I looked upon the sky in this strange village. I've never seen stars so bright; so shimmering. It felt almost as if they were wasted among people like us. The addicted; the junkies. The most despised people of the world; the weak and the pitiful. That's how I felt sitting there; outside of the beautiful farm in the north of the Netherlands. The village was called Ravenswoud. Translated it would be the wood of the ravens. It may sound exciting, however it was anything but that. It was just a small village with farms and cows and chickens, and apparently; drug addicts. I was here to detox from my drug addiction and be a prisoner for three entire months - if lucky - working hard, being disciplined, becoming a respected citizen - before being left out and getting back into the real world. The world with a view way different than this. And a world where it wasn't a crime to smoke a cigarette behind the farm cages and not only that; being outside after ten pm could be a problem for me even.
If you're even wondering whether this could be real; yes, it is. This is the story of a small part of my life. Back when I, Jule, was just 20 years-old, my parents were so sick of me, my friends and my abuse of alcohol and drugs, partying all the time without giving a damn, they decided to put me in therapy in this weird farm in a village in the north of the Netherlands. Still, I feel they weren't right at all. I gave much more than a damn. I gave everything for everything; and this is no lie. It has never been. I give everything for everything; I still do. Until this very day. However, back in those days, I was young and confused. I tried my best but all I did was fail and disappoint. I couldn't take being a failure compared to my siblings and started doing alcohol and drugs with my friends. I know it's all my own fault but I never meant it to go so far.
As I was thinking about all of these things, I saw someone walking towards me. I was sitting and smoking a cigarette behind the barn, right? I put out my cigarette at once, just to be sure. But in his shadows, I saw who was walking towards me. 'illegally' after ten pm outside, he just walked here peacefully. It was Ayden. My heart stops still thinking of him. He was tall, had dark brown eyes and hair; his face was bleak. Like a true junkie. He was thin and had tattoos all over his body. He was a real drug addict; not someone like me, who just partied too much. I loved the fact that we came in this shit-hole Ravenswoud on the exact same date; I will never forget. February 2nd, 2016. It's the day we met. Me, Ayden, Dany. Dany was a shy girl. Not even to be mentioned with him in the same sentence, I think. I believe so. I loved him. Not like true love, like "I'm in love with you," but the love you like "I get you; you get me. We're alike. We know what it’s like."
He sat next to me and gave me a cigarette without saying a single word. We smoked our 'illegal' cigarettes. Seemingly calm and confident, but my heart was pounding. What was it about him that hit me so hard and strong? He was just a friend from here, and we were both the kind of people who liked to NOT follow the rules. It was just how we were. But we knew. We both knew that we were these people, and could be honest.
I knew Ayden had a borderline girlfriend of seventeen years old. She wasn't that pretty, but she was interesting and she wouldn't give him his way so she was more interesting to him than I could ever be. Savannah was her name, I remember so clearly. He talked about her. How he got so angry when she got back to her ex and he got there and saved her from her abusing ex-boyfriend. But she went back again. It was a heartbreaking story from an even more heartbroken boy. I was never so honest with people. My heart never breaks. I truly believed that. Even though it was shattered into a thousand pieces at the time. I believed I was unbreakable. I had to. To fit in, to be cool, to be one of the guys there.
We both looked at the stars at some point that evening. It was March 15th I recall. We were there for one and a half months. Half-way trough our torture; not knowing even in the slightest what would happen in the two days after that peaceful night looking at the stars together, smoking a cigarette, and - wow, my heart, beat even faster - holding hands.
If I hadn't mentioned it before; life at Ravenswoud - a beautiful village in the north of the Netherlands - was hell for us. We were heavily detoxing from our drug addictions, and had to work during the entire day. Sometimes we had therapy, or some sort of special therapy like art, going into the woods and learning how to cut trees, learning about bird species, regular talking, some sort of poetic therapy form or showing things and connecting with our bodies. I know it doesn't sound like hell, but believe me, if you knew in what kind of state I was in - very underweight, no muscles, addicted to GHB (Very uncommon outside of the Netherlands) and speed, and exhausted to the point of collapsing. Even after a month, I needed drugs to keep me sane; legal drugs. I was on Valium and sleeping pills every day, and laxatives to keep my body working.
I have no idea who made the final decisions there. However, I was put in the garden in February 2016; one of the coldest winters I've ever experienced. The wind was so hard there, the cold got through your bones. There was no point in planting anything so we had to chuck wood and pile it up in a circle. The point? I still have no idea. I mostly remember the division of tasks; who would split the wood; who would assemble the wood, who would pile the would in a big circle. It was me and four other boys in the garden. I guess they saw me as a tough one there; no matter how fragile I actually felt and how badly I wanted to cry. I guess nobody saw any of me.
