When an Epidemic Is Personal

When an Epidemic Is Personal
AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File

Here's how I imagined it would go over the summer: He would have come up to stay with me and my husband for a long weekend, maybe a week even, away from the friends who gave him shelter when he was using drugs. From the specter that seemed to surface every few months like clockwork. We'd known him since he was in the womb, but that wasn't the same as knowing him now. Still, we thought he'd come to stay and go to the beach nearby and body surf and stroll along the esplanade, smoking, gazing out at the swans and the geese he loved to feed back when he was a little boy and would come to visit.

And at night, I hoped, he'd go fishing. In the bay inlet; maybe standing on the small footbridge connecting two neighborhoods, where older, more weathered fishermen halted their tangled lines as pedestrians passed behind them, trying to step over the fish that lay flapping in nets on the ground. I thought we'd buy him a rod at the ancient bait and tackle store on the other side of the inlet; we thought he'd like it, going there to browse, and then maybe we'd get coffee and pastry next door at the new place that used to be a Dunkin' Donuts.

He'd pick out a rod and then, at night, I'd park my beach chair not too close but not too far from him as he stood against the railing, one foot bent up on the concrete sea wall, and the sky would pulse with stars and maybe there would be one of those fat moons that lit a path across the water. We'd talk about everything and nothing; we would avoid speaking about the future or rehab or anything that would cause him to crawl back into himself and become invisible.

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