BLOGARRHEA: A Life Lost on the Upper West Side of NYC and a Goodbye to My Friend Pam
Meet my old friend Pam -- She lived in a cluttered apartment on the Upper West Side with two cats and more cockroaches than you'd care to deal with. The ashtrays were overflowing with dead butts. There was never any food, and there was a big egg stain on the wall that she refused to clean after one of her boyfriends threw an egg to presumably make a point. I used to take her to music industry functions, once photographing her with Guns N' Roses' drummer, Steven Adler. She put the picture in a frame on her wall and told people that Adler visited her in the hospital. She cried a lot. She used to say how she had no life, this 29-year-old woman whose father lived in Maryland with a new girlfriend and whose mother lived in Florida. Neither parent could or would take her in so she lived alone with hardly any friends. She had no job and she was sick most of the time.
She had cancer and so many doctors botched so many operations that she had lawsuits going with hospitals all over the country. It was the only thing she had to live for -- the fact that if she won her cases, she'd ultimately be a millionaire. That one thought kept her going. Her lawyer kept up on her bills. Sometimes the pain got so bad all she could do was lie in bed all day. She liked to read, mostly Erica Jong novels. Working in New York City as I did and living in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, she'd let me crash in her apartment on those nights when industry functions kept me in the city past the last bus. I'd read aloud to her until she fell asleep. But it was rare that she'd sleep through the night. I'd wake at some ungodly hour to find her sitting at the dirty kitchen table smoking cigarette after cigarette.
She took pills to ease the pain. All kinds of pills. Plenty of pills. She'd take so many damn pills, she couldn't walk or talk right. She'd slur her words and have trouble lighting her cigarettes. One midnight, I came to the apartment after an Elton John press party to find her incoherent, her eyes rolling up to the top of her head, the place more of a mess than it usually was. An open jar of peanut butter sat on the floor with an obscenely protruding cigarette butt obviously squished out into its creamy insides. The cat litter was turned over. Clothes were ankle-deep.
"I want to die," she kept repeating.
"How many pills did you take?"
I called 911 and the cops came. They took her and me to emergency where I was told to wait in the waiting room while they gave her another drug to induce vomiting. I sat there in that waiting room feeling disjointed, almost floating in space, reeling in the 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. netherworld that's neither today nor tomorrow. Whores lounged; junkies slept; one huge guy was bleeding from a hole in his head. A doctor finally told me that she might have done irreparable damage to the lining of her stomach and that I should go back to her apartment and bring her clothing so they could discharge her the next day.
I got some sleep, went to work, left early, and brought her some clothes. They had put her in the psyche ward. When she got out, she cursed me for putting her through all that. "You f*cked up big time! I would have been fine!" I didn't argue.
Two weeks later, she called me at home and told my wife she was engaged. We were happy for her. Then she called again to tell us her fiancé beat her up in a hotel room and stole her money and jewelry. Another time she was forcibly taken to Bellevue Hospital in the middle of the night and thrown in the psyche ward for no apparent reason. She cursed, fought, kicked, bit and scratched all the way there. She had absolutely no idea why she was being abducted. Her lawyer got her out after a harrowing night of fending off both patients and guards. But wouldn't you know that she did meet "a cute boy," as she said later.
"Billy was nice to me."
When Billy got out, he started calling her. She always had a problem saying no to anybody who showed her the slightest bit of attention. Billy, recovering from heroin addiction by taking methadone, wound up "borrowing" her credit card to buy prescription drugs.
Every few months, she'd have to undergo another operation which would literally burn the cancer off her. For weeks afterwards, her insides would smolder with unbearable heat so she'd gobble more pills. With no one to look after her, she'd sometimes fall and knock her head against the sink.
"You should be in a hospital," I'd tell her to no avail. "You should be with one of your parents." She'd explain to me that her father's new girlfriend was jealous of her, and thought she was having an incestuous relationship with him. And her mother, well, her mother was just too busy. So she remained alone.
Then her only two friends in the building moved out of town. She'd cry that she had no friends, no job, no health, no money, no life. She was so beautiful. And she had yet to turn 30.
They found her dead in her apartment. It was a Saturday and I wasn't there to wake her up. It would be easy to blame the system or the hospitals that let her go despite it being painfully obvious she couldn't take care of herself. Her parents who didn't have any time for her certainly failed her. The boyfriends who really could care less and only saw a vulnerable beautiful lady who desperately needed that love and affection that I couldn't give her as a friend certainly failed her. And, yes, I failed her too. Toward the end, she convinced herself that I was the one she loved, and not the boyfriend-of-the-moment. But it wasn't real. And I had to tell her so. And the very next day she was dead. So who's to bless and who's to blame? At least she's not in pain anymore.