Father Auditions script

Leaving Church
Ten days ago I left Toronto, tired and sick, and traveled across the Atlantic, hoping water and sky could make me well again. I wanted to respond to your letter, though I don’t know if there are answers to your questions, since what words point to is so delicate, almost unsayable.

To love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a foreign language. Maybe it’s time to leave the church of what we used to care about, the old ways, our cherished beliefs, our home.

I came to you wearing the face of a dog that’s used to being beaten. You did what you had to do. Maybe now it’s time to leave that church too. I can’t see you again daddy, but I wish you well.


1 Damaged title (men carry ‘Damaged’ sign on street)

2 picture: woman stands by igloo shop
She never ate the ice cream. I don’t know why it was important for her to tell me that, but it was the first thing mother always mentioned about growing up. She worked in the fanciest ice cream parlour in town and got to meet just about everyone, and even today she points people out and says: he’s a chocolate pecan and she’s strawberry. That marriage won’t last.

3 picture: girl falling out window
Gravity was not a friend to my mother. By the age of fifteen she had fallen out of eight windows, a church, and the hat display at Macy’s. While some suspected that her convalescence provided her with the attention and sympathy she craved, she told me later that it was the act itself which drew her to it, the feeling of weightlessness, falling in a world without rules or boundaries. Almost infinite.

4 picture: in a bar: hands on a beer and cigarette
On her nights off she’d go over to Ruby’s, across the street, so she could listen to the jazz. The sound of a tenor sax still brings tears to my mother’s eyes. She says it’s the sound of the impossible, come to visit this world for a while, though it never stays for long. It’s everything we hope for but never reach. “And what if we reach it one day?” I asked. She said then it’s not jazz.

5 picture: pair of feet on dance floor, her shoes lifting
She met my father when she was twenty-one. She says, “I wasn’t ambitious. I married the first man who came along. That was your father.” He was the most distracted man she’d ever met. In order to get his attention, she kept having to push her face into his, and because he was taller than she was, this meant spending whole evenings on the tips of her toes. This wreaked havoc with their two step and absolutely destroyed their tango.

6 picture: couple dancing
She claims she never found him handsome, even at the beginning. She would spend whole evenings in his arms, dreaming of other’s faces, the tattooed boy who packed her groceries, the mailman who always looked depressed, as if he’d stayed up all night reading the letters he had to deliver the next day. But my father was the first to ask her to marry, and because she couldn’t think of a single reason why she shouldn’t, she said yes.

7 picture: couple kiss in stands
They were married in June, in a simple ceremony with a few close friends attending. Marriage was her first intimation that only the conventional could provide her with true happiness. It was only when she felt her own desires, so small and insignificant, connected to everyone else, that she felt the mysterious presence of what some would later call God.

8 picture: man with light bulb
My father was always coming up with new ideas to make us rich quickly. My mother encouraged him in this, although his schemes invariably back fired. Hoping to regain the beautiful curly hair of his youth, he invented the hair seed which would grow like plants on someone’s scalp. Each day we watched as my father’s remaining hair dropped out, but he was never discouraged for long. He decided his hair had been a problem all along, a barrier between his ideas and the light that all ideas travelled on.

9 picture: two kids in bed
Although my sister was a year older than me, she insisted on sharing the bed, taking her bottle at the same time, sleeping the same hours. Before long, I couldn’t tell us apart, I didn’t know where I stopped and she began. I had become her satellite, orbiting the strong magnetic pull of her personality.

10 picture: kids eating lollipops
Determined to make our childhood as normal as possible, my mother patterned our behaviour after popular movies of the day. Because everyone seemed so happy onscreen, we were encouraged to learn certain scenes by heart, rehearsing them over and over until we got them right. Here we are rehearsing a birthday party from an Andy Hardy movie called Kidtown.

11 picture: cop and kids
From early on in my life, I had a great difficulty telling right from wrong. But I had become such a good mimic, no one could tell the difference. I know many of my friends were as confused as I was. We thought morality was something that happened later in life, like public hair or mustaches. My favourite days at school were when Officer Bromley came to visit. He told interesting stories about the kinds of tools you need to break into a car, or wearing disguises. Sometimes, after class, he would invite one of us to ride along with him in his patrol car, although mostly he would just park it behind the electric plant and get us to show him how we were developing “down under” as he liked to call it.

