“If you have never been addicted, you can have no clear idea what it means to need junk with the addict’s special need. You don’t decide to be an addict. One morning you wake up sick and you’re an addict” William S Burroughs
In spring of 2008 I took a Greyhound from Denver to Austin. I had an internship lined up managing a nonprofit for kids with Autism. Being in Texas also gave me a chance to maybe make a trip or two to Dallas to see if I could meet up with Matt. At that point he hadn’t gotten into the heroin as far as I know, it was just a lot of alcohol and some cocaine here and there. We had only talked once or twice since our departure earlier that year, it wasn’t really that long, but it was longest we had gone without speaking since 2nd grade.
The scenery was stark, but it was new to me. The Presidential campaign that year had slowly started to heat up. Obama had not been officially nominated as the Democratic candidate, and a lot of people thought it would be Hillary. As I was on the bus headed to Texas a FLDS church in El Dorado was being investigated and about to be raided by the Feds for a host of crimes, but namely child abuse and sexual crimes against minors. Earlier that year gold had reached 1,000.00 an ounce, this would become important news to me later as I eventually started dabbling in the precious metals markets, and riots concerning the Armenian Presidential election had killed 8 people. I was still reading actual physical newspapers at the time.
On the bus I had been reading Focaults Pendulum by Umberto Eco. It’s a conspiracy theory novel of the most brilliant sense of the word. I had gotten so lost in the world of the Illuminati and The Knights Templar I had started creating a crazy person map in my head, with connecting dots and pins and timelines and trees. I wanted to draw it out on paper, but I thought that that might cement my craziness so I kept it in my head. But I had to talk to someone about it and I only knew two people who would get that into with me; one being Matt.
I sent him a text letting him know I’d be in Texas and it’d be cool if we could hang out sometime. He responded almost immediately. He seemed to be happy and we made plans to meet in Dallas in a few weeks after I got settled in Austin. Knowing that I can’t stand pretentiousness he told me to beware of the hipsters in Austin and I told him to beware of Dallas in general. We were both so young, so far away from our small town Michigan upbringing. He was far away from the financial comfort zone his parents had provided him, and while my parents couldn’t do that for me, I was far away from them as well. I wanted to see him and hear his voice and laugh with him.
We met a few weeks later at an IHOP in Dallas. The drive was horrifying. I’ve never loved driving and all the sudden I was expected to be merging onto major highways in Dallas. This was pre smart phone days so all I had was some printed out mapquest directions that I couldn’t really look at because I had to pay attention to the road. I arrived an hour late slightly irritated by the task I had had to accomplish to see him.
He was already there waiting for me, when I walked in he rushed me and gave me the biggest hug ever, which was weird considering the last time we had seen each other I had walked home alone. He had lost an alarming amount of weight which was hard to see considering other than an awkward phase in middle school where he was kinda chubby at best, he’s never had a weight problem. He had two new tattoos and he was sickly pale, but in good spirits. We talked for a while, I ate two bites of a cheeseburger, but all his fries as per usual.
Then we went to his house he was sharing with some guys he worked with at a factory. It was the epitome of a drug den. It smelled of stale smoke and incense. There was some girl passed out on the couch, and a guy in a beater playing video games in the corner. Upon my entrance he nodded at me and went right back to the game, acid rock was playing somewhere in the background and ash trays, lighters, and empty alcohol bottles cluttered up every spot of free space available. We went to his room where packed a bowl. It was the first time I could remember when I really had no desire to get high with him. He seemed a little confused by me turning it down, but went on without me. I saw the razor blades on his dresser and knew what they were being used for. When he noticed me noticing he got up and started rearranging things as though I’d never realize what was going on.
We listened to TOOL and reminisced about the time we drove downstate in a blizzard to see them live and I had sprained my ankle from slipping on some ice earlier that day, but I would not be deterred from the concert. He begged me to stay the night and hang out with him the next day as well. It’s just that he had to run and do a thing, but I could stay there in his room and watch a movie while I waited. I had no desire.
We left his room, walked through the kitchen, and entered the living room where there were two new characters sitting on the couch. I’d guess at least 6 foot, pushing 250 lbs, black guys in doo rags. They were surprisingly jovial and were quite interested in talking to me. I was about to head out, but Matt all the sudden remembered he had gotten me something a while back and went back to his room to find it. I sat on the reclining chair and waited while the inquisitive men in the room asked me question after question about my personal life while cutting up lines. I got one of the guys names and his phone number. I’m sure he thought I wanted his number for one reason, but I wanted it because I saw it as a link to a friend that was disappearing before my eyes.
Matt eventually emerged from his room with an older very interesting looking copy of Of Mice and Men. He said he had found it at a pawn shop and thought of me. It was a great gift. He walked me to my car and got in with me. I asked what he was doing, hoping he had decided to take me up on my offer to move to Austin with me, but he explained that it was getting dark and the area wasn’t safe and that he didn’t want to let me leave without knowing I had gotten to a reasonable point of safety first and that I could drop him off at the IHOP we had met at earlier and he would find a way back home. He saw no problem living someplace like that. I stopped at the IHOP and he got out, I asked him to wait for me as I went in to use the bathroom and then we could say goodbye, but when I came back out he was gone.
Matt could have had anything from his parents. His Dad owned a carpentry business where Matt could have apprenticed and gained valuable skills, or his parents would have sent him to University, he was good with computers and tech and he was an artist, he could have gotten into graphic design or any number of creative careers. Instead this is what he chose for himself.