Hanging Out In Rockford: Look at the moon

Look at the moon! Just go look at the moon! That was the message on my cell phone answering service. I was so enamored of this message that I saved it on my hard drive. When I was really bummed about something else (whatever else), I would play it. It always made me feel better. Feel better that someone I admired so much would flirt with me, even if it was on a fleeting basis. But most importantly, she was my friend. Always there was that— she was my friend.

My old friend has gotten lost. Nobody’s heard from her for several weeks, maybe more. Her dad called me once, and I reached out to friends who might know where she was. I found her that time. But most recently her mother called. She hadn’t seen her for weeks. That really bothered me. I decided to go looking.

She started out just sniffing heroin. Then when she ran short, she shot up, just once. Heroin took her over, just as they said it would. It took control of her life. She tried to kick it on her own, but her efforts were in vain. I tried to talk her into going to a substance abuse program, and at least one time she did, but every time something would trigger her, and she would fall back into the addiction.

I sat with her one night and gave her a back rub. She admitted to using heroin. She said it was the hardest thing she had ever done (getting off heroin). She said that the first two weeks were the best in her life. She said if it could always be like that, she would have never wanted to go straight. That was the first time that I know that she got off heroin.

I went to one of the local dance bars, the one she had worked at, the one her father had found her at before. No one even knew who she was. They asked if she was blonde. I replied that I knew her when she had purple hair; I knew her when she had green hair; so maybe. I described the man I had heard she was with. I had heard that he had died of an overdose. Then they thought it was the one, the one with the blonde hair, although they didn’t know her name.

Strangely, she is the most talented person I know. Or maybe not all that strangely. One of my old girl friends says it is like that. She has demons, the old girlfriend thinks; they are the same demons that create the talent. Gauguin was like that. Maybe it is a thing that goes with too much vision. Maybe if you can see things so clearly, it drives you crazy. She definitely has great vision. Genius and insanity are often partners.

The bartender at the dance bar is gorgeous. She knows my restaurant and loves it. I tell her how a buddy and I built the bar at which I am sitting. We did it in two weeks for a friend. We almost came to blows over a circular saw. I tell her how I met my first or second favorite girlfriend at this same bar. I came here with two friends, one a law professor, the other a medical researcher. We just sat at the bar to have drinks and hang out. A young woman who was sitting farther down the bar bought me a drink. Later that evening, she went home with me. She stayed three years; she was a handful. I didn’t know how much I cared for her until she was gone.

I go to another bar where I heard my friend might be. It is a bar from my past. A bar I grew up with. A bar I used to go to when I taught at Roosevelt Junior High. A bar I used to hang out at with Lynn Soper and Jane Jones, and we were all teachers, and we were so cool. They don’t know about my friend, either. Nobody seems to know who she is. Persistent, I go back the next night. I leave a message for the owner. Will she call me? But there is no success.

I call her mother and say I have nothing to report. Her mother seems really hurt. The grief is thick in her voice. She says that her daughter hasn’t seen her children for these several weeks. I tell her I will get back to her if I hear anything. I feel really bad that I can’t help her, that I cannot relieve even a small portion of her stress. I wish I could be my friend’s savior, but I cannot. She has to come to that on her own. The rest of us will have to be here for her if she does.

Having written this, I decide to give it one more try. I go back to the dance bar. As I walk in the door, I see my friend. She looks really beautiful. She looks me right in the eye and smiles. I do nothing. I walk right on past her to visit with my friend, the bartender. I don’t at this point, think about her or look back at her. I have fullfilled my mission; she is alive.

After a drink, I walk back outside. I stand by my motorcycle and dial her mother on my cell phone. When she answers, I tell her that I have just seen her daughter, and she is OK. She asks how she looks, are her clothes tattered? And I answer no, she looks very beautiful.

Owner of the Irish Rose (Rockford) and Irish Rose North (Rockton) restaurants, Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. These columns are also available on his Web site: IrishRoseRockford.com and featured on WNTA talk radio AM 1330.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!