“Wish You Were Here”
It happened over two years ago as I write this, somewhere between a moment and a millennium. It came at a time when I got lost on the journey to find myself. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to be a burn out who got high everyday or a functioning member of society. Subsequently, I became both, in that order. This pivotal day began at 8:30 one Sunday morning in September 2008. Phil barged in on my and Robert’s makeshift bedroom snapping his fingers, looking frantic and crazed.
“Lynette, get up. Michelle is dead.” Phil said
“No, she isn’t.” I retorted.
This disagreement continued for another ten seconds, until I consented to go up to the attic where Phil and Michelle had been sleeping to check on her. I got up, pulled my jeans on, and looked to Robert for some kind of solace. He appeared just as apprehensive and scared as I surely did. I was feeling as confident as possible on my trip up the stairs, “Phil is still fucked up from last night, she’s not actually dead,” I assured myself. When I came to the futon where she lay, I knew I was wrong. It’s a scary feeling, to look into your friend’s lifeless eyes. The so-called face of death is not the face you might see at a viewing; rather, it is the same person you always knew, except now she is void of a soul. Her mouth and eyes were open; her skin looked the same, yet somehow different. I looked to her neck to see if there was a pulse, maybe she was just sleeping deeply. I saw no such thing. As a last resort, I lightly touched her cheek. Her skin was cold, Phil was right. For the first time ever, I involuntarily gagged, then ran downstairs to confirm the horrid rumor.
So how did I wind up in this situation? I was just a nice girl from a small town in Pennsylvania who got good grades and wanted to be a biologist. I was not an emaciated addict living on the streets selling my firstborn to get some H. I had met Michelle the previous spring during rugby season. Michelle, Hillary, and I smoked once after a game, and instantly became inseparable. I met them at a time when I felt like my life was becoming monotonous, repetitive; I needed a change. We quickly grew close, and although the basis of our relationship was getting high, I felt a close connection with them just as I did with my other friends. Maybe a month after we started hanging out, I went to Philadelphia for the summer to work at a genetics lab. My persona during the week was entirely contradictory to the person I was on the weekends--I started living a double life. Since I was away most of the summer, I did not see how things were swiftly changing. Michelle was somehow introduced to Phil, a kid I knew nothing about. Hillary did not want much to do with Phil, so she was spending more time with her boyfriend. I came home for good in the middle of August that summer and began hanging out at Phil’s with Michelle and the rest of the crew.
We would all go to Phil’s every day, pretty much all day, and stay over on the weekends. We were kind of like a family in the way we looked out for each other—a very high family, but a family nonetheless. Since I have detestable money management skills, and lacked any real maturity, I was willing to buy pot for everyone, everyday. That was mostly what happened at Phil’s; we would set up the gravity bong in the trash can and get ripped all day long. Phil and Michelle developed a romance parallel to the one Robert and I were also developing. Phil and Michelle began a game of sorts where they would try a new drug every weekend. The first weekend they took acid, the second it was ecstasy, and shortly before school started they each tried heroin. I was so comfortable with drug use at that point that I felt like H was just another high.
I was always interested in the process of shooting up, Bangin’ it up, as we called it. There was the spoon, the lighter, the cotton balls, along with the syringes donated by the kid with diabetes and then, of course, how could I forget the belt? When they were ready to do a bag, everyone gathered around to watch the spectacle about to take place. Phil would cook up the heroin in the spoon, then suck it up with the syringe; meanwhile Michelle was tightening the belt around her bicep and tapping the bend in her arm to make her veins protrude. Then Phil would inject her, and she would take off the belt. Although I never tried heroin, this was the crux of the process; as soon as the belt was removed, they could feel the high travelling through their bloodstream, up their arm, into their chest, subsequently numbing the rest of their body. The state of euphoria they immediately slipped into was visible as they wiped the blood streaming from the injection site. Once they were high, they would hang out with everyone for a little while, then usually disappear upstairs for the rest of the night.
