“Speaking of singing,” he said, “are you ready for your big debut this weekend?” Martina said, “I don’t know. I sure hope so.” Then she looked at him and said, “would you take me by Callie’s apartment again?”
He said, “if you want me to, yes. But if she’s not there, or if she is there, and doesn’t want to talk, you can’t let it push you off the deep end, okay? I think you know what I mean.”
Martina and Randall got into his car. He could tell she was anxious. “Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked. “I am…I think,” she said. “I feel like I deserted her somehow. Does that make any sense?”
Randall looked over at her and said, “from what you have told me, she encouraged you to break free and explore the kind of life she has, and you readily embraced the idea. She didn’t force you into her world, did she? Why do you feel like you deserted her? Did she demand that your full attention be focused on her alone? Or did she just make you want to as I said, taste another side of life?”
Martina said, “you have so many questions, and I don’t know the answers, but I wonder if I was a good enough friend. After she introduced me to things I had never seen or experienced or done, I just sort of went my way and left her behind. But if it hadn’t been for her, I would have never been able to break free of my parents, and go to college, and good heavens…join the drama club.”
Randall quickly said, “and if it hadn’t been for her, you would have never become an addict.”
Martina bit her lower lip. She wasn’t yet ready to concede that she had a problem, although, even as they were driving to Callie’s dorm, she was shaking and felt like she needed some help.
It was the same scenario as before. She knocked on Callie’s door, and there was no answer. She knocked on the RA’s door. No answer. Looking up and down the hallway, she asked Randall if he thought he could shoulder the door down, “like they do in the movies.”
With very little effort, the door yielded and they walked in. The quiet was thunderous, and the stillness was eerily disconcerting. They called to Callie, but there was no answer. Walking around her neatly kept dorm, nothing seemed out of place. Martina slowly walked toward her bedroom. The door was closed but not locked. A wave of dread came over her, and she called for Randall. He moved her aside and said, “let me go in.”
Martina closed her eyes and held her breath as she said a silent prayer.
Randall went in and found Callie on the floor, leaning against the bed, facing the window. One look, and he knew she was dead. The syringe, filled with cocaine was still embedded in her arm, and beside her left hand was a crumpled piece of paper.
Before Randall could stop her, Martina came into the room. “Don’t look,” he said. “You don’t want to see her this way, and she wouldn’t want you to see her this way.” Martina could hardly control herself. She was hysterical and pleading with Randall to do CPR.
“It’s too late,” he said. “She’s been gone for several hours, and you need to call 911. Tell them to send the police, but tell them that we don’t need an ambulance.”
“You call,” Martina said. “I don’t have my phone.” Randall called, and while trying to comfort an inconsolable Martina, and without her seeing, took the note Callie left and put it in his pocket.
Martina started running around like a caged animal, pulling pillow cases off of pillows, looking in Callies’ purse, and even taking off the top to the commode. “What are you looking for?” he asked. She said, “I’m trying to find her help. I don’t want anyone thinking that she had it.”
Randall scolded her loudly and said, “Martina! She has a needle sticking out of her arm. Her arms are full of tracks. I’m sure people know she was a drug addict, and I think it’s time you stopped referring to it as help. It’s not help. Call it what it what it is. It’s cocaine. She was a cocaine addict. YOU’RE a cocaine addict.”
Thinking quickly on his feet, he said, “we need to get out of here, unless you’re prepared to start answering a lot of uncomfortable questions.”
They managed to slip out a side door before the police arrived. Martina covered her ears as the haunting wail of sirens got closer and louder, and she was literally starting to fall apart emotionally. She begged Randall to take her home, and he knew why.
“I’m not taking you home,” he said. “I know you think you need a fix. Stay with me for a while and let it pass. Just take some deep breaths.”
After threatening to get out and walk, Martina finally calmed down. They sat in his car, watching the flickering red and blue strobe-lights, that to her, from that day forward, would always mean death.
“I’m so desperately sad,” she said. “I just don’t understand.”
Randall said, “yes you do. If you would just open your eyes and admit the horrible truth. She was an addict. Addicts always think they have control over their animal. They think that animal is their friend, their release, their escape, their salvation. But it’s really a stalker. A soul destroyer. An anarchist. A depleter. It has no sympathy. And one day, it becomes a killer.
Randall looked at Martina and said, “we need to talk about getting you into recovery.”
“I don’t want to talk about that right now…please,” she said. “I just…I just…” She turned, looked at him and, in a terse way asked, “how do you know so much about this? And who are you to tell me about animals and what they destroy and what they deplete? What makes you such an expert?”
Randall held out his arm and showed her the now healed and almost invisible track marks, cleverly hidden by a dragonfly tattoo.
Martina was stunned. “You used to be an addict?” she asked. Randall said, “I still am. I’m a recovering addict. I’ll always be an addict. I’ll just hopefully be an addict who doesn’t do drugs.”
“What was your help?” she asked. He said, “I thought we had agreed to call it what it is, Martina. It’s not help. It’s a drug.” She nodded, then asked what his drug of choice was. He took a deep breath and said, Heroin.”
