“I’m thinking about all the friends I went to high school with,” my younger brother, Joey, says, “and what happened to them. Like Lance Steals.”

“Who’s Lance Steals?”

“If you don’t know him, you don’t know him.”

“Is he a real person?” I can’t always tell what’s true and what’s false.


“I thought he might be a metaphor.”

Joey, who is forty-five but looks older than our seventy-nine-year-old father did when he was dying of cancer, eyes me suspiciously. I don’t take offense.

Joey is an addict of the kind who when asked at AA meetings, “What is your drug of choice?” answers, “Whaddaya got?” This is a well-worn old-timers’ joke. Joey’s outlived many much younger addicts. Why him? It’s like pondering the meaning of life.

As for Lance Steals, Joey rattles off a list of other names, two or three of which are familiar. I’m reminded of how much of my brother’s life I’ve missed. How I miss my brother.

When I accepted the truth of addiction, that my brother was shooting (not snorting) heroin, that he was putting “I’ll-never-do-needles” needles in the veins of his arms, between his toes, into the muscles of his ass and hips, I thought it was the beginning of the end. That was ten years ago. Now I know that heroin was barely the beginning. Methamphetamine is the beginning of the end.

People on couch
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