After dinner I go to the payphone. I dial a number that was given to me by my Friend Leonard. The number allows me to make free long distance phone calls. I do not know where Leonard got the number, and I have never asked him. That has always been my policy with Leonard. Take what he offers, thank him for it, do not ask questions. Leonard is what I am, an Alcoholic and a Drug Addict and a Criminal. He is fifty-two years old and he lives in Las Vegas, where he oversees his organization's interests in a number of finance, entertainment and security companies. We do not discuss his business. I do not ask questions.
I always call Lilly first. Lilly with long black hair and pale skin and blue eyes like deep, clean water. Lilly whose Father deserted her and whose Mother sold Lilly's body for drugs when she was thirteen. Lilly who became crackhead and a pillpopper and hitchhiked across the country on her back so that she could escape her Mother. Lilly who has been raped and beaten and used and discarded. Lilly who is alone in the world except for me and a Grandmother who has terminal cancer. Lilly who is living in a halfway house in Chicago while she tries to stay clean and waits for me to be released from this place. Lilly who loves me. Lilly who loves me.
I dial the number. My heart starts beating faster. I know she's sitting in a phone booth waiting for my call, but my heart beats faster anyway. She picks up on the third ring. She says hello, dear boy, I say hello, dear girl. She says I miss you and I say we'll see each other soon. She asks me how I am and I tell her that I'm good. She's upset that I'm here and I don't want her to worry, I always tell her things are good. I ask her how she is and her answers vary from day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. Sometimes she says she feels free, which is a feeling she has rarely felt but has always sought. She feels like she's getting better and healthier and can put her past behind her. Sometimes she says that she feels fine. That she is getting by and that is enough. That she's off drugs and has a roof over her head, that she's fine. Sometimes she's depressed. She feels like her Grandmother is going to die and I am going to leave her and she is going to be alone in the world, which is something she says she cannot handle. She says there are always options, she'll weigh them when the time comes to weigh them. Sometimes she feels nothing. Absolutely nothing. She doesn't talk she just breathes into the phone. I tell her to hold on, that she'll feel again, feel better again, feel free again, I tell her to hold on. She doesn't talk. She just breathes into the phone.
I met Lilly and Leonard five months ago. I was a patient at a drug and alcohol treatment center. I checked in after a ten year bout with alcoholism and a three year bout with crack addiction, which ended when I woke up on a plane after two weeks of blackness and discovered that I had knocked out my front four teeth, broken my nose my eye socket, and torn a hole in my cheek that took forty stitches to close. At the time, I was wanted in three States on drug, drunk-driving and assault charges. I didn't have a job or any money and I was nearly dead. I didn't want to go the treatment center, but I didn't have any other options. At least not options I was ready to accept.
I met Lilly on my second day. I was standing in line waiting for detoxification drugs and she was standing in front of me. She turned around and she said hello to me and I said hello to her and she asked what happened to my face and I shrugged and told her I didn't know. She laughed. I saw her and spoke to her later that day and the next and the next. The treatment center had a policy against male/female relationships. We ignored the policy. We talked to each other, slipped each other notes, met each other in the Woods that were part of the center's grounds. We helped each other and understand each other. We fell in love with each other. We are young, she is twenty four and I am twenty three, we fell in love. Neither of us had felt anything like what we felt for one another and we agreed that we would stay together and live together when we left the treatment center. We got caught with each other and we paid for the violation of the Center's rules. Lilly left the center and I went after her. I found her selling her body for crack and I brought her back. I left a week later and I came here. Lilly stayed for nine more weeks and has been at the halfway house in Chicago for a month. When I leave here, I am going to meet her. We love each other. We are going to stay with each other.
From My Friend Leonard by James Frey. Copyright James Frey 2005. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
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