12 picture: feet in stands
When I was fifteen I discovered sex, although not in the usual way. It wasn’t feet I was interested in, even that seemed too personal, but people’s shoes. Each weekend I would go to the racetrack and prowl the back of the stands, looking for a particularly good pair. My favourite were brown oxfords with a dark trim, although penny loafers ran a close second.

13 picture: headless kiss
My parents showed affection to each other so rarely, my sister and I decided that they had no genitals. But one day, preparing a shower for my sister’s second marriage, I caught them necking behind the hors d’oeuvres. Without knowing why, I was filled with a terrible foreboding, and sure enough, exactly eight days later, the stock market crashed.

14 picture: men with handkerchiefs in front of face
For years my father had been ashamed of his face, the large nose, the eyes which he’d decided were too soft. Not wanting to feel uncomfortable he chose for his friends only men he felt were uglier than himself. He would invite them over for a few drinks to work up their courage and then they’d decide to go into town, though they never did it without covering their faces.

15 picture: woman with blank mirror
When it came time for me to marry I found Sheila, a woman who looked just like my mother, which pleased my analyst though he wouldn’t say why. Because I never had time to develop a personality, I picked one up from whoever was around, and most of the time that meant Sheila. I became a reflection of her, but watered down a little, and she never forgave me for that. She was always trying to start arguments but it was difficult because as each day passed our resemblance grew until we seemed exactly alike. We had become mirrors for one another.

16 picture: woman with car in glasses
Soon Sheila lived only to escape me, which was never difficult. I was dull she said, insipid, uninspired and vain. In short, I was just like her, and this realization made her run more quickly than ever into the arms of our neighbours. When I looked at her, all I could see was the large getaway car of the handsome man who lived next door, so I knew it wouldn’t be long now, even those few nights we spent together I felt lonely, and her size twelve shoes, which had filled me with such happiness when we met, were now only a reminder of shoes I would never fill and the footprints she would leave behind.

17 picture: house fallen into water
On the day Sheila left me, our house, the beautiful house we’d spent the best years of our lives in together, collapsed, and was washed away to sea. That’s when I knew it was really over. I would have to begin my life again. I would have to find a way to begin a new life carved out of disappointment and heartbreak. I resolved to reinvent myself. I would embrace my fate and become a new man.

18 picture: men painting house
One day, still looking for work, I answered an ad in the local paper. While the exact nature of employment was unclear, the interview process lasted almost a week, they were very careful about who they took on and when Monday came, and they called to say I got the job, I understood why. I was to become part of a smooth, well functioning team. We each had our place, each depending on one another to perform our small tasks, though once we were all together, there was no job too large for us. We were the universe reduced to over-alls and paint, we were harmony and balance, a perfect unity. At last, I thought, my childhood was over and I was filled with sadness, the sadness you feel when you finally get what you really want.

27 Thoughts About My Dad

27. Every year on his birthday we asked him how old he was. He would always reply 27. 27? We could barely count that high, it was definitely the oldest we could ever imagine a person becoming. Although when we got old enough to remember last year’s reply (hey, aren’t you… 28 this year?) we didn’t understand that while his body might continue to age, inside he was locked into the permanent shelter of 27.

26. One Saturday morning he spreads ginger marmalade on a rusk. It’s a hardened hockey puck of bread that looks like something horses might eat, if they had to. The Dutch word for these delicacies was nearly unpronounceable, and involved spraying a lot of spit in the direction of your listener. Dad assured us that the Germans used this word as a checkpoint test during the Occupation. Only the Dutch could pronounce it properly, and if you couldn’t say the word you would be shot. Breakfast could be an adventure with my dad.

25. When he came to Canada my father met faces that had never been hungry. It might have made him angry, instead, it reassured him. Food had always helped him so he was delighted to learn this new English expression: second helping.

24. On Sunday afternoons, when the mood struck, he would announce that he had to gas up the car, who wanted to come? He might drive for an hour to visit a gas station that offered fuel a penny cheaper than the pump around the corner. The gas of course was the necessary cover story, he was a scientist after all, so every outing required method and hypothesis. But the real purpose was his lighter-than-air chitchat, his unfailing good humour rolling over us as if everything would always be easy. On the way back, much to the delight and consternation of my brother, dad would shut off the engine and we would coast for miles down the huge hill, trying to see if we could make it all the way back to the intersection at Plains Road before turning the engine on again.

