“Come with me to San Francisco,” Seth requested later that night.
“I can’t,” Cole said. “There’s no way I can take off work on this short notice. How are you able to pull it off?”
“Family emergency. At least that’s what I hope. Can’t you call in sick or something? I would feel better if you were going with me. I’ve never had to do anything like this. I’m not even sure what to do once I get there.”
“You’ll do fine. And really, it would probably be awkward to have me along. Are you going to try to find a rehab center out there?”
“Either that or get him to come back here with me.”
“What about his family? Maybe you should take him back to where he’s from.”
Seth shook his head. “He’d never agree to that, and I doubt his family would be all that supportive. He’s better off with me, but I’m not sure he’ll agree to that either. I don’t know, it’s like I don’t even know him anymore.”
Cole nodded. “You don’t, it’s the meth talking now. You do know this drug is like the toughest to kick. The odds aren’t in his favor.”
Seth frowned. “Yeah, I know.”
The next morning after spending an exorbitant amount of money on last minute plane tickets, Seth phoned his boss.
“Another family emergency?”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Arbuckle. I know this is short notice, I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t imperative I be there.”
“Yes, well, other than having to take the time off you’ve been doing a great job for us.”
“Thank you, sir. And I’ll be back just as soon as I possibly can.”
On the way to the airport, Seth considered calling Samantha and telling her what was going on. But every time he had brought up Toby’s situation with her she had changed the subject. It frustrated him that she didn’t seem to care, and now that Toby was asking for help he felt they should both be there for him. But then again, he was the one that Toby called, not Sam, so maybe it was just as well.
Seth decided he would make sure to call her after he had Toby in a rehab facility somewhere. He thought about what Cole had said, and wondered if he should notify Toby’s parents. It seemed like the right thing to do, but he really didn’t want to be the one to break the news to them. Maybe he would be able to discuss it with Toby.
When the cab pulled up in front of Toby’s building Seth again was amazed at what a bad neighborhood his friend lived in. He knew that San Francisco had a very high cost of living, but he also knew that as an engineer Toby had been pulling in enough money to afford much better than this.
Seth found the door to the building still broken and made his way up to the second floor to Toby’s apartment.
“Toby?” he called out as he rapped on the door. “Are you in there?”
A few moments later the door slide open and a thin emaciated Toby stood. “Seth, you came.”
“Of course I did,” Seth said pushing his way into the apartment and trying not to stare at Toby’s ribs poking out through his skin. “You called.”
“I know, but after how badly I treated you...” Toby trailed off. He walked over to the bed and sat down, picking up his glass pipe and lighter.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Seth was shocked.
“What? I’m enjoying my last high. What did you expect me to do? Flush it all?”
“Well, yeah. That would be the smart thing to do.”
Toby only shrugged.
Seth walked over and sat down next to him on the bed, taking the pipe away and tossing it in the trash. “Why don’t we pack up your stuff and you come back to Austin with me? We can get you in a rehab there and I’ll be able to be around to keep you company.”
Toby shook his head. “No, I don’t want you to baby-sit me. I’ll be fine here. Really.”
Seth started to argue, but Toby shook his head. “I’m staying here.”
“Okay, well then let’s see if we can find you some help .”
Seth picked up the phone book and opened the yellow pages.
“Chase said that getting off this shit can be nasty,” Toby said, his voice drifting off.
“So I’ve heard.”
“So how come you never got addicted? Didn’t you ever do meth?”
“I snorted some once, but I knew that shit was bad news so I stayed away. I wasn’t as bad as my reputation, Toby. Mainly I just smoked weed and drank. Ecstasy on occasion and every once in awhile I did some coke or poppers, but really, I wasn’t all the bad, and I stayed away from stuff the I knew could fuck me up.”
“Yeah, I’m stupid, I already know that.”
“That’s not what I said.”
Seth picked up his cell phone and began dialing numbers. He was amazed at how many of the facilities were full. Finally he found one that had an empty bed and was willing to take Toby .
Seth took notes as to what Toby would be allowed to bring with him. Basically a few changes of clothes and his toothbrush was it. Toby didn’t like the idea of leaving his computer at the apartment. “It will get stolen, Seth. This place has no security.”
