The TV screen was thick with vultures – “news anchors,” “experts,” “friends” – circling her corpse, clawing for their carrion carryout. There will be no viewing at her funeral, I thought, there will be nothing left to see.
A co-worker sat in front of me, back to the TV. She was a fat anime character, eyes squinting smug stupid, magnified by glasses, and her sausage link fingers bloated white as she gripped a foot long sub and sunk her itching teeth into it. And so began her monologue, despite the sandwich’s preemptive strike.
“I’m not surprised,” she jabbed a thumb at the screen. “You saw the interviews, right? She kept saying she wasn’t doing drugs and then she’d get all crazy excited talking about how they used to roll up joints?” She grinned mayonnaise. “Come on. You’re not kidding anybody.”
“Yes,” I started. Like a bad actor, she paused with her eyes blank and mouth open, already ready for her next line, already ready to interrupt if I took too long. “But in the last few years she had made some changes and was -”
“Oh I’ve got nothing against her. She was really talented – ”
“Addiction is really hard,” I started again, “It’s a lifelong struggle, and you have to celebrate any amount of recovery – ”
But I was just a gunshot, and she was off and running again. The voice blabbered and the lips smacked and the teeth chomped and I smiled and nodded and looked across the room. There he was – the ’80s Robert Smith hair, the beautiful Egyptian nose, the jeans that held things I wanted to hold – I was mad about the boy, some boy, any boy, oh boy oh boy –
“She was always using. She never stopped using. She was only fooling herself…” Then she swallowed, and I snapped.
“One of my best friends is a recovering addict.”
Through two scopes I had a view to a kill. The target squirmed. “Yeah, yeah. I don’t mean, you know, that’s – yeah,” she nodded, stuffing her mouth with the rest of the sandwich, eyes darting at her cell phone. “Oh,” she said, “sorry, I’ve got to go to the bathroom before the end of break,” and her white ass wobbled away.
That night, at the gym, I was on the treadmill, keeping my pace, walking in place, not watching the flesh sculptures flexing, watching the TV. It was all about her. The talking heads talked and the bobble heads bobbled in agreement. The interview played and replayed. “Is it alcohol, is it marijuana, is it cocaine, is it pills?”…”It has been at times.”…”All?”…”At times.”…”If you had to name the devil for you, the biggest devil among them?”… “That would be me.”…”So, for the people out there who say, ‘we want to help,’ what do you want them to pray for?”… “Don’t pray about the drugs.”…”Why?”…”Pray for me. For my soul. That I’m stronger. No, man, I don’t care what anybody says or did or what they claimed I was. I know I’m a child of God. And I know he loves me.”
Food can be an addiction too. I wonder what your co-worker would say about that.
Such a glamorous portrait you paint of your co-worker!
Kidding aside, it is sad when people die at a young age, and it is even sadder when they’ve lived troubled lives. Yet I am a little ambivalent about the lavish spectacles that are celebrity deaths. More people will mourn for her, and other children of privilege like her, than for the soldiers who die in combat, fighting for the things they value. The deserving ones are not always the ones who get the attention, in life and in death.
The hordes who deify celebrities or try to exploit their talents so often enable their self destruction. It’s a troubling sociological issue, one that I don’t know how to solve.
This society has blissfully disguised what a greedy addiction many of us have to food. To piggy-back off of savgrr’s comment, it would be revelatory for your coworker to examine perhaps her own addictions, though different from Ms. Houston’s. And on a totally primal, immature, defensive note – she’s lucky she wasn’t sitting next to me spouting that arrogant shit.
Love you and the stories you share ❤
I couldn’t help wonder which of your friends is the recovering addict. On some level aren’t we all addicted to something? Aren’t we all either indulging our addiction or trying to stay clean only to get dirty again? Sometimes when we scream in defense of those struggling, we project onto someone else, that which is actually our own.
I love passion you write with. I love the passion you love your friends with. This was a tragic loss, and I like how you reflected on it.