Sometime after April's death, long after I'd dropped out of college, five years after I'd visited Roger that December when he'd first started using, Roger made a confession to me.
It was during one of the hopeless, endless, agonizing nights of his withdrawal.
Most of that time he was too wounded to talk-too far gone in despair and craving and obscurity to craft any logic, let alone form words. But this night was different.
It was dead quiet that night.
I bolted upright in bed, immediately awake, the silence seizing me with such an unspeakable fear that I couldn't bring myself out of my room to go and check on him.
There were no pleas of 'Oh God Mark just let me go, just one more hit, I promise…' there were no longing cries for April, no sounds of vomiting, or things being thrown about in self-hate or pain.
Just the deafening silence, and the comforting sounds of the apartment as it was before drugs had torn him apart.
I wasn't going to get up. I expected the absolute worst. I thought for sure he'd taken his life too, and I couldn't handle losing him.
So I just lay in bed and listened to the clock tick on my wall and the radiator whir away across the room, and I buried my face into Maureen's shoulder beside me and hid from the sunlight that would soon be making it's way through the window.
...I didn't want to be the one to find him.
I perfectly still and waited and listened and strained my bloodshot eyes for the first signs of morning.
But my bedroom door creaked open and Roger stepped halfway into the room and my whole body shook with such incredible relief.
"Mark?" He whispered.
He knew I was awake.
I was always awake.
"What do you need Roger?" I didn't mean for it to come out so harshly. The worry in my voice was still perceptible, and I was tired. Not tired from lack of sleep, but tired of caring so much.
"I need to talk to you."
"Can it wait until morning?"
"Neither of us is going to sleep."
I cursed him for knowing me so well. Or maybe I cursed myself for being so predictable.
"I already know what you're going to say."
"No you don't. Please get up. Before I change my mind. I have to get this off my chest. Before everyone else wakes up... I have to tell you."
What else could I possibly need to know?
I knew there was too much that Roger encased that he never told anyone. Things revealed too little or too late to make any difference. Things that nearly ripped our friendship apart, things that had destroyed his career, things that brought him to ruin.
I staredinto his sunken eyes, beads of persperation dotting his hairline. His jaw trembled with the swaggering audacity of a man who knew himself inside and out, but his chest heaved like a timid deer trapped in headlights. He didn't want to be here, gripping my doorway and waiting for me to cooperate. He wanted to be in a grimy back alley with a needle shoved three inches into his vein, pumping inpatience and strength. He hardly held on to enough vitality to say anything worthwhile anymore.
Or maybe…I did need to know. I thought I had Roger all figured out. I always thought that, as long as I'd known him. I thought I knew what was best for him and then he always would do something so totally degrading of my vision of him, something so unexpected I should've given up trying to figure him out. But being someone's 'best friend' does not mean you can read minds and pick fights.
It was about time he made his own decisions.
I rolled out of bed, tiptoeing quietly to Roger hunched in the doorway.
"What?" I wanted to push him away. I wanted his futile stature out of my room. I never wanted to see him again. I didn't care that his life had just fallen apart. He'd built it up that high. He was the reason I dropped out of college. Because I wanted to come and catch the pieces as they came crashing down. No. I didn't want to. I felt like I had to. I was too good of a person. I was too caught up in life with Roger and a new start in New York. I contributed to this mess. Oh God. Again, it was my fault.
"No, let's go to my room. I want to explain."
I sighed, shaking my head.
He wasn't going to explain. He was going to play mind games. He was going to swear at me and debase himself and tell me to go back to bed before I could experience the worst of the breakdown. He needed another ounce?Just a little one?I knew this. I knew him. I was tired.
"Explain what Roger?"
And so we sat on his bed and he told me. Everything.
Everthing I never knew and everything I never expected him to say.
He told me from the beginning, what went wrong and how. How he'd lost hope in himself and found heroin. How he'd abandoned all love and found April. I knew the basics. I found out eventually that he was in love. That part was easy. The heroin I'd figured out on my own. I assumed that was how he dealt with life. But that night, he filled in the blanks that he was too unwilling to ever reveal before.
He told me he used heroin to escape. To find a place where the passion was real, physically and mentally.
He stayed hooked because it helped him cope with the lifestyle he'd chosen. It was a given. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
This is where April came in. I met her when I finally left Brown to come and live with Roger. April and I were almost like brother and sister- there was a lot of Roger inside of her. I should've sensed her defeat as well.
He told me April used heroin to change.
To transform from the pretty young girl he'd passed by on the street to someone whose life was shattered beneath her, but she found a way to rise above that.
She stayed hooked because she liked who it made her become. It was her ability to shift. And it was their secret.
He told me he shot up when the trembling came back. When each breath and every heartbeat reminded him that the passion could surge through his veins- when he allowed it to.
He could stop the sickness and remember.
He told me April shot up when the opportunity arose. When she was bored or feeling sorry for herself. For her life.
She could stop the mundane and remember.
Roger told me he regretted it when he saw me. I was the one person who really gave a damn. And he regretted it when he caught sight of the real purpose in his life. When the passion came in a different form:
He told me April regretted it when she saw him. But more importantly when she couldn't get a fix. When she stayed awake at night wondering what went wrong. And she regretted it when she held the one person who truly loved her for the pretty young girl she was:
Roger didn't tell anyone about his habit because he was ashamed. He was mad that he'd taken the easy way out, and now he was dependant on it. He didn't tell anyone because he knew they'd plead for him to stop. But he didn't want to.
He told me April didn't tell anyone about her habit because she had no one to tell. She was happy she had something to be mysterious about. She didn't tell anyone because they'd make her stop. And she didn't want to.
Roger liked to do it after shows. To enhance the rush. To come down slowly in a back alley or an empty side street at sunrise and wander back home, wired to leave the past behind him.
He told me April liked to do it before shows. To enhance the rush. To come down slowly, staring up into his eyes, holding her past in plain sight.
He told me he fell in love with her because she was different. Because she could understand without an explanation. Because he could read her face and read her thoughts, and because she was a reflection of him.
He told me he thought April fell in love with him because it was the first time in her life that she'd really felt love. Maybe it was because he could understand without an explanation. Because he could read her face and read her thoughts, and suddenly, she wasn't a mystery.
He told me he stayed with her because she meant the world to him. Because she was his passion and his source and his purpose that he'd been looking for all along.
He told me that he thought April stayed with him because he meant the world to her. Because she finally knew what it was like to give love and get love in return.
He told me he withdrew not so much by choice, but because after April killed herself, he figured out that heroin was a false passion. That it could never replace what April was to him. That it served no other purpose anymore but to cloud his eyes and distort his reality and push away the memories he never wanted to disappear.
He told me he thought that April killed herself because she thought she was a failure. Because she contracted A.I.D.S. and gave the virus to the only person she ever loved. Because he was going to die too, and it was her fault.
And when he was finally through confessing, when he was too shaken up to push out any more words, when the sunlight streamed in through the window and made him turn his face away from me, I told Roger to please keep living.
Because April wasn't a failure. Because even if he didn't realize it, he recognized that passion was an external source.
I told Roger to keep living because April was watching and April was waiting, and no matter what, she would forgive him, and so would I.