Addictive personalities 

Wanting what you can't have

I did not start the rumor that Grant and Matt slept together. Grant started that rumor. I swear, according to him, he and Matt have practically been stuck together like suckerfish since 1997, barring that prison stint Matt had to complete a couple of years ago for all those banks he robbed in his early 20s.

Anyway, it's not my fault Matt's now all in love with someone else and has some answering to do. I hear she is very pretty, Matt's new love, but then Grant's the one who told me that. I believe him, though, because Matt himself is very pretty and it just seems appropriate to bookend him with the same. Sometimes I can just look at Matt for minutes on end and wonder how someone with eyes as big and blue as two planet Plutos right there on his face (and that face -- Michelangelo could not have carved such a beautiful face) could fuck Grant and rob banks. Not that he did both at the same time, or either at all (though the bank robbing is actually documented by a formal confession). And that's not even counting the addictions.

"I have a very addictive personality," Matt told me once. He was sitting across from me in a booth at the Local, his face just as sweet as Easter candy. His proclamation surprised me. "Does Matt really have an addictive personality?" I asked Grant later.

"Well, there was the heroin," he said, "and the sex, and, you know, the bank robbing," he continued, "so, yeah."

Heroin? Where the hell did that come from? I swear, you think you know somebody ... and then sometimes you do know somebody, but you just don't want to know everything. For example, when I was 17 I ended up sleeping with a heroin addict who was every bit as beautiful as Matt. His name was Scott, and he was a surfer boy who graduated from my high school before I started my freshman year, but all the students still talked about him like he was still around.

He wasn't, not in any sense. Not then, anyway. I met him through my sister, who dated his roommate. I don't know why Scott set his sights on me when there were so many walking bikini stuffers he could ball, why he centered in on this awkward high-school kid with hardly any friends, but I think maybe my youthful incorruptibility might have been a factor. There is just something about a new book that makes you want to flip through the pages and bend the bindings back, isn't there?

Anyway, that must have been something he couldn't stand to not destroy, the newness of me, because he always acted kind of crazed when I was around, like I was an overly frosted birthday cake and him there with his finger just out of reach. To my dubious credit, I kept myself out there for years before I finally let him reach me. By then he was recovering from his addiction, as well as a hellacious, six-month bout of hepatitis, and my sister had moved on to another boyfriend, a fry cook at the coffee shop where she waited tables. I don't even remember how it happened, how one day I was incorruptible and the next I was not; the memory has been banished from my brain like bad bacteria. I just know it had something to do with love.

Not love for Scott, hell no. I was stupid in love with another boy who made use of me until my usefulness turned into burden, I suppose. He was a bag boy at the local grocer down the street from my house, and I craved him like I was suffocating and his breath was my only salvation. If it were up to my mindset at the time, I would still, to this day, be spending every afternoon waiting by the window in the front of my house to see him drive by after his shift in his flawlessly preserved 1963 red VW Bug. Sometimes he was coming to get me and other times he just passed me by. It was there, in front of my house in the front seat of his Bug, that this boy informed me of the burden I'd become. Afterward he had to physically pull me out of the passenger side as I clung to him, unwilling to let go of my jones. "I'll change," I begged, but he was already gone.

From there Scott plucked me up like a button mushroom. It was that easy. I allowed him to corrupt me in many imaginative ways, all the while hoping the bag boy would intervene. But when Scott started shooting up again, he did not try to take me there, I have to give him that. He hid it from me until I found him in my bathroom one night, the needle already in his arm. Maybe he was hoping I'd intervene, too, I don't know. It's funny with addictive personalities, because they don't just want what they can take; they want what they can't reach. So it's not surprising how long Scott stayed in my life, both of us wanting something we couldn't have.

Hollis Gillespie's commentaries can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered." To hear the latest, go to Moodswing at And look for her new book, Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood (Regan Books/HarperCollins), due out March 2.


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