The Irreplaceable E.R.M.

“Do you think she’s OK?” I ask Melissa, who I just met last week.

“Oh yeah she does this all the time” Mel says. “blames it on her medication”.

When Mel says medication she says it like Emily does with an effected southern drawl mixed with a dash a mania, and shakes her hair like a lunatic.

“I wonder if it’s possible to drown in a mixing bowl of cookie dough?” I ponder aloud.

Mel giggles and grabs her phone off the counter. “Let’s take pictures” she whispers. Not that Emily is paying any attention to us at this point. She’s intent on making those cookies, which SURPRISE, taste like burnt cat shit when she pulls them out of the oven. This wasn’t the kind of afternoon I’d had mind when Emily offered to pick me up from work.

Emily Rose Madison, where do I begin? She always introduced herself with all three names, even after the Exorcism of Emily Rose became a relative box office hit. I knew her vaguely as an acquaintance when I lived at the Sober Cult Mansion, and only because she was banging my raver friend who was banging my French friend who was also banging me. The Cult Mansion was always a hot bed of sexual activity, which is probably why I stayed as long as I did. Plus the cult leader was fun.

Anyways, Emily had no idea that my raver friend was sleeping with anyone but her, and it was painfully obvious, so I dismissed her as a simpleton.

I should mention that my beautiful friend ‘L’ had started calling her Erm, like the first part of Irma, which I thought was hilarious, so I’ll use it from here on out.

I ran into Erm at one of the heinous NA meetings in town, and we struck up a conversation afterwards, sucking our nicotine machines in the parking lot. Turns out she wasn’t even close to dumb. We actually started discussing string theory, a fascinating subject. She looked different than I remembered too. Skinnier in the face and blonder. She looked better without the weight, unlike most girls who ended up looking like bobble heads when they dropped too many pounds. Other than dating my raver friend, the only other thing I remembered about her was that she had a couple of years clean, which was shocking as we were the same age.

My ride of the day was ready to leave and we exchanged numbers . I was elated that I’d found someone in the intellectual cesspool of Nowhere, VA that knew about string theory.

Shaun takes me to Red Lobster that night. Yes, this was after we almost killed each other. We were in love again and working through our issues *eye roll. He’d even bought me a book called ‘Codependent No More’ and written inside of the cover was ‘For us, love Shaun’. I laughed for a good 20 seconds when I read it while he stared at me blankly. Sigh…if we could help who we fell in love with the world would be a much happier place.

We lie back and forth over dinner, our usual routine, no need for a dramatic change, and we almost get through a meal without arguing until I bring up Emily.

Shaun’s eyes blaze. “Don’t even think about it Nick” he says with unmasked hostility. He catches me off guard, and now I’m defensive.

“What the fuck Shaun, she’s been sober for years, who cares if I hangout with her?” I whisper yell. “It’s not like I’m going to fuck her”. This last part was obviously a lie, since I was thinking about it because I was feeling restless.

“She’s not clean Nick, I saw her nodding out at Edgehill last week!”

“Well she told me she’s on a bunch of meds because she found out she’s bipolar” I whisper “and don’t fucking yell at me, I just moved back here, how was I supposed to know?”

“Whatever Nick, as usual you’re going to do what you want, just be careful”.

At least he knew me.

Melissa and I get bored taking picture of Erm sitting on her kitchen floor in a tie-dyed t-shirt covered in flour, so we sit in the living room and watch House.

“Emily watched all eight seasons one weekend and then started diagnosing herself with all sorts of obscure diseases… she might be dead in there”.

I lean over the side of the Ikea sectional so I can see into the kitchen. Nope, still in there mixing those cookies. “How much longer Emily?” I yell. She just leans further into her mixing bowl.

“So does she like ever admit to you that she’s getting high?”

“Once or twice, mostly she just lies about it”.

At least she’s consistent, and as long as she’s not interested in getting help, I don’t have to feel guilty watching the impending train-wreck.

Top Ten E.R.M. Moments:

10) She makes Melissa inspect her lady purse one day because she ‘feels something funny in there’. Mel crawls in with a flashlight and confirms what they both already know: herpes. I assume she adds Valtrex to her ever growing list of medications.

9) Erm and I go to the outlets to blow some cash on clothes we don’t need. Guided by Xanax and Starbucks, we ignore the empty fuel signal on the dash until we are on the way home. We walk half a mile to a gas station in four inches of snow.

8) One afternoon Mel and I are painting canvases on the floor of the living room and Erm passes out on the couch with a half eaten stick of cotton candy – where she obtained the treat is unclear. Three hours later she wakes up with the cotton candy stuck to her greasy hair and heads straight for her pill bottles muttering “I have to take medication because I’m a crazy person!”. Mel and I reenact the scene for weeks.

7) Erm takes a part time job babysitting two children, which is terrifying until we find out its just some girl she gets high with. Obviously, it’s just a cover for her petty drug dealing cash. On day shes ‘babysitting’ and a giant storm hits town. Melissa, working at the same bar with me at this point, gets text after text from Erm demanding details about the whereabouts of the six potted plants on her porch. “HOW ARE MY PLANTS!?!” becomes a favorite text phrase for years.

6) Erms Mom is kind of a neurotic mess, but shes been sober for a couple of decades and loves her daughter enough to drive across the state to make sure Erms not dead once a month or so. Obviously, it’s in Erm’s best interest to hold it together during said visits, but she usually doubles down on her meds to cope with the anxiety. One afternoon she falls down the steps while her mom watches. They end up sitting in two separate booths in Mel’s section at the bar eating dinner and ignoring each other.

5) Her shares at NA meeting during this period are fucking epic. I can personally attest to such gems as “I only date men who make over 100k a year”, “I’m just doing a little bit of heroin and it seems to be working”, and the classic “I only have one more year of school left!”. She’s been saying the last one since I met her 5 years ago. The only time I get excited at a meeting in 2014 is when I see Erm stumble through the door.

4) We shoot some heroin together, and I die on her couch for a little bit – no more than a minute tops. We end up in rehab together a few weeks later, and she tells everyone how she saved my life. Thank you though Aaron, love you buddy.

3) While we are in rehab together Erm’s grandma dies. This would be tragic if she hadn’t been telling me and Mel for the past year how she couldn’t wait for the old woman to croak so she could have her Lexus. “Oh, don’t let her fool you” Mel and I tell a concerned friend. Sad, very sad, and funny, since Erm eats up the sympathy expressed by the oblivious.

2) Her psychiatrist makes her keep a Xanax journal. This is almost exactly what it sounds like – every time she takes a Xanax she has to write about the circumstances and how she was feeling. Erm’s doctor is a well known cash-quack, and I’m sure the journal was only meant to cover his ass if god forbid she actually did die and the DEA wanted to know why he was prescribing her Suboxone, Xanax, Gabapentin, Xanax XR, Wellbutrin, Effexor, and Lithium at the same time. Erm being Erm approaches the journal with almost religious reverence and consults it multiple times a day. Mel and I form a theory that she makes her boyfriend read it aloud each night as they fall asleep.

1) Sometimes she pulls a lighted hula hoop out of her truck and just goes to town. My favorite locations included the McDonald’s drive-thru, the Rite Aid parking lot, and an intersection in Old Town.

I hear through contacts that Erm is now actually clean and doing well. She even graduated from University. That last year took awhile, but you did it girl!

I have yet to find an Erm in any of the meetings I reluctantly attend in various cities, which leads me to believe that she is one of a kind, and maybe even irreplaceable.