1963- Summer

You are dying, every day marking another long stride towards the grave. Neff and Aiko are terrified, but they cannot confront you for you have become the center of their world. The do not trust me, they cannot, for I am too new and too much an unknown. They resent me nearly as much as do you, an interloper in the closed little world the three of you have built.

Heroin is a relatively new scourge, but opium is quite familiar to me and I can see its handiwork all through you. I wonder- am I too late? But when I touch that thought, attempt to explore its meaning, I recoil from it. You are such a distraction to my soul and your self-destruction angers me, yet I cannot seem to reach you, cannot show you I care more than you suspect. I try to tell you and you rebuff me- how can I be so unequal to this task? What is wrong with me?

Weeks pass and summer arrives, the Gulf Coast attaining its mixture of sweltering heat and cool sea breezes. You seem happier, more engaged and I see your friends, the ones who have loved you for a year that seems a century, clinging to the hope you will choose to crawl out of the darkness devouring you. But it is a transient thing, a cruel illusion shattered by another long and terrifying bout of abuse.

Scenes etched upon my memory:

Aiko forcing breath into your lungs, the three of us taking turns for more than an hour while you cannot breathe on your own, refusing to give up while we feel the thin tremble of a pulse in your neck…

Aiko and I dragging Neff from the clutches of some drunken maniac as you let fly with booted feet, pummeling the man into unconsciousness…

Jacques’s fury at finding you too high to step out, and the beating I took for standing up to him… and your disdain at my weakness for taking the beating meant for you.

A stolen car and manic dash to an emergency room, watching as you are shocked back to life not once, not twice, but three times…

I should give up on you, for I long ago learned not to stand in the path of those who would destroy themselves. I cannot do it. I cannot because they cannot: Neff, and Aiko will not surrender, will fight for you to the bitter end they know must come. If these two wounded souls can stand by you, how can I not?

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