It’s Thursday morning so here’s a story:
When I was 19 I got engaged, for the second time, to a heroin addict. I was rebounding—badly—but I was also drunk. J gave me my first taste of hard drugs. We’d stay up late and drain magnum bottles of vodka and do coke. He’d vanish for days on benders and come back sicker than anything I’d ever seen. I’d prop him up on the couch and he’d throw up in my salad bowl. Beg me to get him ecstasy. To get him lunch. To get him his phone.
I remember thinking, To love someone is to serve them.
J was straight, except for you. You do something to me. I need you. He would slip his hand in mine as I drove across town to drop him off so he could buy or sell. He had a head for business. He would turn 10 dollars into 300 in 2 days. Make lemon chicken and lay it on a bed of kale then do a hit of x and clean the house. At a party once in my basement he told me to burn his hand with a cigarette. So I did. I remember thinking, To love someone is to give them what they ask for. When the burn healed the scar was heart shaped. We made too much of it.
J couldn’t commit. So there were women. Women who would sit in the room with me and let him flirt with them. He would bring them over—bring them to our parties. Let them put their hands on his shoulder in conversation. I would think to myself, To love someone is to go to war. I ran a counter campaign. Let men buy me drinks, get coy with the waiter. It was very much like a Hemingway short story—blood behind our eyes and nothing is happening when everything gets too heavy. Then you make too much of it.
When he left me he said, You knew I wasn’t gay. and I said, Is that what I knew? He left that night. Went to live with a woman who had been a friend. They got a kitten together. Named her Aviva, a name of Hebrew origin that means spring. When she kicked him out two months later I went and got the cat. Renamed it Claire and gave it to a friend because I was allergic. By the time we realized Claire was male he’d already learned his name. We laughed about the perfect queerness of this boy cat named Claire. Hugged him and told him he was perfect. Made too much of it.
When J overdosed they called me and I came. Found him barely breathing on a bathroom floor, skin that gorgeous purple of twilight. His breath came in these horrible ragged bursts. It wasn’t breathing. It was gasping—clawing. Out of the corner of my eye a house centipede scuttled up the wall; a flurry. I shuddered, told someone to call 911. When the paramedics got there they gave him a shot, This will keep the heroin from binding to any more of his receptors. He’ll hurt like hell if he pulls through this. When J sat up on the gurney 2 minutes later the first thing he said was my name. I made entirely too much of it.