that old black magic has me in its spell.

I spend Tuesday locked in my bedroom.
As soon as the slightest hint of sickness or sadness seeps into my consciousness, I pull the little plastic bag of magic powder out from under my pillow.
My bedside table is covered with pieces of a cutup hot pink straw purloined from Flash Taco.

I make occasional treks to the kitchen for orange juice.
Inexplicably, I brush my teeth approximately every two hours.

My purple phone starts ringing around eight.

Call #1 is Zach. He’s stuck in town for Thanksgiving. So am I. I guess I could have afforded a plane ticket back to Pennsylvania, but I just didn’t feel like dealing with my mom’s questions about Ryan. Anyway, Zach and I are going to celebrate our holiday at the movie theatre over on Clybourn.

He invites me out for drinks, but I know I can’t pull myself together. I smell. I can feel an oily sheen coating my face and hair. Showering would be an arduous task. Never mind the makeup application and hairstyling required to finish it off. Bra hooks, dress zippers, and shoelaces…the idea of wrangling these gadgets is daunting.

I guess this could seem like a grim indicator of some sort of downward spiral, but I know that it’s actually a sign that I’m still keeping my head above water. If I were really gone, truly descending into self-destruction, I wouldn’t care about making myself presentable. I would just throw a jacket over my pajama pants and dirty old Nirvana t-shirt., before pedaling over to the Rainbo.

Maintaining about one’s image is healthy. When I hear someone say that they don’t care about the opinions of others, I know that person is lying. Ryan is always saying, “Your problem, Amanda, is that you care about what everyone thinks.”

Yes, I do.

If you want to pretend that you’re free, that you can do what ever you want without consequence, be my guest. But years of observation have taught me that showing up at a bar in ratty, smelly clothes and pupils the size of saucers will hold me back. Maybe I’ll lose some friends. Or forfeit the opportunity to sleep with someone attractive in the future. Dream jobs, amazing apartments, and surprise trips abroad…the potential for these things will slip through my fingers, never to return.

So, yes…I’m going to care about my appearance and demeanor. It matters. “Certified Junkie” is branded into one’s skin, never to be removed. It’s best to avoid this label at all costs. Hide in the house during pukey, sweaty times. Too high to take a shower? Don’t interact with others. Bury the straws, spoons and needles in the deepest drawer. It’s all common sense.

I’m kind of surprised that I’m even answering the phone. Speaking is challenging.

Call #2 is Cheryl. “How are you holding up , all alone in the apartment?” Of course I’m fine. Better than great. Oh, I’m just reading a lot. Catching up on sleep. Yeah, yeah, I’ve got plans for Thanksgiving. Okay, talk to you soon.

Call #3 can only be Ryan.
I’m glad that I had an opportunity to rehearse my recurring role as “Extra Happy Lucky Amanda” during my conversation with Cheryl.

Oh, yeah….I’m just psyched to have a whole week off of work. What am I doing? Oh, you know, reading and drawing and hanging out with friends. Taking bike rides. I’m hanging out with Zach on Thanksgiving. Yeah, big plans!

Ryan is at his mom’s house in Decatur. “They are force-feeding me! But I’m glad I”m here…I needed a break from Chicago…time to think about everything that has been going on.”

Oh, yeah, I understand. Me, too. Just thinking about stuff in a really logical, positive manner. I mean, when I’m not busy engaging in all of these other productive, healthy activities.

And then. “The thing is, after all of this thinking, I just keep coming back to you. You’re so strong and good and special, and I just really miss being near you.” HIs voice cracks as he says this.

I’m way too sedated to respond. Fortunately he interprets my silence as a sign of distant coolness. “I know that it’s probably hard to forgive me. I don’t know what to say. Something about you makes me want to try to be a good person, but then I can’t stop doing and saying bad things.”

I realize that there is no way I can have this conversation right now. Either I’m going to blow this chance at possibly gaining the upper hand by showing him all of my cards. Or I’m going to say something harsh that I don’t mean. My grip on my tongue is tenuous at best.

“I’m sorry, Ryan…I have to go now. I have to meet some work friends in like, 20 minutes.”

He sighs. “Can I call you later?”

I nod my head vigorously as I say, “I might not be around.”

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