23. Dad told me hundreds of times that the friends I would meet in school would be the most important relationships in my life, although he himself didn’t have contact with any of them. Perhaps he’d read this in a book? But one year he was part of a class that made each other so happy they decided they should stay together forever. To do this they would vote on what they would study in university. They chose electrical engineering, and that’s why my father entered the field. Or at least, that’s what he liked to tell us, as if the most important things in your life could only be decided by accident.

22. One day after work he came home with flowers for the only woman he ever loved. That was my mother of course. Though it turned out the flowers were at least in part for himself. He’d been promoted at last, after toiling for many years in the Motor Division under a boss whose name I heard often spoken at the dinner table. Doug Tough. When I was a kid I thought that every boss would have that name. Anyways, my father had been handpicked by one of the VP’s and turned into the company’s head of engineering, though when he explained it to me, he said he had become the science officer. As an avid watcher of Star Trek, I was no stranger to the job of being a science officer. My father had just turned into Mr. Spock.

21. As a science officer he frequently travelled for business, there were weekly jaunts to Pittsburgh where Westinghouse, the company he worked for, put money into research and development. He talked to us about the electric car, and how computers, which were then being fed by shoeboxes full of punch cards, would one day revolutionize education. Once he travelled down to Texas for a weekend. It must have made a big impression, because on top of his pronounced European accent, he added a broad Texas drawl. “Howdy partners.” We couldn’t stop laughing so the accent only lasted a few days.

20. There was a story he liked to tell, and the more often he told it, the more convinced we became that he was telling the story of himself. He was trying to explain to us Einstein’s theory of relativity. An astronaut heads out into space and breaks the speed barrier. But when he returns to earth he finds that his friends and family have all grown old or died, while he has aged only a few months. He is a hero of science, experienced something that no one else has ever felt, but the only way he can describe his encounter is by saying e = mc2. The cheery scientific faith, the sense that my father was entirely alone, already out in orbit, living in a different time zone, none of this was lost to us.

19. He was legendarily absent-minded. One afternoon, still running over the day’s events at work, he pulled into the garage and strolled into the house, only to notice that something was a little different. Wait, what is that strange woman doing in my house? It seems he had driven to the house where we used to live and walked right in. Hi honey, I’m home!

18. “Well, how was that?” my father asks my brother and I. We’re strolling down the middle of Canada’s longest street, in the forbidding metropolis of Toronto, choked with butter and chocolate. He had taken my brother and I to see 2001: A Space Odyssey, a postmodern puzzle of a film that begins with 20 wordless minutes of human-ape ancestors wandering around until, in cinema’s most famous edit, an ape man tosses up a bone that turns into a space station. The main character of the movie is a computer, and there are four endings, each more mysterious than the last. I was about to celebrate my tenth birthday, my brother was eight. The only film we had ever seen was Mary Poppins, which had catchier tunes, but we understood that here was the future we were hurtling towards. Sometimes being with my dad was like going to see a fortune teller.

17. He came to Holland for the first time as a pre-teen, and shortly after he arrived, the Germans invaded. His home country of Indonesia declared war, and threw some German residents in jail. The Germans responded by putting Indonesians into concentration camps, including my grandfather, my dad’s dad. German soldiers came to the door to pick him up. My father said, “I felt proud, because I was the only one who could speak German. The German sergeant spoke only to me. “Don’t worry little boy, your father will be OK.”

16. My grandfather wasn’t Jewish or a spy, so he didn’t need to be killed. After two years in the concentration camp, he was released, though he was never the same. He liked to read at night, so my dad rigged up his bicycle to a generator. He spent the rest of the war sick in bed.

15. Dad understood speed limits as soft suggestions. In order to frustrate a police force that he felt was better applied to others, he installed a special scanner in his car that allowed him to track police radio chatter. After just a few weeks he was pulled over because his device had been detected, and he was forced to remove it, which only soured him further on the project of the law.

