Aaron and Morgan met in rehab sometime in 2007, a few days after Morgan had been released from Bellevue. He was 26, and she was 22. He had a girlfriend, but that didn’t matter to her. “On the day we met,” Greene says, “she said, ‘I’m going to marry that man and have kids with him.’ ” Morgan’s friends say the couple seemed to instantly understand each other. Aaron indulged Morgan’s mood swings in a way no one else had. She liked how anti-Establishment he seemed, how scruffy and un-Dalton. All of her boyfriends before Aaron were like that. “But they had to have an intellectual core that she recognized,” a friend says. “I think she drove a lot of guys away by being too nutty, but he took her seriously.” They both liked to use drugs, and unlike most of the people they knew, neither one of them judged the other.
When Aaron’s parents met Morgan, a friend says, “they thought she was going to be good for Aaron—clean him up, make him more responsible.” Morgan’s family had no such feelings for Aaron and came to see him as the source of her problems. Aaron says Morgan’s parents were overprotective. “Her mother treated her like she was 5.” Almost right away, Aaron moved into an apartment on 15th Street that Morgan’s parents were paying the rent for. A year or so later, he moved along with her to the 9th Street place. While Morgan finished her program at Gallatin, Aaron mainly just hung around, turning a few heads when he came along to a Dalton reunion wearing a cowboy hat. Mostly, though, Aaron and Morgan partied. Friends would stop by and stay for days at a time or as long as the drugs lasted. At least one friend of Morgan’s regrets not recognizing how serious Morgan’s drug problem was. “We were guilty of turning a blind eye. We’d say, ‘Oh, there goes Morgan again,’ or ‘Oh, it’s Rainbow.’ ”
In 2009, Morgan told her family that she was enrolling in an M.F.A. program at the school of the Art Institute of Chicago. She was bringing Aaron with her, and he would enroll in visual-art classes. There was some precedent for the plan: Aaron’s father had a degree from the Art Institute. But mainly, the couple were excited about the idea of setting out alone.
In Chicago, Aaron says he took out loans for classes. Morgan did not; her parents paid. The couple found an apartment on the North Side, and Aaron says he took a job helping out at a foundry to pay the rent. They played sophomoric, performance-art-style pranks—writing complaint letters under assumed names to restaurants, waiting to receive gift cards, then going to establishments that took the bait dressed as the people they had pretended to be in the complaint letters and taking pictures of one another for a scrapbook. But soon enough, they stopped bothering with anything much other than heroin. Their neighbors, Aaron says, were junkies. Aaron and Morgan would dabble along with them. “Then,” says Aaron, “she wanted to go on a run.”
Aaron says that he and Morgan agreed to go on a six-month drug run, and then get clean. Six months later—“to the day,” Aaron insists—he booked a hotel room with his last $500. Together, they tried to go through withdrawal. But as soon as they checked out of the hotel, Aaron says, Morgan started using again. That pattern—Aaron would try, from time to time, to get them clean, but Morgan would either refuse or go straight back to using—recurred regularly, according to Aaron. A friend of Morgan’s agrees: “The narrative is that Aaron got Morgan strung out. I mean, yes, he definitely facilitated her becoming a heroin addict. But once she was an addict, there were times when he wanted to get clean where she put the kibosh on that. She thought rehab was bullshit.” Whenever he at least tried to drag himself and Morgan out of their drug habit, Aaron says, Morgan would somehow manage to drag them back into it.
Less than two years after they’d left for Chicago, the couple returned to New York. Aaron says they came back because Morgan’s parents were experiencing friction in their marriage. “They guilted her into coming home,” he says, though it’s also possible they simply wanted to bring her closer to them. Morgan looked like a different woman. She’d stopped dying her hair blonde, and she’d lost what seemed like 30 pounds. “She’d clearly become a full junkie,” a Dalton friend says.
Morgan and Aaron moved back in together on 9th Street (her parents had kept the apartment), and she audited some writing workshops at NYU. Morgan would manipulate her parents for money, Aaron says. A friend who stayed with them says she would often hear Morgan on the phone with her mother saying, “Well, you and Dad aren’t even together! Why do you think I’m the way I am?” Aaron wouldn’t ask his parents for money. His only job seemed to be to buy drugs for them both. Using Morgan’s money, he would conduct the purchases in his parents’ car, driving up to Washington Heights and back again.