Download PDF Here 13th Anniversary
Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Two December 2022.
Thierry’s Ticket to Fly, Guest editorial by Rafael E. Fajer Camus.
5:30 am. I’m having coffee, reading the last pages of Normal People. I can’t put it down. I don’t want to. The story of Marianne and Connell and the effects of the coffee are waking me up.
A Facebook notification on my phone. Thierry has sent a message. Thierry is Luc’s (my future ex-husband) twenty-something year old cousin. I’m surprised. He’s asking me how I’m doing. I write back that I’m pleased to read his message, that all is well. I ask why he’s writing.
I remember Thierry had struggled with drugs some years back. I found out when Luc and I visited Thierry’s family’s estate in Bordeaux. We spent the weekend in the garden. The air was cool, pregnant with pollen. No clouds in the sky. Drinking wine, eating cheese and talking about literature and politics. We also discussed Thierry’s struggle when he was not around.
The whole family thought of me as a wise man who had a way to talk to younger generations. That I could relate to them. I hadn’t tried meth yet. I was still pseudo-sane. They asked me to talk to Thierry and have him come to his senses. Thierry and I went for a run in the forest. Twenty minutes into our run, we stopped to rest under a tree. The shade kept our body temperatures down. We caught our breaths and talked. I didn’t know what to say. I listened. He swore he was off drugs then. I assumed he was telling the truth. He probably was. We both weren’t aware of the insidiousness of addiction. I assured the family he was not using.
Maybe he was writing out of sympathy, or camaraderie.
He replies. He wants to come to Mexico. I tell him he’s welcome. He sends a smiley face emoticon. I reply in kind. I leave the phone on the counter and continue sipping my coffee and reading. Marianne is asking if Connell is in love with a peer at work.
A new notification. Thierry again. He’s asking for a thousand euros to buy the ticket. I’m baffled. Before I reply he explains he “no longer has a family”. That he needs the money to buy the ticket and he’ll pay me back in a year or two. That this amount of money to me shouldn’t be a problem. He’s using, I think. He continues telling me that he has serious issues and needs the money to take care of them. What about the ticket? methinks. FUCK! My fingers are trying to write back something. What? I don’t know. My mind is blank… red more like. HE’S USING.
I decide to let him think I might lend him the money. So I do. I tell him I will write back tomorrow. He likes the last exchange in the feed. I close the phone.
I walk around the apt, trying to outpace my mind. I need to let Luc know what’s going on. Luc and I haven’t spoken for more than a year, not since I burned down my apartment in Paris. He has a new life, a new boyfriend. He’s happy. I don’t think he wants to hear from me. This is more important though. I write to him. I explain the situation. I send him the screen captures of my exchange with Thierry.
He’s silent for a minute. Two. Five. Ten. I’m not thinking. I’m stressing. Pressure in my lungs, inside my skull, behind my eyes. I step out and smoke a cigarette. The air is crisp, all the pollutants resting on the street floor at this hour. I can almost smell the sea. The air helps me calm down. I go back to my coffee. It’s cold now, more bitter. I gulp it down and prepare another.
Luc replies. He thanks me for warning him and his family. Thierry’s parents immediately left to look for him. They’d already suspected he was using again. He’d sent requests for money to many people asking. Our exchange had been the last straw. His family sends me love and gratitude. I’m touched. Luc asks me never to hesitate to write to him for any reason. That I’m always welcome in his life. That he wants to know I’m happy and doing well. My eyes well up. I didn’t expect this. After all I put him through, he’s still tender with me.
I need to get my mind of what just happened. I drink more coffee. I delve into Normal People. It doesn’t help.
4:15 am. I’m nervous, really nervous. I find a text message from Ada, Thierry’s mom:
- Ada: Eli. Can Thierry bring his laptop, telephone, books? He’s very attached to his books. We’ve already packed the clothes you specified. Is there anything else he can bring? Does he have access to the postal service? A few days ago he received LSD by mail! He’s very cunning. He found a way to use in the last psychiatric hospital. Are you sure Playas is a better option than Rosarito?
- Me: He can bring his phone but he won’t have access to it for at least 7 months. The staff will keep it locked. He can’t bring books because at the beginning only authorized literature is allowed and because people who use LSD transport it on the pages of books by adding drops of the substance on them and then eating them.
I had done so, transported LSD to Coachella on the pages of my book. I had meth sent by mail (regular, governmental) from NY to Paris. Why would I pay 250 Euro for a gram of crystal meth when I could get 15 for that amount?
