Aired on December 4, 2020
On Christmas Eve, following her relapse, an intoxicated Rue sits at a diner with Ali to reflect on her addiction. Rue admits that she willingly relapsed with little hesitation; Ali reminds her that addiction is a disease, and emphasizes the importance of committing to a cause greater than herself. Rue attempts to blame Jules for her relapse, but Ali points out that Rue had been saving the pills she ultimately used, suggesting that she was never serious about staying clean. He also notes that Rue never officially acknowledged her relationship with Jules. Rue eventually admits that she does not forgive herself for her treatment of her family (particularly her mother), and that she is suicidal. Ali argues that drugs fundamentally change a person; he reveals that he grew up with an abusive father for whom he harbored deep hatred, only to become violent with his own wife after developing a drug addiction, ultimately estranging his two daughters. Ali tells Rue that a refusal to forgive oneself for one’s mistakes is what prevents personal change, and that he has faith in her ability to improve.
(“All For Us” by Labrinth playing)
♪ Taking it all for us ♪
♪ Taking it all ♪
♪ Taking it all for us ♪
(truck brakes squeaking outside)
Oh, wait. Don’t kiss me. I just woke up.
No, it doesn’t matter. They’re good luck kisses.
(gasps) Oh, f*uck. Wait. My presentation.
Wait, what time is it?
You’re good. You’re good. You’re good. It’s eight.
I’m so f*ucking nervous.
You got it.
Mm, I can’t f*uck this up.
You’re gonna be…
You’re gonna be amazing.
Want me to walk you to school?
Mm, I think I wanna listen to music and clear my head, but I love you.
(chuckles softly) I love you, too.
(continues brushing teeth)
You know whatever happens today, I’m proud of you.
Can you believe it? (whispers): It’s everything we dreamed of.
Mm. I love you.
I love you.
(distant siren blaring)
(indistinct chatter outside)
(pills clatter on floor)
(“So Alone” by Labrinth playing)
♪ Felt so alone, nah-a-no ♪
♪ I never felt so alone ♪
♪ Felt so alone, nah-a-no ♪
Server: You had pancakes, right?
Look, Ali, I know you don’t believe me, but I’m, I’m doing really good, actually.
Is that so?
Yeah, for sure. I mean it, you know, could suddenly sh*t flip and get super dark? Yeah, you know. I mean it could, but… I feel like I’ve found this, like, amazing balance, where I’m like happy and healthy, and I’m not, like, looking to anybody else for that happiness, you know? F*uckin’ Jules. The way I was, like, putting way too much of my emotional well-being in her hands, you know, without ever, like, talking about it, or, or saying it. I… Especially the way I was f*uckin’… making plans for the rest of our life and sh*t. And I just… And I look back and I’m just like, why the f*uck did I do that? It’s f*uckin’ crazy. And weird. (scoffs) Eh, I don’t know. I guess I just, like, made her the point. But she’s, like, not the point. I’m the point, you know?
Hmmph. The point is your sobriety.
Yeah. Of course. Yeah. And, and like, my, my general overall well-being.
Which starts with your sobriety.
Yeah. Mm-hmm. And, like, finding an emotional balance, you know?
You just said you found an amazing balance.
I, I did. I have. I, I mean, but I’m not perfect, you know, so… I’m, I’m sane, though. Like, I’m sane. Saner. I’m making sane decisions.
Rue. You’re high.
(chuckles) I feel like you’re not listening to what I’m saying.
Rue, I don’t think you’re listening to what you’re saying.
I feel like that’s physically impossible.
To what? Talk some bullsh*t?
(Rue scoffs) Huh. You know, that’s what, like, I, I don’t understand about the world. ‘Cause, like, there is tons of people who, you know, drink and do drugs, and sometimes their life is good. And sometimes, life’s just bad, you know? It’s f*ucking life. There’s ups and downs to this sh*t, but, I mean, whether you believe me or not, I’m, like, I’m good.
Yeah, yeah, you said that.
Yeah, I mean, it’s not like I’m doing a bunch of sh*t. I’m just smoking a little bit of weed, and taking some pills that were prescribed to me.
