Zac turned his head away from me and pulled something out of his front pocket. When he turned back around he was holding a lit cigarette between his fingers. He blew smoke out of the corner of his mouth.
“Zac, I thought you hadn’t lit up since you were 18?” I questioned him.
“I haven’t,” he said flicking the ashes into the ash tray on the table. He took a long drag out of the cigarette. “I thought I kicked the habit after those three years of chain smoking but the other day I found myself in the drug store asking for a pack of Camels.”
“Are you addicted?”
For some reason Zac started laughing. “Sorry!” He apologized. He tried to catch his breath. “Taylor, for three years I was addicted to nicotine. For four years I was a closet alcoholic. I went through the steps and I passed. One pack isn’t going to hurt me.”
I sighed. “Whatever. It’s your body.”
“I’m trying not to get it in your face, family man,” he said. “It’s the stress of the wedding,” he explained. “Once I’m on my honeymoon the only time I’ll be smoking is... well you know.”
We laughed. “You hope!” I accused.
“I know,” he said seriously.
I shook my head and chuckled. “Couldn’t wait huh?”
He pushed the remaining end of his cigarette down in the ash tray. “Taylor, Taylor, Taylor... I haven’t been able to wait since I was 16 years old.” I stared at him. “What?” He asked. He wiped his mouth. “Do I have something in my teeth?”
“Who was it?” I asked.
Zac shrugged. “Some girl in Jenks I think.”
“You don’t know?”
“Nah!” Zac shook his head. “I don’t think you remember what was going on back then. How could you? Your head was always up in the clouds! You and Isaac both; always together, always with your loves when you weren’t with each other, never paying attention to anything else going on except the music.”
“What-” I stuttered, “I don’t think you can say- Zac, what are you talking about?”
“Don’t you see, Taylor?” Zac pushed. “While you and Isaac were out with your girlfriends, I was out at parties with my friends, getting drunk, getting high... getting laid.” He took out another cigarette and lit it up right in front of me. “Taylor, you and Isaac didn’t see my downward spiral. Come to think of it, no one did.” He flicked the ashes. “Taylor, remember those times we’d practice and I would be off, or I would mess up every two seconds?” I nodded. “You want to know why I did that?” I shook my head. I didn’t want to hear about what I had missed when we were kids, I was uncomfortable talking to Zac this way. “I’m telling you anyway: it’s because I was drunk, Taylor.” He leaned closer to me. “You weren’t around to witness my rehab or.. or... my 12 step programs.” He was getting red in the face. “We were a band but we weren’t friends. You and Ike were friends, I was just excess baggage.”
“Taylor, please. Let me finish. I have to get this off my chest.” He took a drag from his cigarette and let the smoke out slowly. “I was depressed a lot so most of the time I’d either smoke up or drink in my room each morning, afternoon, and evening. Here’s one fact I bet you didn’t know,” he put out his cigarette and watched it burn out as he spoke, “I mixed vodka and aspirin once... and I’m not talking two aspirins and a shot of Vodka, Jordan. I’m talking a bottle of aspirin and a bottle of Vodka. I remembering sitting on the floor of my room thinking about my life and how you guys had left or were leaving, and how I wanted to be more than a band member, I wanted to be a friend. Don’t get conceded thinking I only thought about you and Ike, because I didn’t. I thought about what all my fame had done to me: I was able to get beer and everything at the age of 14, I was able to get laid at parties, I was able to purchase the best drugs from the best people... I also thought about how horrible all that stuff was. I did it just because I was able to and I hated it. Deep down inside I hated the alcohol, I hated the cocaine, the weed, and the hash, and I hated the cigarettes. That’s when I realized I didn’t want to live that life anymore, I wanted to straighten up.”
I swallowed hard and made eye contact with him once again.
“When I tried to stand up that night after taking the pills, I couldn’t. I screamed, and screamed, and screamed until finally Mom and Dad came up to my bedroom to tell me to knock it off. I kept screaming so Dad knocked down the door. They found me throwing up all over the place with the two bottles on the floor in front of me. They knew what had happened and saved my life in the nick of time. I was rushed to the hospital where I got my stomach pumped and the option of getting treatment. I opted for the treatment.”
Zac stopped speaking. “That, Taylor, is what happened while you and Ike were gone.”
“Wh-why are you telling me all this?” I asked him. “When did our ‘Brother-Lunch’ turn into a ‘Massacre-Taylor’ thing?”
My little brother shook his head. “I’m sorry you feel like I’m massacring you because I’m just stating the truth. I think I have two reasons behind this story. One is that now you will understand the bond that Mackenzie and I have. Ask him to tell you about how he sobered up one day. I don’t know what you have heard about him, but if you ask him to tell you about it, he will. Let’s just say our stories are very similar but I was able to get through to him before he tried to kill himself how I did. The second reason is that now I have Nicole. She is the one woman in my life who, when she heard the story, didn’t leave me. She understands me and I understand her. We’ve been together for so long now and it’s not all about the sex, as most of my previous... things that you can’t even begin to call relationships, especially when some have hookers involved... have been about for the past eight years. We’re in love, Taylor, for the first time in my life I’m in honest, true love. Can you believe it?” He smiled ear to ear. “I’m getting married!” He was starting to shout. “I’m in love with Nicole!” His eyes narrowed. “What are you doing?” He asked me.
I uncapped the bottle of pills I had just taken out of my pocket and poured two into my hand. “Taking medicine,” I replied swallowing the small white pills with a gulp of soda.
“For what?” He asked, his eyes showing confusion.
“For my heart, Zachary,” I replied recapping the bottle and sticking it in my pocket once again. I looked up at him, “for my heart.”