May 19, 2015
The turn of the millennium and I am with my father, his wife, and her eldest son. I have swallowed five valium and have been drinking straight whiskey while we all watch Dick Clark on the television. For weeks, the world has been anticipating some kind of Y2K madness to occur. As soon as the clock strikes midnight I go outside into the street and light a joint and start to yell “WHERE IS YOUR JESUS NOW? WHERE IS THE END OF THE WORLD? WHERE ARE YOUR DAUGHTERS TO TAKE ME TO HEAVEN?” and people start yelling back at me as I pull on the joint and my father’s wife’s eldest son comes outside and just stares at me. I extend my hand and offer the joint—which is dusted, as always—and he just shakes his head and goes back inside.
West Valley Camelback Hospital, Glendale, AZ, Fall, 1988—
Every time I open my mouth, Raymond calls me a faggot. Raymond is my roommate. Raymond has a lion’s mane of hair and hand-poked tattoos on his hands. Raymond is fifteen years old. He is here for reasons he refuses to discuss and he is probably the most hyperactive and volatile person I have ever met. The windows in our room are safety windows and they are thick. Raymond likes to crouch down by the door like an Olympic sprinter and then explode, running full speed headfirst into the plate glass window. Raymond also likes to walk up and down the halls with his dick hanging out of his fly. Nobody says anything to the staff because they all think Raymond is crazy—hilarious, considering we’re all in here for being crazy—and they are afraid of his temper. After thirty days, when I am being discharged and released into the wild, Raymond finally speaks to me without malice.
“I’ve been here a year. You’re the best roommate I ever had. Don’t fuck up out there, faggot.”
Ham’s Restaurant 3302 N. 24th Street, Phoenix, Summer, 1998—
My father is choking on a sandwich. Everyone around us isn’t paying attention but I am sitting across from him and I see his face turning and his eyes watering. He glances up at me and looks panicked but I act as though there is nothing wrong and sip my Jack and Coke. He kicks me under the table and I finally act as though I see what is happening to him. I push his plate and glass away from him to the floor and it raises the room to a different state of awareness. I push him back flat against the wall behind him and punch him in the chest, hard. His eyes pop and whatever was stuck in his throat flies free and hits the table with a wet thud. Everyone else at the table—his wife, some other folks who are ghosts now—suddenly show concern for how hard I hit him, as opposed to recognizing that I probably saved his life. I get up from the table and go to the bathroom and dig my house key into a packet of cocaine and snort two ridiculous lumps of it into my face and go back to the table.
Aboard USS Nimitz CNV-68, [CLASSIFIED]—
When people have beef with one another, we seal the hatches on our living quarters and break out the boxing gloves. All of the tables and chairs get cleared from the lounge area and everyone gathers around and watches the fights. There are rules: two minutes to a fight, two men to a fight, no hitting below the belt or behind the head, a fighter can quit by raising both arms above his head and the other fighter must respect that, a knockout is a knockout is a knockout, both fighters must drop whatever brought them to this place as soon as their fight is over, no bragging, no post-fight bullying, all fighters must hug it out upon completion of the fight.
Church of Body Modification, West Phoenix, Summer 2001—
Willow and I both have two hooks in our backs attached to ropes and quick-links which are attached to the bumper of a fifteen-thousand pound armored truck and we are leaning forward and sweating and laughing and trying to get the thing to move. We rock back and forth in unison—tension in the rope right to snapping and then releasing and moving forward—and the truck begins to move a little bit. At first it feels like it has moved no more than an inch but then we start to churn our legs and everything is moving, the sky, the sounds of everyone cheering and screaming, the truck, hot and thick blood in our bodies. As we begin to run and really move, the truck gets heavier and we can hear people yelling at us to keep going from up behind us. People had climbed onto the roof of the truck, wanting to feel our energy and participate. We pull the truck over a speed bump and gain momentum and have it moving at a pretty quick pace when we see the end of the lot approaching. We smile at one another and stop, embracing one another with our sweat and our power.
Ocean Beach, San Diego, April, 1996—
I am sitting in the sand at 2AM and trying to get higher than I already am. The waves are lulling and calming. There is some kind of party happening in the backyard of some bungalow-looking apartments behind me. I can hear laughter and women and men and cheering and more laughter. This weed is not enough for me, I’ve reached that stage where smoking any more of it is wasteful, so I shove the bowl into my pocket and put myself belly-first onto the sand, which is cool and damp. I turn my face to the side and leave it in the sand and cry. I know what’s coming and I know the coma my mother is in will last longer than anyone thinks. I know that being in the room with her is like talking to a ghost, but she is my ghost and she made me, carried me, and I have to be in that room with her. I am willing to burn everything I’ve ever built for her to live.
SEAN H. DOYLE lives in Brooklyn, NY. He works hard every day to be a better person and is learning how to love himself more. His book, This Must Be The Place, published this month by CCM. For more information on Sean and his work, visit his website or follow him on Twitter @seanhdoyle.