my friend phil calls me early one morning to ask me how you can tell if you've overdosed. he sounds like shit so i tell him that if he has to ask, he should probably go to a hospital.
"what did you do?" i ask.
"an eight ball. by myself."
a pause, then
"yeah, definitely go to the hospital."
another long pause. i know he doesn't want to deal with the hospital; the hospital means medical bills, it means his parents getting involved, and most importantly it means getting up and calling a cab, up for which he is definitely not at this time.
"phil?" just checking to make sure he's still with me.
"ugh, god, i don't know... i feel so shitty. what do you think i should do?"
and that's how i started making phil's decisions for him.
he was, thank goodness, fine. he did indeed go to the hospital, where he spent a day and a night of which he has basically no memory. i saw him a couple days later and we spent a great day wandering new york city trying to get free food. that was the same day we ended up sitting on a bench in a dog park in chelsea, next to idina menzel and taye diggs. but i digress.
phil is an actor and a singer. he's also a student, and a pothead, and not to sound sappy, but one of the kindest souls i've ever met. it's easy to miss, buried as it is under all of his bad habits, but i don't think the guy has a malevolent bone in his body.
i remember one time when we were at the arts academy we both attended throughout high school. class was out, but phil and myself and a handful of other kids were in the academy's yearly opera, and we had gone up the street to grab some food before rehearsal. we were all hanging out outside the theater when this older woman came up to us. the academy is sort of in the inner city and we were used to having an eye out for crazies, and this lady definitely fit the bill; dirty clothes, unstable expression. she asked us, half-pleading, if anyone had a dollar - she said she was lost, didn't have enough for the bus, wasn't sure which bus to take even if she had... she seemed on the edge of a breakdown. ourselves being little sheltered high school kids, we mostly looked away and muttered awkward excuses; except for phil.
"hang on one second," he said to her. "wait right there."
i watched as he went inside and quickly took up a collection. he returned with a few dollars, enough for the bus, and a teacher who was able to give the lady directions. she was so, so grateful and so obviously, incredibly relieved that someone had helped her. phil just told her not to worry about it and made sure she was okay before heading in to rehearsal. i think the rest of us, deservedly, all felt like assholes.
phil and i were friends at the academy, but we didn't really get close until a couple years after graduation. we both moved to new york city right away, but even then we rarely hung out; in fact, we'd seen each other maybe once or twice between high school and the OD incident. after that he kind of fell off the planet for a while and he told me later that he'd dropped everything and gone to florida without notice. and then one night, while i was living upstate, i called him from the bus on the way to the port authority, and he picked up. he was back in new york city and we had a lot of catching up to do.
after that visit, we started calling each other whenever we were bored. i came to hang out with him when i could, but usually he was a voice over the phone, talking about drugs and auditions and his dickish roommate. a lot of the time he was stoned, talking to me as he roamed the upper east side in search of food, and he could never decide what to get. it became a running gag that he always wanted me to decide for him. "ugh, i don't know... what do you think i should do?" and he'd just keep asking until i told him to get chinese, or mcdonalds, or subway. always something fast and cheap.
i don't really know where i'm going with this. i guess it's just a tribute to phil. i haven't even scratched the surface of half of the crazy shit he's been through, of course, but believe me when i say that the dude has lived. he's very talented and someday he'll get the fame and fortune he deserves, but when i think of him my first thought will always be of a groggy voice through a phone - "ugh, i don't know... what do you think i should do?"