On the third Wednesday of every month I'd visit fat Dr. Pinski, an old demoralized psychiatrist who couldn't have spotted a suicide if the malcontent's errant bullet ricocheted off his desk and grazed him with a flesh wound. And chances are it would be a flesh wound, cuz he was packing. Flesh. Lots of it too.
I liked how he didn't pay attention. And how big he was. Too big to lay chase. I didn't want him to catch me after all. I guarded my heartbreak like a dog.
But it wasn't love or trauma or none of the usual culprits. I was born hangdog. It's who I am. The ground of my being as the Buddhists would say. 'An affliction,' Father Mulroney called it. 'A pity,' said Father Cavanaugh -- and he oughtta know, he was kind of pitiful himself. When we got caught, he claimed that he was just trying to cheer me up.
I told my mother what me and the father did made me happy.
Broke her heart. She rarely cried. I didn't want to hurt her. I just wanted to be happy and that's all she wanted me to be. Who's to say what works? A kid's young enough to think something will and to keep trying.
But they sent Father Cavanaugh away, and I came home. To My Crazy. My sad despondency, bequeathed all these years later to pathetic Dr. Pinski. The Soup is what my mother called it. The Soup with too much salt. 'It's not you. It's your soup,' and she'd point to my head: 'Too much salt.' God bless her for trying to explain, trying to make it not-me. It's not who then; it's just what, and sometimes it's where.
It's what I return to. Home.
My dinner at the end of the day. Soup. Fold up the day and give me my soup. To warm my bones.
'No more priests for Seamus,' my mother announced. That was the end of my days as an altar boy, but we still went every Sunday, albeit to the other parish across town.
You can't take that away from me….
At the ripe age of 13 (6 months after the father's transfer and a quart of Drano under the belt on account of the whole sorry business), I entered therapy and the realm of the dumb left-brain priests of the mental health profession. I rue the day. I've learned what works for all them other folks has nothing to do with me, and that psychology's little bag of tricks is a sorry and a limited one, middle class all the way, more straight and narrow than any crap any priest ever told me. Be wary of the shrink. I'd just as soon pass through the eye of a needle.
So I wasn't intimate with Dr. Pinski. He disinterestedly would state now and again that I was one of his 375 patients besides. He said it like it should impress me. Gee, don't know how you do it, Doc. I only wondered why he'd ended up at the Mental Health Dept. in the first place. What had he done wrong? He certainly wasn't there because he had a social conscience, or because it was some kind of high-paying plum job. No sirree. In fact, he seemed profoundly bothered and put out by the whole business. I figured there'd been one too many suicides on his watch out there in the world where they'd sue you for fucking-up. Certainly, no one was gonna sue him at County Mental Health.
I'd spend all of 5 minutes with him at my monthly appointment, usually talking about movies he thought were swell. I was careful not to comment sarcastically or he might up my dose. I knew the protocol: Don't say anything negative, don't have any problems, don't show any weakness -- just get the drugs and go. Half the time I walked in there near-comatose with depression or frazzled to teeth-grinding with anxiety. I pulled myself together. Pulled.
The drugs were free. Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Serzone -- like some sick pantheon of old gods who sounded anything but cheerful. Happy as a clam.
They never worked.
But there was always a new one, so I kept trying. Or not me so much as whatever part of me was a good attitude. Or was it? My so-called good attitude, when I could muster it, was all tied up with proper behavior, no fear, don't panic, choose life (and other clothing lines), security, Catholicism, defeat, Mom (You can salvage any soup -- it's just a mixture of ingredients). It didn't necessarily dawn on me that even my good attitude was a bad one. Nothing dawned on me, no sir. I'd thought it all out so many times, I wouldn't have recognized the dawn if, like a star, it popped up one morning and whacked me upside the head with ten trillion tons of white-hot hydrogen.
