About two weeks out from 1.0’s visit, Metalhead had decided to try to get by on his own. He’d been staying at my place for the last month or two, both because he had nowhere else to go and due to the fact that he was, it seemed, seriously sick. Panic attacks, accompanied by chest pains that were unrelenting most of the time were the story of his life and I had told him that it was better for him to stay with me, so that if he needed to be taken to the hospital, I could take him without having to figure out where he was in order to get there in time. It took some convincing… Metalhead is incredibly independent and doesn’t like to be in the way… or feel that he is imposing… but I won him over by convincing him that he’d be doing me a favor since, ultimately, I was on my own… at least until Botboy came back and as I’d promised that I wouldn’t date until then, it wasn’t like he was going to be cramping my style any.
He’d gone to the hospital several times since then, sometimes I’d gone with him, other times he’d had attacks at work and someone from work had driven him. At any rate, they’d finally put him on some medication for his heart palpitations and his anxiety and so we’d hoped that would work. He decided to start trying to stay on his own again, promising me that if things got bad, he’d let me know. After almost two months of constant company, honestly, I was pretty happy about the solitude. Not that I didn’t like being there for him – that’s just kind of what I do – but because it had been AGES since I’d had a chance to really do anything FOR ME… watch what I wanted on TV, play a video game, write, paint, you know… the things one really needs alone time for.
I spent much of that time chatting with 1.0. I was trying to figure him out, trying to get to know him better. We were talking excitedly about the trip he was taking to Tampa and I was trying to figure out what I could show him in such a short period of time. The Orlando trip he wanted me to take with him was becoming something I was getting to be curiously half-enthusiastic for. I was preparing the house for another visitor, getting the futon ready, changing the sheets, organizing and getting the clutter put away.
On a Tuesday night, a text came in. Metalhead had gone out with friends that night, to a bar. It was the first drink he’d had in months… and for Metalhead, NOT drinking was unusual. This was one of the ways I’d known he was really sick, because Metalhead is one of those guys who, despite the fact that he says he is NOT an alcoholic, seems to NEED to have something to drink every night. And I’m not just talking one beer, I’m talking two or three. Sometimes four. Since the health problems had started, he hadn’t touched the stuff. He’d been drinking Gatorade, mostly, and even then, only out of a need to “be drinking something” – sort of like people who are quitting smoking need to have something in their mouths even though it isn’t a cigarette. But he’d never admit to alcoholism. No, not Metalhead. But, really, what 24 year old would?
Anyway, when the text came in, I was getting ready to go to bed. It must have been 10:30, and I was tired. He asked if he could sleep over. I agreed at once, and he arrived thirty minutes later. He sat on the couch, pale, breathing heavy, said his chest hurt. I asked if he wanted to be taken to the hospital or if he wanted some water, he shook his head and laid over, putting his head on one of my couch pillows. He said he didn’t, that he thought he just needed to rest, and so, after sitting with him for several minutes, I told him I was going to go take a shower, but if he needed me, that he could come get me – I wasn’t going to lock the door under these circumstances.
So, leaving him on the couch, I began to shower, trying my hardest to relax with my friend near collapse on my sofa. He interrupted me, though, and told me to take him to the hospital. I agreed at once, and told him to wait on the couch while I got dressed again. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten dressed so fast in my life. In five minutes, I’d found my underwear, jeans, and a sweatshirt, thrown my hair up in a ponytail, and was guiding him down the stairs into the car. I took him to the little hospital down the road from me, expecting to wait awhile at the ER.
Thankfully it wasn’t that busy and they took him back at once. I went with him, not wanting to sit in the waiting room near the people who were coughing, and we sat, in one of their curtained off rooms, waiting while the nurses came in, talked to him, and told him to wait for the doctor. The waiting is the worst part… even when they take you back at the ER, you still have to wait for the doctor on call. And that took… well… literally hours.
1.0 sent a message through Facebook about then. I told him I’d have to talk to him tomorrow, that I was at the hospital with Metalhead. He wasn’t pleased. It was funny. He knew what I’d been doing for Metalhead, knew I’d been making sure he was okay, and he’d said literally nothing about him. Now? Now he was livid.
“You know, you really shouldn’t be doing that,” he told me.
“Parenting him that way,” he said. “He’s a grown man.”
I was shocked. Parenting him? No. Parenting him would have been me texting him to tell him not to have any drinks at all, or telling him not to go see his friends. Taking someone to the hospital when they were sick? That’s not parenting, that’s being a decent human being and it’s something he’d have done for me if the tables were turned… at least, I hoped. At any rate, it was something that I could do, easily, and I did it. And I wasn’t leaving him in here alone.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I answered.
“Well, you’ve been keeping him at your house, he’s sick, now you’re at the hospital… I mean, isn’t there somewhere you could put him?”
That made me livid. I mean… first to tell me I shouldn’t be sitting here, at the hospital, with one of my best friends… that was bad enough. But to suggest that I just take one of my friends, who happened to be homeless, and “PUT HIM SOMEWHERE”? What the hell?
“Look, I’m here with him because I don’t want to leave him by himself. These problems are pretty serious. They are scary. And I give him a place to sleep, because doing that is preferable to having him sleep in a car and no friend of mine is going to end up in a homeless shelter if I have anything to say about it. I’m busy with this right now. I’ll talk to you more tomorrow.”
I tried to see 1.0’s side of it. I did. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t understand how someone could be so heartless. Granted, had this been a complete stranger, I wouldn’t have let him stay in my house. But even still, as heartless and as sociopathic as I can seem sometimes, I will give the shirt off my back to one of my friends if they needed it, and they know it. And what’s worse (for 1.0, not me) was that with the words he’d sent that night, that little nagging voice in the back of my head that made me fear that, perhaps his visiting was not such a good idea, became a bit louder. Because, regardless of why he said it, regardless of whether or not he was right, he had no right to say it in the first place. I’m an adult. For 1.0 to tell ME what to do, or what I should do when I did not ask for it? That was him parenting me. And while I may have allowed that when I was younger, the fact of the matter is, as I’ve said before, that I am NOT a child anymore. Things have changed. I have taken control over my life, and I can make the decision as to how much is too much, how far is too far, to go for one of my friends. Metalhead was here, near collapse, and he needed me. That was simple.
1.0? Well, at least for that night, 1.0 could go to hell. He’d certainly shot himself in the foot… not enough to cause a bleedout, but enough to jade me a little, and it seems to be easier and easier to do that these days. Because the older I get, the less I tolerate that sort of shit, the parenting, the hypocritical crap that people throw at me for absolutely no reason at all. And this whole lack of compassion thing was a dealbreaker.
And if he tried to go there with me again? I’d tell him that. But hopefully that wouldn’t be necessary.