Bill H. (not the boy's real name) is 28 years old, though he looks 18, maybe 19. He weighs 115 pounds of very pale white flesh. He has short brown hair that enjoys laissez faire mornings, wears glasses (periodically mislaid) with a fairly thick lens and bent frame, and sports mismatched socks (often the same black and blue couple each day) ripped on one sole. He's a university educated actor (Shakespeare's his preference) who failed out of college after his sixth year and he's an alcoholic.

He's been drinking since high school and has spent much of his life depressed or seeking its relief. He was recently on Prozac for a month, liked the results but had to quit because of a rash that affected large areas of his body. He now takes the occasional anti anxiety capsule. He has no direction, no prospects, no marketable skills, no agenda. He has severely strained ties with his family, doesn't work or seek work , sleeps in a different place each night, and often has no food, money, or cigarettes.

Bill lives on a college campus in Westchester as the illegal couch guest of four male students who share an on campus apartment.

The apartment has all the appropriate trappings of modern day collegiate intellectualism: books on serial killers lay on the window sill next to a lidded pickle jar of 12 dead scorpions; a poster of COP SHOOT COP; a used condom is thumb tacked to the wall; a profile of Harold Bloom in New York magazine lies somewhere, dog eared. The stereo, the television, the ramen, the piles of dirty atypical clothes mix with copies of 1970's Marvel, Celine, Bataille, and Nietzsche.

Bill's a product of middle class income and upbringing, of a dysfunctional home, of circumstances, of a predisposition, and of some unfortunate intangibles. And now he sits for long periods of time on a couch smoking with water on for coffee (always), with his life half over, playing parlor games under fluorescent lights.


Bill's been unemployed for the last 9 months or so and has little money left. His last job was telemarketing in Denver. He was fired by his girlfriend who was his boss.

Their relationship also ended, he tells me.

How, I ask.

Tragically, he says.


He pantomimes a bottle lifted to his mouth.

He had hitch hiked to Denver from Maryland three years ago in two days, one of which he spent the night awake in a diner. On another hitching trip (he's hitched often and has no drivers license) a trucker reached across the seat of his cab, his eyes averted from the straight and monotonous road, and put a hand on Bill's genentalia.

"I was pissed, I was angry as hell about that... I thought why do I do this, why don't I get a job, why do I hitch hike."

Recently he spent a few days in a detox hospital to which he was admitted "against his will." He won't elaborate, but he does say that drinking when you have a hangover is "exquisite" and he misses it. He often jokes deadpan about drinking vodka and going to the pub to get drunk though he's had blackouts and hysterical fits from problem drinking.

He's anachronistic friendly: part Mark Twain, part Will Rogers. Physiognomically he seems to affect the popular caricature of the closeted psychotic. Consider leafing through the back pages of the paper of record and happening upon an expressionless, bespectacled face maybe his eyes might be a bit wider than natural because of the recently spent flash bulb. Under the b&w photo with a stark black background would be a 6 point caption stating that he was from the Mid west, from a very religious family and that he had just shot to death the entire clan while they slept, the neighbors, it would be said, etc.etc.

And of course there would be a quote from a certain Jenny a local blonde haired volleyball queen and the first in the neighborhood to carry around condoms (she kept them inside an empty John Cougar cassette case) for which to offer the high school's star middle linebacker (size 11 in tan work boots and a loud laugher) prior to rolls in the Budget Inn hay would recall him as "sorta' weird" and tell of the times when he had leered at her for hours through the store window while she used to work the night shift at the Bread & Loaf, his thin frame partially obscured by the large and colorful advertisement for Original Flavor Beef Jerkies at only 11 cents a stick.

Imagine that boy's face. Imagine that face poking up at pep rallies in the heartland and the subsequent taunts and cold shoulders of America's youth. Imagine Bill's eventual pleasure with the offense his face could elicit.


Eccentric speech patterns, neologisms, original turns of phrase, he uses "sir?" as an interrogative when he doesn't hear his questioner barely eats, came to the apartment with only two pair of pants both of them gray.

He had just arrived on campus with his brother and needed a place to live. He had impressed the apartment residents, avant garde all of them, and they thought it would be sort of weird in an interesting way if he stayed and he did. As a joke, as performance art, as another piece of their arbitrary, chaotic, offensive decor, as a further claim to their eccentricity. A few months later one said "I would kill myself before I got like him."

An evening or two after he I arrived I spoke to his brother, who, concerned, tells me that Bill is an alcoholic but has been off the juice for a while trying to stay off.

Can I and the fellas drink in his presence, I ask, for those were the plans.

It shouldn't be a problem, was the reply.

Two or three women were present that night. One of the apartment residents was taping the evening (crazy college kids). Bill (who loves show tunes and enjoys the old Hollywood musical), when called on to sing an original lyric into the mike, never failed to provide. Out of his contributions came the curious and melodic refrain "I'm a cobweb cowboy..."

The evening progressed.

And then Bill picked up. Covertly he drank. Started acting a little strange, but he wasn't exactly the picture of normalcy before that desperately doesn't want to be, it's likely his second biggest fear. Then he started getting a bit more aggressive (Bill is usually quite reserved). And then came a slurred word from his formerly so articulate mouth.

"Are you drunk?"

"Bill, have you been drinking?"

Quick, somebody go check his cup.

Yup (too pleased with themselves) there's vodka in this O.J.

The women present decided that they might now like to be girls and they gaped at him (one of them shrieked), as if he were a freak. And he obliged them. He went up to their faces and said weird and violent things, started getting more irrational, they more afraid, he even more strange.

Somebody get his brother.

Bill gets upset. He starts to howl.

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