I’m not a storyteller, a writer, or anything. I just like writing down the truth. As I see it. What thoughts come to me. That’s what Cal would’ve done. He would’ve done that for me.
None of this was Cal’s fault.
“Take the pills,” they said. “Take them just as prescribed.” And he did. No questions asked. For five years, he took the pills that should never had been prescribed to him for more than four weeks. After that, the brain becomes dependent. That means you’re fucked.
I never wanted my best friend to go off his medication, but Cal didn’t think twice about it, and he never thought twice about anything. He did as he was told. The first time. No questions asked. Never any questions, but he should have asked many. “Is four weeks enough? Who will take care of me? Who will love me through this? Should I kill myself, or should I kill you, Motherfucker?”
Her name wasn’t “Motherfucker,” but Cal couldn’t find another name suitable for his doctor who seemed to wear the same grey pant suit and red rimmed glasses to each appointment. He was angry. With every right. He did as he was told. He began to taper off his medication, but would four weeks be enough? Oh, he should’ve asked questions.
His cousin, Lula, drowned on her wedding night, and Cal saw that as an easy way out.
“I’d rather have cancer, or a gun held to my head 24/7 than go through this, MF,” he told the doctor.
“MF?” she asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “I just want to die now.”
“Two more weeks and you’ll be fine,” said that motherfucker.
But Cal’s research told him eight months. He needed eight whole months to get off his medication. A benzodiazepine.
The best of friends we were. Going on twelve years. I knew everything there was to know about him, but I couldn’t even begin to understand what he was going through. Maybe I didn’t want to. Cal was beautiful. He had flawless skin, and he always looked sharp. He would let me read his journals. He would call me “Editor” from time to time. Inside one he claimed, at one point, that his doctor was experimenting on him. Using a rapid taper to measure side effects. He claimed he had 232 side effects, and no one believed him. Not even me. But Dr. MF knew. MF knew everything, and MF could gaslight her patients like no one’s business. She even threatened to have him committed if he came to her with another complaint. So, he didn’t. He stopped seeing her altogether several months ago.
Sarah was the best counselor Cal had ever had. She was a blessing dressed in blue when I saw her. She listened to him and recorded each of his symptoms. I’d drive Cal to his sessions, and she invited me to sit in once when Cal wasn’t doing so well. I could tell Cal liked the support. He spoke openly about how the doctor was being threatened with the removal of her license if she didn’t wean her patients off all benzodiazepines. I was scared for Cal. I was scared for all the doctor’s patients that were going through this. She got them hooked on the pills, and now she was forcing them off. Sarah didn’t know what to do, and neither did I. At least, not at that moment. I noticed Cal hadn’t showered, and that worried me, too. He always took great care of himself. Always.
Cal didn’t sleep anymore. He never slept. I called him once during a nap attempt, and all he did was cry.
Cal didn’t eat anymore. He never ate. I took him to lunch one day where I work, and all he did was sob while he tried to chew food he said tasted like ash.
Cal didn’t think anymore. He couldn’t focus. We went to the museum one day. He stared at a painting, and all he did was whimper and wail as people watched. They were more interested in him than the art, and he became more interested in scribbling in his journal. He barely talked to me. That was the day I realized I was losing my best friend.
After the long four-week rapid taper, Cal couldn’t put two words together. He said “yes” and “no,” and the tears kept falling. I couldn’t comprehend what he was going through. I didn’t want to. I began to treat him like a child. This only made him cry more.
“You’re gonna cry yourself to death,” I would say. “Stop it. Just stop it.”
“Nooooooo!” he cried.
I’d slap him and say, “Enough!” and he’d have a seizure. It was quite extreme on my part, but he needed to understand. One time he scribbled down on his notepad almost illegibly, “Pills.” He wanted back on the pills, but there was no going back. The only way was forward, so I broke it to him.
“No. No more pills,” and he sobbed even more.
I wish he had died from cancer. Something concrete. Then people would understand. I would have understood, but no one understood benzodiazepine withdrawal at the time. They understood cancer. Things would have been easier for Cal. It wasn’t an accident that his car slid on the ice, but I like to think it was. Accidents happen. Once he was gone, his parents gave me his journals. They couldn’t decipher them. All nonsense they thought. Nonsense… They weren’t nonsense. They were cries for help. All 42 of them. Scribble… scribble… scribble… 42 notepads of scribbles. Bludgeon the bitch and rip out her innards. Burn all the evidence. Burn, Motherfucker, burn. They didn’t know who or what he was talking about, but I knew. I knew all too well, but all of the stress was getting to me. I couldn’t stop reading his journals, and what I read was starting to affect me mentally.
“Cal was my friend,” I told her. She just stared at me through her glasses.
“Who?” asked the doctor.
“Cal, motherfucker,” I said before I shot her. Something Cal should’ve done. Now all I have are his journals, and four prison walls that close in on me. They talk to me. They tell me, “Thank you.” Or is that Cal’s voice I hear? Am I hearing you, Cal? Are you there? Are you there, Cal?