me! I’ve had enough of this hell hole! All my pent up anger shoots back “Kiss my ass, you sons of bitches! I’m calling your wife and telling her where you are and what you’re doing! I’m out of here and kiss my ass again!” Heads are turning. People are beginning to enjoy the little side show coming from the table of men and me, rather than the strippers. Here she comes. The owner is heading my way. I turn to her and shout, “Keep my paycheck and buy yourself a new face!” Then, I take off my high heels and throw them as far as I can back into the crowded smoke filled room. So long hell! I’m out of here!Every day I plead with Billy to let me help him clean up. I can’t unless he agrees to the hell days of withdrawals. If a ten year old girl can live through DTs with an alcoholic, shouldn’t I be able to help him? I want to. I’m naive enough to think I can, but then again didn’t I learn my lesson with Uncle Zack? I’m trying to make myself believe a part of Billy’s sick. We drive to a small bungalow on Fountain Avenue in Hollywood where he scores from two mean, skinny lesbians – the nasty bitches. We go inside. Three junkies I don’t recognize are making jokes about two young narcotic cops who sent them to Chino twice, but now work the Hollywood scene. These guys are blond, good looking narcos who resemble the Crosby boys. A middle aged gaunt faced man walks over to the three junkies, and motions for them to follow him to the back room. I always wait up front, never where the deals go down in the back, but if this place is busted, I’ll go down with every one else. I’m standing here feeling very uncomfortable, not knowing what to do or what not to do when I look over and wonder if it’s my imagination that a girl wearing blue silk pajamas hiked up to her knee caps, is sprawled out on a couch by the window. I walk to that side of the room and find a young girl with long auburn colored hair, maybe my age – maybe younger, with fresh track marks running up her legs and arms. Another young woman who is waiting to score walks over to me, confiding that the girl on the couch is the daughter of a famous movie star. When I ask what’s wrong with her, quite matter-of-factually she shrugs and replies, “She just shot up,” and abruptly, turns and walks back, anxious she’ll miss her turn to score. No sooner do I sit down beside the girl on the couch, than she reaches out for my hand, her fingers cold and lifeless. The man volunteers this girl is about to enjoy a large inheritance on her eighteenth birthday. She is a hard core junky, very young, very beautiful, very strung out, and biding time for death to come. She will never see eighteen.I’m almost out the door when the telephone rings. I answer. It’s Billy. I know from the tone of his voice that he’s hurting; a voice unable to score, one that is lost in the bottom of a well. He begins to cry, “Tharon honey, I’m sorry but I can’t take it anymore.” He’s begging me to help him clean up. I make him tell me where he is. I tell him to wait there … that I’ll throw some things in a bag and pick him up; we’ll drive to Malibu, lock ourselves in a motel room and just do it. Outside of going back to Chino, it’s the only way. I say, “Wait … please don’t go … just wait … Billy, just wait … I’ll pick you up in thirty minutes … it’ll be alright … don’t cry … it’ll be alright baby.” There he is. An immediate wave of sadness runs through me seeing him like this, standing on the corner in front of Barney’s Beanery. He was my first love, handsome, talented and so gentle. Now look – gaunt and thin with track marks on his arms and legs. Not even looking at me, barely mumbling hello, he gets in the car and we drive to a motel in Malibu. He tells me in advance that no matter what he says, I’m not to let him out of the room. He tells me to hide the car keys as well as the key to our room. There are no words to describe what it’s like trying to hold on to someone going through heroin withdrawals, to someone who isn’t here. By day three, I’m sick from sleep deprivation and exhaustion, and he’s sick from hurting. He’s freaking out; he’s threatening to kill me if I don’t give him the keys and what little money I have. His hands around my neck, he’s screaming in my ear, “Give it! Give it! I’ll choke you to death Tharon! Give me the goddamn keys or I’ll kill you … you’re a dead bitch!” He’ll kill me if I don’t do something. I give him my purse. He throws it on the bed, and takes all the money I have … twenty-five dollars. I unlock the motel door, and tell him the car keys are under the mat on the driver’s side. They aren’t. I’m not giving them to him; he’ll sell my car for a fix. He grabs the money out of my hand and shoves me aside. As he runs to the car, I quickly lock the door to our room. He’ll be back when he can’t find the keys. I’m so scared I can hardly breath. He’s back …now he’s banging on the door and threatening to kill me again. “Get out of here Billy. The police are on their way.” This will be a long night. I’m sitting on the floor, my back propped up against the wall in wait for dawn, to make sure he’s gone. He’s looking to score. After that he’ll be ok … until the next time when he thoughtlessly shoots up again.
Amazon Five-star review by Shirley Priscilla Johnson TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE: “This book will touch your heart, your mind, your Spirit. It will make you stop and think about the world that was and the one we live in now. It is both down to earth, yet goes deep into the Heart and Soul. A story of love, a story of pain, a story of battles, some won, some lost. Excellent read that you will never forget. Book received for an honest review.”