So we divided the tasks day after day after day. Since we were with four, and it was half way of March, the garden-therapist, or Leo - his real name, and World-competitor on Sitting-bikes (just look this up; this is a real thing we had to make fun of), saw that we could start getting into setting up for the spring and summer tasks. FINALLY, something else than stapling wood on top of wood. First, it was for the tough guys only; they had to dig over the frozen ground to make it more fertile, with their shovels. So I was still stapling or sawing our wooden bricks. I was becoming more and more jealous of the two, three, four guys eventually digging the ground or making ways for the rain or water to go to our garden in the back. I needed something else as well; especially since the conversations between me and my 'friends' were getting less and less since the arrival of Cooper.
Cooper was not only a cocaine addict, he was a sex-addict as well; all the more dangerous to me. The conversations we had were short and civilized. Although I noticed more guys following him in his footsteps. The entire farm became a guy-farm. I know you don't have a clue what I'm talking about right now. Let me explain with an example.
Every evening we had to listen to a poem and tell in our own words what we think it meant and what it meant to us - at least - as long as you were willing to. Nobody would force you of course so if you had a rough day, you could just keep silent; these were the rules. I, myself, loved the poem readings every night and it actually became a contest between Cooper and myself on who would read the text and give the first opinion. Keep in mind that we were there with twelve people (junkies), and Dany and I were the only girls there, as well as an old lady Penelope who didn't and hadn't said a word ever. She was simple and plain and not noteworthy. Dany and myself were bait. Two young girls, two young inexperienced (or so it would seem to the guys), shy, insecure, but very attractive girls. I knew I knew how to take care of myself but I worried about Dany all the time. Especially because our practitioners didn't have a clue about what was going on at the time.
I remember a simple thing. I was playing a game of cards with Cooper and his right hand Boy. Just the three of us in the addict. I felt obliged to say yes when they asked me to play the game, so I said "sure", and I played. The game was fine though, I felt uncomfortable, but it could've been me at the time without any drugs. During the game the boys were talking about the chicks they had done in their previous detox and the sluts they were and that kind of stuff. It made me uncomfortable, but what the heck was I supposed to say? This is guy talk, I told myself. Though it wasn't just that. The following day I dared not to speak where they were because it felt stupid what I felt, or what they could make of it. I wouldn't give in, I wouldn't show myself to those assholes, ever. They would never know the true Jule, or what I've been through with guys like that. It made me feel so unsafe. It had the same effect on Dany and we both became 'quiet girls'.
One evening when we were smoking a cigarette behind the barn Ayden asked me whether something happened between me and Cooper. I told him nothing happened. Nothing happened. Really. It's just that the vibe has gotten different, I told him. But truly, nothing happened. He did not believe a word I said, I must imagine.
That's when it all went wrong. It was never my intention. It wasn't my fault, right? But there he was. Or it? His body. Cooper had been stabbed to death with a knife from the kitchen. It was only a few days after the last conversation I had with Ayden. Cooper was lying dead in the fucking kitchen when I came out to make breakfast and set the tables. He had bled to death. Not in the heart, not in his head, no. Just randomly attacked by someone with a kitchen knife. The one I actually wanted to use to cut the bread. The utterly idea of using the same knife was so wrong I couldn't forgive myself, but on the other hand, if it had been Ayden who had done this, his traces would have been gone if I washed the knife lying there on the ground.
After the Kitchen practitioner came in and saw me in awe with the knife in my hand, the day went by without me actually being there at all. Was I even there? I don't really remember. I remember them giving me more Valium to keep calm and I remember the look Ayden gave me, but Dany as well. What had happened and why was I there to blame. The entire day went by and the evening activities (and day activities) were cancelled.
There I was, sitting behind the barn and smoking my usual illegal cigarette. Ayden and Dany joined me, both. I'd never seen Dany smoke a cigarette. I saw the look of Ayden to Dany's face and I knew I had lost in all possible ways of this stupid horrific sentence of three months in Ravenswoud. There was something there, more than friendship. Something had happened there, out of my knowledge. I never found out. At the end of April, I got let out. Free, non-addicted, detoxed, civilized, and ashamed of myself that I wasn't the one I would want to be. My parents picked me up at night to drive back to Amsterdam, the city where I lived. My apartment, my cats, my friends.
Back there, I looked at the stars again. There they were, but faintly, or not even there. Is this all there is? Is this all I am worth? I called my drug dealer and not one hour later I was sitting at my balcony in my own apartment, on drugs, looking at the unseeable stars in Amsterdam-city, feeling like I didn't matter at all.