“I’ll come back here, pack up your stuff and put it in storage. Then I’ll leave the info here so when you get out you can go pick it up. What else, besides the computer, do you want me to store?”
Toby looked around. His laptop was the only thing he had of value. “There’s nothing here to store. Just leave it all here. I just don’t see why I can’t take my computer with me.”
“I didn’t ask why, Toby. We’ll hide it here under your bed or something before we go.”
They packed a small over night bag for Toby to take to rehab and called a cab. Toby wanted to take the bus, but Seth insisted that they not take public transit.
Seth went in with Toby and listened as the lady at the rehab center went over all the rules and restrictions. She was friendly enough, but the place was still a bit intimidating. Toby signed the forms and then it was time for him to say goodbye to his friend. “Promise you’ll call me as soon as you get phone privileges,” Seth said, as he embraced Toby.
“And I’ll be flying back out when they release you, so don’t worry about that.”
“Okay, okay, go already,” Toby said with a laugh. Seth knew Toby was pushing him out the door before his emotions got the best of him.
“Okay, take care of yourself, Toby.”
Toby nodded. “Thanks, Seth. For everything.”
One more quick hug and Seth was standing back on the street wondering what he should do now. Go back and clean up Toby’s apartment he guessed. Nobody should have that mess to walk into when they were released. Also make sure the rent is paid up so he doesn’t get evicted while he's getting well. Then Seth figured he’d get a hotel room. He was flying back to Austin in the morning, but no way was he staying in that dump tonight.
Samantha waited until Saturday to call Jason. She wasn’t exactly sure what she planned to say or do, but she called his cell phone late that morning hoping that when he saw her name on the caller id he wouldn’t send it to voice mail.
“Jason? Hi. It’s Sam.”
“Hello Sam.” His voice wasn’t exactly warm, but it wasn’t as icy as it had been the last time they talked. Maybe she was making progress.
“I was hoping maybe you would agree to meet me for coffee.”
“Well, when would be convenient for you?”
“Give me an hour,” he said.
“Really? I mean, great! Where do you want to meet?”
“I’ll swing by and pick you up.”
An hour later Samantha was standing in front of her building when Jason pulled up.
“Hi.” Jason gave her a sad smile as she got into his car.
“How have you been?” she asked.
She asked him about the case he had been working on and they made small talk for the rest of the drive to the coffee shop.
Over lattes they talked more about the weather, office gossip and things they had heard on the news. They talked of every thing and nothing, much like they used to when they first started dating. Finally during a lull in the conversation Samantha decided to broach the subject.
“Jason,” she began.
He held up his hand to stop her. “We’ve been over this before.”
“Is there any way you can give us another chance?”
He shook his head. “Not right now. I can’t.”
Samantha chewed her bottom lip and promised herself she wouldn’t cry or beg.
“But,” he continued. “This has been nice today. I've missed you, and maybe we can start over as friends. You know, maybe we can have lunch together now and then, that sort of thing. Then we’ll just have to see from there. “
Samantha nodded. “I’d like that.” It wasn’t exactly what she had hoped for, but at least they were talking, and maybe in time he would forgive her.
Seth awoke that morning in a strange hotel room with a groan. Yesterday had been the longest day he could remember having in ages. He rolled out of bed and made his way into the bathroom for a hot shower. As he dressed he wondered how Toby was getting along.
Seth had felt jealous of Toby when he landed the job out here in the gay mecca. He had been tempted to move out here with Toby and take a lesser job and then continue to look for something out here. Now he wondered if he had done that if he could have saved Toby from the mess he was in.
After a shower and coffee Seth felt a little better, but still, it was hard to not be down after yesterday. He picked up his cell and called Cole.
“How’s it going out there?” Cole asked when he answered the phone.
“Depressing. But, it’s done. I got him into a rehab place yesterday so I’ll be flying back this afternoon. Any chance you could pick me up at the airport?”
“Um, yeah sure. Let me get a pen... Okay, what’s your flight number?”
Seth gave him the info and they rang off, with Seth thinking something sounded off in Cole's voice. Or maybe he was imagining it.
