She died last week. I think she was just a few years older than myself.
The word on the street is she’s been doing it with them. The same “them” your husband’s hanging around with.
Now a few of them have given you confirmation of what they’ve all been doing.
As you yourself told me, you knew it all along. But you’d hoped. You can always hope it’s not that bad.
Well, how else could you live with it?
I remember once long ago, looking at her—her pallid face, the sometimes almost-allure of her mysterious darkness…what was it?
Her odd hours and sleep patterns. The way she was there, yet not there.
So white, she was.
I remember I thought, “She looks like a junkie”.
She had Diabetes. She bore damage from that—neuropathy in her legs, for starters. She said she lived with pain, everyday. And everyday, she ate painkillers. The serious kind.
She openly said she was addicted, and what are you going to do? / the pain was just a fact of life / she couldn’t live with it without the drugs.
She had three children, not quite grown.
Isn’t this the story I heard from my other friend all those years ago?
Another one with permanent pain and the knowledge that IT made it ALL go away, easy.
Well, I never thought he hated it or anything. Of course he didn’t. Of course he wasn’t even using it for the pain. Yet….he was one with pain, for sure.
I remember once walking together on the beach, me clipping along at a moderately brisk pace, and him stopping long before I was winded.
“Please. You have got to slow down for me” he said.
I didn’t get it at first…I thought I was just in better shape than he, which seemed funny as I seemed always to be laboring to keep up with my male friends.
He mentioned the twenty-two tumors he’d once had in his legs. Told me there was damage. Pain. Walking hard set it off.
I had given him grief for being in such poor shape that I was leaving him behind….
I cringed then, remembering that I’d known the extent of the cancer he’d beaten. He looked healthy. It was startling, looking at him as somehow fragile.
That’s when he told me about the Heroin. Just once in a while, when the pain was really bad, and always only under the skin.
I accepted it, well, what would you do? I wasn’t living with his beasts.
This, from my friend. The one I admired. The one I spoke secrets to. The first ever to read my words. The first to encourage me, to teach me.
The one I’d laid with, who like a brother, never touched me. The first, that way also.
He was the one to see me, to hear me, to know something in me no one else did.
My friend, my brother for a little while, a soul brother, and brother to the one I wanted. The only connection I could keep to one who wanted something I was no part of. His connection to this one so strong as to be almost tangible to me, in his presence.
What was in it for him? Although we had a bond, I now understand he wasn’t in it to be my “brother”. He had to have hated me sometimes for my lack of grace where he was concerned. I never once meant to be that way, but I’m sure he heard an earful and bit his own tongue until it bled.
My friend, who was brilliant. Poet, music maker, artist, Father, friend, seeker. son.
I got a call from him after a long absence, asking me for help. Asking me to take him somewhere.
I tried, I really did. He asked me to give him some guidance. What would you do? I was too close, I was too timid. I knew this. I was younger than now, less tough, more worried about offending with the truth.
I also knew he had no other connection than me at this point, for his tenuous reaching to some way out.
So, I tried.
I had to admit then, that I was not the one for the job….
How do you tell one you look up to that they don’t know what’s best for them?
Because he didn’t.
Much later I got a call from him once again. About to complete his second tour of rehab, he was afraid to go home. He wanted one thing—for someone clean to come stay with him for two weeks. He said that he was sure that if he could just get through those first two weeks home, he could make it. If he could only just know there would be another there.
Living in another state, with a whole new life, and a man who would never have understood, I declined.
I will never forget this moment. I will never not wonder, at all the things I tried to say, but failed at, and the time, this last time, that he asked for something and I refused.
Because the truth is that I was afraid. I could not speak all my truths, to him, or anyone else, after all. I knew if I had gone, I would have failed at any purpose for being there.
I honestly can’t say now how much later it was that his brother called me. It could have been a year, two, or three.
His voice sounded strangled, wrecked, half there. Very quietly anguished. “J died” he told me.
The rest is so blurry; I don’t even know what he said, although I remember some of the information. I must have called him again to understand better what had happened, because from the moment he said it I felt underwater.
It felt the death of so much.
My friend, who I knew not any longer, and now never would again.
My mentor, soul brother. My liason to another–how strange, and even embarrassing that that should be part of the hurt. And here was that other with the news like a hard rain. I could hear it in his voice. He was slapped down hard, flat.
I felt strangled myself, for this one felt things I couldn’t possibly. I wanted, needed, to comfort, the only thing I could offer, and yet I could not. I could do nothing for that but leave him to hang up and be with his grief, his life, his loss, and his wife. She/he did not need the kind of comfort I would offer.
I was outside.
Another person I would hold my truth from. Another that nearly slipped away to Oblivion himself.
This was the end. There was nothing to come in the way of closure. There was to be no service at all. And for me, no commiserating with others, no wake, no recalling the things he’d said and done, no montage of pictures for people to look at together. Someone was kind enough to send me two pictures to remember him by and I still have them. All contact stopped there.
It was as though he had never been, nor anything connected with him.
Could anything I could have done have ever made a difference? If I had been brave enough, strong enough, to try harder to reach him, would it have mattered?
Probably not. How do you know when you have done all you can? It’s not as though I never tried at all.
What I do also know is this—
I did not want to alienate him. How could I be of any help if I drove him away?
But perhaps more important to me at the time was just that I didn’t want to lose him.
Well, I lost him. We all did.
What burned in me to speak to him, went largely unsaid. That I loved him and knew that he would die if he continued. That his two small children would grow up with no Father. That I wanted him to stop, whatever it took, and anything less was unacceptable and suicidal. That I would be right there, anyway I could, if he needed me. My convictions wavered when I tried. Maybe I didn’t know a thing about what he needed, after all? Maybe I just didn’t think I had the right. Maybe I was afraid of his rejection and retreat from me. I retreated myself instead.
Then he was gone.
I realize that I had little control over where he chose to go with his particular demon. He knew the demons name. And he didn’t or couldn’t banish it.
Always I’ve known, that I will just never know. I only know I didn’t say what I needed to, for fear. And I can’t do that over.
I think of him often now, and I practice telling my truth, lest I lose the chance again.
Girl, what will you regret not saying? Doing? You hope, you pray, you worry, you imagine. But now you know.
I’ve been watching. Here I am wondering what I should say/not say. Again.
What will you choose?