People called me jaded when I talked like that. But I never understood that term. Jade is pretty and worth something, yes? I was rusted if I was anything. Going out in an orange blaze of muted, anonymous, common-as-dirt oxidation. Nothing pretty or valuable about it. That was me, my own style of decadence, minus drugs, sex and the usual moral culprits. Just a whacked mind, coming apart in the rain. A stubborn whacked mind. Unwhackable. Just ask the stars.
Jimmy had a bay window on Guerrero Street. Jimmy and me on the carpet in the empty room, making love; making our first mess. A bay window and an immigrant Chinese family next door, stinking the place up with wonderful-smelling food. And with twin 6-year-old mischief-making serotonin reuptake inhibitor-aderos to boot!
Jimmy had a job at the blood bank, as a warehouse man. Funny Jimmy. Dark Jimmy. A vampire at the blood bank. He was the warehouse man, shipped the blood all around.
"You ever drop it Jimmy?"
"Yeah, and it bounces." His little grin.
"Nah, the bags are thick and rubbery."
"Do you drink it sometimes when you get thirsty?"
"I smear it all over my face when I'm angry, what do you think?" Jimmy gets tired of My Crazy too, even when it's on cheerful mode.
"Just making conversation Jimmy."
"Do you ever shut the fuck up?" Taken aback by Jimmy. But always his harsh words were kind. Hard to explain. No dears or honeysweets with Jimmy. When he called you a motherfucker, or told you to shut up, you knew you were in. You just waited for the grin that followed.
"I'm one crazy motherfucker, Jimmy," I told him, " -- and not in an interesting way either, no sir. Flat out white-middle-class, no-good-reason-for-it, annoying crazy. Unforgivable. No excuse."
"Come here," he'd say. Jimmy didn't say sorry. Jimmy pulled me. Jimmy pulled and then squeezed it out of me; crushed whatever came between us in the sincerity of his embrace; flattened it like a pancake.
Jimmy could have been a wife-beater. But the fight was out of him. He relented every time.
"Fuck you, Jimmy."
"Fuck you too." And a kiss.
I never really knew how to fucking love him.
Jimmy Christ Superstar.
Crucify the bastard.
Well, there you go. They did just that. Or IT did. The goddamn mother of all acronyms, like the artist formerly known as . . . I don't dignify it with a name. INRI: Here's the King of the Jews.
The nails went in, one by one. Illness after illness. Pneumocystis in June: Left hand to crossbeam; two blows with the hammer will do. In August, thrush: Right hand to crossbeam. September was shingles: Fuck it, let's just pile one foot on the other and blow through 'em both with one big nail……
I had to go somewhere else to cry now. To blubber really. Pull yourself to-fucking-gether I'd shout at myself on the street. Pull.
I don't know how to love anybody.
Fact was I could only pull myself together when he was with me; when he squeezed it out of me with his ruthlessly compassionate embrace. Alone, on the street, I'd just cry all the more. Growling and barking helped. Sometimes I dragged my knuckles down brick walls until they bled. That made me smile. That worked. And Dr. Pinski. I always pulled myself together for him.
I know it doesn't make sense, considering the service he was supposedly providing. But Pinski would be the last to know how I felt or what was going on in my life. I'd bagged the meds by the time Jimmy got sick, but that only made Pinski a bigger job. It's easy, after all, to get meds and be handed them monthly for eternity. Getting off them is what's tough. That's what you really need a hard-won prescription for: To not take the fucking things. He begrudgingly offered me a trial period, but not before asking me -- 'What's with the gloves?'
"It's the cold, doc, it's just the cold." I wasn't about to let him see the scabs.
I kept going to Dr. Pinski once a month to check in, to convince him I didn't need him anymore because I'd come to loathe the drugs; disdained the sinister nothingness of them -- they tasted on my tongue like a moderate Republican Christian: pointless and harmless in the short term, the subject of much reassurance, but insidious over time. Just you wait. The verdict ain't in on serotonin reuptake inhibitors, no sirree. Thalidomide was a miracle drug too. When the good doc switched me to Wellbutrin and told me I couldn't drink for fear of seizures, and then my dick went south, it was only a matter of time. Because when things got real bad, I needed booze and my boner more than anything else to ride it through. Surfing my cock on a sixpack and a smile. Fuck the shoeshine.