14. When I was 11, my mother encouraged my father to help me out with a science fair project. He decided to build a computer, my job would be to paint the wooden shell green. These were early days for computers, a machine that could add to a hundred would be big enough to fill this room, so it was difficult to convince my classmates that I’d actually done any work at all, especially when I just wanted to talk about the paint colour. For the dubious talent of convincing my father to do my work for me, the teacher gave us both a B+.

13. My sister Alex is five years old and my father is a cat, crawling beside her on all fours. Is little kittie cat hungry? Oh yes. My sister shakes out some kibble triangles and gives them to my cat father who promptly swallows them. Uh dad, that was actual cat food. Suddenly human, he rushes to the bathroom.

12. Dad took a casual interest in our education. At a rare high school parent-teacher meet up, he visited my eccentric physics instructor Mr. Cantalon. My brother enjoyed this class so much he took it twice, but my father returned amused and exasperated. “I had to teach the physics teacher some physics,” he announced. “There are only six formulas in physics, he’s doing everything the hard way!”

11. Sometimes his jokes were unintended. Like some of his expat Dutch comrades, staying clean and germ free was a priority. Each Sunday after we came home from church he would remind us, “Be sure to wash your hands. You’ve been in a dirty place.”

10. Music never seemed to touch my father. One Saturday morning he announced that we would take a trip into Toronto to visit Sam the Record Man where he would buy all nine Beethoven symphonies for nine cents. He never took them out of the wrapper. The most represented composer in his modest record collection was James Last. Sometimes described as “acoustic porridge,” Last’s big band arrangements poured a happy drizzle of brass over popular tunes and sold millions, so I guess my father wasn’t alone in his indifference.

9. Christmas day 1968. My brother and I are so excited we start tossing around some of the tree tinsel, even a branch of two. After my mother’s ritual fury, my father was dispatched to spank us, which he’d never done before, though whenever political leaders misbehaved he would repeat, “That man needs a good spanking.” He couldn’t bring himself to the task though, instead, he tickled us roughly grimly and dutifully, his face set in a thousand mile stare of incomprehension. Why am I doing this?

8. I can’t remember seeing him angry, though it must have happened. And tears arrived only when he’d lost most of his language, and memory was a foreign country. He would look at my mother with the adoring stare of a teenager, and when she told sad stories his eyes would well up with tears. His emotional repertoire expanded only at the end of his life. It seems it’s never too late to learn.

7. He had always been easy with words, they flowed out of him without any effort. But he spent his early retirement glued to the same chair, reading variations of the same newspaper, watching the same TV shows and slowly language became a stranger to him. His new failures might appear as fear or anger in someone else, but in my father they looked like an affable helplessness. “How are you?” was a question medical professionals posed often. “I don’t know!” he would reply, jaunty, relentlessly upbeat, as if we were all part of the same existentialist joke.

6. After the Second World War ended, my grandfather, my father’s father, developed a taste for alcohol, sometimes drinking away the food rations. Upset at his erratic behaviour, my grandmother decided he was insane, and had him committed to an asylum, where he spent the rest of his life. My father watched as his own father was forcibly taken away by guards. Angry and helpless, he hurled the oldest curses at his wife. How could you?

5. Dad always played doubles with the same three men, using a heavy top spin serve that he lobbed into play. After more than two decades, he could only remember the name of his old pal Seymour, though it would be some years before the rest of his memory would go. He refused every invite to linger over coffee after the game was over, until my mother made him stay. Clearly he preferred the structure of game, set and match to the flows of unrehearsed conversation.

4. In 1988 I became HIV positive. I waited six years to call my mother and break the news. I met up with my folks a few days later, at the Festival of Festivals as it used to be called, where I was showing a movie about AIDS. I hugged my father, as we always did when we met up, but he never spoke to me about being positive, which was a death sentence then, and in the years since, we were careful never to speak about it. I never heard him say I love you. Emotions were a department that was run by my mother, I guess his own were a question neither of us wanted to ask.

3. I only made one film about my father. It shows him sitting in the chair he was married to, just a couple of meters away, inhabiting another world. He is hiding behind his newspaper, while I hide behind my camera living the oldest dream, of giving birth to my father. In the movie’s final shot the camera discovers that dad has turned into a pelican. Free at last.

