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Begging from the other side

There is one truth: Addicts lie

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I swear, when it comes to kidnapping people, Grant cannot possibly be a bigger pussy. I even found myself wishing Lary was there, and it's not often I long for Lary's company, believe me. But Lary was not there, and we could not even reach him by cell phone for advice. It was just me and Grant and Daniel. We were quite unprepared, really, to come upon our subject so suddenly. There she was, not seeing or expecting us, outside and everything, a perfect opportunity, and all Grant could do is shout, "What should we do? What should we do?" He even passed her by.

"Turn the fuck around!" I hollered. Amazingly, Grant did as I said and turned around, but as we approached her, he still kept shrieking, "What should we do?"

"We're gonna go get her, goddamnit," I said with pure conviction. I rarely have pure conviction. Offhand, I'd say the last time I had it was when I snuck into a sold-out Tina Turner concert after my friends kept saying, "We're never gonna get in, we're never gonna get in," and I simply said, "Like fuck we're not."

I remember it perfectly. We were standing at the mouth of a tiny alleyway behind the concert hall, and there was a light at the other end of the alley, which I was certain came from a window that led inside. Blocking us were two massive Dumpsters stuffed with trash, and not just any trash, but bad, grubby disgusting trash full of fish bones and rancid meat and rotting kitten carcasses and stuff like that. It was a goddamn mountain of garbage, but I didn't care because I saw that light, see? I just knew it led where we wanted to go, I had pure conviction.

Only one friend followed me, though, my best friend, Laura, and we climbed that mountain, grappling over all kinds of odious crap, and it turned out I was right. The window led to the men's toilet backstage, which was a snap to crawl through once you removed the glass panels. We called to our friends to tell them the coast was clear, begging them from the other side to come follow us, but they wouldn't. So we called to them until it was time to leave ourselves. Laura and I ended up in the front row, and to this day she still has the pack of rolling papers Tina autographed for us afterward.

"What should we do?" Grant was saying as we watched our friend all out in the open, practically begging to be abducted. "We're not ready." He was right, we weren't ready. But when are you ever ready for this? We weren't exactly ready for the news that our friend had become a meth addict and lost everything dear to her, either. She lost her home, job, husband and daughter, but if you see her on the street, she'll smile sweetly like she always used to and tell you everything's fine ... a little fucked up but otherwise fine. And you'll walk away wanting to believe her. I tell you, though, if there is ever one truth to be taken from any of this, it's that addicts lie.

This time we weren't walking away. She was outside the house that is no longer her house, taking furniture from it that might or might not be hers. We don't know. We were told not to believe a word she says. "It's not her talking," we were informed. But it sure was good to hear her voice even if it wasn't her talking. "Everything's fine," she kept saying. She had a drug buddy waiting for her in a car with the engine running, but Grant had (very reluctantly) blocked their exit with his brand new Honda Element. ("What if my car gets rammed?" he bitched. "Even better," I bitched back.)

The three of us got out and circled around her like a small herd of protective ponies, insisting she come with us, and this is where I'm glad Grant was there and not Lary, as Lary would have simply clouted her over the head with a claw hammer and thrown her in the back seat like a sack of sand. Instead Grant took her by the hand and simply implored her to follow us. "We love you," he kept repeating gently. "Come with us, right now." He spoke with pure conviction, so she got in our car willingly, smiling gamely like a mom being led to a breakfast made by her kids.

When she realized where we were taking her she dropped the act, though, or perhaps she simply changed characters. We don't know yet. All we know is that she cried a lot, and we did, too. She told us she missed us, and we told her the same. She laughed some, as well, and she told us a little about her drug. "You would love it," she told Grant, and her voice held such a note of longing right then that I became immensely sad. She was longing for company, I thought. She was longing for a friend to follow her.

We took her to a treatment center, where they were expecting her, and that is where it ended that day, though whether it will end altogether is still unknown. That is just the way it is. You crawl through garbage to get to a toilet, but you gotta keep going, because past that there is a light. Some friends will follow you and some won't, even if you're already there to tell them the coast is clear. All you can do is call to them, begging from the other side.

Hollis Gillespie is now touring with her second book, Confessions of a Recovering Slut: And Other Love Stories. Her first book, Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales From a Bad Neighborhood is now available in paperback. Her commentaries can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered."

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