Pinski took a whole year of convincing. I wooed him while he glared at me suspiciously. I got more cheerful. Should I bring him flowers and chocolates? The courtship of Dr. Pinski. It wasn't that I was unconvincing, it was just the program. They told me: one year on, one year off, no exceptions.
But by then, I was on Jimmy. Well, that and disability. Me and every other bohemian in San Francisco. And for that, I had to keep seeing Pinski. I'd signed up for the mental health program and if I didn't keep going 'til he was good and ready to release me, I'd lose the money, and he might even commit me. Or send someone after me to inquire. I wanted to rust in peace. That's the only reason I paid my credit card bills. Sure I'd have felt guilty and all that, not to mention what being a deadbeat would do to my wheezing, emphysemic self-esteem. But I wanted to be left alone above all else. So I paid.
The last time I saw Pinski was 2 days after Jimmy died.
"I'm fine doc, never been better." Pulling. Aiming. And Firing.
I talked to his third eye, the one that was closed shut. Like a bullet to the head I told him my lies, splattering his sorry, demoralized brains all over the cheap white latex wall behind him. Beautiful. He closed my file. He signed off on me. Once again, I'd won. Written off. A truly free agent. Me and my empty little victories. Well, I liked the glass empty. I'm free. Free to rust in peace.
Out on the street, I can fall apart. In the name of Jimmy. And if God lives at all in this sorry rusted world, he's the flow of tears, the breath in and the breath out. Oxidation. It's just a world of iron faces in the rain.
And God -- God ain't nothing but chemistry.
And this motherfuckin' acronym that took Jimmy away? This here's the King of the Jews.
It's never hard to tell. Who is and who isn't.
Like the too-long look, Jimmy's face had grown longer, just like his story, spooling out fast like thread or fishing line, having hooked a big one. A big fat acronym.
My father always said timing is everything (or so my momma quoted him), and he oughtta know. He assured my mother he'd marry her just as soon as he got back from 'Nam. Whoops. Timing. I'll say. He almost made it though. He was short my mother said. Until I was 16, I thought he was a dwarf. What did I know? Even when I found out he was 6'4", it still didn't sink in what every salmon swimming upstream knows.
I only knew I hated acronyms: ARVN and NVA, and VC, and NCO, and PFC, and DMZ, and LZ, and KIA, and all the other jargon in that pile of papers mother bequeathed to me on my 21st birthday.
And now they've come for Jimmy. I counted once. All 26 letters are involved. Not a one of them is guiltless. A goddamn orgy of acronyms. A PTA of them.
And Jimmy wasn't short -- 6'2" at least. And either is the acronym, especially when you spell it all out. And back then, in 1990, the acronym still had time on its side. A long time. And Jimmy too. Everything about him. Long nose, long face, long arms and legs, and a big long dick. A long story. Flat-out long. Everything but his death.
He was short alright. The day I met him he was short.
Dwarfed by IT.
"You need a priest," my mother had insisted, because that was her default for anything that was getting out of hand. I looked at her whenever she said it, waiting for the Father Cavanaugh story to catch up to her anxiety and make her think better of it.
I nodded my head slowly, and then it registered.
"Well, maybe not," she conceded.
"And he don't need one either, Momma. Jimmy's alright, spiritually speaking, even if he is dying." She'd made me Russian tea and snicker doodles. Comfort food. And for Jimmy too, all wrapped up in paper and bows.
"Momma, he can't keep this stuff down. He'll throw it across the room."
She looked unhinged. She'd never even met Jimmy; she wasn't 'ready' she'd told me. And not because of the acronym, she reassured me. No. It was about him being my queer lover and throwing her cookies across the room. The ungrateful bastard.