My point is, it’s not gonna last.
Yeah, well, neither do my moods when I’m sober.
Okay, well, you know, I’m not saying you’re, um, a paragon of mental health. You’ve got your issues, and you’re gonna be struggling with those issues for the rest of your life. That’s a fact. The problem is, is that you look at sobriety as a weakness in the face of those issues, and what I’m saying is, sobriety is your greatest weapon.
Ali, can I tell you something?
Like, for real, if– If I say some dark sh*t, you’re not gonna report me to the state or something?
Uh, Rue, I’m not a guidance counselor. I’m just a crackhead who’s trying to do a little good on this Earth before I die.
Uh, you’re, you’re a trip, man.
What were you gonna say?
Ah. It doesn’t matter. It’s stupid.
All right, I’m sorry. Come on. What were you gonna say? Say it.
Nah. I don’t wanna–
Um… When I’m, uh, when I’m clean, you know, when I’m present, uh, like a part of this world, I don’t just think about relapsing. It’s, uh, it’s darker than that. And, uh, you can say that sobriety is my, uh, greatest weapon, but… To tell you the truth, drugs are probably the only reason
I haven’t killed myself.
Oh. Now we’re talkin’. Now you’re being real. Now you’re being honest. Because this whole bullsh*t about being a functioning drug addict, about finding balance, that ain’t true. That’s a lie.
It’s not a lie.
It’s a lie, whether you know it or not, but more importantly, I don’t give a f*uck to hear it.
(scoffs) Yeah, whatever, man.
Whatever, man. Listen, young blood. (laughs) I was shooting dope before your mama’s egg dropped. I’ve lived a whole motherf*uckin’ life to get to this diner to sit across from your arrogant ass, so don’t you ever “whatever” me. You’re 17. You don’t know sh*t. You think you’re hard? I’m harder. You think you’re tough? I’m tougher. You got clean and want to kill yourself? Same motherf*uckin’ story here. You want to know why? I’ll tell you why. ‘Cause you don’t know how to live life. You don’t have the tools. You’re too busy running around, trying to bullsh*t everybody into thinking you’re hard, and you don’t give a f*uck, when in reality, you give so much of a f*uck, you can’t even bear to be alive. So guess what? New rule. No more wasting my motherf*uckin’ time. You wanna use? Use. But the least you can do is be honest. Own that sh*t.
You feel me?
Why’d you relapse?
I don’t know. Couldn’t stop my mind from racing.
Racing about what?
Hey, hey. Get specific.
All the things I remember and all the things I wish I didn’t.
Okay. I get it. Why didn’t you call me?
(scoffs) Just… honestly, I wasn’t really trying not to relapse.
(Rue chuckles softly)
Yeah. Man. Okay. Where’d you get the drugs?
I had some pills for emergency purposes.
F*uck. So you never stood a chance.
Do you wanna get clean?
(exhales) I get it. I get it.
Is that f*ucked up?
What? That you don’t want to get clean? Yeah, yeah. Of course it’s f*ucked up.
Ah. I’m a piece of sh*t, huh?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re a piece of sh*t. You’re a piece of sh*t. All right, but, uh, here’s the silver lining. You’re not a drug addict because you’re a piece of sh*t. You’re a piece of sh*t because you’re a drug addict. You follow?
Mm, I don’t really…
Okay, all right. What I’m saying is, you didn’t come out of the womb an evil person. You, Rue, came out of the womb a beautiful baby girl, who unbeknownst to her, had a couple of wires crossed. So when you tried drugs for the first time, it, uh, set something off in your brain that’s beyond your control. And it isn’t a question of willpower. It’s not about how strong you are. You’ve been fighting a losing game since the first day you got high. So you can destroy your life, you can f*uck your little sister’s head up, you can abuse and torture and take for granted your mama, and sit here and look me in the eye, and say, as calm as can be, as cool as a cucumber, “Imma keep usin’ drugs.” Ha. That is the disease of addiction. It is a degenerative disease. It is incurable. It is deadly. And it’s no different than cancer. And you got it. Why? Mm. Luck of the draw. But, hey, but the hardest part of having the disease of addiction, aside from having the disease, is that no one in the world sees it as a disease. They see you as selfish. They see you as weak. They see you as cruel. They see you as, uh, destructive. They think, why should I give a f*uck about her if she doesn’t give a f*uck about herself or anybody else? Why does this girl deserve my time, my patience, my sympathy? Right? If she wants to kill herself, let her. All reasonable questions and responses. But luckily, you aren’t the only person on planet Earth who has this disease. There happens to be people like me, who understand that you aren’t all that bad.
