Written by William Henderson
On my lunch break, I bring over a dozen Mylar balloons that I have bought for your party, and some candy. Maybe if I bring over snacks, you and your two friends won’t feel the need to go out when you’re high.
We are unraveling. We are coming apart. Holly doesn’t want you around Avery, and I no longer trust you completely around him. I no longer trust you completely around me.
Trust. Funny word for me to think, or say. Of course you trust me. You think you can trust me. And I trust you, or think I can trust you, but I can’t trust you, can I? You’ve started cancelling plans with me so that you can get high with your best friend. You told me you and I didn’t need to celebrate our sixth month anniversary together because we’d have many such anniversaries.
I minded, not celebrating the anniversary with you, if only because I had already arranged to be out of the house I share with Holly, my wife, who you don’t know is my wife. Trust. Funny word for me to think, or say.
Somewhere between buying the balloons and getting to your apartment, I decide to leave my old iPhone under your bed with a recording application running and record you and your friends getting high. I think if I can show you how you get when you’re high, you will begin to understand. I think that you getting high every day, and risking losing me and Avery, is as bad as you doing crystal meth again, which means I am fulfilling the promise I made you on our second date. I will do whatever I need to keep you safe. I love you. I’m doing this because I love you, I think.
People in love do desperate things. This thinking, my plan, I know it is all desperate. I don’t know what else to do.
You laugh at the balloons. They’re great, you say.
What’s a party without balloons?, I say.
Holly does not know I am having an affair with you; you do not know Holly is my wife. The strain of keeping you from her and she from you is wearing on me. Maybe the strain is why I am recording you. If you find the phone, we are over. If I don’t like what I hear on the phone, we are over.
I love you, but we are over. Should be over. Should never have started.
Around midnight, I text you. You do not respond. Around 3 a.m., I text: Are you done? Yes, you respond. Do you want company? I don’t care, you say. Then I’ll stay here, I say. Fine, you say.
I am angry and hurt. I know I won’t be able to sleep, that I will run your words around in my head, trying to figure out if you wanted me to push harder or if you really didn’t care.
I changed my mind, I text. I’m coming over.
I call you when I’m on my way, and you answer, but you sound exhausted and high. I need to get up at five, you say. Let me rest until you get here.
At your apartment, I take off my clothes and crawl under the comforter. You are wearing underwear and a tank top. You say hi. I say hi. We do not touch. And then I reach for you, and you reach for me, and we are kissing and you are kissing me unlike how you’ve ever kissed me before. I pull away. How high are you?, I ask.
I don’t feel very high at all, you say.
And then you kiss me again, and I kiss you, and the sex we have is frantic. It is nearly 4 a.m.
We sleep, though I feel like no time has passed when your alarm sounds. You get out of bed and walk into the bathroom. I hear the shower turn on. While you are gone, I get the phone from under your bed. There is less than five percent of the battery life remaining. I recorded us fucking, I think. That will be exciting to hear.
I take you to work, and when I get home, Holly is awake.
Where were you?, she asks.
I couldn’t sleep, so I went to work.
OK, she says. Still, she believes me.
I did something horrible, I say. Holly is getting ready for work. Avery is asleep. We will have to wake him up soon. He has started crying when we wake him up. He burrows deeper under the blankets. He searches for Holly or for the warm spot she has left behind.
What did you do?, she asks me.
I left my phone in his room and recorded him and his friends getting high last night.
She just looks at me.
I need to play it for him. I need him to know who he is when he’s high. I need him to see that he’s heading down the path back toward crystal meth. He asked me to do this. He asked me to do whatever it would take to keep him safe.
That’s not your job, Holly says.
I know, I say, but he’s my friend, and I care about him, and I think I can help him. I think I’m the only person in his life who can help him.
If you need to record him getting high to show him what his drug use is doing to him, and to you, than you maybe should reconsider his place in your life. You have other options.
What?, I ask.
You could have talked to him about it.
He told me that if I make him choose between our friendship and the drugs, then he will pick the drugs.
She laughs. It is a hollow laugh, maybe even bitter. I know what she is thinking. This man, this drug addict, is who I’ve been spending time with while she is slowly growing our second child, and while our son asks most nights why daddy isn’t home.
