There was a guy named Lou who hung out with some of my friends in high school. He had dark greasy hair, sleepy blue eyes and a pimply face and he didn’t talk much. When he did he was usually an asshole. We once smoked pot together in the library.
Josh and his brother knew Lou through different people (who I also knew, but barely hung out with). They stayed friends after high school and into early adulthood. Lou broke up Josh and his old girlfriend, though it’s never been clear whether anything happened between them or if he was trying to show Josh how shitty she was. Anyway, they broke up over Lou. Josh and Lou stayed friends anyway.
Which is how Lou saved Josh’s life one night. Josh, high and drunk and suicidal, locked himself in the bathroom, crying and talking crazy. Lou was on parole and drunk when he called 911 and Josh’s brother. He told Josh he called 911 and that he was sorry he had to leave him. Then he ran. The cops kicked Josh’s door in and the paramedics carried him kicking and screaming to an ambulance. Then they drove him to the hospital. Josh got better and, eventually, got sober. Lou stayed the same.
By the spring of 2008, Josh had several years sober and we’d been married a year. One day, Lou showed up to our apartment, the same one he’d run from years before. He was crying and told Josh that his mom had just died of cancer. He didn’t want to be at home because it was too hard for him emotionally. He asked if he could stay with us. Josh asked me if I was okay with it. I was wary of allowing an active drug addict to stay in our home; it wasn’t much, but it was all we had. Plus, I’d just had a miscarriage and was under a lot of stress. I didn’t really understand Lou’s angle, but I understood Josh’s: he wanted to help save his friend. My only condition was that Lou had to leave when Josh left. Lou accepted our terms and slept on our couch.
He stayed for a few days – I barely saw him. One day, Josh got a phone call from Lou’s mom who was most definitely alive. She was also not cancer-stricken or ill in any way. She was just looking for Lou. Josh was furious. He told Lou to get out. Lou said okay and he left.
Lou called Josh occasionally for the next few years. Josh would either answer and tell him, “I don’t want to talk to you,” before hanging up, or he’d just ignore him. Then, not long after Tiny was born, Lou called again. This time they talked. They had a good talk, but Josh made it clear to Lou that as long as he was using drugs, they’d never be friends. Lou told him he was just drinking and wasn’t doing heroin anymore. “You still smoking weed?” Josh asked. Lou admitted that he was. “I’m just never going to trust you, man.”
“My brother’s called me a few times in like 20 minutes,” said Josh.
“Uh oh,” I said. “Think he’s in jail?”
“I hope not.” He touched his phone screen a few times and put it to his head. After a few moments he said the call went to voice mail and hung up.
“Let’s go start Tiny’s bath,” I said.
We went to the bathroom and started bathtime. Josh’s phone rang. It was his brother.
“Hey. (pause) Wow. He’s really dead?” he said.
“Who?” I whispered.
“Lou. He overdosed,” said Josh. He left the bathroom, shaking his head.
I didn’t like you, Lou.
But thanks for getting the door kicked in.