"It's just the soup Mom, that's all. Queer soup. Acronym Soup. Take your own advice. It's not who we are, just where and when and what and all the rest. Homosexuality's a place Mom -- a place and a time. A where and a when; don't get all wrapped up in the who." The quizzical look.
Thing was, Jimmy didn't have much time left. Jimmy was short. And she'd done short. She wasn't doing short again. That was the reason; I knew that was the real reason.
She's different than my father. Timing isn't everything at all. Time is a goddamn nuisance and thank god it's moving because it'll pass her by.
So my momma never met Jimmy.
And he never ate her cookies. Though he puked one up once.
"Goddamn it!" he cursed, and pushed the box onto the floor, spilling the snicker doodles among his soiled socks and dog-eared books.
I was the nurse and the janitor and the candy striper, bouncing around the room in just a jockstrap, hoping to cheer up poor Jimmy.
"I'm pullin', Jimmy, I'm pullin'!"
"You're a motherfucker." The words of love.
But Jimmy had the libido then of a Zoloft droid, so I had to come up with something other than a sexy outfit.
I read him Rumi poems and put on Tammy Faye makeup.
But Jimmy lost the very thing that gave him the strength to stick by me and stick around in general. Jimmy lost his patience.
No good attitude for Jimmy. Shitting his pants and sweating all night was not for Jimmy. Jimmy was only patient while he was moving. And he was past ready to go. Jimmy wanted morphine, and lots of it. He wanted me to go get it for him.
"No Jimmy, I'm not getting morphine for you. No Jimmy, I can't be a part of this."
"You motherfucker," he said flatly.
I don't know how to love him.
"You know how motherfucker."
"No, Jimmy, no can do." It wasn't cuz I loved or didn't love him. It was cuz of my mother. Or the Catholic Church. Same difference. No one ever understands how some whacked faggot, who thinks gay sex is a gift from the Gods, can't get over his Christian upbringing. But they weren't raised by my mother. I'd been saddled with a myth. My father was a martyr and my mother the widow of Jesus.
"No sir, Jimmy, I'm only crazy in boring ways. No assisted suicides for me. No Dr. Jack, no sir Jimmy."
But she fucked me. And good. Save the soup. Baby and the bathwater, all that. Suicide not an option, even after I'd tried at 13, broken the ice. Because suicide's like sex and heroin and Jaclyn Suzanne -- once is just not enough. She'd wagged her finger at me: 'After what I've been through?' Sorry, Ma. 'Think of your dear father. Promise me.' I promised.
"No can do, Jimmy."
"Then you'll have to smother me with a pillow, Shame."
"No dice Jimmy." Killing him would be killing me.
Jimmy got mad. And good. Jimmy was a mess of diarrhea. Jimmy was weak and unable. Jimmy got on his goddamn clothes, glaring at me, and once up and heading out the door, he said: "You fucked up." And he left the house.
I was nail-biting crazy. Annoying inane. I'm the caretaker, I'm in charge of Jimmy. I'm a heartless coward and a dumb, confused motherfucker. I can't kill Jimmy. Wouldn't know love, would run screaming….
I got up and ran after Jimmy, brushed by the two Chinese twins playing cars on the stairs, their mouths agape at the diarrhea boy.
And onto the sidewalk and his harangues: "Don't you fuckin' touch me!" he snapped. He's wearing his slippers -- those goddamn kung fu shoes -- and pajama pants, and an overcoat.
I followed him, like a dumb child: "Where ya goin' Jimmy?" Stumbling Jimmy, unable to help him because I was unable to help myself. All the way down to Sycamore Alley near the BART Station, where we first came up from underneath, to get his own goddamn morphine. They gave him one of their used syringes -- what did it matter now?
Back home, Jimmy had to inject his own morphine while I bit my nails in the corner watching (unforgivable, inexcusable), wincing, his hand shaking, missing. The blood. Bingo.
"Better luck next time, Seamus," he muttered bleary-eyed, and that was pretty much it for Jimmy.
