The Apple Tree:: Chapter 5: Numbers

Taking a hit off a drug isn't about getting high. It's about easing pain or forgetting the past. It's about trying to find something for which you've been searching desperately. It's about making yourself bigger than you actually are. It's about money and power. It's about a last ditch effort to find love and acceptance from people who don't know how to give either. 

Even though she'd committed to going straight after moving to Winona, Bridget soon discovered it wasn't as easy as walking away. Dylan's former hookup, Mike, was just blocks away and he kept Bridget in steady supply. And, despite her hatred towards Mike for introducing Dylan to meth, Mike quickly became indispensable to Bridget. 

With no job and a habit to feed, Bridget was ripe ground for someone looking to expand their sales operation. From pricing, to quality, to people, places, and product, Mike became Bridget's mentor teaching her everything she needed to know about selling drugs. In a matter of weeks, Bridget went from a drug user to a link in the intricate chain of drug supply. It was all about numbers: this much for that amount. A tenth, a gram, a pound. For a small link in the chain like Bridget, the numbers would never add up. She would always lose in this zero sum game.

It's in Winona that Bridget met Wyatt, the vagabond of a boyfriend who called her "The Apple Tree," and she quickly attached herself to him. But, as things began to heat up in Winona, the couple left everything and moved to Rochester. At this point, Bridget had nothing of her own. No car, no home, and no possessions. She was dependent on the next fix, the next sale and out of desperation she used her smarts to go even higher up the chain. At the beginning of their relationship Wyatt provided Bridget with meth, but soon enough Bridget became his supplier.  

Soon, Wyatt moved on and Bridget hooked-up with a new boyfriend, Gavin, who happened to be her latest supplier.  He was from Wabasha, MN, so they spent a lot of time with there.

It was there that the two of them were found passed out in Gavin's car parked outside his house. The police were there to arrest Gavin, who was on probation, for driving after revocation. The cops knocked on the car window and when Gavin stepped out of the car, a hand gun fell onto the officer's foot. Possession of a firearm, for a felon on probation, is a free ticket to prison.

During their search of the vehicle, police found a meth pipe in Bridget's purse and arrested her for fifth-degree drug possession - a felony and her first possession charge. Bridget spent the next three months in the Wabasha county jail and was released on probation in November, 2013 nearly one year after she'd begun using meth. 

It was just 12 days later that she walked out of Walmart with a bag full of stolen items.

Curly Que.png

The weather was warming and Spring would be here before we knew it. Over a month ago, when I'd begun meeting with Bridget, there had been snow on the ground. Now, in mid-March, the snow was vanishing quickly. I would hate to miss Spring as I knew Bridget would.

Upon entering the county jail's vestibule, I proceeded to put my purse and jacket in one of the lockers that lined the wall. After taking out the key, I went to the front desk and spoke with the attendant who was sitting behind a glass wall.

"Who are you here to see?" She said without glancing up.

"Bridget Huisman."

"What program?"

"Your Story / Your Song."

I handed over my driver's license and the key to the locker and in return took the panic button that I attached to my waistband. The attendant checked a few computer screens.

"You want me to call the unit?"

"Yeah. That'd be good. Thanks." 

I turned, walked through the metal detectors then signed the "guestbook." Really, the "guestbook" is for county staff to quickly assess who is in the jail (and where) in the event of an emergency. Like if the jail goes into lockdown because of a detainee revolt like the one that happened about a decade ago.

Every now and then I second-guess my decision to volunteer at the jail.

Shoving away any thoughts of detainee anarchy, I approached the sally port leading into the jail and pushed the button notifying master control that I was there. Thankfully, there must not have been too much movement elsewhere in the jail, because I was in the library within a minute or two.

Bridget's song with nearly finished. Oh, I knew it would need polishing, but I was confident I'd have something to share with her next week during our final session. Music is a lot like managing numbers: there is symmetry, balance and an equal sum of parts. One. Four. Five. Six. Fifth, fourth, third, second. Change a chord by a simple half-step and the entire thing changes. How such a thing like pitch, duration, and vibrations through the air can feel so magical and miraculous is beyond me.

After Bridget arrived, we exchanged pleasantries and I opened her journal to begin to read. As a pastor, I was eager to discover what role faith had played in her life. 

