When I told my dad I signed another lease he laughed at me. “You don’t have a real great track record of staying in one spot,” he said, grinning. “I always told your mom we’d have to nail your feet to the floor if we ever wanted you to stay anywhere.”
At the time I was frustrated, but now I wonder if he knew exactly what he was doing. Igniting my stubborn “I’ll show you” side. Knowing it is the only thing that can overturn my propensity for flight.
In the hospital it took two different nurses to find a vein. Years of shooting dope into any source you could find collapsed all your arterial walls while you worked hard to build impenetrable ones around yourself. Your face pale, bones protruding, you looked like the promise of my old friend undeliverable. But there was still paint on your hands and that was enough to rekindle just enough hope in me to stay. Planted. I sat by your bed for days while you drifted in and out of consciousness. Asked your permission to call another friend even though I would have done it regardless.
We exchanged hugs in the hallway and I remember the last time I saw him was at a funeral. Always the most vile situations bringing us back together. The smell of his leather jacket was exactly how I expected it to be and his arms were familiar still. Friendship like ours doesn’t disintegrate due to a year without phone calls. Later he described me to his partner as “OG” and I giggled about it over an echoey phone line.
He said, “Let’s not do it like this. Let’s grow old.”
My throat tightened down on itself and my eyes clenched tight. Pushed through the ache of watching you throw your life away to confess that I’m barely holding on here, too. “I want to want that,” I said, “but lately, I just don’t know how.”
He sighed and the sharp exhale told me he still knows what that feels like. And I remember making a blanket fort in his old apartment and whispering to each other about leaping from bridges. Instead we’d just drink more Jim Beam and Rainier and go to sleep. “We change so much, but nothing really changes, does it?” he whispered.
“No. It doesn’t.”
Back at the hospital I tell you I’m not going anywhere. I hold your hand in mine and tell you I love you. I have you. I promise to move every mountain I can to help you through this. Promise to stay with feet firmly planted. Promise.
In the psych ward we walk laps and I catch myself making mental notes about what it would be like to live there for awhile. Try to imagine myself walking those halls in a pair of scrubs and socked feet. Wonder if I would write more. If I would just sit in the corner and weep. If anyone would come to visit me. I tried hard to keep listening to you, but you sounded so much more hopeful than I’ve been feeling lately. I wondered why I was the one who could just ask to be let out. Why you were the one staying. I wondered if you’ll hate me when you find out I can’t save you.
I pick up and put down cigarettes again. Call around to find a therapist and someone who can manage my medicine. Save the number of the crisis line on my phone. I get that panicked look in my eyes and run from my partner’s apartment because I have to be alone, even though I know I shouldn’t be. Hours later I show up on his doorstep and he folds me back into his arms. “What can I do?” he whispers into my hair and I sob on his shoulder.
“I don’t know. I don’t know.”
And I remember curling up on the floor with Mason as he would beg me to let him help. How I pushed away long enough to push away completely. I wonder how many times over I’ll do it before I learn to let someone help even though they don’t know what they’re doing. How many times it will take before someone else figures out I need to have my feet nailed to the floor.