Part 2 — Jillian visits an old friend and makes a choice that changes everything
When she had first arrived to the rooms, one of the first things Jillian heard was that she had to change her people, places and things. Which made sense because like they always say,
If you keep going to the barbershop, you are going to get a haircut.
But when her old friend Sarah called, she was delighted to hear from her. Sarah wasn’t around during the years Jillian spent curled up into a miserable ball at the feet of addiction.
In fact, she had started dissing Sarah to hang out with her ex boyfriend when they first got together — the one she started using with.
Surely Sarah didn’t count as the barbershop. She was an old person who hung out in old places, but they weren’t barbershop places. They were pre-barber shop and so was Sarah.
Her long-lost childhood best friend was delighted to know that Jillian had found her way out of the darkness and wanted nothing more than to have a picnic where they often did when they were girls.
The arrangements were made with confidence and Jillian had no concerns about her recovery when it came to seeing Sarah. Sarah wasn’t on dope and never had been. Plus, she had her shit together. She would be a great influence.
They arrived, like they used to, about an hour before sunset.
When they were young, they would race to meet as soon as they finished their after-school chores and homework. Typically, they would end up with about an hour to dream together, before the street lights came on — beckoning them to head home to their reality of responsibilities.
Their beloved, high and beautiful hill still looked and felt exactly the same. The bright blue water tower at the top had not aged a day and the dandelions that dotted the hill were the same ones they would use to make bracelets and necklaces.
Jillian stopped to pick a white clover flower. Sarah turned back and looked back with a smile.
Hopping up with enthusiasm, Jillian held the flower inches in front of her face.
“You want to make a halo?”
Sarah smiled and stared at Jillian for a moment, with the starry eyed smile of a young girl who was just reunited with her childhood hero.
At the exact same moment, both of them burst into tears as they threw themselves into each others embrace, while trying to keep the balance required mid-hill.
They held each other tightly for the first time in ages and let themselves collapse to the ground as they rocked back and forth.
“I missed you”, Sarah whispered shakily.
“I know… I’m so sorry… I don’t know whats wrong with…”
“No”, Sarah said abruptly as she moved backwards to meet Jillians eyes.
She took Jillians hand and held it lovingly with both of hers.
“There is nothing wrong with you. This isn’t your fault. You found a way out and that is all that matters. You can be sorry to everyone else, but not to me. All I prayed for was that you would make it out alive. And, against all odds, you did. So do not apologize to me.”
Jillian wiped her tears and took a deep breath. She had never thought of not being sorry until now, but she could feel the blanket of burden that she lived under loosen a bit.
She looked up at Sarah and smiled. She said one word but it was a word that in a certain tone, with a certain smile, meant a thousand words to her and Sarah. After all, they still remembered their old language.
And they ran together to the top of the hill.
Unlike 6 years ago, neither Sarah or Jillian had to be home by dark. So they remained after the sunset, lying happily under the stars.
Hours went by as they talked about everything they hadn’t and everything they used to. Jillian explained what she could remember about the past six years and Sarah filled Jillian in on what her life had become.
They talked about the boys they used to talk about for hours and what their lives had become. Sarah filled Jillian in on what had become of their favorite teachers and mentors. They laughed so hard they cried as they told their favorite stories and revisited the awkward moments of their youth — the ones that are funny now but weren’t back then.
Everything was perfect. Even the familiar smell of burning charcoal grills and freshly mowed grass felt exactly the same as it did before — in what had become, for Jillian, a long lost world. It was a world that had started to feel like a fairy tale — a world that she begun doubting ever existed at all.
She closed her eyes and fell deeper into bliss with every inhale of magical air and every blade of grass her fingertips grazed.
Then, she smelled something else. It was familiar, but it didn’t register until she opened her eyes and looked over at Sarah. Sarah was sitting up with her arms on her knees, lighting a joint.
“Are you allowed to smoke?” Sarah asked, hopefully.
“Uhhh, no… I don’t think so.”
Sarah tilted her head to the side, confused.
“You were addicted to heroin. You never had a problem with weed. I actually read about a few cases where heroin addicts used marijuana to get clean and it worked when nothing else would. Some rich people even go to treatment in Costa Rica, where medical use of psychedelics for detox is legal.”
Jillian replied with uncertainty. She knew the world of treatment and AA sounded weird to normal people and she did not understand it well enough to explain it.
“The program requires complete abstinence from all substances. They say if we do anything we will go back to our drug of choice.”
Sarah still looked confused.
“So where’s the line, then? Do you have to stop drinking coffee too?”
“No, we drink a lot of coffee. It honestly doesn’t make sense to me either and I do know people who got clean and still drink or smoke.”
“Your call,” Sarah said as she puffed, “I have some bad stomach problems and a doobie a day keeps the doctor away”.
Within the wink of Sarahs eye, Jillian reached up and grabbed the joint.
It wasn’t something she thought that influenced her choice to partake. It was more of a feeling. It was the feeling that right now, in this magical moment of this magical place, nothing bad could possibly happen. And, it didn’t.
Nothing exploded. No sirens went off. The world carried on as usual. The only thing that exploded was their appetites and so they made their way to their favorite local taco place, before both heading home for a good nights rest.
Jillian was okay. Better than okay. For now, at least.
Written by Holly Kellums
Originally published on Medium.com