Head Games 

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Depending on which shrink was taking Mom’s insurance that year, Jackie was schizophrenic or manic or borderline.

Or just fucking manipulative. That was my diagnosis.

There was a certain predictability about each of those doctors: the out-of-date fashion magazines in the waiting room, the way they nodded and said “Hm,” in family therapy. Like clockwork, fifteen minutes into my first individual session, they’d press me to admit I resented Jackie, how unfair it was that she was the oldest, but I was the responsible one.

I told those doctors about the time Jackie dragged me to a party, how I came home with a black eye and a daisy chain tattooed around my ankle and no memory of how I’d gotten either; that when I asked what happened she just smirked and said, “Don’t worry. It’s not like you have a criminal record now.”

Only one of those docs ever asked to see my ink and I demurred, said it freaked me out to look at it, unable to recall it being put there.

As scripted, in session three, I confessed I couldn’t sleep at night ’cause of all the stress, asked for a little something to get me through. Begged if I had to.

Mom filled our prescriptions from whatever pharmacy the county would pay for and Jackie and I divvied up the pills on her pink chenille bedspread. We’d get the most for Valium. Other sedatives sold well, but Valium definitely did best.  It was hard not to ask the doctors for it by name, but I knew that would blow everything out of the water.

Jackie’s anti-psychotics? Virtually worthless. She never managed to get one prescribed that would get anyone buzzed. We could only sell them to the kids who didn’t know any better, the kids who weren’t regulars, that we were sure we’d never see again.

We pocketed the fives and the tens, got homeless guys to buy us Boone’s Farms and cigarettes at the 7-11.  And tattoos, we got those too, even though neither of us looked even close to 18. None of them were flowers. Or Chinese characters. Those were for the tripped out sorority girls looking to give Daddy the finger.

Jackie and I fought once, a real, physical fight. I scratched her cheek and drew blood. I’d seen a purse I wanted to buy with our takings, but it cost more than my share. I yanked her half of the money right out of her pocket and marched over to Third Street to buy that bag. I’d earned it, after all.  My meds were the valuables ones.

Or maybe that  fight happened in my head. Who can say for sure?

I’ve been told crazy runs in the family.

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Georgene Smith Goodin’s work has appeared in Alligator Juniper and is scheduled to appear in About the Pause. She competes regularly in The Moth StorySLAMS. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, the cartoonist Robert Goodin, and their two dogs, Toaster and Idget.

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