It was a Monday. All day I expected Zack to call me. I wasn’t too concerned since I was only letting him crash at my place and it didn’t really affect me if he found somewhere else preferable to crash. Although he did beg me to let him crash with me before he got back. Up and begged for one last chance because he knew he screwed up big the last time I let him stay with me. So I told him this time there would be no drug use whatsoever, and he had to attend NA meetings with me, too. He was okay with that; he just wanted to get his life back on track when he returned to Rutland.
He stayed with me before he had left and he smoked weed and drank and then there was the time he took acid and I had to watch him to make sure he did nothing stupid. I’m not an asshole, I wasn’t gonna deprive him of those experiences even though I wasn’t partaking in them myself.
One day I was planning to print out a bunch of my artwork and see if any stores around there would carry them. Zack said he’d come along. On the way to the UPS Store we stopped at Burger King and there was a guy and a girl he recognized from Rainbow Gathering. The guy introduced himself as X. He had a long beard and glassy eyes. The girl wore a winter hat over her short head of hair, even though it was summertime. I forgot her name.
Zack told me he wanted to travel cross-country with the two of them but I did not advise it. He said why not? like it was up to me to give him permission. Like I was his father. I said because you’re getting clean from heroin. It’s not a good idea, I told him. He assured me that lots of people get clean on the road. I told him I know, but lots of people get high on the road too, and I’m guessing that’s where your head is at. I know he really wanted to go. His older brother Pete was doing it and I know Zack wanted to fall in his brother’s footsteps.
While I went to the UPS Store, Zack hung back at Burger King with his two squatter buddies. When I got back, there was another, different group of squatters there, also in town for Rainbow Gathering. But Zack and his squatter buddies were gone. The new crew told me they overheard the three of them talking; they were talking about going to score some H.
I was so disappointed in him.
I thought that would be the last time I saw him.
But he came back that night and asked if his friends could crash here. I said no. I told him they’re junkies and they’re not staying here. Please, he said. They’ve got nowhere else to go. No, I told him. No fuckin way!
The next day, after Zack went to work, I ran into my neighbor and he told me our porch was a pigsty this morning. Empty coffee cups and cigarette butts were everywhere. He was so pissed and he wanted to tell the landlord but he liked me and he didn’t want me to get evicted.
I texted Zack and said he could not come back here. He really screwed me. The only rule was no bringing people over here without my permission. Otherwise I didn’t give a rat’s ass what he did.
I thought that would be the last time I saw him.
A few days later his mom called me and asked if I’d heard from him. I said no.
His mom was so worried and I gave her my own mom’s number for support. My own mom had been through what she was going through now.
She was very grateful.
I thought I would never hear from him again. He was one of my best friends and I was so sad to let that go.
A few weeks later I got a message from him that told me he was in Kentucky. He was having so much fun. I was happy for him. Truly happy.
I showed him the story I wrote about when he was crashing with me. He thought it was great. So we kept in contact this way.
A month went by and he told me he was ready to come home now and could I give him one last chance? I said I would. On two conditions: No using drugs, and he had to attend NA meetings with me.
The weekend he got back, though, I had to attend my cousin’s wedding in Montreal so for that weekend he had to find another place to stay.
I went to the bus station. I knew Zack was taking the bus home that day too. I wondered if I’d run into him at the bus station.
When my bus pulled up into the station, I saw a familiar face bobbing down the aisle. Apparently he was on the same bus I would be on in a few minutes.
He got off and I gave him a big hug and told him I’d see him when I got back. I reasserted the rules of no using drugs when I got back, so I suggested he get it all out of his system before then. I guess I was just a nice guy and I understand the mentality of being a drug addict.
I got back to Rutland Sunday night. I was looking forward to seeing him again.
On Monday I went to therapy and my life skill’s coach who worked with my therapist told me the two of them wanted to speak with me together. I wasn’t sure why; it was rare that this ever happened.
I followed her into his office and she sat in one of the empty chairs and my therapist sat at his desk and he looked genuinely sad. Did something happen?
I sat on the couch across from him. What is going on? Am I in trouble or something? Did I do something wrong?
My therapist looked me in the eye. Fuck, this is bad.
He took a deep breath. Why is he dragging this out?
He paused and then he told me my mom called him. It was about Zack. I gulped. What about Zack?
Over the weekend, he said, stopped and mulled over what to say next. This isn’t good. Over the weekend, he continued, Zack died of a heroin overdose.
No. he didn’t, I just saw him Friday.
His mom called my mom and she didn’t want to tell me herself so she asked my therapist to break the news to me.
That’s impossible, I said. I just talked to him. We’re gonna meet up today. I’m just waiting for him to call me. And then he’s gonna come stay with me again.
Both of them were really sad. They both had met the kid before too. They knew him. Like me. And then it clicked.
He was really gone\\\