- Ada: Ok. Bise
- Me: See you tomorrow. Beso
Thierry texted me last Thursday. He wanted to talk. He needed help. I asked Luc if Thierry was with his family and what they thought about us talking. They wanted me to speak to him. They felt lost.
A few hours later Thierry and I connected. He was walking through the forest where we’d run years before. He answered happily. He apologized about asking for money. I told him it wasn’t a problem, that I was happy he wanted to talk. I wanted to know how he was doing. He went from happy to sobbing uncontrollably, almost immediately.
- Thierry : Eli, I can’t. I.. it’s been years. I use LSD everyday. A few times a day. I heard about your story and you… you are family to us, to me. I’m sorry. I can’t stop. Tell me how. How did you do it?
I ask Thierry when was the last time he used. He’d used the day before. I know the state he’s in. That hopelessness when you think there’s no way out, stuck forever in wanting to stop and not being able to. His crying intensifies.
- Thierry: I heard you burnt down your apartment because you were hallucinating and hearing voices. I’m starting to get lost in my days. I sometimes can’t tell what’s true or not.
- Eli: And today? Can you tell what’s real and what’s not?
- Thierry: I don’t know. I just know everything is different.
There’s this idea that if you can tell you’re crazy then you’re not. It doesn’t necessarily hold true every time. Thierry was going through what I went through a few days before I burnt down my apartment. I knew everything was so unlike the reality I had been living in years prior (I could remember it perfectly) and that I had been using drugs for so long, that it made sense to be hallucinating, to be out of touch with shared existence. And I thought that if I could tell that I was crazy then I wasn’t.
I called my sister and asked her if I was a cyborg built by Elon Musk destined to colonize Mars. She said go to the nearest hospital. I went. There wasn’t a psychiatric ward. I returned home, called my psychiatrist. He asked me to come in the day after. At that point I knew I was wrong but desired deeply not to be. What would this mean for me? That I wasn’t the star of a TV reality? That I was imagining things? That I was crazy.
Thierry was losing or had already lost his ability to ascertain objective reality. I asked him if he truly wanted to stop. He said yes. If he was willing to do anything and everything necessary to do so. Yes! If he trusted me. YES. I told him to go back home and ask his parents to call me with him listening. He did.
The conversation with Ada and Gabriel, Thierry’s parents, was intense. I explained to them the danger he was in. The urgency of his needing help. My experience with the clinic and how I recommended Thierry come to Tijuana for treatment. Then:
- Eli: Thierry. I know you are willing to come to treatment, to do anything and everything to stop using. How many hits of acid do you have there at your parents’.
- Thierry: 32
- Eli: Please go with your dad and give them to him
- Thierry: Ok
- Eli: Gabriel, please go through all of his stuff. Take his passport, credit cards, money and telephone. Thierry, are you ok with this?
- Thierry: …. why the…?
- Eli: You know why. You’ve fled (I assumed this to be true) so no money or credit cards. Your dealers are on your phone and they deliver (assumption), and your dad is going to need your passport to reserve a plane ticket for you to come to Tijuana (I’m pushing here). Remember you said you trusted me. Then trust me.
- Thierry: Ok
I talked to Ada for a while longer explaining the treatment. It was the best choice, she agreed, and they were going to reserve a plane ticket. Gabriel and Thierry returned with more drugs than Thierry had admitted to (no surprise). We agreed to talk later. Thierry needed to sleep, he was emotionally spent.
The following is an account I’ve gathered from all the sources involved in Thierry’s transfer from Bordeaux to Tijuana: Thierry, his parents, my sisters and I.
Ale, my sister and Luc’s very close friend, writes to me. Ada and Gabriel are afraid I’m using, that I’m utilizing the clinic as a ploy to bring Thierry over so that I can disappear with him into a drug binge or maybe to kidnap him and get some money. Ale is trying to laugh, but I hear nervousness in her voice; a sliver of doubt. She doesn’t want to think this could be true but after all I put my family through, she knows it could be. I understand. I would be afraid too. I would do anything to reify my state of consciousness and the reality of the rehab proposal before getting on the plane to this forsaken city of perdition.