Probably underneath all this busted-ass, chaotic energy, you might even be a good kid. Who knows? And that is why we are eating pancakes on Christmas Eve.
Despite the fact that you don’t want to get clean.
Rue: You have daughters, right?
Rue: Where are they?
Different places, celebrating with their families.
Mm. You see them often?
(chuckles wryly) I’ve never declined an invitation.
Wait, but haven’t you been, like, clean for 20 years?
Nah, nah. I was clean for seven years.
Yeah, well, I had 12 years before that, but you know, I got cocky. Started to walk around thinking I was invincible. So, now I got seven years.
Wait, how do you… How do you relapse after 12 years?
You forget how bad it is.
Damn. How, how long did you relapse for?
A… year and a half.
Yeah, f*uck. Yeah. Right.
Oh, sh*t. Damn. I thought, I thought you were gonna say, like, a day or something.
Nah, nah. Once you get back in that cycle, you know, using and abusing, it’s inescapable. Especially if you’ve been clean for 12 years. That’s when the disease starts talking. “Twelve years, Martin, and you ain’t never getting that far again.” Aah.
Martin is me.
Your name is Martin?
Well, it used to be.
Before I converted.
Ali, I’m super f*ucking confused right now.
What am I, your first Black friend?
What’d you think, I was actually from the Middle East?
I’m from south Philly.
Yeah, but you, you just don’t, you don’t look like a Martin. You don’t.
I didn’t think so, either.
Do women ever convert to Islam?
Mm. You know, it’s interesting, ’cause, like… It’s kind of what I struggle with.
What do you mean?
The NA sh*t. Step one, I, I, I’m cool with. Like, you know, I, I can, I can agree, you know, I’m powerless over drugs, and my life is unmanageable. That’s not, like, f*ucking inconceivable.
But, um… It’s step two. “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” That one, I just, I, uh… (inhales) I have some trouble with.
Oh, oh, okay. All right, all right, I see. Now I get it. (laughs) You don’t believe there’s a power on Earth greater than Rue.
(scoffs) That’s not true.
It’s not true. I think there’s tons of sh*t that is of greater power than me.
A Mack truck.
Uh, the ocean.
(laughs) Sh*t. I would say any song by Otis Redding is of greater power than me.
That doesn’t make any sense.
It does. Yeah, it does. It does.
The… The impact that “Try a Little Tenderness” had on the world is, is more than I, I could ever do.
It’s more than probably any of us will ever f*ucking do.
All right, all right, all right. Little smart ass. Okay, that’s not gonna cut it.
(scoffs) Ali, I don’t believe in God.
Guess what? God doesn’t give a f*uck if you believe in him. He believes in you.
I don’t know. That, that, that sounds good, but it, it doesn’t really mean anything.
Of course it means something. If God didn’t believe in you, you wouldn’t even still be breathing.
So, you’re saying the reason my dad died is because God didn’t believe in him?
Rue, uh, that’s not what I was saying–
There’s nothing that makes me angrier than that f*ucking argument.
Hey, that’s, that’s not what I was saying–
You know, ’cause every time someone survives, like, a mass shooting or some terrible f*ucking earthquake, they always say, you know, “I survived for a reason. God saved me for a reason. I have a purpose.” (scoffs) And then I think to myself, like, okay, well, what you’re saying is that your life is more important than that six-year-old who died that day, or the newborn who died that day, or anybody f*ucking else who died that day. Your life has a purpose, right? Well, why does your life have a purpose, and my dad’s doesn’t? Because I could argue that my dad’s purpose was to raise me and my sister. To be there for my mom. That was his purpose, I think. But, you know. He’s dead.
