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THE WRONG CLOTHES

Planning to kidnap a friend we hadn't seen for a while

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I was definitely wearing the wrong clothes for a kidnapping, which is funny, because as a matter of course I'm usually outfitted pretty well for felonious behavior. In middle school, when I broke into ninth-grade heartthrob Tyler Tealander's house, I did not even need to go home to get my gardening gloves. I already had them hanging out of my back pocket when my sister suggested the idea, and off we went. Had the police dusted the place afterward, they'd have found my sister's prints peppered all over the place, while mine would have been nowhere to be found, safely encased in my gloves as they were at the time. In the end, the Tealanders never even knew we burgled their home, as our booty consisted solely of one belt buckle and one deck of pornographic playing cards. Had we done it because of greed, we'd have amassed a much bigger haul, I'm sure, but we didn't do it because of that. We did it because of love.

And it was because of love that Grant, Daniel and I were at Thumbs Up planning a kidnapping. Lary should have been there, definitely, because out of the four of us, he is the only one with actual experience. "Get yer ass over here," Grant bellowed into Lary's voicemail. "You rig shit for a living, we need something rigged. A person. And she probably won't like it. In fact, it'll probably be against her will." But Lary must have been indisposed because I swear to you he would not have resisted otherwise.

"If I'm going to kidnap someone, I'm going to need to change my clothes," I insisted. I was wearing one of my better thrift-store dresses, a satin shift actually, and satin is pretty slippery. It would have been perfect to wear if I was the one getting gripped, but not if I was the one expected to do the gripping. So it was agreed we'd all go home to change before we pounced, and then we'd stop at Home Depot and buy a bunch of plastic tie-downs, which make great makeshift handcuffs, but first we had to go and get our other friend, Boots. We definitely needed a fourth person, one for each flailing limb, we figured, and Grant had a big quilt he wanted to use, too, though I still don't know why. He kept talking about a "technique."

"We each hold a corner and kind of come at her," he was explaining, though it still seemed confusing. "Seriously," he continued, insisting that this quilt factored into an official restraint process he'd learned back when he worked at a mental institution for emotionally damaged children. I pointed out that our friend, the one we were kidnapping, the one we love, had also worked at that institution for 16 years, so she was doubtlessly familiar with the technique and could probably thwart it. He was about to argue with me when he slammed on the breaks instead.

"That's her car!" he shrieked. "There she is!"

I had not seen her in a year, hardly any of her old friends had. Daniel thought he'd said something to drive her away; Boots kept waiting for her to return her calls; Grant had heard rumors, we all did, snippets here and there, but we were busy balancing the big wads of petty crap that comprised our own lives to do anything about it. Besides, you don't want to impose, right? And surely she knows she is loved, right? Surely she knows all she had to do is call, or cry, or just show up, knock on the door, come in and collapse in our arms. Surely she knows that.

I'd heard there'd been an arrest, but amazingly I didn't chalk it up to a bad sign, just bad fortune. I'm exasperatingly nonjudgmental that way. "Whoa, what crappy luck," I remember thinking, "to happen to be at your friend's place, who happens to be a meth dealer, right when the police happen to stage a raid." Then I heard she was doing the drug, too. Dabbling, I figured. She'll snap out of it. Right.

You have to understand, we are not talking about a typical addict. (Are we?) She is a good mother, with a good job and a lovely home, and a husband who was her college sweetheart, and a daughter -- oh my God, a beautiful daughter, a lovely, honey-haired little daughter she rocked in her arms when she was a baby, who lay breathing on her breast like a bundle of warm dough, whose closed lids she kissed with the pure and powerful love of a new mother. Then a year goes by.

A typical year is nothing, if you think about it, an eye blink in the normal course of events. But crystal meth will take a typical year and put a rocket on it, leaving your life charred and destroyed in its wake. Everything you love, everything you cherish, depleted. Fuel for the rocket. In one year, this friend, this person we love, lost her job, husband, house and daughter. She now spends her nights digging through Dumpsters. When Daniel heard it, he cried like a child, and galvanized us into some kind of action. We did not have a plan, except that we planned to make a time to meet to make a plan. Then we happened upon her. Just like that. And all of us wearing the wrong clothes for a kidnapping.

"There she is!" Grant shrieked again. "What should we do?"

(To be continued next week ...)

Hollis Gillespie is now touring with her second book, Confessions of a Recovering Slut: And Other Love Stories (Regan Books). Her commentaries can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered."

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