On my mind

A good friend of mine died the other day. I’ve been working on how to write about this, which is the same as working on how to think about it, because here’s the thing: I say ‘good friend,’ but I only wish that had been still true. What I mean is ‘old friend.’ One of my oldest, going back to college. Then, and for some years after, we were very close. Post-college a few years, grad school, first jobs, a few road trips together. Eventually we both ended up in NYC, and stayed close, through my career change, the bad breakup of her first marriage. We used to have a weekly dinner date, for years. No matter what else was going on, we’d get together, talk over our lives, our friends’ lives, politics, movies, whatever needed to be talked over. She was one of the smartest people I ever knew. <br> <br>But she drank. In college, who didn’t? Most of us manage to swim in that sea; the tides don’t pull us under, and every now and then we paddle around and then climb back onto shore. Some people realize the current’s too strong for them, and with great effort they fight their way out and don’t dive back. This friend couldn’t do either. She drank, she stopped half-heartedly, she drank harder. Stopped again, went back harder again. About ten years ago we stopped meeting for coffee, only for a drink; only met for dinner at places that served liquor. I didn’t quite get it for awhile — who wants to see that? — but these last couple of years we didn’t meet regularly at all. We only saw each other if I was in her neighborhood, called — she was always available, she never went out — and went up there. And this past year, I did that infrequently, because when I did, I felt like she was talking to me and I was talking to a bottle of booze. <br> <br>So I’ve been angry for years now. Furious, helpless, watching her destroy herself, seeing her take my friend away from me, her humor and smarts away from the world. I know, from the outside, how hard it is to quit; I have friends, I have family, who’ve gotten sober. I know I can never really know what it’s like, but I know it’s possible, you’ve got to really want to, and she never really wanted to. <br> <br>My friend’s death, to me, is a cause of great sadness, but also anger and disgust. It didn’t have to be. But it was inevitable. This is why I’m having trouble knowing how to think about it. It just keeps coming to me: what a waste. What a waste. <br>

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