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BILL CRIES

He then begins to cry for a cigarette and I imagine much more: for his blown sobriety; for all the team players in homeroom who carried a lacrosse stick at a position frighteningly close to port arms and called him faggot loudly; for every state trooper who would tell him to stop hitching and get on the service road as they would rip through all his possessions hoping to find maybe a nickel bag (back in the gentler days when dope was copped in the friendly Baggie reminiscent of the daily Mom packed snack in grades K through 6 in contrast to the modern-day cold manila or glassine envelope), that the concerned and conscientious officer (italics mine) would make him spill out into the 55 mile per hour winds, leaving Bill on his knees collecting the rest of his belongings scattered on the shoulder of an interstate; he cries because he knows it's not all because of the alcohol; he cries as he remembers the many go-getters who would be on their way to a weight room or a continuing ed. class or a job interview and would tell him to get a life; he cries for all the friends and family who would look at him and say "not again" (disappointed) or worse, "not again" (disgusted); he cries because nobody (himself included) has any idea what happened to his ambition, his personality, his bootstraps.

His brother arrives and sees him drunk.

He charges him, hits him in a waist high tackle and they both fly through the door.

Bill's head smashes on the concrete outside. His brother now begins to cry and runs away.

Bill lies on the floor outside very much incoherent. He starts growling, twisting and opening his mouth as wide as possible in what appears an obvious attempt to rip it open. He's shaking and convulsing.

In a moment he's given the cigarette. It's lit and placed in his mouth. After one pull he starts to thrash wildly and the lit tip of the cigarette drops on his eyelid. Next he goes deep into a closet, curls up, intermittently silent and moaning; comes out throwing himself hard against walls and doors; goes back in. Coaxed, he finally goes into a bed and after a bit more of some madness he falls asleep. Later we find out that he was in a black out and has no recollection of the events.


GAMES OF CRIBBAGE IN THE PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL

Bill grew up in Fishkill, N.Y., where he describes the mentality as white trash and the economy as middle class. Many of the town's fathers held jobs at nearby IBM and he recalls Dads saying they work for IBM and people nodding their heads but "Nobody really knew what the hell they did." Some worked in the Fishkill prison.

Bill calls his Mom, Betty when he third personly categorizes her as "psychotic and the least intelligent of the five of us and quite obviously...and lazy as a pig," he says in his gentle and agreeable tone. He calls his father a bastard and blames his present condition directly on his parents.

"You've got to choose your parents carefully," he'll repeat frequently with his nicotine stained tongue in cheek.

His parents have been divorced for many years. His mother, whose father was an alcoholic, was once placed in a mental institution when she was twenty five. His father until recently slept on a pull out couch in a small apartment in San Jose and drank large amounts of white wine. Bill himself stayed in a mental institution in 1984 for five weeks and didn't want to leave (citing good games of chess, a developing proficiency in cribbage, and plenty of time to read).

He grew up with two brothers in a family where when the refrigerator broke, instead of getting it fixed "like a real family," they would put perishables on the porch. His brother Lance is a film student in a state college. His other brother, Sean, "...went out of his way to try and be like everyone else. His great dream was to be like everyone else."

"Sean had this list of things he felt it necessary to get done for the family to function well and was always getting on Lance's back to work on the list. He really had these hopes to turn our family into a normal family...he was ashamed of us."

Bill and Sean never got along.

Bill has a contempt for institutions, fellowships, flag waving, the rhetoric of recovery and helping professionals. He tells of recently graduated college students with degrees in psychology who would visit the psychiatric institutes he was in and deliver ridiculous speeches on things like self- assertiveness. He remembers the speakers as being heavy set and naive, and becoming flustered when the audience would challenge their neatly packaged data. "They weren't prepared for the non- sequiturs from the schizophrenics," Bill says and this pleases him.

Bill takes additional pleasure in reciting the name of his former institution the Alvin Kracau (pronounced CRACK ow) division of the Oswego County Mental Hospital for he likes what it might connote with its nominal atavism hillbilly old men, rabid repressed conservatives with unnaturally traditional values practicing cruel and back woods medicine on the crazies - tall black coated men perversely and puritanically stern, carrying switches and flogging half stripped troubled youth while feverishly quoting Isaiah, erect and trembling. The last treatment center he was in was named St. Francis.

Bill says that the neighborhood children he grew up with "were a bunch of morons, they really were, they really fucken were" and only talked about bicycles and sports. He says they beat him up in elementary school and he doesn't really know why. He supposes it was because he was short. He says some teachers hated him and he doesn't know why. He supposes they were pricks. He hated junior high. He was active in school drama but never got to play good roles.


WAITING FOR THE DAY TO BE OVER

These days he typically wakes with a sigh and then: "How are the cigarettes holding out?"

"Last one? No fucking way."

He'll periodically take an empty coffee tin from the apartment and walk the academic buildings rummaging through ash trays for cigarettes not completely smoked. He comes back with a tin full of butts which have been stubbed out at various lengths. He'll smoke these and generously offer them to kicking visitors who offer their own constant Anyone got a cigarette? (they usually express a mild surprise at the tin and say no thanks).

Bill's main activity is playing board games and he takes great pleasure in this. He greets most visitors to the apartment with "How 'bout a game of chess?" He'll play Axis and Allies throughout the night and then chastise himself for sleeping through the next day instead of looking for a job. He also enjoys Talisman, a fantasy role playing game.

He has an automatic teller card and used to occasionally (at an earlier writing) ask for the ride downtown to withdraw money for smokes and a small jar of Taster's Choice. He rarely eats, but once in a while will get very hungry and there will be no food around. Once at four in the morning he was very hungry and ate mustard out of the jar.

He vacillates between insomnia and sleeping 13 hours a day.

When he sleeps his head is always completely under the covers.

He recently auditioned for an on campus production of a Beckett play. It meant a lot to him and he was quite anxious during the selection process. Days later he was happy to learn that he had won the part of an old man. This is the sixth or seventh old man he's played, he reports.

He has a dream of inheriting $15,000 or maybe just $5,000 from a drunk of an uncle of his who himself recently inherited a large chunk of cash. With that money he would take an apartment in NYC, get a new wardrobe, take singing lessons, some acting lessons, get some headshots and start going to auditions.

Hours later he comes down from all the caffeine, smokes another cigarette and wants to go to sleep. He talks a little more while tangled up in blankets, his face shrouded in plaid and flower patterns. He says every day he feels like just falling asleep and never waking up.

Every single day.

He has no hope of things getting any better. He has nothing to wake up for, nothing to do.

People tell him, as the interviewer did, that things will get better. So he watches day time television, reads a little science fiction on the couch, plays board games, smokes some more, and waits for each day to be over.