Thank You Brian Jones

by - October 27, 2013


  


     She tried to sneak past me. I don't think she was aware that I could have heard her coming from a mile away. Even a deaf person couldn't have tuned out that racket. There were sniffling noses and stomping feet, which belonged to the person who was once my best friend, and the man who I blamed for ruining my life. I figured that she was trying to leave without saying good bye, because she didn't want to face me. Either that, or because that man didn't allow her to talk to me anymore. As they turned the corner, I decided that I should probably get one last look at her. If I didn't, I might regret it.
      Her eyes were blood-shot, and her hair was matted together with small feathers from her down comforter. She probably didn't have much time for hair-brushing with all the late nights of partying and blasting old Beatles records at 3AM. I never did like the Beatles. If I hadn't known her for eight years, I might not have recognized the pale and emaciated person who was leaving her bedroom on that morning. That was not the girl whom with I shared so many inside jokes and fond memories. The only thing I could have possibly said to that stranger was, “Natalie, what have you done to yourself? What have you done to me?”
     Five months earlier, I was approached with a question.
     “Hey! Bailey just posted on Facebook about how her mom is moving to Utah and she has nowhere else to stay. If she's forced to move with her, she'll be kicked out of city college. Mind if she stays here for a few weeks? One month tops.” It didn't make much sense to me, but since my name wasn't the one on the lease, I didn't really have much of a say. “You remember her, right?” Natalie asked through a mouthful of rice cakes.
     “I think so.” That was a lie. I did remember her, and I didn't like her. Bailey was the kind of person who dyed her hair every color of the rainbow and wore top hats to school just to prove a point. Although, I could never quite figure out what the point was she was trying to make. On top of that, she had seven ridiculous tattoos littering her body. They looked to me like the results of a drunken Sharpie incident rather than permanent ink. Throughout her time with us, I only counted six; and I wasn't quite brave enough to ask where the other one was located. The tattoos weren't my biggest concern, though. I asked Natalie if having Bailey around would affect her progress. She said it wouldn't, because she was better now. She gestured toward the now empty bag of rice cakes she had been snacking on. I was still worried, but I didn't let her know it. Maybe the person she referred to as her “anorexic buddy” would have absolutely no negative influence on her health after all. Um, yeah right.


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     “It's like so awesome that you guys are letting me crash here. You have NO idea what a lifesaver this is!” Wow, I hated Bailey so much. She wasted no time inflating an air mattress in the corner of our living room, and quickly unpacking numerous prescription bottles onto our bookshelf. Watching her happily unload her treasure trove was probably the longest I had ever stared at that bookshelf. Bailey asked if she could occasionally invite friends over. Natalie said yes, and I just half-way nodded.
     “You guys, I can already tell I'm going to love it here!”
     “Yeah, living here is pretty amazing,” I uttered while reading the label on one of her pill bottles. Little did I know, that in less than three months, my living arrangement would go from “amazing” to a living Hell.
     I came home from work one day to find Bailey frantically digging through the duffel bag that housed all of her possessions. She explained to me that an ex-boyfriend was coming over, and she couldn't find her push-up bra. What a dilemma. She peered into the downstairs bathroom mirror examining her small frame. After a few minutes, she proudly informed me that she had still managed to successfully put together an “appropriately slutty” outfit, and quickly ran to the door to let her guest inside. In walked the man that would ruin everything.
     I knew he was bad news from the moment Bailey told me that she had once moved to Oregon just to get away from him. She was definitely not the type to completely revolve her life around a man, but he was the one exception. She explained that although he was not particularly good-looking, he was very charming. He seemed to know everything about anything, and he expressed this knowledge without sounding arrogant. “There's just something about him that makes girls become absolutely obsessed,” Bailey had previously told me. He was like an addiction, that no rehab could cure.
     “Sup?” That was the first word he ever said to me. His name was Brian, and he reeked of booze and mothballs. I doubted that the coat he was wearing would even sell at the Salvation Army. His hair was messy and pushed off to one side, and I swear to this day that I saw clumps of dirt floating around in it. As he went over to sit down on our big green couch, Natalie came floating down the stairs to see who was at the door. She was covered in fake blood from a film project she had just helped her sister with. The minute they locked eyes, Bailey's face turned bright-red. There went any chance of her getting revenge sex.
     That night, Natalie and Brian stayed up until eight in the morning drinking box wine and Diet Coke, while discussing their love of Woody Allen. Around 8:30, they walked to the corner liquor store to stock up on even more AM-inappropriate beverages. Things only got worse from there. Late nights out with Brian turned into not coming home at all, and box wine turned into pills.