Ali, if you’re, if you’re about to tell me that he died for a reason, or you know, whatever, I will literally walk the f*uck out.
I, I wasn’t.
He didn’t die to teach us a lesson. Okay? He didn’t die to, you know, have us all come together, or whatever the f*uck people tell people when they don’t have anything to say. He died because he died. That’s it. Same stupid reason I came out of the womb with a couple wires crossed. Right? Just f*ucking luck. You said it. That’s it.
Listen, um… I don’t know all the answers. And I’m not gonna pretend to. But I do know that at any given point that we’re unable to see and comprehend the overall arc of human life. No person can see it. The whole chain reaction of how things come to be from beginning to end. It’s a mystery, and will always remain a mystery. How, um, six-year-old Malcolm Little’s daddy was killed in a streetcar accident. Rumor was it that the Black Legion did it. The KKK. How that little boy grew up believing that this white world had no place for a Black man like him, so f*uck it. He moves to Harlem, becomes a pimp. Becomes an addict. Starts robbing and stealing, till he gets locked up. Who discovers Islam. Who starts a movement. Who scares the living sh*t out of white America so bad that white America was so afraid that they embraced another Negro, one who had a dream, not to cut the head off the snake, even if that’s what they deserved, but to live in harmony. Next thing you know, Civil Rights Act. The first legislative steps granting you and I the right to sit in this motherf*uckin’ diner to have a conversation about whether or not you wanna stay clean from drugs. Drugs that were given to your ancestors to keep them inebriated, inoculated, enslaved. Drugs that stripped them of their ability to not just be free, but to imagine a world in which they were free. So, why is one person’s purpose greater than another’s? Why are some people struck down while others live? Why are you, Rue Bennett, sitting here when other 17-year-olds, 17-year-olds who are better, who are kinder, who are more respectful than you, aren’t sitting here, I don’t know. That’s the mystery. But here we are. So what now?
I don’t know. Maybe I’ll… (exhales) start a revolution like Malcolm X or something.
But haven’t you heard, man, revolutions are no longer radical.
What are you talking about?
There’s so many revolutions that everybody’s a revolutionary. The rich. The poor. The right. The left. The young. The old. The beggars. The bankers. Man… is it beautiful. Huh? Everyone all at once, fighting one revolution after another. I tell ya, I never thought I’d see so many revolutions in my entire life. (laughs) The, the revolutions are fought and won so damn fast that the people don’t even have time to implement change, because have you heard? Huh? There’s a new revolution. I went down to, um, buy me a new pair of kicks at the Nike store the other day. And I look up on the wall, and I see in 20-foot letters, these words, “Our people matter.” And I thought, man, this feels good. Here I am, and my favorite shoe store’s out here saying, “I know you lived a long life. And I know that life ain’t always been easy, but here you are, at 54 years old, my brother, and I want to say I love you.” And I’m like, man. This feels good. And I’m like, thank you, Nike.
And then I pick up a pair of these sneakers and I look at the price tag, and it says $139.99. And I’m, like, I thought Nike loved me. Appreciated me and my life. What happened here?
And I look around the store, and I see a whole bunch of Black people, you know, also feeling good. And I see a whole bunch of white people, too. Also feeling good. Some even, you know, posing. And taking, uh, pictures with the 20-foot letters on the wall.
(laughs) And, uh… Sh*t. Yeah. Yeah. Straight up. I just had this feeling, and I thought, f*uck you, Nike. You don’t give a f*uck about anything or anyone. Chinese Muslims are sewing these Kaepernick sneakers for seven cents an hour, and you’re tellin’ me my Black ass matters. Give me a f*ucking break. If rap music wasn’t mainstream, if Nirvana was still the most popular band in America, they’d be out here saying, “Depression Matters,” because that’s what would move sneakers. Sh*t. These advertisers. They’re too good. Uh-huh. (laughs) And they’ve outsmarted us. But at the same time, your generation’s full of some mark-ass b!tches, because they’ve tapped into your phones. Yeah, yeah. They’ve read your likes. They’ve predicted your moves, and trapped yo’ asses. You think you out here fighting a revolution, and Bank of America’s on your side? Give me a f*ucking break. Because a true revolution has no allies. It’s just that simple. Because a true revolution, not a fast one, not a quick one, not a fashionable one, but a real f*ucking revolution, is at its core, spiritual. It is a complete decimation of one’s priorities, beliefs, and way of living. And reconstruction in the spirit of, uh… You have to create a new God. Or gods. Or whatever you can. But it is imperative that you believe in something. Something greater than yourself. All right? And it can’t be the ocean, or your favorite song. And it can’t be the movement, or the people, or the words. You’ve got to believe in the poetry. Because everything else in your life will fail you. Including yourself.
