Kimberly had been the Wichita High School sweetheart. And her sweet heart was her undoing. She had a heart for the broken hearted. The broken families. The broken minds. She volunteered in a center that rehabilitated babies born on drugs because she had seen the destruction drugs had on lives. That's because drugs had been her mother’s undoing.
Dylan, from her community college, had one of these broken lives. During one of his brief stints of sobriety he and Kimberly were married, full of hope for change. They were young and knew no better. What they did know, what Kimberly knew because she was young, was the truth that sacrificial love changes lives. She had learned it deep in her soul from Les Miserables. And Phantom. And from her grandma who raised her, who never quit loving her wayward daughter until she, Kimberly’s momma, had overdosed a few years earlier. But that sacrificial love is what would have saved her if she had lived.
And Dylan wanted dearly to believe in it. He hoped that her love could save him. Even by age 21 he knew if he would defeat this, he needed something stronger than anything this earth had yet presented him.
Kimberly called him not by ‘hunny’ or ‘hubby’ or ‘babe.’ But she called him ‘My Hope.’ A dozen times each day whenever she spoke to him she said, “My hope, would you like a sandwich? I’m making bologna.”
So when Dylan relapsed Kimberly knew only one way. No other way even entered her mind. She would love him out of it.
When they were pulled over and asked what they had thrown out of the window Dylan said a banana peel. But when the officer produced a bag of Meth he had picked up on the road, Kimberly insisted it was hers. Knowing that Dylan was already on parole she took the hit for him.
Kimberly paid a fine, did some required therapy and then went back to volunteering at the infant rehab place. She thought, “If I can just save the kids when they are young, they will never have to go through all this.”
Kimberly could tell when Dylan was feeling the pull to use again. She would hold him and whisper, “My hope, please put those out of your mind.” She always called the drugs “those.” Dylan loved her so much, partly because of her heart, and her tenderness toward him, and he sincerely meant to, but he just couldn’t stop. When Dylan was fired for being high at work they had no idea an investigation would require them to admit where they had gotten the meth from. Kimberly said she had bought it, and knowing he would go straight to jail, Dylan agreed it was her. The police could tell she was taking the hit for him but they couldn’t do anything about it. Ironically they were so kind to her that Kimberly didn’t get a sense how perilous a mark it left on her record.
She spent a week pampered in the police jailhouse, because they loved her. And then she went back to her volunteering with ever renewed zeal. She had to save those kids early. Dylan apologized and swore he wouldn’t touch “those” again.
But the third time it was when Dylan hit a neighbor’s car parked in the driveway. And by the time the neighbor got outside, Kimberly was out there too. Knowing Dylan’s record, Kimberly claimed she had been driving. The neighbor had never liked the two so now that she had an excuse she called the cops and insisting they were hiding something. They let the cop search the car because he had been clean for months.
But when the cop backed out of the car with a tiny baggy of little crystals, Dylan realized he had forgotten it was there. Before Dylan could say anything, Kimberly insisted it was hers. Her crying and hysteria was so real that they all thought maybe it had in fact been her. But when they went to trial, no one had realized with her previous convictions this required her to go to prison. The judge was a new judge and just saw two previous violations on her record and did what he had to do.
Prison. 10 years. Prison.
They were all in silent shock as they took her away. She barely had time for her frightened Bambi eyes to look back at Dylan and mouth the words, “I love you.”
Dylan all but went crazy. If anything was not in question in that courtroom, it was his love for her. He fought and yelled and did everything but punch the security guards as he watched her being taken away.
Something else they did not foresee was what Dylan’s mother would do. Being his mother she assumed the best of him. So when Kimberly was taken away on charges for the third time, it was enough to convince her Kimberly was the reason her son’s struggles. As if going to prison weren’t enough, she instated a restraining order. If Kimberly even tried to contact her son she would get in trouble. He could not go visit her in jail. She could not call him. She could not text him, even if she had a phone.
He had let Kimberly down three times. And three was enough to finish the job. It looked permanent.
After 7 months Dylan still had not climbed out of his depression. What was amazing though was that he had stayed away from drugs. That last look on her face was enough to do it. Or perhaps, laying in bed all day long, he just never had the energy to start again.
Until one day his phone buzzed. He rolled over and looked at it: “Do you love me more than those?”
“What the fuck is this?” Dylan muttered. He unplugged his phone and looked closer. Unknown number. He wasn’t about to be played. He typed, “wtf??”
The little bouncing circles… “My Hope.”
He dropped to his knees on the floor. “Kimberly,” he whispered. He realized he couldn’t type her name and she couldn’t type his or they could prove they violated the restraining order.
“Yes. Yes. Yes, my Love. I love you more than those.”
“Take care of my babies.”
He was frozen. What did she mean? Her babies? They had no babies. It had to be her though. She must be using someone’s phone in prison.
Then it came again, “Do you love me more than those, My Hope?
“Yes. Yes. Yes, my love. I love you more than I ever have. And more than all of those. I’m still clean! For you, my Love!”
“Love my babies.”
What babies!? What babies…. oh.
The rehab babies.
He frantically texted, “From the clinic? Those babies?”
“Yes, my Hope. We must save them from this.”
He thought, what does that mean? Am I even allowed to help them? Of course he could. What was he thinking. But he felt so unworthy; he had been the cause of the same sort of pain that hurt them.
But then her text came again. “DO YOU LOVE ME, my Hope?”
“YOU KNOW I DO!!!! You know I do! How can you ask me that, my love?! More than all the world of those!!!!”
“Feed my babies, My Hope. Feed them my love.”
Three times he had failed her, and three times she had asked him. “I WILL. I WILL. I WILL.” And then a moment later he texted, “How are you?”
“I miss you, My Hope. I have to go. Every day, I miss you so much.”
The next day he got out of bed. He took a very long walk to the infant rehab center. He mumbled very humbly to the skeptical lady at the front desk, “Listen, I’m not perfect. But I really want to help.”
Raw Spoon, 6-5-17