It's four am. My hand instinctively reaches over to feel for him only to feel a lack of body heat and an empty place designated for him.
As I get closer to the door I hear someone mumbling incoherently and I imagine them holding their legs rocking back and forth, as that is the usual scene at this time. Or any time. The living room looks just as I knew it would. Everyone is either passed out or sitting around the only piece of furniture any of us own. The coffee table is weak from too many late night episodes and on top of it are the only kitchen utensils we use, but not for their intended purpose, and needles that make my stomach cringe. The scene that lay out before me is one I've witnessed too many times. One I've been a part of too many times. I pictured myself lying there next to Missy, staring at the wall having a conversation with it that only makes sense to us. Or rocking back and forth mumbling with Colin. Or passed out from exhaustion and chemicals with Dalton. I begin to feel as if I'm going to vomit as I think of what we've become. How did this begin and when the hell did it get so bad? And why does no one care enough to realize that has to stop? That's when I realize that we can't. We're all too far gone. We're merely victims now. We've become our own worst enemies and we did this to ourselves.
"I need this. Em, please help me."
Peter is looking up at me, his brown eyes pleading with mine. The needle is in his possession, but he's too incoherent to do it correctly. He claims he needs me, but all he needs are his drugs. My drugs. Our drugs. The nauseous feeling returns as I realize that peter and I started this together. We were kids then, we didn't know. Our bleak future made us feel hopeless and empty and we wanted something to make us feel again. We thought the world owed us something. It over looked us, left us behind. We were the kids who felt like the dead ends of society because we didn't quite fit in. The best kept secrets. We tried to live our way, on adrenaline, on hope, on passion, on faith, on caffeine, but we failed. And when we failed, we no longer cared about becoming successful on our own terms, we just wanted to get by, to get through the days without falling deeper and deeper into some metaphorical black hole. We didn't have enough strength to avoid it anymore. We were hopeless and depressed and young and that black hole seemed so inviting. So we fucking let go. We gave in. And what's the fucking point in letting go with one arm? No, we fucking let go with both, all fingers detached, and when we hit bottom, we hit hard.
His voice used to make me happy. His voice used to calm me. His voice used to represent a future that seemed so bright even the fucking sun couldn't touch it. Now his voice terrified me and in my head I tried to replace it, to block it out, anything to not have to listen to it. Now all it represented was a past that's so depressingly unfinished with no hope for a future, just an elongated present. We were all too fucked up to realize that time was leaving us behind.
I looked at the door. These kids were my friends. I couldn't. Twenty -three years and this was not supposed to be how I ended up. It wasn't supposed to be how any of us ended up. Missy, Dalton, Colin, and the rest were just casualties. After all, drugs lead us to them. They chose this before we did. I had no obligation to feel guilty about their misdirection. But Pete and I? We were meant for so much more than this. We had so much to live for. So many dreams. So much talent. His band. My art. We could give it another shot. Try again. This was just a detour. The drugs, the late nights, the complacency. We could just leave it all behind and keep going. Get back on track. Finish what we began. This time it would work out. This time it had to. This time we knew better. We weren't so naÃ¯ve. We knew what it was like to fail and we would try harder. Maybe we hadn't even failed yet. We were just dangerously close, but there was still time to fix everything. This time would be different. We still had the heart and that's all you really need. We had lost our faith, but we'd find it again. We could.
I looked at Peter. His right hand was cut and bleeding from where he punched the table trying to get my attention and his fix. Peter. I had always loved him. Our parents had told us we were too young to know what love was back then, but Pete always had a charming way of making people believe what he believed. Even I was uncertain if sixteen was too immature to feel the way I did, but Pete convinced me. He made me believe in love. In us. In myself. In him. He made me believe in everything. He was the most passionate person I had ever met. To him, everything was beautiful. Everything was worth something. Everything had value. Everything had a place and nothing was unnecessary. He gave everything he had with everything he did. His music meant the world to him and his band got as far as they did because of him. Because he made people believe in it. Because of his passion for it. Because of his talent for playing and writing music. Watching Pete play a live show was one of the most beautiful experiences anyone could have. Watching him scream the words he composed, eyes closed, hair soaked with sweat. Pete was addicting. Being around him once made you want to monopolize his time for the rest of eternity.
However, sometimes record deals fall through and art galleries don't want to display your paintings if you're an amateur. Sometimes the world doesn't know what to do with kids like us. Sometimes we don't know what to do with ourselves. Sometimes we stop believing in ourselves because everyone else either has as well or never did to begin with. Sometimes we get discouraged and lose our balance. Sometimes there's no one there to catch you and sometimes you're just too weak to catch yourself. Sometimes you don't have enough time or energy to stitch yourself up, so you just put some band aids over it instead and hope they hold. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes you fall apart and no longer care who sees you at your worst. Sometimes you can no longer get by on adrenaline, or hope, or passion, or faith, or even caffeine. Sometimes you need something more.
I looked at the door. So simple. I didn't have to be here. I chose this, but that was some time ago and I've served my time. I don't need this anymore. I want to live again. I want to feel alive without the aid of pills and everything else. I want more. That door was my way out. My escape. On the other side, I just know there was a world out there that has been waiting on me. Bright and sunny, and welcoming. The world never gave up on us, we gave up on the world. We didn't fight hard enough. We said we wanted it. We wanted all of it, but we only gave seventy-five percent of everything we had. The other side of that door holds what I've wanted all this time. I just forgot how badly I wanted it. I could start painting again. This time I wouldn't take no for an answer from any art gallery. I would start back at the bottom and work my way up. Peter could too.
I looked at Peter. Did he want this too? I couldn't leave Pete behind. We were a team. We motivated each other. I loved him. He loved me. That's the way it's always been. I didn't know any other way.
He looked half alive, but mostly dead. Mentally, emotionally, and physically. There were dark circles under his eyes caused from exhaustion. His once tight jeans now hung from his thin frame. I swear his eyes weren't as green as they used to be. They were darker, meaner. As if he had seen too much. I had known Pete for seven years, but for the past two, I overlooked what he was turning into that made him into who he is today. I didn't really know him at all. I clung to who he was and substituted that for who he is. I don't want to see it. I didn't want to realize that he'd changed. I wanted to keep pretending. In fact, I overlooked what I was turning into that made me into who I am today. I don't know who the hell I am anymore, but I'm dying to find out.
I'm not sure what was making it happen but the door was getting closer. The shortened distance made it appear larger and I reached out to touch it.