(knocks once on table)
You hear me? That’s where you are. You’re sick. Your whole system’s on the verge of collapse. And the addict in you is trying to sell you on the same sh*t that got you sick in the first place. And if you keep going the way you’re going, you’ll rot from the inside until you cave in and die. Your only hope is a revolution. But a real f*uckin’ revolution, inside and out. But you gotta see it through. You can’t half-ass this sh*t. You just have to commit to it, every single day. And know that you can always do it better. And be better. Because who knows? Um… one day, you might succeed. (sighs) I don’t underestimate anyone. Uh… Stranger things have happened. Be right back. All right?
(“Me in 20 Years” by Moses Sumney playing)
♪ Hey, after all these years ♪
♪ I’m still here ♪
♪ Fingers outstretched ♪
♪ With your imprint in my bed ♪
♪ A pit so big ♪
♪ I lay on the edge ♪
♪ Will love let me down ♪
♪ Again, Oh, no ♪
Oh, hey, hey! Aah. I didn’t know you were gonna pick up. I-I thought I was gonna get your voicemail. Uh… heh. Nah, nah. I’m not… Not trying to guilt trip you. It’s just… (sighs) It’s Christmas. Merry Christmas.
♪ I wonder how I’ll sleep at night ♪
♪ With a cavity by my side ♪
♪ And nothing left to hold but pride ♪
♪ Will I ♪
Ali: Your sister there?
♪ Hold out for more time ♪
Ali: Oh, that’s good. That’s good.
♪ Hey, me in 20 years ♪
Tell her I, uh, tell her Merry Christmas for me. And tell her I, I love her. And I miss her very much. No. Nah. I’m not trying to talk to her through you, Imani. That’s not what I was try–
♪ …them mirrors ♪
♪ Of sentimental veneer ♪
♪ I wonder how I’ll sleep at night ♪
Ali: I’m doing good. I’m… I just came from my meeting. Now I’m standing in the parking lot. Ha. Nah, nah, nah. I’m just getting pancakes with a kid I sponsor.
♪ Hold out a little bit more ♪
♪ A little bit more, just a little bit more ♪
Ali: Hey, hey. Hey! Who’s this? Rashad? (laughs) “Who’s this?” It’s Poppo. Poppo Ali. Wait, wait, wait. Say it again. Oh, yeah, little man! (laughs) Oh, oh, hey. Oh, wow. Oh, wow. Hey. What a voice he has on him. Right? (laughs) Wait. How tall is he by now? Is he– What… yeah. Oh, yeah– Nah. Oh, yeah. No, I, I, I understand. It’s not a problem. Oh, wow.
♪ Is it laced within my DNA ♪
♪ To be braced in endless January ♪
♪ Have I become the cavity I feared? ♪
Ali: I, I’m all right. I, I just feel like I’m in a… One of them old movies. “It’s a Wonderful Life.” (softly) It’s a wonderful life. Merry Christmas, Imani. (exhales)
♪ Ask me in 20 years ♪
Ali, what am I supposed to do about Jules?
(grunts) Miss Marsha? Question.
How long you been clean?
Seventeen years, by the grace of God. Seventeen years. Never thought I’d be able to say that. But I say it with a lot of pride. Seventeen years. Why?
What would happen if, uh, you thought about dating in the early stages of you trying to get clean?
You want to know if I was interested in dating, or if I was interested in getting clean? ‘Cause the answer is “yes” to both of those questions. But… I had to not be in a relationship, so that I could focus on my sobriety. Because that’s what I wanted, and I didn’t have enough energy for both of those. And I wanted to get clean. Everything that’s good to you ain’t always good for you.
