An old junkie friend of mine called the other day.  I haven’t heard from her since I left that world.  Some would call it a “lifestyle” – though there wasn’t much “living” going on at that time.  Even calling her a friend is a stretch.  Maybe she was a partner in crime.  A war buddy.  Two people who sadly witnessed one another at the lowest point in their lives.

Kris used to live in an old house over in South Minneapolis on a busy street that connected the suburbs with the city.  She rented a room, a tiny place with wooden floors and a window that faced the street.  It was painted shut.  The place was stuffy and packed with DVDs and VHS tapes of old sitcoms from the early 90s.  She had a giant shoe collection – bright tennis shoes with complicated laces and thick soles some misguided kid might shoot you for. She didn’t have to worry, though.  She rarely left the house.

She rarely left her bed.  Everything she needed was within reach.  A mini fridge stocked with Ensure and sports drinks. A cup, a bowl, a spoon. Several overflowing ashtrays the size of dinner plates.  A remote.  A cordless phone.  A cigar box filled with drug paraphernalia she kept under her bed.

It’s been a few years since I’ve seen her.  The last time, her phone wasn’t working.  I had to knock on the front window to get her attention.  It was covered with a yellow blanket, all thick and worn like it had been washed too much, like it had been around before flame retardant existed.  She was emaciated and nonsensical, babbling about her silver cat that had just died.  She acted surprised, like his demise came out of nowhere.  But that poor thing had been wasting away for a year.  He dragged himself around on weak legs, his fine ribs poking through his skin.  For the first time, I understood that old saying that people resemble their pets.

Last winter, I ran into a housemate of hers, a fat, grabby man with a bad spine.  We met up in the soup aisle at the grocery store.  I tried to ignore him, concentrated on whether I wanted chunky chicken or garden vegetable soup. But he grabbed my arm all hard and said “Hello stranger.”

I smiled in that tight way that nervous people do.  Squeaked out a “hey there” and tried to seem busy and push my cart away.

“You trying to get away from me?” He laughed. “You need to hear about Kris.”

He told me she got married in Iowa to an older woman and moved to the burbs.  That she accused him of creeping into her room and feeling her up in her sleep.  Somehow, he had her new number.  He handed me his card.  “Call me, I’ll get her number for you.”  I still don’t know why an unemployed man on assistance would have a business card.

But I’d left Kris behind.  Didn’t want to know where or how she was, if Grabby Guy really felt her up, if she was clean or not.  I wanted to erase those three, lost years.  Chalk it up to a bad dream.

Several months passed before a strange number popped up on my phone.  Strange numbers make me nervous, but I’m possessed to answer – despite the fact that they are probably a bill collector, a family member calling to say so-and-so’s heart stopped, an old friend I wish wasn’t.  This time, it was Kris.

We talked.  I asked her about her new life, her wife, her nice apartment in the burbs.  She said she had a new cat.  That she put all her VHS on DVD because she had a burner.  She got a new flat screen.  Got back all the music equipment she pawned because she was finally clean.  She told me who got popped, who was still struggling, who died since I last saw her.

I talked longer than I wanted, my stomach tight.  I was pacing around my apartment, but I couldn’t get off the phone the way you can’t tear your eyes off a terrible crash, an old building burning, a mom smacking her kid in the grocery line.

I told her about my life.  My kids, how Princess left for college and my son was now in high school.  I told her I hadn’t talked to ex-husband #2 for a long time.  How I ran into him at the coffee shop and acted like I didn’t know him, even though my heart  thumped so hard I could barely think.  She told me all the shit he had said about me when I went to treatment, the stolen crap he tried to fence, how bad he looked back then with greasy hair and arms all skinny like toothpicks.

I told her about graduating from college.  How I cried for a month after Princess left for Milwaukee.  How I fucked up and feel bad and hope she doesn’t carry that sad picture of who I was in her head for the rest of her life.  I told her about my nice boyfriend, how I discovered he had a binge drinking problem, that I would probably  leave him because of it.  My dog.  My apartment.  My new hair color.  The imperfect meds that leave me wonky and confused.  I jammed in everything I could think of, everything that was twisting around in my head for the past few years.  I told her everything.  Not like an old friend, but like a shitty therapist I knew I’d never see again.

“If you come to the city, let’s catch up.  Have coffee,” I said before I finally got off the phone.

Then I blocked her number.  The way you do with a drunken one-night-stand, a needy friend, a former drug dealer.  I blocked her number liked I blocked ex-husband # 2.   The same way I’m trying to blot out the memory from the past, a bad dream I hope to soon forget.


109 Responses to “Blocked”

  1. 1 delilahsangels

    Wow, I really liked this piece. The title really should have given it away but it still didn’t stop me being shocked when I got to the end and saw that you blocked her number. As a Creative Writing student who specialises in creative non-fiction, I absolutely love your honesty and the way that you allow us to really see life through yours eyes, even though we have never actually been in your shoes. Love it 🙂

  2. Compelling, compulsive read. First time reading your work and look forward to more.

  3. Thanks for sharing

  4. The addict is the true seeker, always looking for that “something more” and finding only temporal substitutes in form.

    Nice piece, it brought to mind pictures of old “associates” from a mirrored part of my life . . . not sure what I would do if they ever called . . . .
    Pondering . . .

    Thank you. 🙂

  5. Thank you for writing this. I get it. I do the same. Maybe, for me, it’s a way to protect my sobriety and my new life – blocking numbers. But more, it got very difficult explaining to my “normal” friends why I HAD to change my phone number two, maybe three times in under a year. 🙂

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