I climbed into bed with him and rolled myself tighter than I ever had, making a pocket of Jimmy. Empty pockets Jimmy. Flat broke in the game of life.
"What am I gonna do now, Jimmy?" Held him all those hours while he faded, muttering and blubbering 'sorry' and 'don't go' and 'I love you, Jimmy'; 'forgive me; I'm so sorry for everything.'
I had to call the morgue and his family both. I couldn't call my mother. That would be like lighting a candle. There was a time for that sure, but this wasn't it.
The Government Pages I guess? Sure enough. I took a deep breath.
"City Morgue, County of San Francisco. May I help you?"
"Hi, ah, my boyfriend died … and uh, …. I don't know what to do about it."
"Are you his power of attorney?"
"No… I don't think so."
"I don't know about that stuff."
"Hmm, I see. Are you in contact with his family?"
"Do you know how to reach them?"
"I can try."
"We'll send someone out. You work on locating his family. In the meantime, give me whatever info you have and I'll do the same. His full name?"
I wanted to scream: 'Chief Joseph! He's like the most famous Indian ever and he didn't want to fight, but a manifest-destiny-obsessed acronymn wouldn't leave him alone.' I pulled instead: "James Damon Keane, and he's from Buffalo, and that's where his family is. And I have his credit card and all that. He doesn't have a license or anything. Just a credit card."
"And what's your name?"
I wanted to be his then; I wanted to say I'm Seamus Keane, his widow, or maybe Ms. Joseph, his number one squaw. "I sure loved Jimmy," is what I said. "I sure loved him." And I came apart right there on the phone, and she was pretty nice about it. She even ended up coming out with the guy in the dead people's carcass truck, and she sat there with me and listened. Sweet Monique, a big fat black lady who did the pulling for me, until I could get ahold of the rope of this life once again and do it myself.
Like a barge, life. Pull, pull, pull. Where we all goin'? Where we goin' Jimmy?
"You want me to deal with the family?" she entreated consolingly.
"No, that's OK; we gotta cremate Jimmy; he's gotta be here with me for awhile. I'm gonna have to talk them into it." But you can't talk a bunch of Catholics into cremating their kid -- what was I thinking?
Monique looked worried. "Did you say he needs to stay here?"
"He can't stay here. We gotta take him in. It's the law."
"Can I visit?"
"I don't know. I suppose. No one's ever asked me about visiting the morgue unless the police are doing it, or somebody has to identify somebody."
"You just gotta keep him there at least 3 days. It's like a thing with him."
She was starting to look like I'd run the limits of her compassionate largesse. She got up. "He ain't goin' anywhere, once he gets there. Not until the power of attorney decides otherwise. So, you need to talk to them."
"O.K. Thanks Monique." She gave me a wan smile.
Jimmy's family. What did I know about Jimmy's family? Well, plenty actually, from the poems, and his late night, book-on-the-lap reminiscings.
Jimmy was 28 when he died. But he'd left Buffalo a long time ago. He only went skulking back to Buffalo when he learned that his mother was dying of a long drawn-out illness with lung cancer. He hadn't seen her since he'd left, which was ten years or more. She chastised him when he walked into her hospital room, and he looked at the floor and he took it. She never did straighten him out, but her dying sure did.
"She said awful things to me. Called me all sorts of names. She'd always been tough and mean just like I used to be -- we respected each other for that. But it wouldn't have been fair to fight back with her there flat on her back. We were mean, but we fought fair. Which is to say we were proud." Sighing Jimmy. "So I just endured it; tried to tell myself to just go the distance. I hadn't cried in ten years either, but after 3 days of her insults -- and while my 2 born-again sisters sat by sniffling silently and with satisfaction -- I broke and finally yelled back at her: 'Stop it, stop it, you bitch.' We yelled at each other back and forth for maybe ten minutes while my sisters lowly wailed in prayer from the corner. Somewhere in there I'd begun crying, balling through my hurled words, and she had too -- you have to understand, we never cried, never." He huffed a big exhale of a sigh then. "I climbed into the little bed with her then, and you know what she said? 'I bore you …' She was right, but it seemed a strange thing to say, until she finished and it made sense. "I bore you… you are my fruit." And she fucking wailed, and I knew then we were the same and we'd end the same. She died two days later, spent, but more like horrifically resigned, not so much to death but to regret.