I’m worried. How can I prove I’m sober? That I’m really working at the clinic? I start sending selfies of me in the facilities, wearing the shirt with the logo. I Facetime my sisters with the same intention. They take screenshots and send them over to Luc who in turn transmits them to Ada. I get the admissions director to send them the contracts from an official clinic email. I write to Luc and we have a good and coherent conversation. They’re all relieved. They decide to go ahead and trust me. They now trust me wholeheartedly.
A message at 4:15am:
- Ada: Thierry is having a crisis on the train (from Bordeaux to Paris), he keeps insulting me, screaming at people around him and smoking cigarettes. What should I do?
- Me: Tell him he’s right, that you understand and that it’s unfair he has to live through this but that you’re working on making it right and that you’ll be there for him even if he says all those horrible things. Don’t contradict him, don’t engage.
I call Thierry. He answers my call (why does he have his phone with him? Big NO NO) as if nothing is happening. We hang up. Ada lets me know he’s calmed down. I tell her to prepare sleeping pills for him on the plane. He won’t refuse them.
After Thierry insults his family, people on the train, people on the taxi queue, the taxi driver, the airline ticket counter personnel, people at the airport, they get on the plane from Paris to Mexico City. Thierry smokes 4 cigarettes on the plane. Airplanes, and this is new information for all of us, have smoke detectors that signal the closest control tower on land. The control tower instructs the plane to land at JFK. Ada and Gabriel plead with the airline staff explaining Thierry’s situation, that he’s on his way to get treated for drugs and that he’s going through withdrawals. The control tower allows the plane to go on its way. The staff changes attitude from confrontational and angry, to friendly and understanding. Thierry’s attitude also shifts. They all become friendly.
They land in Mexico City and connect to Tijuana with almost no incidents. I’m waiting at the airport. Thierry exits the arrivals terminal. He’s tall, very thin. I can barely see his chiseled face under the cotton wrap covering his head and neck (visualize a mid-twentieth century female movie star driving a convertible in Malibu). He hugs me tightly, warmly, and cries. I tell him he’s in a good place, that he made the right decision and that this is the beginning of the end of his suffering.
He wants to smoke a cigarette. His parents are getting the luggage. I step outside the terminal with him. He takes off his shoes and walks around barefoot on the pavement. He explains it’s way too warm for shoes. He takes off his headscarf. His hair is blonder than I remember. He sees my confused look. He explains he bleached it for rehab.
Ada and Gabriel come out carrying 5 bags. The image I had of them is of two strong, thoughtful, calm persons. They look downtrodden now, demolished. Unsure, eyes red and drooping. I help them with the bags. The luggage is incredibly heavy.
- Gabriel: He brought a lot of books and a few clothes
Maybe I hadn’t explained myself clearly.
- Gabriel continues: We know… but he wouldn’t get in the car without them
- Me: No problem. Thierry, you know we’re sending these back or tossing them, right?
- Yeah ok
We drive to the clinic and take care of Thierry’s intake. He’s angry, arrogant but willing to do everything we tell him. He gives us his earring, bracelets and necklace. He throws his scarf at his mother. As we’re walking out of the intake office (I’m taking Thierry down to detox 1), he tells Ada and Gabriel he doesn’t want to see them for 10 years. Ada and Thierry, whose eyes had been tearing up, break into sobs.
I take Thierry away before he can do more damage. He sits on his bed, not after thanking me but demanding a private room. Oh.. the surprises that await you!, I think. I let him know there aren’t any such rooms in the clinic, that I told him so many times on the phone, that it’s normal not to remember given the state he’s in, but to please trust me and be patient.
Moises walks in. He’s a burly man with dark brown skin and severe features. He’s the guard. He introduces himself to Thierry and asks him to undress (Thierry speaks Spanish as well as English and his native French). Thierry looks at me with pleading eyes. I tell him it’s necessary. He complies. His body is all skin and bones, all the flesh has melted from years of drug use. He squats three times. Nothing to declare. Moises leaves. Thierry lies down on his bed, closes his eyes. I leave him in peace.
I return to Ada and Gabriel who want to go rest at the hotel. I send them on their way.
© Rafael E. Fajer Camus
Rafael E. Fajer Camus is a Mexican born writer, educated at NYU and Naropa. He has traveled extensively and has lived in Mexico City, Paris, and NYC. He’s been through a few rehab treatments in the US and Mexico. He’s also spent time in psychiatric treatment centers. He’s now aware that he’s not a cyborg destined to settle humans on Mars and is working on his first book, Notes from the Bordeline, from which this excerpt is taken. He enjoys reading the word flabbergasted.