I have this brilliant plan that I will just walk home from the hospital. Matthew thinks otherwise, so he rides his bike back to Logan Square to get his car. And I’m glad for this the moment I take my first step on the pavement. The sun is blazing–it’s August, after all…slightly more than a week after my 23rd birthday–and I have just discovered that standing requires more strength than I can actually muster.
When I get home, Nate and Cheryl are waiting in the kitchen.
Nate’s trying to look stern and angry, but ultimately he just hugs me and his voice cracks as he tells me that “you’d better NEVER pull a stunt like this again” and “I don’t want you bringing any boys over here for at least six months.”
Cheryl has brought me cupcakes and a bunch of those funny mylar “Get Well” balloons from Jewel-Osco. “You look really skinny. I’m going to make you some mashed potatoes RIGHT NOW!”
Everyone seems so happy to see me, I can almost forget everything that has transpired in the last few days. “Well, hey, let me take a shower and then we can go over to Rainbo or something to celebrate my return from the dead!”
I look from Nate to Cheryl to Matthew, waiting for someone to say something.
Finally Cheryl speaks up. “Listen, Amanda….” She sounds uncharacteristically tentative. “So, we’ve been talking about this, and well, we think you should go home to your parents in Pennsylvania for a week. No offense, but you still look really sick and fragile.”
Nate picks up. “And I think it would be good for you to get out of here until this blows over. I called your mom and she knows that you’ve had a bit of crisis. There’s a train leaving tomorrow morning that will get you into Harrisburg around 10. Your mom is going to pick you up.”
And then Matthew. “I talked to your boss Mike, and he knows you are too sick to come to work right now, but that you will be good as new in a week. I bought you your ticket over the phone today, so you can just pick it up when I drop you off at the station tomorrow.”
“I don’t understand. You guys are plotting to send me away? Is this really a round trip ticket? I mean, shouldn’t I just stay here and tough it out?”
But as soon as I say this, I know that they are right. If I stay here, I’m going to call that dealer that delivers (since I’m too sick to be seen in public) and then I’ll probably nod off until it’s time to try to call Ryan. And then we’ll probably fight and then I’ll do more drugs and then I’ll just disappear into oblivion.
“Okay, okay…you’re right. I need to get away. But can we at least do something fun tonight?”
Sure, sure. Matthew and Nate are going over to Earwax to pick up movies. No one is going to drink, since I technically should not consume any alcohol for a long time. We will cook dinner and hide out in the living room.
Cheryl hangs out in the bathroom with me while I take a shower. Ostensibly it’s to catch up with me, but I think it’s really to make sure I don’t fall over dead or accidentally chug a bottle of shampoo. When I open the medicine cabinet to get dental floss, I notice that all of the cold medicine and Advil have been spirited away. I guess Nate took a gamble by allowing the mouthwash to remain.
I turn to Cheryl. “So, I’ve been wondering…um, how did you find out what happened?”
I’m hoping she will say something like, “Oh, I called here and Nate told me.”
“Well,” she swallows. “Um, Ryan called me. He told me that you tried to kill yourself because he tried to break up with you because you have a serious drug problem.”
My jaw drops. “That’s not true at all. I mean, it’s like, 50 percent true…but he literally does twice as many drugs as me at any given moment. What the fuck!”
I sit down on the bathroom floor. A sick feeling of dread is washing over me. “So, um…did Ryan call anyone else?” Oh, fuck, if he did, I swear I’m going to get Matthew to drive me out to his apartment right now so I can rip off his balls.
“Listen, I can’t lie to you, Amanda. You’re my girl and you’ve backed me up through all sorts of stupid shit.” She stares me square in the eye. “He called everyone you both know. And probably some lame ass college friends you’ll never meet. Oh, and I bet he told his mom, too.”
Oh man, I’m too weak to break shit, but I wish I could just pull the sink out of the wall.
She continues. “Last night, all of us met up at Rainbo…you know, Andy, Fred, Thom, Mark, Anna…pretty much everyone. And we were was just like, ‘What the fuck? Amanda is like the sweetest, happiest girl? How did this happen?’ And the consensus was that it was all Ryan’s fault and everyone kind of wants to beat his ass.”
“Listen, it’s not his fault. Please tell everyone that. I mean, I did this myself. To be honest, everyone is only seeing like, 10 percent of who I am. There’s all of this other stuff under my skin that is not so happy, not so sweet.”
Cheryl hugs me. “I’ve always known that you had a secretly sad little soul. It’s okay. Everyone loves you still.”
I’m can feel tears running down my cheeks. “What the fuck am I going to do? Sure I can leave for a week, but when I come back, everyone’s going to see me and be like, ‘there’s that suicidal girl.’”
Now Cheryl is drying my hair. “It’s going to be fine. Listen, everyone is so sad about this. Thom was crying at the Rainbo. He was like, ‘Remember when she made me that birthday cake with all of those edible flowers on it?’ And then we all just sort of left our drinks behind and went home. No one thinks you are a bad person or crazy or whatever. I think everything will blow over by the time you get back.”
I want to believe this. But oh fuck, I know I have to talk to Ryan about this. For one, he needs to know without a doubt that this is not his fault. And furthermore, he has to know that it is COMPLETELY unacceptable for him to call everyone in Wicker Park like he’s in charge of the fucking Suicide Phone Tree.
When I go into my bedroom to get dressed, I notice that my cigar box is missing and someone has quite deviously unplugged my phone while making it appear to be still plugged into the wall. Oh, Nate…he probably cut the wires for the door buzzer, too.
After dinner, Cheryl helps me pack a suitcase while we listen to metal.
Then the four of us spread out every blanket in the house on the living room floor, and we make up ridiculous stories until we fall asleep.
Matthew delivers me to the train station in the morning, going as far as escorting me to the actual train and putting my luggage in the overhead compartment. He hands me a bag of comics and vegan candy. “Be good. Come back better.”