Ali: What do you have to say to somebody who doesn’t have a whole lot of hope?
When I was a little girl growing up, my grandma used to always have this saying, and I never understood what it meant… until I was ready to get clean. And her words were, “Baby, trouble don’t last always.” And it doesn’t, if you want to make a change. That’s up to you. You got any more questions for me while I’m trying to count my tips?
Ali: Nah, count ’em. Imma throw a couple more in there later.
Miss Marsha: You need to, with your cheap ass.
(Rue chuckles softly)
Ali: That’s the truth, right there.
(sighs) You know… It’s funny, when I think about it. I still blame Jules for all this sh*t.
‘Cause… I was clean. And I was, like, gonna stay clean. And for the most part, I was pretty happy, so… And f*uckin’ Jules–
Ali: Wait, wait. You were gonna stay clean?
With pills in your room?
I wasn’t taking them.
You were saving them.
Even though you just said you were gonna stay clean.
And that relapsing was Jules’ fault.
Ali, you don’t know what she did to me.
You’re right. I don’t.
She cheated on me. When I was sober, she literally cheated on me.
I didn’t know that.
So, you were in a relationship.
I thought you two were just friends.
Huh. When did it shift?
Uh, the night of the carnival, she came over, and we, like, kissed a whole bunch.
Okay, but when did it become a relationship?
I just told you. That night.
It became a relationship that night.
So it wasn’t just kissing. You two talked about being together.
What? That’s so weird.
Why would we talk about it?
Because that’s how people get into relationships, Rue. They talk about it.
I mean, we said “I love you.” A lot.
I say “I love you” to my barber.
Okay, yeah, but you don’t make out with your barber.
Even if I did, my barber might assume it was just a casual thing.
We talked about getting matching tattoos on the inside of our lips.
Damn. Did you?
No, but we, we talked about it.
Okay. (laughs) Keep going.
I mean, there’s nothing else to say, you know? Except that I loved her. I trusted her. And when I look back at it, you know, just, it’s like she lied to me. (chuckles) And, uh, manipulated me.
Like the whole thing at the train station. Her trying to get me to run away with her, even though I was, um, scared, and… didn’t have my medication… Just kind of f*ucked up, and selfish. I didn’t think she was actually gonna go. You know, like, leave me. It just kind of set something off in my head, you know? Thinking about my whole life, how… people make all these f*ucking promises. My mom kissing me on the forehead, and… telling me my dad’s gonna be all right. And Jules talking about how we’re gonna live together when she goes off to college and sleep in the same bed, and be together forever. And then she ditches me. ‘Cause she met another girl. Just… made me think about how everyone lies. It’s not even the lies that hurt, you know? It’s the fact that you’re never really emotionally prepared for someone to leave you. Just kind of messed up. And it just started, like, this avalanche of sh*t, about maybe I deserve it. Maybe this is the universe’s punishment for me being a piece of sh*t my entire life. Stealing from my mom. Hitting her in the face. (exhales) That’s what I’ve done, Ali. I have, I have hit my mom in the face. I picked up a piece of glass, and I pointed it at my mom and I threatened to kill her. (scoffs) That is some unforgivable sh*t. Maybe I deserve to get my ass left at a train station at 1:00 a.m., you know?
Drugs change who you are as a person.
Every time I attacked my mom, I wasn’t high.
Drugs change who you are as a person.
(whispers): It’s still unforgivable.
Nah. It’s not.
If I actually believe that what you did was unforgivable, I wouldn’t be sitting here, because what I’ve done in my life, is way more unforgivable.
(chuckles) Yeah, right. No.
Ah. I said it before. I’ll say it again. You’re playing pool with Minnesota Fats. Maybe if I was some random-ass classmate of yours with no life experience, and I heard that you picked up a piece of glass and threatened your mom, I’d be like, “Ooh, that’s unforgivable.” But the more you believe that, the sicker it makes you, because every time you do something unforgivable, you think, “Why change? I’m just a piece of sh*t. I better keep going. What’s the difference now?” Without realizing that forgiveness is the key to change. We’re too busy running around judging everybody’s intentions and motivations as if we have some insight into the human soul. You know, “You did this, so that must mean you’re that.” Just give me a break.
