So maybe you have guessed this already, but a lot of the names in the “Peeling an Onion” thread have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent. Essentially, I made the editorial decision to retain the true monikers of anyone I truly respect and love, assuming that none of their actions and statements could embarrass them. But of course, the identities of the biggest fools have been revealed: obviously my name is really Amanda. And Ryan really is Ryan (I have debated this issue many, many times. After all, I am certainly not depicting him as a saint).
The character of “Adam” is minor at this point in the narrative. But soon, he is going to shift to the foreground, as he and Ryan become more wrapped up in drugs AND the laborious process of hiding this from me. And more. Lots of sad/fucked-up stuff. Trust me…you will grow to understand why he was the first on my name change list.
I’m assuming there is no need to issue a spoiler alert for this plot point, but just in case….SPOILER ALERT: Ryan dies. And Adam is an important part of his death. I will detail more of this in the not-so-distant future, but in the mean time here’s a hint: Adam is with Ryan the night that he dies. When it becomes evident that something is wrong with bag of heroin they just purchased (this is indicated by Ryan blacking out and turning blue), Adam leaves. He is afraid of being busted for possession. He doesn’t even have the gumption to anonymously call 911. He just jumps on the Division Street bus.
Lots of people–former “friends”–went to great lengths to hide this fact from both me and the police. Only someone versed on the details of Ryan’s day-to-day life (i.e., me) would have noticed the holes in these poorly concocted stories. Yet, perhaps water IS thicker than blood, because everyone stuck together. The detective in charge of Ryan’s case gave me list of the phone numbers on his caller ID box. They were mostly pay phones (remember, this was about a year before EVERYONE went cellular). The detective was also kind enough to give me addresses for the pay phones, with the hope that I could shed some insight on who might have been calling. Almost every address was on the path between Adam’s place in Wicker Park and Ryan’s basement apartment.
I knew Adam was with Ryan. Nobody gave him a ride to the funeral. This was not a coincidence. Months later, someone finally cracked after a vigorous cross-examination from me. “He was a mess the day before we had to drive down to Decatur for the service. We were afraid that he would confess everything to you if he was forced to look you in the eye. So we told him to meet us at Andy’s house at 11. And then we left Chicago at 10.”
When the results of the autopsy came back (90 days after his death), I expected to feel relief. Maybe a bit of closure. The surprising clarity of hindsight made me realize that Ryan had most certainly died as the result of an overdose, most likely heroin. But for those 90 days, I had been secretly hoping that I was wrong. I hoped for a surprise congenital heart defect or a freak aneurysm. The police had found no evidence of drug use in his apartment. Of course, I knew that he was too meticulous to leave bent-up spoons and plastic bags out in the open.
And so when I opened the Fed Ex envelope containing his death certificate, I was still feeling hopeful. Perhaps my mother was assuming a more realistic stance, because she insisted on holding my hand as I began to read the document.
“Cause of death: opiate intoxication.”
A bright flash of light…and suddenly I was back in the cemetery, sinking onto my knees as I my mind once again realized the harshest reality: he was never coming back. We would never see one another again. This was it. The end of that story.
Fortunately the brain only allows one to experience such undiluted pain for the briefest instant. Anything longer would shatter the heart beyond repair.
A distant voice on a long-distance phone call revealed Adam’s secret. And I felt nothing. No relief. Not even the slightest hint of “Aha! I knew it all along.” After a few minutes of “safe” chit chat about weather and my impending motherhood, I returned the receiver to the cradle. And then it hit me: I hated Adam. I considered making the 1200 mile drive to Chicago solely to confront him. I wanted to tell him just how much he had stolen from me and my child.
It’s almost difficult to die from a heroin overdose. If someone has the wherewithal to call an ambulance for you, survival is nearly certain. I know this firsthand; obviously my painstaking effort at overdose was easily corrected.
So yes, I have spent the last seven years wishing I could have a conversation with Adam. I had his phone number. I could have just dialed him up. Maybe I wasn’t ready. Or perhaps I was afraid of his response. Maybe I would end up feeling sympathy for him! Not an option.
Which brings us to social networking: last week I decided to search for him on Facebook. A random impulse. And wouldn’t you know it, I found him on the second page of results.
He lives in New Jersey. IN PRINCETON. I could get in my car and drive there in less than an hour. I might be able to find his address after some super-Googling. If I was feeling lazy, I could just send him a message on Facebook. “Oh hey, remember me? You left my boyfriend to die in his apartment in Humboldt Park in July 2001?”
But of course, I did nothing with this newfound knowledge. I have no talent for concocting revenge schemes. And I have too much pride to confront a near-stranger seven years later.
For the first year or two after Ryan’s death, I dreamed about my lost boyfriend every night. It was always my second dream of the evening, right on schedule around 2 am.
Sometimes he would just talk to me about everything that had happened. “Promise me you will never blame yourself. Even you, with all of your stubbornness and general hard-assedness, could never battle fate.”
Other times, he eluded me around every corner. I could smell him. I could see his shadow off in the distance. But I could never catch him.
Once in a while, I would run into him on the train or at the library. And he never understood my shock. He laughed as I hugged him over and over again. “What are you talking about, crazy girl? I’m not dead. I’ve been here this whole time.”
Always the second dream. Always at 2 am.
I developed a theory that he was visiting everyone important each night. He followed a schedule.
First his mother and father. They had an early bedtime.
Next his sister and brother. They missed him more than he would have ever guessed.
I was third. He knew that three has always been my favorite number.
He stopped in Dylan’s bedroom for the briefest moment.
And then off to Chicago, to visit Adam. Some encounters were filled with admonishments. “Look at what your devotion to drugs has done to you…look at the decisions you have made!” But most nights he offered forgiveness.
He visits me less frequently now. Maybe he knows that I finally realized my strength. Surely he is aware that I still think of him every day. I assume that he is devoting more time to those that need him more than I. His father, still destroyed by the death of his younger son. His mother, trying to find respite in alcohol. And Adam. I know that he will need many, many more promises of forgiveness from his lost friend.
If Ryan can forgive his friend for robbing him of his most precious possessions (his life, his child, maybe even me), then I certainly cannot even consider vengeance. After all, I’m still here. And I have far more than I would have ever imagined.
P.S. It’s funny to me…I consider myself a person with very limited spiritual beliefs, but somehow I have convinced myself that ghosts visit us in dreams.
Also–a confession: writing this made me cry around the 75% point.