The first one on which you’re no longer with us. It’s raining here in LA, which seems fitting for the tsunami of memories that accompany this photo I keep staring at.
There we stand in it: a moment captured from the final leg of the cross-country trip we took by Greyhound bus and Amtrak train in full-blown drug psychosis, bouncing around the country bumming crash pads and new experiences from pen-fiends, ‘zinesters, and fellow authors I’d assembled in my leather-bound address book over the years.
You were my first love. Over the course of two decades we lived together but we didn’t yet we did until we didn’t, splintered off, settled in different parts of the country, scrawled a suitcase full of love letters to each other, reunited, gave each other fistfuls of freshly-culled lilies, relapsed, wrote each other poems fueled by chemicals, petrichor, and the fumes of 4a.m., relapsed, haunted endless nightclubs and burned down the dawn with our frantic dancing, starred in our ridiculous low-res VHS attempts at “film” in both the figurative and literal name of high art, split again, snuck forbidden phone calls to each other by payphones during our various stints in rehabs and institutions, laughed 'till our sides were sore then laughed some more at how ridiculous we looked and sounded, fought to the brink of bloodstain, cried to the point of dehydration.
You faked your own abduction to be with me, changed your name to the charming sobriquet Spencer Distraction because of the final word in a note I left, drove hours to visit me time, and time and time again, stole Columbia House CD club packages off doorsteps to buy us fancy dinners, skirted mandatory court appearances in the name of romance, sent bogus post cards to family members and friends to throw off your whereabouts. You attended AA and NA meetings with me over the years to show your support, despite the fact you despised pretty much everything about any 12-step take on sobriety. You were awesome. You were infuriating. You were like no one I’d ever met—a character I was secretly grateful I didn’t have to create.
I maxed out credit cards, helped you construct ridiculous costumes we both thought were so avant-garde and “directional” in our 1990s naïveté, risked expulsion from grad school, involved my own parents in our insanely intricate—and just downright insane—plots, wrote an amends you discovered when you bought my book at a Tower Records in Austin TX, called lawyers, called in favors, called you names I’m sure neither one of us would like repeated.
I wrote and painstakingly decorated an entire journal to you chronicling time we didn’t spend together. We spoke about it but I said I wanted to keep the contents a secret; I promised I’d give it to you upon the move to LA you were planning the last time I saw you, that summer before last. The mischievous glint had returned to your eyes and you seemed the most present I had ever seen you, my small-town boy with big plans. But I went home and you went back to your old ways, disappearing for weeks at a time then assaulting me with the longest text messages I’ve ever received from anyone—and that’s no small feat, considering some of the novellas I’ve been guilty of myself. You discovered my new relationship by social media and sent the sweetest words of encouragement that were followed a few days later by the most tragic news. I will never forget Lakey’s phone call and my denial that followed. I will never forget how much I’ll never forget you.
You looked out for me when you couldn’t look out for yourself. I’d look at the journal you’ll never see now, but it’s still too much for me to go near it.
Drugs kill the most precious things on earth. My heart is broken, but in it you remain: chamber-tombed.
Clint Catalyst is an author, freelance writer, spoken word performer and reality TV story producer. His book Cottonmouth Kisses [Manic D] was an Amazon bestseller in several categories and has been in print 19 years. With Michelle Tea, he co-edited the anthology Pills, Thrills, Chills and Heartache, which reached the #10 slot on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list in the nonfiction category. As a spoken word performer, he has toured the United States and Canada extensively, with a recording of his work featured in the Uberstars installation at the Andy Warhol Museum. His articles have been published in the LA Weekly, SF Bay Guardian, Surface, Out and Hustler magazine. Catalyst was an associate show producer on the hit series "America’s Next Top Model." He currently works as a story producer on "The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula", a competition reality series in search of the world’s next drag supermonster.