The fact that he has told you what he will pick if you make him pick is him picking, Will, she says. He isn’t picking you.
I know, I say.
And still I listen.
I hear your roommate selling you an ounce of weed. Your best friend is already there. He tells you he will bring his half of the money later. Your roommate tells your friend that he is a good guy, and that he is better company for you than I am.
You and your best friend laugh.
Your best friend sees the candy I bought and asks about it.
Will brought it over, you say. I guess he thinks we’re going to get high tonight or something. You both laugh.
I don’t mean to be an asshole, your friend says, but that candy sucks.
Of course you mean to be an asshole, I think. You are an asshole. I’ve seen it from the first day I met you. I do not understand why D doesn’t see it.
Then we won’t eat it, you say.
I listen to the two of you smoke. Your other friend does not have a car and needs your best friend to get him. Your best friend doesn’t want to get him. I just want tonight to be for us, he tells you.
No, you say, let’s go get him.
I need to talk to you about something serious, your best friend says. Can you be my life coach?
What?, you ask.
I need help. I don’t know what to do with my life. I think if I come over three or four nights a week and talk with you, and smoke – and here you both laugh – then I can start figuring out stuff. I trust your opinion more than I do anyone else’s.
OK, you say.
You know that means Will can’t come over on those nights. I don’t want to have to split your attention.
OK, you say. I’ll make sure he understands.
And how exactly are you going to do that?, I think.
You leave. The room is silent. I skip ahead to when I can hear voices. You have gone to the grocery store. You have picked up your other friend.
You know, your best friend says, I dreamed about the characters from Handy Manny last week.
You laugh. You know, you say, when I told Will that we had watched it, he freaked the fuck out.
Then you imitate me telling you how I felt about you watching Avery’s cartoon. You change your voice. You repeat what I said to you. Your friends laugh.
I’m tired of how he reacts to me, you say.
He just doesn’t get it, your best friend says. He doesn’t understand that you’re just trying to understand cartoons in a way that you weren’t able to as a child. Who is he to tell you what you can and can’t watch?
You know, you say, I saw my ex-boyfriend, Simon, at a bar with Will the other day.
I hear what sounds like you pulling up a video of Simon performing in something.
After the video ends, you tell your friends about seeing the man from your doctor’s office. I knew he was gay, you say. He’s cute. And I think he’s a stoner. I’m thinking about running into him and asking him to get some tea. I’ll bring up getting high, and if he’s interested, see if he wants to come back here. Usually when you leave something good, you should have an upgrade in mind.
You had said that to me about four weeks ago. Is he the upgrade you have in mind?
Then what?, your best friend asks.
Then whatever happens next happens next, you say.
I can’t hear any more of this, but I can’t stop listening. I have to pee. I don’t want to walk anymore. I don’t want to throw you a birthday party. How can you be saying these things? I don’t even think this is the first night you’ve said things like this. Have you been cheating on me?
It’s about time you find someone better than Will, your best friend says.
I’m tired of dating someone who won’t get high with me and who judges me when I do, you say.
You leave the room to make some brownies. While you’re gone, your two friends talk about their separate credit scores. Your friend is trying to fix his credit. Your best friend tells him that his credit is too far gone. Don’t even try, he tells him. When you return, your friend asks you what you think. You tell him that everything is salvageable. Just work at it, you say. Your best friend agrees. That’s just what I was telling him, he says.
Want to do something else?, someone asks. Maybe it is your best friend. Maybe it is you. I cannot tell because I am crying and Avery is asking for me, and the birds, the goddamn birds on the side of the river, are loud and the sky itself seems loud, or at the very least seems like it is about to fall, or that it is already falling and I’m the only one who knows it.
I hear you bring out the pills that your doctor had prescribed for your head that hadn’t worked. You offer them their choice. I hear you, or someone, crush the pills. I hear the three of you snort the pills.
Daddy sad?, Avery asks me. I am crying. I look at him. He is the only person in my life who knows you. He keeps secrets he doesn’t know he’s keeping.
I call Holly. I do not know what else to do.