Suddenly the conversation shifted and almost in a panic, she asked Randall about calling 911. “They’re going to trace the call and find out that we were there. They might even think we were responsible.” Randall said, “don’t worry about that. I always carry a track phone with me. It’s something I learned from dear father. He uses them to communicate with his trashy girlfriends.”
“Do you have a trashy girlfriend on the side, too?” Martina asked. Randall laughed and said, “no. I don’t use it to mingle with trash, but you never know. I might get robbed or leave my phone laying around somewhere. That’s why I always carry throwaways. They’re also good for calling 911 anonymously.”
For a moment, he made Martina smile, but her thoughts soon shifted back to Callie. When she began to cry, Randall said, “Callie left a note.” Martina dried her eyes and said, “where? When? What…what…what do you mean, she left a note? How do you know?”
Randall said, “it was laying beside her hand, and I took it. I wondered if it was a suicide note, and if it was, I didn’t want the police to get it and then have it on local television stations or in the newspaper. I shouldn’t have taken it of course, but I did. I’d rather have them think it was an accidental overdose. An accidental overdose is just that. An accident. Suicide is purposeful and intentional…and even more tragic, I think. It’s the end game of defeat, desperation and surrender. I always wonder how alone and hopeless those victims must feel in their final moments of life.”
Martina looked at Randall and asked, “have you ever tried to commit suicide?” He smiled, but said nothing.
She said, “do you think we should read the note?” He said, “yes. Those are her final words. Do you want to read it or do you want me to?” Martina said, “you read it. I don’t think I can.”
Randall unfolded the piece of paper and began to read.
If I gave you my heart,
Would you break it?
If I gave you my trust,
Would you betray it?
If I told you a secret,
Would you keep it?
If I was a treasure,
Would you seek it?
If I gave you myself,
Would you take me?
If I broke your golden rule,
Would you forsake me?
If I told you I was broken,
Would it matter?
If I fell to the ground,
Would you let me shatter?
If I left you tomorrow,
Would you cry for me?
If I asked for your life,
Would you die for me?
If I begged you for mercy,
Would you ignore me?
If I disappointed you,
Would you still adore me?
If I was in the ground,
Would you walk upon my grave?
And say that I was someone,
Not good enough to save?
Martina’s uncontrollable sobbing was interrupted when Randall said, “I think someone broke Callie’s heart.” Turning to her, he asked, “do you know who? Was it you?”
Martina said, “me? No. Why would you ask that? We weren’t lovers.” Randall asked if she thought that maybe Callie wanted them to be. She said Callie had never given her that impression, and besides, Callie had always loved the attention she received from men.
“Well,” he said, “do you have any idea who the poem might have been written for?”
She said, “I can’t think of anyone…except maybe Joe Blow.”
“Excuse me?” Randall said. Martina said, “Joe Blow. He was her…he was the one she got her drugs from, but aside from a remark she once made…that was the extent of their relationship, as far as I know. I don’t think they were together.”
“What remark?” Randall asked. Martina said, “I think she was teasing, but she said when times were lean, Joe Blow would sometimes trade drugs for a ‘BJ’.”
“Gotcha,” he said. “And he was your supplier, too, right? So, you know him?” Martina said, “I was never introduced to him properly. We meet behind the coffee shop when it’s dark. He’s always in a car, wearing a hat and sunglasses, and it’s a quick swap. I have no idea what he looks like.”
Randall said, “well, there were no signs of a struggle, and her dorm was too tidy, so I really don’t think there was any foul play.”
“But the door has been broken down,” Martina said. “So, the police are going to think something’s sinister, and start looking for suspects. We need to be each other’s alibi.”
“Will you stop worrying?” Randall said. “For all they know…or can prove…Callie may have locked herself out, and broken down her own door. It wasn’t a very secure door.”
Martina began to cry again. “I had no idea that she was so desperately sad, and I just feel so helpless. I want to know why? Why did this happen to her?”
Randall said, “the brightest burn out the quickest. And through the years, I have found that the ones who seem to have the most strength are the ones who are the most vulnerable, because they are the loneliest, hiding the most profound pain, and covering the deepest scars.”
“But she had plans, and hopes, and dreams,” Martina said. “She made me believe that I could have plans, and hopes, and dreams.”
Randall said, “you still can. You’re still alive. If anything, this should make you even more determined to follow those hopes and dreams you say you have. Live. Live for Callie. Let something good come from this. For whatever reason, and no matter if accidental or on purpose, Callie is at peace now. Honor her determination by fighting for your own path toward success. Show that determination to everyone who believed you’d fail.”
He sighed and said, “I know I’m rambling, but I just want you to focus on today and tomorrow. I don’t want this to send you over the edge, if you know what I mean.”
Martina said, “you’re not rambling, and this may sound strange, but I think that’s what she’d want. She’d be telling me to get on with my life.” She laughed and said, “she’d say, go get your butt out on that stage and break a leg.”
“Are you going to be ready?” he asked.
Martina took a deep breath and said, “I am.” Then she looked at Randall and said, “will you come to the play?” He smiled and said, “of course, but only on one condition.”
“What?” she asked.
“You have to do it without a visit from the shadowy figure behind the coffee shop. Promise? Say you promise.” Martina looked at him and said nothing. Not defeated by her refusal to promise, he still had hope.
To be continued______________________________