Killing Michael J. Fox by Fiona Helmsley

michaelstarIn 1996, my mother was engaged to be married. As an ingratiating gesture, her fiancĂ© offered to pay for me to go into drug treatment. The facility wasn’t a rehab in the traditional, 30- day medical setting sense; it was a historical retreat within the AA community, the type of place program aficionados might go to recharge their spiritual batteries. It was expensive, but was less costly than a thousands of dollars a month traditional facility. There was no detox there, so my family doctor wrote me a prescription for clonidine and a benzo, and the pills were dispensed to me my first week there by a nurse on staff. The place was quaint, out in the woods and rustic; there was a little chapel on the grounds and a garden where the patients could tend to plants and flowers. I was not interested in either spiritual matters or botanical ones, and as was the case with all my rehab experiences up to this point, I was the youngest person there. It was awkward being a drug addict in treatment at ages 17, 18, 19—I was still a kid, but was always placed with the adults, which just added to my sense of alienation. It was like being in treatment with your parents.

I became friendly with a woman named Marci. She often treated me with a snobby sense of superiority, but because my outward appearance drew attention, and she liked attention, she decided to be my friend so we could share in the attention together. Instead of competing with me for it, we would divide and conquer. She was in her forties and wore cocktails dresses all the time, even when we went for walks in the woods, then she would swap her heels for sneakers. She had three children, and would dictate her letters to them to me and I would write them out for her. She would then take the letter to the administrative facility and photocopy it; ergo, each kid got the same letter.

On a regular, casual basis, I used to wear ripped fishnet stockings with shorts and skirts. One day, I wore the fishnets to morning mediation and they caused a considerable stir amongst the patients and staff. I wasn’t told not to wear them, but it was obvious it was a matter that we would be revisiting later. After the group, Marci begged me to take them off the stockings, and let her wear them, which I did, just to stop her pleading. Later that afternoon, we were both taken aside by the staff and told to retire the fishnets. Marci relished claiming that she was the reason the stockings had been banned, and recapping the incident for new patients. She seemed to think it implied something about her dangerous sexiness, as the stockings hadn’t been banned until she put them on.

There was a large lodge on the grounds were they would hold AA meetings that were open to the public. Since the facility was storied in AA lore, people would come from far and wide and these meeting would be filled with hundreds of people. It was an exciting event for the patients. It was also the only time during the week we got to drink caffeinated coffee.

I grew up watching “Family Ties” and adored Michael J. Fox, whose real middle initial is the prescient “A”, making his real name Michael A. Fox. “Back to the Future,” “Teen Wolf,”— the precociously conservative Alex P. Keaton is still one of my favorite television characters. Fox has been candid in interviews about his struggles with alcoholism, and donates money to many different causes connected with helping people get sober, so I don’t feel I am “outing” him by writing this. I was outside the meeting lodge smoking a cigarette when he walked past me; I had to do a double take. I couldn’t believe it. I was in the same immediate airspace as Marty fucking McFly. As awed as I was by this, I knew an A.A meeting was not the place to approach him; after all, the second A in AA stands for Anonymous, and that dictate applies to celebrities, too. Marci appeared besides me dressed to the nines. I was literally so excited to see Michael J. Fox, I thought I might throw up.

“Michael J. Fox is here!” I whispered to her.

“What was he in again?” Marci asked. His name was familiar to her, but she couldn’t recall any of his acting work; nonetheless she was clearly intrigued that there was a celebrity in our midst.

“We have to sit near him,” she said, reading my mind. I figured this was ok, we could sit near him. What could be wrong with that? I wouldn’t point, stare, or ogle him, but I would be close enough to note what kind of sneakers he had on, and this seemed like an important thing for me to know.

We settled into our seats a few rows behind him. I was content to just stare at the back of his head.

Marci suddenly jumped up.

“I’m going to say something to him,” she said.

“No, don’t!” I said, grabbing at the back of her dress, but it was too late. She went up to his chair in the next row and tapped him on his shoulder. He turned around to face her and she pointed in my direction.

“Will you say something to this girl?” she said confidently. “She’s obsessed with you.”

I wanted to die. I literally wanted to crawl under my chair and have the earth open and suck me inside of it. I could feel my face turning bright red, and when I saw the look on his face, I felt that I deserved to meet a painful end, too.

I spoke over Marci.

“No, no, it’s ok! It’s ok! I’m so sorry!”

Michael J. Fox glanced over in my direction. Then he gave Marci a look of pure poison, and turned back around. He never said a word, because he is a great actor, he didn’t need to. With his face and body language, he had communicated exactly how he felt about us.

Since Michael J. Fox did not try to flirt with her and she couldn’t engage him, all that was left for Marci to do was come back to her seat and sit down. “I tried!” she said loudly, as if to reinforce that I’d put her up to it.

A few minutes later, the meeting began. At the start of the discussion part, Michael J. Fox got up and left. I felt horrible. I felt like the biggest, tackiest, doucheiest loser in the world. Later, when I got back to my room and told my roommate what had happened she just made me feel worse: What if Michael J. Fox had been thinking about drinking, she said, and because we had made him feel so uncomfortable that he’d left the meeting, he went on a bender on his way back home?

In essence she was saying to me, what if you just killed Michael J. Fox?

I hated Marci for what she had done. I never wanted to talk to her ever again.

Thankfully, the next week, a man named Tyler checked himself into the program and rescued me from her clutches. He had a lazy eye and wore Hootie and The Blowfish t-shirts. It took about a week and a half, but I fell in rehab love.

Love.

Try as they might, it’s the one drug no rehab can keep off their grounds.

 

 

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