Jimmy didn't cry then. He came close though, I could see. He shook his head out like a wet dog. But back then, Jimmy thought to do what anyone in Buffalo would do in terms of getting a new start. He went to California.
"But I didn't just go; I couldn't just go, like I used to -- I don't know. I had to go in a certain way. The railroads and airplanes and cars -- they all travel in circles, and I'd end up back where I started. No sooner would I set out for St. Louis than I'd end up in New Jersey. Once I went to Texas. And by the time 3 months had passed, I was in Florida. I actually headed for California twice before, but never made it past Denver. And then I was in Minneapolis. It was weird; I was like attached to some kind of tether. Maybe I slept wrong, in the shape of a boomerang or something."
"A closed loop. I know all about it, Jimmy," I said with my nods of assent.
"I had to go in some final way, you know. Like committed to it. At first I thought I should walk, but I knew I'd never make it. I'd end up hitching a ride or a train, and then I'd be right back in the old pattern, looping all over the fucking continent like some fucking pinball. I thought of walking because I knew I had to make it hard. I had to earn my passage somehow. I had to like climb here. Climb out of something, you know?"
He ended up doing it by bike.
I called information. 'Keane. Jack Keane.' There were three 'J Keanes' listed in Buffalo.
"Hi, I'm a friend of your son's." But the first one had no son. Or was he just saying that, since it was the common response of so many fathers of gay sons? The second number was disconnected. I breathed deep for the third, but got an answering machine. 'This is Jack, leave a message.' That's when it occurred to me that Jimmy's voice was still on our machine. That seemed tacky, having a dead guy's voice taking messages from people who didn't even know he was dead yet. Tacky, macabre, funny even. And there was no way I would erase it, cuz it was Jimmy's voice. That being the case, I decided against leaving our number for the final Jack.
Instead, I started going down to the corner liquor store and calling Jimmy.
'Hi, this is Jimmy and Seamus. We're not here. Beep.' Music to my ears. In a Buffalo twang. Mr. Understatement. Jimmy.
The Chinese twins started watching me, wondering, pointing. Once they came over. "You don't got any phone anymore?"
"No, listen," and I handed Michael -- with the metal stainless steel tooth -- the phone. At which Marcus became overexcited, so I had to dig for more quarters and dial several times so they'd both get it. They got it. Big smiles, and nods -- they knew who it was. 'Diarrhea boy!'
"He died," I told them. But I think they knew; they'd seen him fading for months. Their faces dropped all the same, to get the news. But then they wanted to listen some more.
They'd run over whenever they spotted me there after that. To listen to the dead.
I think they had some idea that the message would change. That he'd say something -- like what it was like on the other side.
"It never changes," Michael with the tooth finally said to Marcus.
"No, it never changes," I concurred.
That was the last time they ran over. Their mother had already taken to screaming at them in Chinese, something -- I guessed -- to the effect that they shouldn't be bothering me or running across the street. I had no idea which. I only knew she smiled at me when I looked at her, indicating that I wasn't the problem, in her insular, non-confrontational Chinese way.
I went to visit Jimmy, but they wouldn't let me in. I gave the flowers to the security guard who sort of held them out in front of him like a soiled diaper.
"What am I supposed to do with these?"
"They're for Jimmy, the guy in there," and I motioned with my head.
"This is a morgue, sir."
"Well, you can give them to your girlfriend if you want." Hot potato. I ain't carrying them home.
I assume he threw them in the trash. Marigolds aren't romantic enough for your girlfriend. She might think you're dumping her. 'Flores para los muertos.'
