The trouble with loving someone like Angel is that sooner or later, it’s going to break your heart. Sooner or later, she will fade out of your life completely and leave you wondering whatever happened to that girl with the aversion to makeup, the perfect eyes, the smile that twisted left and the slightly whacked sense of humor.
You don’t see her for a year, and she ages 10, turns pale and bony. When she does float back into your life, you see she is still picking the wrong men, drinking the wrong drinks, smoking the wrong smokes.
You don’t see her for another year and she ages 15. Her perfect eyes ride in blackish half-moons, and that twisted grin of hers comes slowly, fades quickly. She does not joke about anything, unless it’s her own condition, which she sees as hers by fate. Choice has nothing to do with it. It’s her karma to make the wrong choice, no matter what choice she makes.
“I quit drinking once,” she quips. “It was the worst two hours of my life.”
“Jesus, Angel, For God’s sake, wake up.”
The last time I saw her — I mean before tonight — she got mad at me. I let my care for her show too much, which to Angel is frightening. From my seat beside her at the bar, I looked at her and said, “Angel, take care of yourself.”
“What the hell you mean by that?”
“Look in the mirror, Angel.”
She turned away and didn’t say anything. Conversation over. She was 25. Looked 35. A rough 35. She was working as a janitor. She has a master’s in education.
Tonight, she looked 50. A rough 50.
She smiled at me as she walked by on the way to the bathroom. I had a hard time thinking of who she was, though I knew the moment I saw her. I didn’t want to admit that the woman with the 27-year-old body and the 50-year-old face was my friend who is trying to die before she’s 30. If she doesn’t make it, she’ll try to die before she’s 35.
There was a time when we really, really liked each other, and I called her up to ask her out. In the midst of that conversation, she told a horrendous joke, a not-funny-just-gross joke. Conversation over. She knew it, but who knows why? Somewhere, she learned to hate herself. No, not hate. She learned to not care about herself, to care nothing for herself, to be self-destructive not quite consciously. Her sins must be incredibly hard to face, for she keeps running from them into the arms of the devil.
I was a coward tonight. I left before she came back from the bathroom. I couldn’t bear the pain of talking to her. I couldn’t walk up to her and just say, “Hi, Angel. How’s it going?” It would have been more like, “Angel, you look like death warmed over. Angel, you look like a meth addict. Angel, does your boyfriend here have enough money to keep you in cocaine? Have you started turning tricks, Angel? ANGEL, WHAT THE HELL IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?”
That would have been a big help, huh? Like she needs someone judging her. Like she needs to know about one more person who thinks she is wasting her life.
Loving Angel is painful because I want the best for her. I want her to be happy. I want to put her in a hot shower, rub her feet, put her to bed — not take her to bed — stroke her hair and tell her things will be alright; let her rest, feed her, take care of her, heal her.
I looked at her tonight and got angry knowing that it probably wouldn’t matter if I did. She won’t take it. She will bolt at first opportunity, find her way back to living on the road to hell, standing with her thumb out, waiting for the devil to come by.
That’s the trouble with loving Angel.
For Christine, wherever she might be.