As their use progressed, I really didn’t worry, even when Michelle went over to Phil’s the morning of the first day of school to get high. I knew they were too smart—people only die from drugs on big city streets, not in Lititz. The night before I found Michelle dead, Robert and I got to Phil’s late from a concert, and they were already very high. They each took a packet of coriciden, triple c’s as they are more commonly known, along with a bottle of robotussin, and they were bangin’ it up every hour or so. Robert casually noted as I clipped his hair in Phil’s bathroom that Michelle looked grey—it was just a side note. The rest of us whipped out the gravity bong, which Phil and Michelle were no longer interested in using, and smoked the rest of the eighth I had bought earlier that day. We kept laughing and making fun of Phil and Michelle for moving so slowly—they were like an old couple, we said. At about midnight, we all gathered in the attic to watch them bang up another bag of H. It was our cue to leave when Phil started dipping in and out of consciousness; Michelle was already out cold on the futon. That was the last time I saw her alive—if you can call that living.
When I went back downstairs, Robert looked into my eyes, which obviously told him everything he needed to know, because his face dropped. He embraced me in a way that said, “How could this happen—what are we going to do?” I went into the bedroom and sat down on the floor, staring at the white wall in front of me for an indefinite amount of time. It looked just as blank as I felt. I didn’t really feel alive at that point—I was in a state of shock and utter disbelief. Eventually, I got up, helped Phil destroy the marijuana plants he was growing in the kitchen, and then paced around the living room. Finally, I picked up the phone and called Hillary to tell her the news. Hearing her immediate tears on the other end of the line broke my heart, but at that point I still didn’t understand the situation well enough to cry.
Something snapped after that call. We all kept saying that we could not be there. On everyone’s mind was the trouble we were in; someone finally suggested that we lie to the police—we would tell them that we only came to the house after we heard Michelle had died. We were scared; we thought we would be charged for possession of drugs, and potentially for murder. So our story was set. I then told someone to look up Michelle’s parents’ number in the phone book. I stared at the number, but was unable to call. I could not do that to them, could not admit to them it was my fault their youngest child was dead. I couldn’t bear to listen as they realized I had ruined their world. Instead, I went into the kitchen and called 911. A woman picked up.
“911 what’s your emergency?”
“Uh, I don’t know how to say this but...’
“Do you need fire, police, or ambulance?”
Not thirty seconds later there was a knock on the door.
Two of my friends tried to run out the back door in that moment of panic, but the house was surrounded. Someone went down and let the police in the front door. We answered their questions, and sat apprehensively on the couch while they inspected the house. Eventually, they told us we were all going down to the station in two’s. Robert and I were the first to go. I never intended to find myself in the back of a police car, and I briefly pondered what had become of my life. When we got there, we were placed in separate rooms. I could see everyone, including Phil’s mom, get escorted into their individual rooms. I sat there for a long time alone, and this is when I began to cry. I haven’t cried like that since I was a child. My shoulders were shaking violently and I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t even think, except of her face. Robert must have heard me, because he came out of his room, also crying. He pleaded with the police, “Let me see Lynette, I just want to see Lynette,” to no avail. It felt like torture to be isolated at a time when all I needed was someone to tell me things were going to be okay. Eventually my dad came down to the station, and, in his presence, I told the police my story of what had happened, amendments and all. After I was released about four hours later, everyone reconvened. The rest of the day was a mix of regret, tears, and worry. At one point, Michelle’s parents called me to ask what had happened. Telling them was the most heart wrenching thing I’ve ever had to do; I never felt more guilty than at that moment.
At some point the next day, I confessed to my parents that we had lied to the police. My dad immediately took me to a lawyer’s office, and it became clear we were all going to have to tell the police the truth—even if we could barely admit it to ourselves. We all went back to the police station, told the truth, and apologized. The main detective on the case already knew about our lie and was understanding of the motives behind it. Had we not confessed, we all would have been charged with conspiracy. In the following days, I went to Michelle’s viewing and funeral, and spent time with her parents. Although her sister was never able to forgive me, her parents understood that it was never my intention or will to ruin their lives. A few months later they sold their home and business, and moved across the country. I have not seen or heard from them since. Phil was sent away immediately to detox and then to enter a rehab program. I found out only recently that he was the only one charged, because the death took place at his house and he was the one injecting her. $19,000 in fines still cannot atone for the harm we caused.
I never cared about the rumors, about the hundreds of random people who subsequently hated me, or about the immediate loss of innocence I experienced. All I can even think of is my guilt. Friends and family try to make me feel better by telling me it was Michelle’s decision to use, but they ignore the fact that it was my decision to let one of my closest friends use a drug right in front of me that, whether I could admit it or not, that I knew had the power to kill. Even if she wouldn’t have physically died, heroin would have made her the next closest thing—and I watched on, laughing. Her life was in my hands, and I let it slip away.