Ali, I picked up a piece of glass. I pointed it at my mom. And I told her I was gonna kill her.
That’s f*ucking terrible.
But what’s it mean?
Means that I’m a piece of sh*t.
Nah. You’re not. Look deeper.
Ali, that sounds like a tag line for a dumb f*ucking movie.
So just because it doesn’t sound cool enough to you, you’re gonna settle for being superficial? That’s unforgivable. Look deeper. What’s it mean?
That I’m violent to someone I love.
Okay, okay. Why?
Because that’s who I am.
I don’t know what that means.
It means that I’m okay with that.
That’s what it says.
But are you okay with that?
So, it’s not who you are.
Yeah, well, I still did it.
But why are you not okay with it?
Because it’s a terrible f*ucking thing to do.
Because it’s sh*tty. It’s cruel, and it’s mean, and my mom doesn’t deserve that.
Those are all things you believe.
And your beliefs are part of who you are.
Yes, of course.
So what you’re saying is, is that you can simultaneously do something that you also believe is wrong.
(sighs) Well, doesn’t you doing it mean more than your intentions?
It all depends. Why are you ignoring all the things you believe?
‘Cause I wasn’t thinking.
Okay, but that could just be the struggle of all human beings.
Living up to their belief system.
Not all human beings threaten to kill their mom.
True. Yours is more extreme. I’ll give you that. But why?
Why is it more extreme?
I don’t know. ‘Cause of, like, drugs, and… certain emotional disorders.
You sure it’s that, and not just because you’re a terrible person?
I mean, ’cause it could just be because you’re a piece of sh*t.
No, it’s not that.
I mean, ’cause there’s a lot of people with drug issues and emotional issues that don’t threaten to kill their mothers.
Yeah, no. I know.
But you did. And your punishment, the sentence you’re giving yourself is that you, Rue Bennett, are beyond forgiveness. That punishment is way too harsh, and it’s also way too easy. It allows you to keep doing exactly what you’re doing without changing, because you deserve it. There’s no hope. You’re beyond forgiveness. So you may as well just f*uck the f*uck off forever and go down the gutter because that’s what this girl, this piece of sh*t, deserves. This is why the world keeps getting worse. People keep doing sh*t that we deem unforgivable, and in return, they decide there’s no reason to change. So now you got a whole bunch of people running around who don’t give a f*uck about redemption. That’s scary.
Ali, what have you done that’s so terrible?
But what? For real.
You’re not just saying that?
Why do you want to know?
Because I think you’re, like, a good person. And I just couldn’t imagine you, like, doing something terrible.
I grew up in a house where my dad used to beat on my mama. He was a drunken, cold son of a b!tch. And every night, I lay in bed dreaming of every which way to kill him. (clicks tongue) But eventually, my mama up and left him and took me and my sister with her, and life goes on. But I always said to myself that no matter how bad sh*t got, whether I was shooting dope or smoking crack, I would never, ever be like my dad. And then I, I got married. I had two girls. It was chaos. I was using, and my wife wasn’t having it. We were fighting every night. And it got physical. And, uh, one night I looked over and I see my two little girls watching. And I thought, here I am, a grown man with two girls, and they just watched me hit their mom in the face. I spent 30 years of my life… thinking of how to kill my dad for doing the same sh*t I just did to their mom. That’s rock bottom. It doesn’t get any worse than that. But, hey, it took me another five years to clean up, because for some people, there is no rock bottom. It’s bottomless. And the truth is, drugs will fundamentally change who you are as a human being. Every moral. Every principle. Everything you hold close to your heart, and believe in, will go out the window or down the drain. ‘Cause there’s no force stronger on planet Earth than that next fix.