So all I really had was the pay phone. Other than those hourly phone calls, I just stayed in bed, staring at Jimmy's bike. Or rather, it stared at me.
You could say I owed him one. But what exactly did I owe him? What was it? This debt. Like I say, I paid my debts. So as to be left alone. I wanted to rust in peace. But that'll never be now. Jimmy fucked me, really fucked me. One-upped my mother. Jesus Christ. And he did too. He one-upped Mary, so I shouldn't be surprised. And now I've got the holy ghost on my hands as well. Jesus Christ alright. Let's hope I don't run into the old man, that'll cook me good.
I wronged Jimmy. Now he's like My Crazy, hounding me, haunting me. What you gonna do about your Crazy now? What you gonna do about the boy you wouldn't kill?
Nothing from the looks of it. I stalled, stayed in bed, grief-frozen and guilt-freezer-burned. Waiting. Waiting for Jimmy.
I loved Jimmy, I wanted to give him his life back, or take his life, or something. I wasn't sure. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My answer for everything. For drinking Drano, not killing Jimmy. A good idea at the time.
I didn't kill the man I love. That's my fucking crime. Crazy bigger than I am. I owe Jimmy one thing. A life I owe him. His life and mine both. Something like that. Two lives on my hands and two deaths. I'm a goddamn serial killer is the fact of the matter, and I've never even lifted a finger.
My friends keep calling, to cheer me up. They want to take me out clubbing. Julie and Sam appear, in black, showered and beaming.
"We're taking you out to dinner and Uranus."
I manage a smile, but I'll never be able to tolerate their chatter even though I'm a chatterbox too. Not anymore.
"Jimmy's dead you guys. We're staying in (like he's ill or something, but present)." And I try to close the door.
"No," Sam's motorcycle boot holds the door open. "Come on, Shame." He pushes his way in and the two of them dig up an outfit for me and take me for Pakistani food on 16th Street.
I'm fascinated by the blood-orange color of the tandoori chicken; it's the only thing strange enough to seem interesting.
We went from bar to bar; I gave it a go. It was great sometimes that in 1990 in San Francisco you could go to queer clubs that welcomed straight people and that straight people weren't afraid of, but this wasn't one of those times. Because all I could do was scan the room for Jimmy, mesmerized by every dark-eyed gangly boy. Like some particularly tormenting obsessive compulsion, I kept searching, even though the minute I saw one I was full of regret for having even looked. I even hated them a little for playing at Jimmy. Couldn't they save that for another day? Be someone else?
Even when I wasn't lookin' for Jimmy, there was like a huge empty mouth waiting outside the doors, and inside as well, if the truth be told. It was in almost every face, and every heartless electronic song. Just cuz it beats like one don't make it a heart, man. I grew disgusted with the dumb same old dance, drink, blah blah blah, take home some sex like a doggy bag. It wasn't even sexy, the whole tired scene. I used to do this?
Julie and Sam told me to cheer up, that I should have a better attitude. Great, my Mom and Dr. Pinski are on a double date with me and Jimmy. But I felt guilty all the same and found myself involuntarily concurring with them. But not for long. Cheering someone up is like 'What-not-to-do-for-a-clinically-depressed-grieving-potential-suicide 1A'. I knew where those clubs would take me as I started to tear-up and asked Jimmy 'why'd you leave me here?' I saw the ropes fray and break that connected me to Sam and Julie. I knew what would become of my soup if I bucked-up my so-called attitude.
All it took was one full moment of silence, one trip to the bathroom, one drug-addled stare and the hole in the fucking ozone of human existence gaped open like a speechless, screaming mouth. I knew my feelings weren't original. Edvard Munch and a few others had beat me to it, but this was 3-D and planetary. I pushed through the crowd and got out. And when I hit the sidewalk, I fucking ran. I ran block after block, all the way home. Like a little boy, scared, not knowing what to do. I ran home to his bike and the ritual space of our love, which was just four walls and a window over an acacia tree and a corner liquor store and a rickety, rusted fire escape, and the smell of Chinese food and two little boy's too-loud screechings and TV volume. And I draped his clothes all over the bike -- the battered army shorts and the Red Hot Chili Peppers shirt -- surrounding it like a makeshift altar with a whole slew of Virgin de Guadalupe candles, which lit up the shelves of dog-eared books, and in so doing, conjured James Damon Keane, who whispered, as always god bless him, 'pull, Seamus, you gotta pull.'
