AN EXCERPT FROM THIS MUST BE THE PLACE
Homeside Acres Apartments, Central Phoenix, Summer of 2001—
My stepbrothers and I decide enough is enough and we band together in an intervention for my father and their mother. We all come together and meet with an addiction counselor, ambushing the two of them. I cry, begging my father to please not die on me, sharing with him how empty I feel from my mother’s death in ’96, how his accelerated drinking is a slow and legal suicide. His wife calls me a hypocrite and a coward, mentioning my own drug use and cocaine overdose from ‘98. My stepbrothers talk about how important my father is to them and I feel guilty because their mother is not important to me. My stepbrothers are being good men and I am being a selfish boy. My father and their mother enter into separate rehabilitation facilities—hers, because she is insured, is nice and modern—across town from one another and—his, because he is uninsured is a run-down ramshackle place full of men on parole and men with missing limbs—they are both terrified to be apart.
I argue and bicker constantly with one of my stepbrothers after the other goes back to New Mexico. While my father and his wife are in the drying-out clinic, I develop a strange and awkward sexual relationship in the laundry room one night with another tenant at the apartment complex. Her husband turns out to be a notorious local serial killer and gets caught later on, after I’ve left the desert and gone back to Brooklyn.
Outside the Marriott Hotel, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, July 1992—
We—three of my shipmates and myself—are in a taxi trying to convince the driver to take us to a house of ill repute. The taxi driver says he knows of no such things in his city and we—three of my shipmates and myself—get all manner of belligerent. People are yelling. The taxi driver is laughing at us. Killer—one of my more intoxicated shipmates, a stocky little murderer from Detroit with birth control glasses and a voice like Luther Vandross—is in the back seat, singing loudly about how he is going to puke. I am sitting next to the taxi driver in the front seat and I watch him remove a wad of what appears to be hash from a pouch and pop it into his mouth. I pull out a can of long-cut Skoal and offer it to him. He opens the can and sniffs it, puts it into his tunic, and hands me the rest of his pouch of hash.
“I’mma puke, y’all. Motherfuckers, I said I am going to fuckin’ puke up in this goddamn cab in this goddamn pussy-less country!” Killer yells, his head in his hands. We—two of my shipmates and myself—roar at him, chanting for him to puke. The taxi driver says that if Killer pukes in his car, he will leave us by the side of the road. We are nowhere near where the ship is, in fact, we are suddenly in a part of Dubai that looks much like the bombed out warzone we have all come from. Killer pukes. Killer pukes and it flies from his gaping mouth into the back of the taxi driver’s turban, splashing over the seats and all into my lap. The taxi driver yanks the emergency break and immediately starts yelling for us to get out of his car. The taxi driver opens his door, and then I do it, I turn in my seat and kick him, full force in the ass away from the car, all while sliding over and slamming the door and taking off with his taxi. We left it at The Marriott. I tossed the keys to a Commander in uniform and told him to get the fucker washed because there was puke all up in it.
4434 N 22nd Street, Apartment 4A, Phoenix, Late May, 1996—
My mother has been dead for less than two weeks. I cannot sleep so I listen to Art Bell’s Coast to Coast AM all night while chain-smoking and crying and masturbating. Art Bell keeps on talking about things like remote viewing and shadow people and I am a mess so I start to let my mind unravel. I am late on my rent. I am about to lose my job. I have been sporadically fucking a coworker at my directory assistance call center job. I have also been sporadically fucking a friend’s wife. I try to call Art Bell’s show but my phone is disconnected. I go out onto my patio and sit there and watch the sun rise, putting out cigarettes on my thighs. I pray for death to come soon.
The Willow House, 3rd Ave and McDowell Road, Phoenix, June, 1994—
I come here after my shift at the record store and sit around at picnic tables outside, scribbling into notebooks while drinking shitty coffee and waiting for my girlfriend, Velvet, to get off work so we can go get high. The crowd here is varied: AA people alongside art people and punks alongside dirty Deadheads and downtown casualties. There are many open mic poetry events, usually outdoors at dusk. One night I decide to read. I go to the mic and drop weapons. I go to the mic and read about Kuwait City and southern Iraq. I go to the mic and read about prostitutes and hashish and drinking homemade wine made out of grape juice in the middle of the Indian Ocean. I go to the mic and curse over and over again. Nobody claps. Nobody moves. I am not asked to read again.
Desert Sky Pavilion, West Phoenix, October 18th, 1995—
I am loaded on a belly full of pills and Sarah is gyrating wild-like in front of me, dancing like the world is ending and she is the only one who knows it is ending. We are surrounded by thousands and thousands of people at a Nine Inch Nails/David Bowie concert. The concert is outdoors, so I have packed the tips of a few cigarettes with weed. Sarah is still dancing like someone who has been injected with methamphetamine. I light one of the loaded cigs and Nine Inch Nails launch into “Closer” and Sarah runs her hands back to the front of my jeans and starts playing with me while I get high. There are mothers and fathers and uncles and aunts surrounding us. Sarah is still dancing and she pulls my zipper down and starts to rub me. Someone from behind us makes a comment about the weed smell but I do not care because my cock is getting harder and Sarah is getting faster as the song builds. Someone from the side of us throws a beer at us and Sarah keeps gyrating and rubbing and I lean my head all the way back and look up at the sky and the noise is beautiful and I don’t fucking care.
AZP Skatepark, Flagstaff, AZ, December 1995—
Grass has come up to Flagstaff to play a show with Julia—an incredible screamo band from San Diego—and Primitive Tribes—a local Flagstaff band made up of peace punks and crusties. The show is inside of a skate park and the skate park has no heat and it is thirteen degrees. As always, our second guitar player, Reid, couldn’t make the show. This has happened three or four times now. I am very close to quitting the band, but I love playing with Brian and Anthony, so I put up with Shawn’s weird mope shit and persevere, for the rock action. A band of hessians show up at the skate park and beg to get put on the bill. They’re on tour from the Midwest and just want to play a show. They’re called Ritual Device and seem like nice enough dudes. We let them go on before us. They destroy everything and everyone in the place with a solid and guttural Jesus Lizard-like sludge and stomp. I wish I was in that band and on that tour. We play our set and every animal comes out of my body and there is steam rising from my hands on the fretboard and I run halfway up the halfpipe and slide down on my knees while playing and Shawn is mewling and Brian is thumping and Anthony is pounding and I leave my body with the animals and never notice the blood from my frozen fingers until after, when I can feel every sting.
Scripps Memorial Hospital, 9888 Genesee Ave, La Jolla, CA, April, 1996—
My mother is in a coma because the radiation treatment weakened her colon so much that a portion of it burst and went septic. The doctors found some strange bacteria in her body and because of this anyone who goes into the room to be with her has to scrub up and wear medical scrubs. I have just returned from my mother’s dentist after getting a broken tooth pulled and my mouth is full of bloodied gauze and I do not say anything to my mother’s nurse about it because I am not going to let some bacteria get in the way of me spending time with my mother while machines are breathing for her and she is dreaming of another life. I pull out the bloodied gauze and put it into a trashcan next to the bed and sit down and hold my mother’s hand and tell her about my life, about how at night I go to the strip club near the Sports Arena because none of the women there will ask me how I feel or what I feel or anything of the sort and I can be alone there at a table in a darkened corner and the music is loud and the cokes are ice cold and I can disappear.
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. For more information on Sean and his work visit his website at www.seanhdoyle.com.