April 5th, 2006

Me pink

Ghosts, Part III

In November of 1995, I went to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving. While I was out of town, Bob and Tracey somewhat suddenly packed up all of their things and moved to Tennessee. It was a bummer, but not a big one, because nothing really bums you out particularly much when you're doing heroin all the time.

In the months preceding I'd met lots of Bob's drug friends -- John, Phil, Nana, Mike -- and his dealers, Bobby and Bobby, as well. So it wasn't like I needed Bob to make any phone calls for me anymore.

And another thing happened while I was away for Thanksgiving -- Phil robbed me. He stole dozens of my CDs and sold them for drug money. And I busted him. I had called the cops, who were, of course, doing nothing, so I made a list of everything that was missing, and went around to a bunch of used record shops until I found the one where he had sold them. It wasn't especially hard to figure out which store he'd gone to: once I tried all the stores in our neighborhood, I went to the one that was closest to where we bought our drugs. Bingo.

But the cops couldn't arrest him right away, because he hadn't given his ID when he'd sold my stuff. The guy who was working at the record store knew Phil by his first name, so he didn't make him show his ID when he sold my stuff, and Phil had used a fake last name. The cops had to wait for that guy to pick out Phil's picture before they could arrest him. This has everything to do with how I went from snorting to shooting up.

Phil was always going on and on about how much better shooting up was, how I should really try it. I decided that I knew that Phil was going to jail (even if Phil didn't know that), so I may as well let him shoot me once, because I was about to lose my chance. Yea. And in the end, Phil got arrested, but I got my stuff back, so the charges got dropped. None of which mattered, because by then, I'd become a shooter.

So fast forward to April of 1996. Bob and Tracey had been gone for months, and there was a rumor floating that they might be coming back to town for someone's wedding. One of our dealers had gotten busted and then died (cancer), but the other dealer, Bobby D., was still in business and still doing fine. I liked Bobby D., and it may sound insane, but I think he liked me too. He sold out of his house (he was agoraphobic, really), and he liked having people sit around and chat with him once the business was done.

It was Bobby D. who told me that Bob had died.

Apparently Bob and Tracey had come to town for the weekend, and they had stopped by to visit Bobby. They bought some h, they shot up, and then ... well, and then everything seemed fine. They sat around bullshitting, and Bob went into the kitchen to make a sandwich. It was then that he collapsed. But they revived him -- revived him to the point where his eyes were open and he was talking -- "Huh? What's going on? What's happening?" -- and everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief. Bobby decided to close up shop for the evening and just keep his eye on Bob and the crisis that they believed had been averted. Tracey and Bob spent the night. Bob slept on the couch and Tracey got up every half hour or so to check on him. At 5:00 am, he was fine, sleeping, breathing fine, snoring. At 5:20 am, he was dead.

They called 911. Tracey said the paramedics were great, working really hard, doing everything, until they found out that he had done heroin. Then he became, in the words of Everclear, "just another overdose."

And me? I was fine. Alarmingly fine. I didn't cry about it for probably six months, which was around the time that I got off of heroin and started taking methadone. But it did give me a scare, and prompted me to face the fact that I was in trouble. Five days later I left my job. Two days after that I moved back to Pittsburgh. And two days after that, I was in detox for the first time (of course, a week after that, I'd found a Pittsburgh source and was shooting up again, but, you know, these things take time sometimes).

I've long since lost touch with all of these people. I talked with Tracey on the phone a few times after everything happened, though I never much believed anything she said. I know that Mike OD'd in the bathroom of a restaurant, but that a waiter revived him and got him the fuck out of there before the cops arrived. I know Nana was in and out of rehab. I know that John went to St. Louis for Bob's funeral. And I wrote to Bob's mother a few times, and sent her copies of all of the pictures I had of him. She said that he looked so happy and alive in those pictures. She sent me a picture of a shrine that she had made to him. I have all of those pictures on my living room wall now.

It is remarkable to me how quickly our lives can spiral out of control. I had a college degree and a job that I loved when all of this happened. Bob was a talented woodworker, had a job in his field and was even teaching a class in cabinetry when we first met. One bad decision led to another, and before our very eyes, our lives became disasters. His death was so pointless, and yet so inevitable.
Me pink

Ghosts, Epilogue

Looking through some of my memories this morning, I stumbled onto a post I had written about a night when Bob totally stood up for me, took care of me, and just generally showed himself to be a true friend.

Bob was funny as hell. He was always singing these goofy little songs. He was the one who told me that when you invite a woman up to your apartment for martinis, you're cool, but when you invite a woman up to your apartment for tea, you're "civilized." He once told me a story about being on a date with some woman. Everything was going fine until he said something stupid, that one wrong thing, and then the mood turned. She was pissed and ranting, and he couldn't even pay attention, because all he could think of was the chorus of The Guess Who's song "No Sugar Tonight," playing over and over again inside his head. I still can't hear that song without thinking about him and laughing.

Bob always wore pink flannel pajamas to sleep in. Bob and I had the exact same pair of eyeglasses (at least until I destroyed mine in that bicycle accident). Bob was the one who discovered my cat Opie stuck up a tree when Opie snuck outside while I was having a party (though it was actually Daryk who climbed up onto the roof of my car and rescued him). When Bob told me that he couldn't get involved with me, he also told me that he liked me better than he liked most of his friends, which I've never forgotten. Bob liked to play cards, and he was good at it too. Bob loved the photo booth at The Rainbo Club, and kept a box full of the photo strips of him and his friends. Bob smoked Lucky Strikes.

Bob once made me a little card, thanking me for taking care of him one night when he was sick. In it, he wrote "I'd probably be dead if not for you." I only rediscovered that card years after he'd died, tucked away inside a book. It is on my wall now, along with his pictures.