I would never have believed it was the same person, seeing him there a wreck on the slab. Was this the same person I grew up with? Was this the guy who gave me advice on my first date, the guy who I drove to college with? He became this? I didn’t want to believe it. He always beat my grades, he had the car first, and he got the best girlfriends. I guess he ended up with the worst life.
They called me because his parents had given up. I don’t even know why he still had my number in his wallet; I guess he kept it just in case. They wanted me to identify a guy I hadn’t seen in almost 7 years, they said it was a long shot but there was nobody else. I got in the car and I drove. I had no idea what to expect. The optimistic part of my mind wanted him to have amnesia or something similarly minor. Something that he would recover from and be his old self, I hoped we could carry on where we left off.
Morgues are cold. They hadn’t prepared me for that. He looked nothing like his old self, nothing like the man I had known in college. He was pale and sallow, his teeth blackened and his hair greasy. His arms were the worst, rows and rows of holes, his veins broken and corroded. I could still see him under it all somewhere, the boyish laughter, the practical joker. He was there, trapped by this broken shell. Heroin they told me as I stood and stared at his cold limp remains. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. I remained standing, staring. His life came to this.