I don’t want to sound like someone’s grandmother or anything here, but really, would it be so hard to pick up a phone and call? You don’t even have to call me. Just call anyone — your brother, your dad, any of us — just to let us know that you are alive. We all talk, you see, hoping that one of us has seen you, or heard word, or even heard a rumour.
I’m not even the worrying kind. You know me, I get really busy too and forget to keep in touch and miss my cousin’s birthday or whatever, just like everyone else. I’m definitely not usually the type to get on anyone’s case for stuff like this. It’s just that the last time I saw you, you had lost about 35 pounds and the crystal meth was starting to turn your back teeth black. The newspapers and the streets are full of stories about irreversible brain damage and psych wards brimming with lost souls stricken by this addiction, and well, I worry.
It’s not like you’re backpacking in Europe and just forgot to send a postcard. I don’t care about broken promises or the money you owe anyone. I do care that your brother and your dad spent another Christmas wondering where you are, and that they are running out of reasons you haven’t seen your niece and nephew. I can’t help but care about that, but even that I would let slide.
Some guy asked me for change outside the bank today. He looked skinny and drawn and nervous, just like you did the last time I ran into you on The Drive. For some unexplainable reason, I felt like punching him. Instead, I took a deep breath and asked him when was the last time he called his mother.
The self-help books and the 12-step doctrines would probably feed me some line right now about how no one can really help you until you are ready to help yourself. They’d try to convince me not to allow myself to feel hurt because I haven’t heard from you in almost a year, that it is your addiction governing your behavior right now and not you. But I call bullshit on that. We have known each other since we were kids. I would have done anything to help you, and I deserve better than this; this not knowing.
Remember when I dragged you off the street and let you sleep it off for days? I fed you and helped you track down the bits and pieces of your life so you could start putting them back together. Back then you said you were done with it all. You were ready. You wanted to change your life and you needed my help.
I told you that night on the back porch that I would do whatever it took, anything in my power, to see you through this time, but that I had one condition. My one condition wasn’t even that you stay clean because I know what a demon the meth is, and I didn’t want you tossing me out with the clean and sober bathwater if you backslid.
My one condition was that you didn’t lie to me anymore, that if you used, I wanted to hear about it from you. No more bullshit.
Maybe that is why you haven’t called. Maybe the truth was something you thought I wouldn’t want to hear, or something you weren’t prepared to say out loud.
I asked after you at your favourite old coffeeshop the other day. The owner’s grandson, the cute one, surprised me by saying yes, he had seen you, and that you were looking great. He said you had cleaned up and were living in the suburbs somewhere and working construction.
I let out the long breath with your name on it that I had been holding for almost a year and went straight home to call your brother. I was so glad to have word that you were alive and well that it took me a couple of days to get around to wondering why you hadn’t gotten in touch with anyone.
The guy who first said “no news is good news,” obviously never had a best friend fighting the ice. And the guy who coined the phrase “fair-weather friend” never met either of us. I once told you I knew that if ever I found myself in your shoes, I had every faith you would be there for me. You hugged me in place of a yes.
I think of you whenever I swim in a lake, whenever I pass a rusty pickup truck on the highway, whenever I see the northern lights or a blue-eyed dog. I miss you whenever I hit my thumb with a hammer, ride my bike or walk past a lawn that needs mowing.
I’m not writing this to judge you or to make you feel guilty. I’m writing this to let you know that whenever you are ready, I will be here. I refuse to give up on you. The fire that burned my house down spared the garage, so I still have most of the tools you stored at my place.
A couple of times I had to laugh out loud the same time as I was cursing your name. I’ve moved around a lot since my house burned down and I must really fucking love you because I can’t think of anyone else I would move an entire set of free weights five times for, myself included.
I will pick up that phone whether you are still using or not, and I will listen to you if your news is rosy, or rainy. I want you to know that I meant what I said on the back porch that night, no matter what. No bullshit. A lot of things have changed for both of us since then, but not my home phone number.
Oh yeah, and my grandmother says to say hello.