we haven’t heard from M in two days. the last time I saw him was at the train station where he took a train for Bologna. he asked me for money, but I only had twenty euros so I couldn’t give him any. I knew he needed them to get dope once he got to Bologna. his mother has been talking on the phone with my sister who kept her informed on what he was up to. a few months ago his parents sent him to this rehabilitation center near Varese. it’s an hidden place on the mountains where they use the same method they used with vietnam reduces when they had to be reintegrated into society. it’s a long process, where they rebuilt your mental schemes and give you as many rules as possible to make everyday life bearable without addictions. but M didn’t make it and decided to leave. they put him in this room, with a chair in the middle, where he was supposed to think about it for a few hours before making a final decision. but he’d already made up his mind, so he took a train for milan and showed up at my place. he only had his backpack, with a jumper and an electric razor inside. he tried to shave his head in the train’s toilet and looked like a scabby dog. after a week at my place, mostly spent getting drunk and laying on the couch waiting for me, he decided to leave. you work all day and I’ve got nothing to do, he said. now he’s vanished, though, and his mother keeps calling in to check if he made any contact with us. I’m starting to think of the worst: that he ODed in some filthy toilet or in some remote corner of the train station where nobody can find him. all I can do is walk up and down my living room, unable to relax, nevertheless find peace, hoping, maybe, deep down, for something tragic to happen, that would set the right tone on this all story and finally put it to rest. until the phone rings: it’s him. the mother-fucker acts as if we talked five minutes ago, of course, and hasn’t even the slightest idea of how worried we were. he says that he loves me and I’m his good friend, which means he’s full of heroin to the bone. he says that once he got to bologna he visited his old flatmates to borrow money he then used to buy dope. he says that once the money were gone he met this american man who was so kind to him and bought him food and let him stay in his hotel room. he says that he feels good and he’s happy and that that’s the life he wants to lead. that when you have dope that’s all you have to think about. I immediately hang up on him, slamming the receiver so hard that it must have sounded as a fuck you on the other side. and it was. my mind goes straight to M fucking the guy in the hotel room. I think about the guy’s face in his intimate parts and I curse them both. I think about how unpleasant and ugly this american man must be and how M could end up like this: kept on heroin by some old rich bastard. I think about a year ago, in Naples, when we kissed on that landing and how it seemed the beginning of something. I think of how I hate my life right now. I think that having an addiction is much more dignified than working in a crappy office and that at least M was able to make a decision for his own life and dedicated it to heroin. I pick up the receiver again and dial N’s number. M is still in Bologna, I say. I know where you can pick him up.
I call N and ask him to pass me M on the phone. he’s taking him back to the rehabilitation centre. hearing his tone when he’s not high breaks my heart a little. I’m going back there, he says, it’s for the best. I swallow to avoid bursting into tears. I visualize the highway, full of sun, like California, and him, on the backseat, looking out the window. I see his long hair and his unironed t-shirt and his metal rings and leather bracelets and the muscles of his lean arms. I imagine the landscape, unfolding out the window, and always regenerating into something new. I know how difficult is for M to stay sober. I know that he would gladly smash his head against that window and inject into that uncatchable landscape the right quantity of blood. just enough to feel the pain. just enough to make its vision bearable. I crave M as much as he craves heroin, yes. and that’s making me want to crave heroin, yes. but the only thing I’m trying to get hooked on it’s actually him. ‘I can’t call you or write to you from there’, he says. ‘I know, I know’.