He snorted pills last night, I tell her. He always said he would never snort anything again.
I don’t want him around Avery anymore, and I don’t know why you want him around Avery if he’s high as often as you say he is. I don’t know why you’d even want to be around him.
I can’t even ask him about it, I say. How do I say I know?
Addicts are clever, she says. They are good liars. We form addictions to distract ourselves from ourselves. He doesn’t really have room for you.
I shouldn’t have recorded him.
But you did, and now you have to decide what you’re going to do.
I’ll have to ask him, I say. Holly doesn’t say anything. I just wanted to help him, I say.
You know what we say at work, Holly asks. How can you tell when an addict is lying?
I don’t know.
They open their mouths, Holly says.
I know you can’t talk, I say to you later when I call you, but I’m at your apartment cleaning up and I found this powder on your desk. I think that your desk is the only place in your room where you would have crushed the pills. Did you guys do cocaine last night?
You laugh. No, you say. You know I don’t put anything up my nose. If you taste the powder, and your lips tingle, then you’ll know that it’s cocaine. It isn’t cocaine.
What about pills? Did you guys snort pills?
No, you say.
You can tell me, I say. I won’t judge you.
No, rabbit, you say.
OK, I say. I’ll just clean up here then.
I call Holly. He denied snorting pills. He lied to me.
Now you know, she says.
I bring everything to your home and finish setting up. I do not think I can act as if everything is OK and put our relationship on display in front of your friends. I write a note telling you that I am not coming, that I know about the pills, and that I love you, but I cannot be with you anymore. Avery is playing with some cars in your room, and I look around and because I am having trouble separating what in the room is you from what in the room is us, and because I do not never want to be in this room again and in your arms, I rip up the note.
I’m on my way, I text you later when I am on my way. Holly didn’t need to ask me what I had decided; I am coming to your party. My decision is fairly clear.
OK, you respond.
I’m excited for tonight, I text. I’m spending the evening with my pseudo-fiancé.
Your pseudo-fiancé better be me, or we have bigger problems, you reply.
I almost respond that we have bigger problems, perhaps even insurmountable problems, and that’s not even including my wife that you do not know about, but instead I say of course you are my pseudo-fiancé. No one else, I text.
You respond, as you do when I say or text the words no one else: nowhere else.
You ask me to pick up some beer and wine. Already, this party has cost more than I had intended, but I agree, and when I get to your apartment, I bring up what is in my car, and begin cleaning your living room. You hear me, and you run into the room. You hug and kiss me. I love the flowers, you say. Thank you for being you and for everything you have done and everything you do.
You look so happy, I think. How can I think about leaving you and us? I can pretend, at least for tonight, to be happy and in love. But Holly is right; I know what to do.
We set up a tray of plastic silverware and a stack of paper napkins. We do this without talking. We do not need to talk. I have always liked this about our relationship. When we are done, you touch my face.
We’re good at this, you say.
Do you think we’ll have parties like this often?, you ask.
I’d like that, I say.
You smile, and then you get the look you get when you have remembered something. I have to show you something, you say. I follow you into your room. You show me your bag. Look, rabbit, you say. I look at your bag and I don’t see anything.
You pick up your bag and hold it open to me. Inside, I see a pile of what looks like sugar crystals.
One of the sugar packets I carry with me must have broken, you say. The bag was on my desk this morning. That’s what you saw earlier. Sugar. From a broken sugar packet.
That must have been it, I say. There was never powder on your desk.
I should have bought fewer balloons. Too many float near the ceiling. I’ll take some home tomorrow for Avery. He’ll get a kick out of the balloons – trying to hold on, and letting them go, and trying again to reach them, despite them being out of his reach. People have to duck around strings in the kitchen in your apartment where the party I organized is happening. And you are happening, and I am happening, and there are strings you do not know I know about, and these strings you do not know I know about are unraveling, have unraveled, and no matter how high I reach, you will be out of reach, high, up there, without me.
About William: William Henderson lives in Boston, where he blogs; contributes to several journals and magazines, including Thought Catalog; misses the 80s; reads comic books; tweets (@Avesdad); and takes care of his children, Avery and Aurora.