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“How do you know it's a 'her'?” she whispers back. “I guess I always just assumed because they cal her Nessie.” “Grandma says that assuming makes an ass out of you and me.” We both giggle at the idea of my prim, evangelical mother using profanity as a teaching tool. “Actual y, I think asking the nurse to bring us freshly-warmed blankets every half hour makes an ass out of you and me.” “No Mom. That's just you.” It is 2007 and Alice, who is stil cal ed Jordan, is fourteen. She is decked out in camouflage pants and an olive drab t-shirt. Her dirty-blond hair, chopped into a crude crew cut, smel s like that of any other sweaty teenage boy. I know this because we are sharing a pil ow in the bel y of Dominican Hospital's ER. We have been here for five hours and it wil be six more before they strap her to a gurney in preparation for transport to the psychiatric hospital an hour away. The room itself is larger than most Emergency Room cubicles. One whole wal is glass and faces the central nurse's station. Drawn across this window from floor to ceiling is a light blue curtain which gently bil ows each time the nearby air vents kick on. Some time after midnight, one of the nurses lowered the lights in our room and now the shadow of the crossbeam in the curtained window moves and morphs like a serpent on the water. The rippling shadow has become our Loch Ness Monster. Her head and humps, where they break the surface of the waves, are darker than the rest of her snaking body. In this brief moment, as in the eye of a great hurricane, we are blanketed in an almost magical sense of calm. Twelve hours ago, I casual y opened my child's dresser drawer in search of socks and found instead a virtual pharmacy. Liquids, capsules and tablets in a variety of boxes and bot les were casual y tossed in amid the cartoon-print pajamas and boxer shorts. It is one of those moments where everything you think you know shifts. Do I real y have a child so brazen that she doesn't even bother to hide her drugs? Do I real y have a child who uses drugs? Jordan had already left for school, so I had a wide window of at least six hours to comprehend what lay before me and figure out an appropriate response. In the meantime, I busied myself col ecting the evidence in an overturned milk-crate which usual y served as a bookshelf. Empty bot les of Robutussin, blister-packs of Dramamine and an odd assortment of what turned out to be caf eine pil s, Linsopril and Ritalin fil ed the the crate which had, moments before, housed Dr. Seuss, Douglas Adams and a stack of WW I history books. When I finished with the drawer, I turned a suspicious eye to the rest of the room.If I were a fourteen year-old, where would I hide my stash? The smal bedroom that Jordan shared with her brother Mouse had the basic amenities … a bunk-bed, an upright dresser with a smal TV/VHS combo perched on top, a disastrously disorganized closet, strewn with a mess of (mostly abandoned) toys, the afore-mentioned milk-crate bookshelf and a Vietnam-era footlocker. Bingo. I sat down in front of the footlocker and pul ed the makeshift evidence crate closer so I could load whatever I found into it. Unlatching the lock and pul ing back the buckles, I felt the sick swirling dread which soon would become al too familiar. I took a deep breath, threw open the lid and there, neatly tucked into tidy lit le bundles were eleven pairs of tube socks. I couldn't help but laugh as I unfurled a pair and shoved my cold feet into them before searching the rest of the footlocker. Nothing. I honestly can't remember what I did to pass the hours with the exception of the forty-five minutes spent on Pil, figuring out exactly what substances I was dealing with. But shortly before school let out, I took the crate of contraband downstairs and set it on the kitchen table where she'd be sure to see it when she came in. I wavered between terrified and furious, each emotion feeding back into the other. How things escalated so far so fast that afternoon is stil unclear, but the confrontation became a blistering argument almost immediately. One moment we were in the kitchen and the next, we were upstairs, screaming at one another loud enough to rat le the windowpanes. Jordan had yet to perfect what would soon become the standard defense; admit to everything after the fact, downplay the seriousness and ignore any consequences. Instead, she matched my anger and pushed even further. At one point, she shoves the screen out of the bedroom window and lets it clat er to the cement walkway below. Then she clamors up into the sil , thumping steel-toed boots on the wal as she goes. She sits there, hands light on the window frame, leaning ever-so-slightly out into the afternoon breeze, having arranged her face into the angriest sneer she can conjure. “Maybe I should just let go. Be done with it al .” She lobs the threat in my direction. “Is that real y what you want?” I ask, matching her tone for tone. She shrugs, and then unexpectedly, the smile fades. “Sometimes”. I stand stock-stil for what feels like forever. I wil come to know the signs, the tremble of her chin even when her eyes are dark with anger or clouded with opiates, but I don't know them yet. Stil , there is something in her expression that I've never seen before, something inside of her screaming for help. Not aloud, you understand. Never aloud. But there, nonetheless. Final y, I turn towards the hal and motion for her to fol ow. “Then you need to come with me.” I say quietly, and strangely enough, she does. In many ways though, she never real y left that windowsil , remained precariously perched for the next three years, leaning out into the void and hanging on by her fingertips. How I wish even now for just a wisp of the magic of watching Nessie float upon the curtain in the half-light, a too-brief calm at the center of the chaos which had become our lives. Back in the ER, the no-nonsense Child Services advocate consulting on the case (whose services I wil later be bil ed $900 for on top of the $200 co-pay for an unscheduled hospital visit) sweeps back the curtain and comes in to tel us that she's secured Jordan a bed in the adolescent ward at Fremont Hospital. “We're going to transfer you first thing in the morning get you al sorted out up there. You'l chat with the doctor and he'l be able to assess whether or not you have some depression, maybe need anti-depressants, counseling or. .” Her sentence trails of , but she smiles reassuringly. I consider the possibility of a mental health diagnosis and think back not just to this morning, but the last three years of anger and rebel ion. There is a spark of relief, fol owed immediately by a wave of guilt. When the Social Worker leaves, I nudge Jordan's head with my own and whisper, “I'm sorry Jory. I didn't know you might be sick. I kind of just assumed you were being an ass.” “That's ok.” she says, “So did I.”


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Each fal , the Seventh Grade travels to Hancock Field Station near the town of Fossil innorth-central Oregon for a multi-day program of natural history instruction. The field station,operated by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, is one of the mostcomprehensive science camps in the nation. It is adjacent to the Clarno unit of the John DayFossil Beds National Monument and offers

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