"Faith...Some days I don't even think about it. Other days I take it for granted. The rest of the time it's what gets me through life's challenges both large and minute. There have also been times where I questioned faith and the Creator's existence; letting my cynical and doubtful mind lead me into that dark place that breeds hate, fear, insecurity, dishonesty, inferiority and the list goes on.

How could grace be granted to me: a young unwed mother, chronic foul language user, baptized Lutheran as a baby, not a regular church goer, and definitely not someone fluent in the Bible. I did join a church, but that was so we could baptize our baby and get married. I was an unwed mother of two; I had to join a church! Isn't that what you do when it calls for us to be faithful to God? I thought it was. Yet, I always felt that impending sense of doom waiting for the other shoe to drop.

My attitude wasn't negative, but it wasn't always positive and upbeat either. I started to withdraw more and more. The marriage that I thought would give me favor in God's eyes was slowly wearing me down. This entire time, never did I think of praying or asking for help. Yet when unexpected monies or things worked out in my favor, I'd give thanks.

How does a person ask for help? Heck, I couldn't even ask for help from people much less ask and talk to something I wasn't even sure existed. I didn't know what I needed to do or be; especially as a now divorced mother of three suffering from addiction.

The first time I distinctly remember asking for help was a year prior when I accidentally turned on a Christian music station and "I Can Only Imagine" by MercyMe played from the car radio speaking to my lost and hurting soul. The tears pouring down my face as I tried to imagine what it would be like face to face with a Jesus who I knew was good, but still didn't know how to "find him." I wanted that feeling of peace in my heart and soul that I'd heard others talk about. 

I first prayed for help in a courthouse bathroom, shackled and chained, tear stained face. A grown up scared little girl. 'Please God, I promise that if you get me out of jail today, I won't touch any more drugs.' I was serious! Then, I was released and got high right there in the jail parking lot. I promptly forgot my earnest promise and request in that bathroom at the foot of a toilet where many before me had probably knelt and prayed that same prayer.

The second time was a few weeks laters as I lay alone in my townhome. One child was taken and the 2 littles with their dad, my eventual ex-husband. The house dark. Full of loneliness and despair, I wanted to die, wishing I had a gun and rounds of ammunition. It would be a quick and simple way out of all these messes I'd gotten myself into. 

But, what about Britt? My two youngest children had their dad, but Britt had nobody else to truly rely on and who in my family could raise her? I couldn't leave her, but I also couldn't live this hopeless life any longer. 'God, please help me,' I prayed watching the caller ID on the phone as it's ringing over and over. My mom calling, worried about me. I did not answer, I was too ashamed. About that same time, there was a knock at my front door. I opened it and there stood a policeman. I had a warrant for missing court. I didn't pray in the courthouse bathroom this time, but I did decide to go to treatment. Maybe that would help me.

At the time, I had no clue how those two prayers were going to impact my life. Not only that summer but probably for the rest of my life. Both prayers were spoken in desperation, one a petition and one a promise; one answered almost immediately and the other a constant reminder of how weak I am without that knowledge and understanding of God embedded in my heart and soul."

I closed the journal and looked at Bridget. "Thank you so much for sharing this with me. Thank you for being vulnerable and open."

Bridget looked at me expectantly. I wanted to say something profound, but I was at a loss. I realized I had become important to Bridget; that what I said mattered to her. This realization was humbling and overwhelming. Honestly, I think it was the first time I'd ever experienced such a thing.

"Your song is pretty much finished, but I want to wait until next week to play it for you." 

"Damn it. I wanted to hear it," Bridget laughed, "but I understand."

"I know. I know, but I want to get it just right," and I did. "This week, how about some free journaling? Write about whatever comes to mind. Next week, we'll probably have a shorter session." I got up to leave and Bridget followed suit. "Any word on your trial?" I asked as we left the library and walked the hallway to a locked door leading into a common area.

"It's scheduled for sometime in April. I'll know more after I meet with Michael again." Bridget sounded weary of the whole process. She glanced out the window of the door at the end of the hallway while we waited for master control to let us out. "I can't wait to wear a color other than Sponge Bob yellow and do my hair and eat good food."

"Won't that be nice?" I responded. Of course, what did I know? We made more small talk until the buzzer buzzed indicating the door was unlocked. I pushed it open.

"Have a great week!" I called out as I turned right to go back to the outside world.

"You too, see you next week," Bridget responded with a smile as she turned left to return to her cell.