     One night, Natalie and I had made plans to go out dancing, but that was all ruined when she couldn't stop taking Xanax pill after Xanax pill. In her hazy and stoned state of mind, she tried to explain to me that she didn't think she could go after all. Frustrated, I went out with some other friends instead. These friends and myself returned to the condo to find Natalie unconscious on the living room floor. As I was searching for my phone to dial 911, Brian walked in through our unlocked back door and took it upon himself to carry Natalie upstairs into her pitch black bedroom. Luckily, a male friend of mine checked in to make sure she was OK. He didn't feel comfortable letting me go in there with Brian. The next morning, Natalie had no clue that it was the next day. She had absolutely no memory of any of the previous night's events. Even after I told her every single detail, she left to go see Brian while I was out buying her a "feel-better" Starbucks drink. 
     Unfortunately, Natalie's pill addiction turned into a cocaine addiction. Ultimately, cocaine gave way to even more addicting substances. Natalie's health declined, and her mental state began to change. Eventually, she dropped out of school. Her desperation for a nightly fix, provided by her lovely new boyfriend, became the only important aspect of her life. When Brian would disappear for days at a time without any contact, Natalie would break down, and turn to anything she could to numb the pain. One night, I caught her with Bailey, grinding up and trying to snort a Prozac pill. That was when I knew I had to leave.
     “I think I'm gonna move out,” I told Natalie, anticipating a plead for me to stay.
     “Whatever.” She didn't care. She truly didn't care at all. I wanted to believe that this whole situation could have been prevented. I wished I had never let Bailey invite him inside our house. From the moment Natalie met him, I thought he might change her, but I never anticipated this. I never thought in a million years that after living with my best friend for less than one year, I would be moving back home with my parents.
     I was now sitting in what used to be my childhood sanctuary, and the place I was able to call my home. Now, nothing felt familiar. The boxes against the walls made the room feel more like a Costco warehouse than my bedroom. I had a bed, a nightstand, a dresser, and a desk, but none of those things felt like mine. The cold walls were filled with nothing but tiny holes where my mom's pictures once hung in this bedroom-turned-game room. I felt like my presence was a burden, like I was intruding in this place that was no longer mine. I gave it up when I moved out, and I never thought I would call it mine ever again. I hadn't wanted to.
     The first thing I hunted down was my laptop. Nothing else seemed important enough to warrant the energy it would take to begin the whole unpacking process. I felt as if I hadn't slept in weeks, but sleep was all I did for those first few days back home. I think I was just so tired of feeling down. Social media only made it worse. I had an overwhelming urge to pollute my friends' newsfeed with trash talk aimed at Natalie and Brian. I wanted nothing more than to tell all of them what had really happened. I needed to clear my name, and I needed to tell my side of the story. The only problem, was that Facebook was not the place to do that. I figured that if my friends were truly my friends, they would never actually doubt the sincerity of what I had already told them. Still though, I needed to vent to someone, or at least something.
     Staring down at my laptop through a blurry lens of tears, I pulled up a blank word document, and just started writing. I wrote about the countless nights of waiting around for Natalie to get home in time to make our movie. I wrote about the nights I wouldn't get any sleep, because I had to continuously check to make sure she was still breathing, while lying face-down in her home-made living room pharmacy. I wrote about the time she took my car across town in the middle of the night to meet up with drug dealers, even though she knew I had work early the next morning. I wrote about the time she didn't sing me “Happy Birthday” with the rest of our friends, because she was trapped upstairs having sex with another man she was treating like shit to mask her own lack of self-worth. I wrote about the fact that despite all of these things, I was just now starting to lose hope that we would ever be friends again.
     Something happened when I finally stopped my frantic typing. I felt better. In fact, I felt a lot better. It was almost as though all of the frustrations I had been holding onto were finally escaping my body, and finding a new place to dwell on my computer screen. The tears had stopped, and something appeared that had been lost for quite some time. I was finally smiling again. Throughout the whole ordeal of packing up my life and moving back home, all while losing my best friend, I never once tried to think of a positive way to let out all of the anger I had been building up inside myself. I was too focused on my hatred for Brian and the pain that he had caused, to realize that sulking in my empty bedroom and fantasizing about blasting him on Facebook, would only cause more harm than good.
     Throughout the months following my big move back home, I continued to write. At first I was writing multiple times a day, but eventually I started to reconnect with old friends, and I found myself only writing a few times a week. My laptop journal entries were slowing becoming more and more positive. I started to write about the good things and good times that were happening in my life, and all of the wonderful people that I still had on my side. On top of that, I discovered something positive I could do with some of my early journal entries. With some tweaking, and a lot of time, I could eventually turn these entries into chapters. I ran the idea through my parents and many friends, and they all encouraged me on my quest to write a book. I thought back to my sixteen-year-old self, and the day my English teacher told me that I had real writing potential in my future. He urged me to join an exclusive writing group that he managed, and I told him that I would think about it. I never gave him an answer, and I completely disregarded his comments. After that, I never gave much thought to writing. However, I now have no doubts that it's something I can really do with my life.
     Looking back, I realize now that Brian didn't ruin my life. Natalie struggled with a different addiction her whole life. Her constant battle with anorexia landed her in the hospital multiple times, and even though she always claimed to be better, she never fully conquered it. Who's to say we still would have been friends today? Maybe we would have gone our separate ways after graduating college. Maybe she would have moved to Germany just like she always wanted. I also have to remember that although Brian's influence did change the outcome of our futures, he never once held a gun to her head and forced her to do the things she did. Instead of holding onto a toxic level of anger and hating him for ending my friendship, maybe I should just suck up my pride and realize that he's the reason I came to redevelop an old skill that I had thrown away for such a long time. So, with that being said, thank you. Thank you Brian Jones.



- Octo

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