Why do I have seven years of reflection where you have nothingness? Why do I have life where you have death?
March 28th, 2014. An end date to a life.
I imagine you slipping out the sliding back door as the police and paramedics showed up to my overdose. You called 911 and waited until they arrived before escaping, knowing you had a warrant, you risked arrest to make sure I was okay. You slipped out as I slept. Well, as I lay unconscious from a heroin overdose.
When I think of you leaving, I picture watching you slip out the back door into the summer night.
There were other times. There was the time I overdosed in your dealer’s bathroom after you cooked our shots too strong and hit me in the jugular after I shot out all my veins. You and Nick had to carry me, all six feet of me, down from the second-floor apartment into the car when the dealer panicked and told you to get rid of me. You dropped me on the stairs. Or maybe Nick did. I just remember the bruises on my back in straight lines, concrete stairs across my spine. You saved me then. I woke up in the back seat of my Subaru wagon, disoriented with a backache.
Or the time I overdosed after doing a shot sitting in my driver’s seat and you had to carry me — again, six feet of me — around the car to the passenger seat to drive us away so we didn’t all go to jail. You put a suboxone under my tongue and the antagonist effects revived me. Or maybe I just woke up.
Nevermind that those three incidents spanned only five days. You saved me each time.
I saved you a few times but only in a metaphorical sense.
The same week as the overdoses, when you’d started calling me Fallout Queen, you borrowed my car and never returned. You ate too many benzos, did too big of a shot, got lost on the freeway, ran my car off the road, and popped the tire. You called me 12 hours after leaving saying you would “be right back” disoriented. You didn’t know where you were. I got you to describe your surroundings and send me your location.
I got a ride all the way to Wilsonville and found you passed out in the backseat on the shoulder of I-5, doors wide open, one tire flat. I had to change the tire because you didn’t know how. You were too fucked up to even pretend to help. I was seething mad, but you were so innocent, so apologetic, so loveable. I forgave you on the spot.
There was the night before my mom died when you called me after being stranded after the last bus stopped running, dopesick and miserable. I drove on a suspended license to come get you, got you well, you slept on one couch and I on the other. In the morning, I bought you a train ticket out. You left your wallet at my house, ever forgetful. Twelve hours after you left my mom overdosed and died on her morphine. In one of the last sentences I heard you utter, you apologized for not making it to her funeral.
I tried to give your wallet back to you the last night I saw you. But you didn’t take it. We would see each other again, surely. Without question.
The police found it the next night when they raided my apartment. You never got your fucking wallet back.
I still remember the way you took your coffee. 8 hazelnut pumps, 6 vanilla. I still think that’s gross. I try to forget the period where you did too much meth and got really into InfoWars. Your favorite snack was King’s Hawaiian rolls. They taste like you, like those nights we ran missions until 3 in the morning, stopping at the 24-hour Winco to re-up on rolls using our food stamps. I still remember how much you hated ketchup. Or was it that you loved it? The memories of the mundane are slipping away from me, water flowing in between my open fingers. The crises, the intensity, those moments are seared into my psyche.
That October after you got out of prison, do you remember what I said to you? We sat on the Johnson Creek trail, the trail that raised me, where as a child I had built forts in the blackberry thickets and hunted crawdads in the toxic creek that always gave me a rash. We sat there at night and I begged you not to get back into meth like you had before. I thought it would be the death of you.
Then you, me, and your sister all did a shot of heroin without a second thought.
You are enmeshed in all the places that made me because you are part of what made me. But I avoid Gresham and Vancouver, every corner haunted by your ghost.
I had never known you to overdose. You introduced me to heroin when I couldn’t afford oxys, way back in 2008. It was an act of kindness, you watched me squander my hard-earned money on those pills. You showed me the frugal alternative so I could keep paying my bills. If I was a dope fiend, you were a guru.
They burst through my front door unannounced, in full SWAT gear and pointed rifles at my head. I threw my hands up in an attempt to not get fucking shot. They tightened cold steel around my wrists and told me I was being arrested for your death.
Your death. They said you died. Months later when I got the police report sent to me in jail as part of the discovery, I would read the section about how your body was found a hundred times. I deserved punishment. I deserved to suffer. I forced myself to envision the ants — always the ants.
From that day until now I have lived seven years full of trauma, tragedy, and joy. I, the Fallout Queen, the one you had to resuscitate on so many occasions. You, the one who never so much as nodded out.
Immortalized at the age of 26.
I am now 31.
Nothing about this is fair. Nothing about this makes sense. Why me and not you? If I would have died any of those times, would they have arrested you for my death? Maybe. Probably.
If I would have ignored your text, would you have overdosed all the same but off of someone else’s dope? Or would you be alive today, only as far away as a text message?
We did not choose this fate, but I am so sorry nonetheless. Everything I do, I do for you. They put me in prison and called you my victim. I fight so that others don’t suffer the same fate.
You only became a victim upon your death. When it was convenient to them. Before that moment they called you criminal.
Remember when they tightened the handcuffs on your wrists until they cut deep into your flesh, and you got MRSA in jail and they left you to rot? Or when the cops beat your ass and shamelessly posted your mugshot with your face swollen and bloody? You were the first person I ever knew that went to jail. All I did was put $20 on your books and you never forgot it! I didn’t understand it then. I do now. You taught me so much.
I was a good friend to you. I know that and take solace in it. You were a good friend to me. I know that and take solace in it.
You slipped out the back door into the night while I slept. You saved me.
I love you. I miss you.