Having a few hours to kill before his flight; he decided to spend the time walking around. The hotel was near the bay and he was within walking distance of some of the piers. It was a beautiful clear day and Seth thought it was ironic for everything to seem so perfect when it really was so fucked up. At least for some.
It was early evening when his flight landed in Austin. Seth gathered his luggage and looked for Cole. Finally he saw him standing near the exit.
“Hey,” Seth said walking over to him. “What are you doing clear over here?”
“Sorry. I forgot the piece of paper with your flight info on it, so I wasn’t sure which gate you’d be coming in on.”
Seth wondered why Cole hadn’t just read one of the monitors that had all the flight information. It wasn’t like there were that many flights coming in from San Francisco, and he had remembered what airline he was on. But Seth decided to let it all slide.
“So, how was your flight?” Cole asked as they walked back out to where he had parked.
“The flight was fine. The trip sucked. I can’t believe I just put Toby in rehab. It just doesn’t make sense. Not sweet innocent conservative little Toby. And shit, Cole, I couldn’t believe it when I saw him. He had to have lost thirty pounds since the last time I was there. And Toby didn’t have thirty pounds to loose.”
Cole drove out of the airport parking lot and into Austin traffic and Seth continued to tell him about the events of the last twenty-four hours.
“So what have you been up to while I was gone?” Seth asked. “Did you miss me?”
Cole shifted in his seat. “Um, not much. Went out for a bit and had a few drinks last night. Other than that just work.”
Seth frowned. Something was off with Cole, he seemed distant.
“So do you want me to drop you at your place?” Cole asked.
“Um, well, do you want to get rid of me?”
“No. I just thought that after all you’ve been through you might want to be home tonight.”
“What I want is to be with you. But only if you want me.”
Cole looked at Seth and smiled. “Okay. My apartment then.”
“Seth! I was just thinking of calling you.” Samantha said when she answered her phone later that evening.
“Yeah? What’s your news? Did you get Jason to relent and give you a second chance?” Seth could use some good news.
“I’m afraid not. I think that one blew up in my face. I did get him to agree to be friends though. We went out for coffee today and we had a nice chat. But honestly, I don’t think he’ll ever see me in the same way again, Seth. It’s too bad too because he is perfect husband material. Rich, good looking, treated me great. But, I blew it.”
“So what about the other guy? They one you blew it with?” Seth asked.
“Definitely not husband material. And besides, all he wanted was sex. He was never looking for a relationship.”
“Doesn’t sound like you were either.”
“Yeah, that was the whole problem. I met this great guy, but at totally the wrong time. Why couldn’t I have met him in a year or two when I would be closer to wanting to get married?”
“I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”
“So enough about me, what about you? How are things with Cole?”
“Weird. But that’s not why I called. I just got back from San Francisco.”
“Again? I’m starting to get jealous, you haven’t come to see me even once.”
“I put Toby in rehab.”
“.... What? Oh my god! And you let me go on and on about my silly problems. Why didn’t you call me sooner?”
“There wasn’t anything you could do. But Sam, it was awful. You wouldn’t believe how he looked, how he was living. It was like a walking corpse.”
“But he’s in rehab now? So he’ll be okay?”
“He’s in rehab, but we both know that meth is a tough one to kick. I tried to get him to come back with me to Austin, but he refused.”
“What about his job?”
“He was fired last week.”
“I should have gone out there with him, Sam. I shouldn’t have let him go there alone.”
“Seth, what are you talking about? Toby is a grown man; it’s not your job to follow him around to look after him. You have your own life, your own problems.”
“No, I should have been there for him. Sam, do you think I should call his parents?”
“Oh shit. What do you think?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think he’d want them to know.”
“Yeah, it’s not like they’ve been all that supportive, but still, they are his parents.” They had never cared for Seth, always telling Toby that he and Samantha were a bad influence. This would just feed into that viewpoint.
“So I should call?” Seth wanted clarification.
“Well, if it was me, I think even though I wouldn’t want my parents to know, I also would want them to be there. You know? Besides, really, they need to know. Don’t you think?”
“Yeah, you’re right. Okay. I’m going to call them right now then, before I lose my nerve.”
“Okay. And Seth?”
It wasn’t Seth that needed the good wishes, but then they both knew that.