Bad Habits » Moodswing

What's Stopping Me

Why I keep my daughter's picture on my cell phone

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I cannot believe Lary didn't get a Mexican vasectomy when he had the chance. He and Grant had already ditched Daniel in San Diego on their way to Tijuana, and Grant was off in some skank-ass Latin gay bar with his hands down a Mexican man's pants, so it's not like those two were there to hold Lary back or anything, not that they would.

"You're right there," I said. He'd called me while standing outside the clinic. If I was next to him, I'd have pushed him inside. "What's stopping you?"

"A flesh-eating staph infection," he answered. Ha! A small price to pay to save the world from his spawn, if you ask me. I was looking at a picture of my own sprogette at the moment. Right there on my phone was her dear little face, a sight that fortifies my conviction that, let's face it, not everyone should propagate. "Get yer ass in that clinic," I insisted, "or I'll castrate you myself."

To be fair, though, Lary did not go to Tijuana to get a vasectomy. He went there to get drugs -- your basic ass-load of pain relievers, anti-psychotics and other generic-brand mood elevators. The big bag of inhalers, like the possible vasectomy, was an impulse buy, as was the other asthma medication. Not that any of them have asthma. Lary's cancer-stricken friend, the one from whom Lary usually procures his drugs, has either passed away or, worse, passed so far into the realm of present-day depleted medical care that he can no longer afford to share his drug supply with Lary. So Lary decided to take things into his own hands with the Tijuana drug-store drill.

The side trip to Tijuana was an impulse in itself, as it was the only way I could talk Lary into coming to California with us. For months I'd planned to storm HBO regarding an idea for a new series, and Jesus Christ, wouldn't you know they like, let me in. They scheduled me some actual goddam appointments! The first thing I did was call Lary. I cannot possibly go to Hollywood for a meeting with HBO without bringing Lary and the rest of the boys to properly pollinate the air with their craziness molecules. "What's your fucking credit-card number?" I yelled when he finally picked up the phone, as I'd already pulled up the airline Web site. But it wasn't until I suggested the Tijuana drug drill that Lary finally coughed up his Visa number. Daniel, of course, didn't hesitate. The boy is more broke than a beggar in Bangladesh, but for some reason credit companies keep sending him cards.

The day after we got to California, everybody scattered like freshly hatched spiders. The first thing those three did was ditch me in Hollywood, but to be fair, I guess they had no choice seeing as how I had those meetings and all. Then they took my rental car and headed for the border. When they called me a few hours later, drunk and screaming from inside a Tijuana cantina, I asked them to please pass the phone to someone sober. "Put Daniel on the line," I said. That's when I learned they'd ditched Daniel in San Diego.

Shit, I thought, because between those three, Daniel is the only one with a legitimate need for prescription drugs, what with his delicate condition and all. So I hung up on Lary and called Daniel, who was sitting under a tree in Balboa Park, all serene and perfectly trusting in his belief that Grant and Lary would come back for him. I put my head in my hands and wished I'd accepted that handful of generic Xanax that my flight-attendant friend offered me after her trip to Lima last month.

Because, seriously, I'm amazed I don't do drugs. I'm amazed I don't just soak in a Jacuzzi of narcotics every night. When I was in college, it certainly seemed I was headed in that direction, but then college itself is what stopped me when I realized I couldn't afford my tuition if I continued to blow my earnings on blow. Then, after college, what stopped me was my job, since the easiest way to pass a drug test is to simply not take drugs. Now here I was talking to Lary again, this time as he stood outside a Tijuana clinic wondering if he should get a quickie vasectomy while he waits for Grant to finish groping Mexicans. "What's stopping you?" I asked again.

"What's stopping you?" he countered. He meant the drugs. He's gotten bagfuls of the stuff, "plenty to go around," and he's historically been cranky about my refusal to get high. "You always have some excuse," he griped.

He was right. But what's stopping me now? The factors that existed before no longer apply, so I thought for one gleeful moment that maybe I could test my toe in those waters again. Maybe I will snork a couple of bong bowls when the boys get back. Then we can all lay around laughing until we cough up our own shoes. Why not? It'd be fun, and I was about to tell Lary that when I saw my girl's picture again, right there on my cell phone.

"You better pick up Daniel on your way back," I told Lary instead, "or I'll personally rip out your kidneys." At that, I hung up but continued to gaze at my daughter's face. Every time I look at her face, it makes me want to fall over backward and foam at the mouth with pride. Her face. Her little face. It is so unfailingly dear to me it stops my breath, among other things.

Hollis Gillespie is the author of Confessions of a Recovering Slut and Other Love Stories and Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood. Her commentary can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered."

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