12 Elliott Drive, Hicksville, June 24th, 1977— It is my sister’s birthday and everyone is in the backyard and my father is grilling hot dogs and hamburgers and my sister is happy and the whole family is with us and then the bees happen. My sister steps into a hole in the ground in the yard and the bees swarm out and start to sting and attack her and she is shrieking and my mother runs over to grab her and everyone else scatters but I stand and stare at the welts forming where she has been stung and then my father pushes me out of the way and pours a can of gasoline into the hole and calmly drops a lit cigarette into the hole. I watch as bees fly up and out of the hole in flames while my sister screams and my mother screams and my father nods his head at me and says quietly, only to me, “burn anything that ever hurts you.”

Grand Street MTA Station, Chinatown, NYC, July 2005— I had just piled a bunch of my grieving friends into cabs to get them to their hotels scattered across NYC after we’d spent the evening drowning ourselves in liquor after our friend Keith’s wake. Everyone was shitfaced—my friend Allen even pulled a knife on the cabbie after I pushed him into the front seat with him, to show the cabbie he was from Texas—and I was no exception. I stumbled away from Motor City and made my way—somehow—to the subway station to catch the D back to Bensonhurst. I was so drunk I could not feel my teeth. I stood on the platform and started to sweat the liquor out of myself. I picked up a paper on the bench and it was all in Chinese and I got mad and then I started to take off my shoes. A woman was standing fifteen feet away, watching me, clucking her tongue. I took off my shirt, yelling about handjobs and death and how members of my family had just robbed me of half a million dollars. I took off my pants right as the train pulled in, waving them around so my wallet and money went flying everywhere. I tried to bend down and pick up my things as the doors to the train slid open and the rush of cool air engulfed me. I draped my pants over my shoulder and put my shoes on my hands and when I tried to grab my shirt I saw the woman who had been clucking her tongue had it in her hand and she and a man from inside of the train helped me get on.

I woke up on the platform at Coney Island.

I still could not feel my teeth.

Some steakhouse joint in Santa Fe, New Mexico, December 2005—

I am sitting at the bar of a restaurant my stepbrother’s partner manages and I have just told the bartender to try and make sure there is liquor in my glass at all times. I am here helping my father die. I am here helping my father die while trying to help everyone around him accept his death. I have a belly full of Xanax and I am guzzling whiskey and I want—no, need—someone, anyone, to touch me. All I am burning for on the inside is kindness and flesh. I keep trying to get the bartender’s attention. She knows my father is dying. She is being kind. I keep trying to talk to her. I ask her if she wants to go outside and smoke a joint. She does.

My disconnection from my body is terrible and it hurts so I ask her, politely, if she has a man. She says no and smiles at me, but I know that it is a pity smile, a smile reserved for the deranged or the dying. We are passing the joint back and forth and I can taste the difference between my whiskey-soaked saliva and hers, brimming with softness and beauty.

Back inside, I start flirting with her again. My stepbrother is sitting next to me, drowning his own feelings. He knows everyone in Santa Fe, so a parade of people come up to give their early condolences and he introduces them to me and they give their early condolences to me as well and I thank them. I watch as the bartender watches me. I take two crisp hundred dollar bills and cup them in my palm. She walks over.

“If I give you money—this money—will you take me into the walk-in cooler or your car or anywhere but here and let me make out with you, let me maybe put your nipples in my mouth for a few minutes? I just—I need so badly to feel alive and to feel another human being’s skin right now.”

My stepbrother’s partner took me outside and hugged me, telling me never to do such a thing again. When we went back to the place the next night, the bartender was gone. Four days later, so was my father.

Brian’s father’s house, West Phoenix, Summer, 1989— I am hiding out at Brian’s father’s house because I got into it really badly with my mother. Brian’s father is a nice enough man. Brian is my best--and probably at this point, only--friend. Brian is a diabetic. Brian’s father is a diabetic. Brian’s father has a “cleaning lady” who comes by one afternoon when I am hiding out in Brian’s room, stoned, listening to music. The “cleaning lady” is actually an escort who pretends to clean the kitchen while topless. I watch the whole thing through a crack in Brian’s bedroom door. Brian’s father has a very small erection and she keeps on waggling the feather duster on it and he makes a cooing sound like a ticklish baby. She sucks him off and he has a very loud orgasm less than three minutes later. Brian’s father hands her an envelope and she leaves.

I never tell Brian what I saw.

12 Elliot Drive, Hicksville, New York, June 1st, 1976— I am in the car with my mother and little sister when a tornado cuts across our block and throws our car into a neighbor’s yard. My little sister is thrown from the back seat into the back of my head and then into the dashboard. My mother hits her head on the steering wheel. I am fine, not a scratch. When the tornado picks us up everything goes still and quiet, even though the car—a huge Plymouth Fury III—is spun and then hurled as if made out of papier-mâché. My mother becomes afraid to drive in the rain.


About the Author: 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, is forthcoming from CCM Press in 2015. seanhdoyle.com

Story Song: "Changes" (Black Sabbath Cover) by Charles Bradley