First Love, Part II.

Hmm. This story is going to take a little time.

When we left our star-crossed lovers, I was looking for a date for Grad, and he was spending more and more time getting high downtown. We didn’t speak for about a year, I guess, and I moved on in my social and romantic life.

I met him for coffee one sunny afternoon in that place upstairs on Robson that used to be a Bino’s or something. The one above the luggage store. Anyway, I remember fretting to my then-boyfriend, “Do I look good? Do I look successful?” I was wearing a red blazer. In hindsight I probably looked like a flight attendant.

Todd was urbane and charming and wearing what looked like an expensive silk shirt. He had gone from smoking his product to selling it. Yes. He was a drug dealer, and by the looks of things, was making some money at it.

I didn’t hold with drug dealing, and I asked how he could do it. “I’m good at this,” he explained matter-of-factly. He gave his girlfriend spending money every day, to sit in a cafe and drink coffee and smoke. I told him I would be hoarding it and investing it. God, I am such a naive nerd.

Anyway, we started spending time together. Long story short, within about a year, we were this weird BFF dynamic. I validated him as a person, and I mocked his deep love of gadgets. Any girlfriend knew I came first. At the apex of his success, one girlfriend told him, “I’ve never seen anybody love anybody as much as you love her.” The weird thing was, it was true. I was the one person in his life who knew what his motives were and how deeply insecure he was. That was the reason for the clothes and the boots and the gadgets and the endless purchases of material stuff. The night goggles? Come ON. The guns? Um. What a bad idea. The SNAKE? Yeah. I used to come over to help bathe the snake when she was constipated. Girlfriends didn’t do that, and, you know, when a snake gets constipated, you stick it in a lukewarm bathtub, all six feet of it, until it poops. Yes, that was me, there, in the bathroom, keeping the tail in the tub while Todd kept the head in.

Oh, and there was the jewelry. He had a nice watch, if I remember, but never wore anything other than the ankh pendant I’d given him, and the tacky little not-even-silver pinkie ring I got him, which I loved for its elegant Doric key design. Romantic, right? Well, I thought so at the time. He was truly sentimental. Probably still is. And he was fiercely protective of me. When a boyfriend didn’t tell me there was cocaine in a joint I took a hit off, Todd was livid. Sure, he could sell drugs to masses of scum, but no one fucked with Liz. (Oh, you’ll read about that as well. Nothing’s too confessional for the November Firsts).

Well, his high rolling couldn’t last, and he started using heroin and cocaine, and went downhill fast. He didn’t like to let me see him for that part of his life. I’d call and call, and he’d see me maybe once a month, looking gaunt, his skin buttermilky and translucent. He was trying to keep it together, but was increasingly strung out. He had these big violet bruises under his eyes. He looked defeated.

I never stopped thinking that there was something I could do to save him. Savior Complex or something. There must be some way to salvage this man who had so much to offer the world, if only he wasn’t so fucked up.

He called me up one night and said he had to see me. He looked like a death’s head. “The doctor says I’ll die in about six months,” he said, “If I don’t get clean.” We were standing on Pacific, outside his big old car. I ran into his arms. “Don’t cry. Don’t cry, Liz. I need you to be strong for me. I need you now. I need you.” He was crying, himself.

It took a while, but he got clean in one of those private institutions that cost about a million dollars. He was fragile, but he was ok. I sent him long, cheery letters I’d write on my slow shifts at the library checkout, and send him little presents. There was this guitar pick we passed back and forth. It was a Speedball. Yes, that is also the name of a combination of heroin and cocaine. I see the irony, yes, I do. They got the drugs out of his body, but they didn’t get the insecurity out of his soul.

He was clean and he was sober. He went to meetings. Sometimes I went with him Eventually, he started having relationships with girls, I was having relationships with guys. But we were phoning it in.

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