And not a moment later, Sam and Julie and the lights and sound of an idling taxi yellowing the window, and the clump, clump, clump of his motorcycle books and the rap, rap, rap on my door.
"You OK, Shame?"
"We're having sex, can you come back later?"
"Come on Shame, we were worried about you."
Then a crescendo of Chinese erupts as the twins' mother cracks open her door. I'll have to let them in.
The candles quickly tame them and they sit quietly on the floor with me. I've got a bottle of Carlo Rossi jug wine and a few jars to drink from, so I pour them each a glass. And we sit and we drink and say nothing.
Sam scoots close and I let my head fall in his lap. But I don't cry. I only cry with Jimmy or alone on the street. I just stare into the candles and the cheap wine while Julie holds my hand.
They exchange looks, and Julie, ever responsible, ruins the silence with her: "I think we'll stay here with you tonight, Shame."
"No, Julie. Me and Jimmy, we want privacy."
"Shame, you gotta .. ."
"No, I don't."
"Julie, it's cool," Sam chimes in.
I clasp her hand, give her what little I got. If she doesn't understand, so be it. As for Sam, he's loyal, I'll give him that. Clueless, but loyal. He digs male intimacy, in a soldier-football player kinda way. I snuggle into his crotch, purposely pressing against his dick. I don't want sex; I just want someone I can count on to not turn away. I'm testing his intimacy. He pats my shoulder, and sweet heterosexual Sam passes the test.
I look over at Julie who still thinks I gotta… Pull. Now I can. It takes two straight people I realize, where it only took one Jimmy fagboy.
Jimmy's father never called, of course, but Monique finally did.
"Mr. Blake, I have some news for you."
"Uh, Mr. Keane -- your friend Jimmy -- ?"
"He actually did the paperwork. You don't need to call his family. He's got it all taken care of. He filed all this 6 months ago. And she read: 'In the event of my death, I hereby request my body be disposed of by cremation.' And he paid the fee."
"$1,200, Neptune Society."
Where'd Jimmy get all that money? Was he dealing blood on the side, shipping it to Transylvania or something?
"When you gonna do it?
"Don't worry. Day 4. I held it up for you." Sweet Monique and her sweet subterfuge of the big ugly acronyms of county government.
"Oh thank you, thank you…" And I kept thanking her to stave off the tears.
I hung up before she shattered me with the sweet honey of her voice.
Monday I had to go get him; the dust of him.
Jesus Jimmy, to dust you have returned.
Death is a fucking crime. No wonder everybody loves crime movies. God's a criminal; we need to keep reminding ourselves. And he always gets away. I guess in Jesus he tried to turn himself in, but apparently he only served a small part of his sentence, and is once again at large, crazier than ever. Me, I'm the iron face in the rain, turning to rust, and Jimmy, he's the chalk marks around what was his body, gone now -- even the outline of him washing away in the rain.
And we'll all end up victims of the big skygod serial killer.
In the meantime, duck and cover, and bury the dead.
Or lug them along with you.
You didn't take me with you Jimmy, but I can still take you with me. Chattering away, My Crazy and me on the bus with Jimmy in a cardboard box on my lap, like the sweet baby Jesus.
And all my what-do-I-do-now-Jimmy?'s quit their fretting. Jimmy's voice was clear as fire, speaking from the ashes: 'The road's the place for lost souls, Seamus. Take me back the way I came.'
Sure thing, Jimmy. Jesus-Jimmy, Mary and Chief Joseph.
Looking for some manger.
©1997-2004 Blithe House Quarterly : all rights reserved