Now, you may be functioning. Maybe things go well. Maybe they last. And maybe they don’t. But the one thing I know is true is that the longer you do drugs, the more you’re gonna lose. And not just in terms of the things you love, but the things you value about yourself. And every compromise you make, every moral line that you cross, you’ll go further and further, until you don’t recognize who the f*uck you are. And that list of racing thoughts, that list of unforgivable things, it grows longer. And gets uglier. You still think I’m a good person?
The thought of maybe being a good person is what keeps me trying to be a good person. Although, some people might disagree with you. My youngest daughter, for one.
What’s her name?
I just don’t really plan on being here that long. And that’s, um… That’s the tough part about all this, you know? ‘Cause, I, I, I love talking to you. I do. And I agree with, um, almost everything you’re saying. And I understand it. But, um… I just don’t plan on being here that long.
I get it. We’re living in dark times. Huh. Not a lot of hope out there. (scoffs) The thing I miss about doing drugs… is the beauty. No matter what’s going on in the world, no matter what’s going on in your life, everything is gonna be okay.
Yeah. The world’s just really f*uckin’ ugly, you know? It’s really f*uckin’ ugly, and, um… Everybody seems to be okay with it, you know? The anger. The level of anger. Everyone’s just out to make everyone else not seem human. And I don’t really want to be a part of it. I don’t even want to witness it. Sure, it’s not, like, the root of all my problems, but I definitely think about it. A lot.
Because thinking about those questions, those ideas, they’re a large part of, uh… what makes this life worth living. Right? That’s what I was talking about earlier. You gotta believe in the poetry. The value of two people sitting in a diner on Christmas Eve, talking about life, addiction, loss. You don’t want to be a part of it, Rue, because… you care about the big things in life.
I don’t know if I care about the big things in life.
Come on now, of course you do because you obviously don’t care about the small things, like being right, or being angry. All the things that kill curiosity and keeps us from… keeps us all from looking deeper. You said it earlier. I love talking to you. Because we talk about the real sh*t. Sh*t that matters. Like, who do you want to be when you leave this Earth?
I’m not really sure I follow.
You said you weren’t gonna be here much longer. Okay. Then? How do you want your mom and sister to remember you?
(clicks tongue) (sniffles) As someone who tried really hard to be someone I couldn’t. (sniffles)
I got faith in you.
(exhales sharply, sniffles) Why?
I don’t know. I just do. Granted, I was a Christian before I became a Muslim, so, I’ve been wrong before.
(laughs) Thanks. (laughs)
(“Ave Maria” playing)
♪ Ave ♪
♪ Maria ♪
♪ Gratia plena ♪
♪ Maria ♪
♪ Gratia plena ♪
♪ Maria, gratia plena ♪
♪ Ave, ave Dominus ♪
♪ Dominus tecum ♪
♪ Benedicta ♪
♪ Tu in mulieribus ♪
♪ Et benedictus ♪
♪ Fructus ventris ♪
♪ Ventris tui, Jesus ♪
♪ Ave ♪
♪ Maria ♪
♪ Benedicta ♪
♪ Tu in mulieribus ♪
♪ Et benedictus ♪
♪ Fructus ventris ♪
♪ Ventris tui, Jesus ♪
♪ Ave ♪
♪ Maria ♪
(song crescendos, ends)
(windshield wipers clack)
(“All for Us” by Labrinth playing)
♪ Too much in my system ♪
♪ Money M.I.A. ♪
♪ Mama making ends meet ♪
♪ Working like a slave ♪
♪ Daddy ain’t at home, no ♪
♪ Gotta be a man ♪
♪ Do it for my homegrowns ♪
♪ Do it for my fam ♪
♪ Ay, oh, oh, oh, oh ♪
♪ Just for your love, yeah, I’ll, oh, oh, oh, oh ♪
♪ Give you the world, oh, oh, oh, oh ♪
♪ Mona Lisa’s smile, Oh, oh, oh ♪
♪ Hey, Oh, oh, oh, oh ♪
♪ Hell, I’ll do twenty-five to life ♪
♪ If it makes me your king ♪
♪ Oh, oh, oh, oh ♪
♪ A star in your eyes, oh, oh ♪
♪ Oh, oh ♪
♪ Oh, doing it all for love ♪
♪ Doing it all ♪
♪ Doing it all for love ♪