It’s 8:30pm on a Sunday when a call from an unknown number pierces my eardrum.
Blocked Caller, it reads. What sneaky bastard did I ghost off Tinder?
Something about the loneliness of a New York Sunday persuades me to answer.
“Hello,” I say, putting on my Publicist coo.
A surprised voice: “Lindsey?”
Christ, I think. If this is that Jersey dude I’m reporting his ass to Tinder Nightmares.
“Yes,” I respond, begrudgingly.
“Can’t believe you answered,” the voice says.
“But alas here I am.”
“Do you know who this is?”
“My XOCupid nightmare?”
He snorts. “It’s A – but good one.”
I feel my laptop slowly slide from my stomach. I sit upright in the bed; lain pillow indent. “A,” I repeat. Hey,” I shift in my bed. “What’s it been? Months? Years?”
“Something like that,” he says. “Look, I’m in rehab. I just- I wanted to call.”
I fall silent.
“You probably don’t want to hear from me,” he pauses. “Or you hate me – I don’t know. But I was seeing a hypnotist yesterday.”
He waits for me to answer. I don’t, but I hum to acknowledge I’m there.
“And, well,” he continues. “He asked me to think back to a time I was happiest; before heroin, and all that. When we were young.”
I shift again; a mental picture of him in a white tux at our prom. A big yellow tie. He looks like a pimp Easter egg, I moaned to my friends when he arrived.
“Oh yeah,” I say. “What did you think of?”
He pauses. “Well, you obviously. When we’d watch movies in your parents game room.”
High school sweethearts; we parted ways in college. But, as all modern dating attests, “breaking up” in the age of social media is never really an end; only the statement of one.
I look over at an empty wine glass to see if I can suckle any remaining drops.
“I fucked up,” he goes on. “A lot. And I don’t know where you are or what you’re doing– but I’m going to be home, in Texas, for Thanksgiving. I’ll be out on a 24-hour pass,” he clarifies. “And, I’d be happy if I saw you.”
I pause; remembering the last time I saw him; heroin moving around the foil. A blackened rolled parking ticket; chasing the tar that streaked the foil, crinkling as it passed.
Eyes turning to glass.
I was quiet the night I watched him do heroin; wondering what I’d do if he’d die then; if he fell in front of me. Would I hate myself for letting it happen?
There was a time I’d never seen heroin. I tried every day to return there.
“Why now?” I ask. “You said you’d never go.”
He sighs. “Because I’ll die if I don’t.”
I fixate on a chip in my wall.
“Are you okay?” I ask finally.
“No,” he laughs- almost moronically. “I’m a fucking heroin addict.”
Like all good millennial lovers, we had kept ties on each other throughout the years. Texting when we were home for holidays; Skype calls when I lived in Spain, and, notably, fucking like animals when we saw each other.
Loving, we would falsely call ourselves. We were lovers and we valued each other. We had a nostalgia for history – and our shared experiences– and it made us careless.
We were “the couple” in high school; the duo sure to marry. Our parents clinked each other’s wine glasses, grateful their children had found partnership at a young age.
And then heroin happened. Actually, this is a lie.
Anorexia happened first, but often I prefer to leave that part out.
“I’ll see you,” I say tonight. “I have a family thing, but after that,” I pause. “I’ll come to your parents.”
He thanks me.
Even now, I don’t know why I made that choice. But 4 more years have gone by, and I agree, still, to see him at Christmas this year, on another 24-hour pass.