2. All his stories left my father, except for one. We would hang out on Sunday mornings until his face opened with an infinite softness and he would smile and offer his truth. It was always the same story, about how he had travelled from Indonesia, where he had grown up, to Holland, which was quickly invaded and occupied by the Germans, and then his refusal to do post-war Dutch military service and the resulting move to Canada. I never tired of hearing him tell me this story, because everything he needed to say was in it. And aren’t most of us telling versions of the same story… over and over again?

1. In his last story, he describes a moment after five years of a brutal Nazi occupation, when the Allied planes fly so low that he can see the pilot smiling, before dropping boxes of food. That day dad eats an entire loaf of bread. At the end of his language, at the end of his story, there is a precious loaf. Here was the proof that every promise would be fulfilled, every hope realized, everything we had ever wanted could be held in our hands and cherished. The endless war would be over soon. We would eat together and it will be good. It turned out the heaven he believed in was right here, in every ice cream parlour, and every plate of fried rice, and most of all in the face of my mother, who he loved devotedly for 63 years.


Image: clouds
Image: boys running in slow motion backwards.
v/o: In the first half of my life I moved towards all that gave me pleasure. But after the accident, the accident of growing older, I became cautious, preferring the same roads to work, a familiar breakfast, marriage. Because my memory is a limited resource, like gold or uranium, I go back over my life slowly, running fingers over the moments until I can taste them again.

Remembering is like running backwards, an art I practiced with a friend from childhood, Oscar, who says there are just two tragedies in life. Not getting what you want. And getting it.

title: fifteen years earlier

LS cityscape with clouds passing over it
first image – no v/o
second image: woman at window “No, not at first.”
third image – no v/o
fourth image: CU woman face: “The way my father moved like he was trying to get away from something—from me, the children.”
man with birds: “Once I had a dream too, but when Marcia got pregnant I stopped having my life because I had theirs, the twins.
man feeding birds
street person lying down: “Everything slowed down, until each moment seemed to last a lifetime.”
man flips coin
woman at window: “At first I liked being alone, but after awhile even that wasn’t enough because there was still the voice inside, pushing and pulling at me.”
boy (bat and ball): I never saw my father after I was ten, but in a way I didn’t have to. I could still hear him inside saying, ‘You’re not normal, you’re slow, an idiot, and everything you touch you break.’

man in rain
woman at window: “Conscience is a flood which never ends.”
man at window: “Maybe today it’ll be different. I want to love them, my mother and father, without saying the word ‘but.'”
man and rain: “Yes.”
boy and rain: “I’m alone.”
man: “and it’s OK.”
man interior: “It’s love isn’t it?”
woman: (pause) “It’s starting again.”
boy: “But this time.”
man: “This time I’m going through it.”
woman flips hair: “I’m going through.”

Buffalo Death Mask
Scene 1

titles appear onscreen:
Your face arrived
so much later
than the skin
you grew over your childhood.

Your words. “If you’re cold tonight
you can sleep here. Just sleep.”

Wishes always return us
to the scene of the crime.

I walked over in his direction
because I liked the shape of him.
What he said was “Hi.”
And I found myself thinking
“Here you are at last!”

The question you couldn’t ask.
Why are we still here
when so many are gone?

You are newly confined to bed
alert and responsive
and every day I try to be grateful.

I was rubbing your feet
which ached with cramps
as they turned inward
on your newly useless legs
when you reached across the table
to touch my face.

Your hands seemed to say
We’re still here!

Scene 2
Image: timelapse cityscape, night transit, man walks in light. Tara runs (2), car drive, Stephen paints (superimposition), woman to altar, black. Man on fire, Stephens superimposed (from The Perils of Pedagogy by John Greyson). Forest fire. Mike with nagra. Mike with shingles. Mike in Northern Ontario light. Pat, Louise, Emma, Kerri, Christi-an, Pat, Esma. CNE night. Mike swims.

Mike: I discovered pine beetles in my apartment. Tiny specks with legs. They’re not bedbugs, they’re not cockroaches. They don’t bite you.
Stephen: How do you know they’re pine beetles?
Mike: I looked them up. And then my maintenance supervisor dude from the building came by and announced, “Pine beetles.” “Should I be worried about that?” “No, you’ll just clean everything here, everything. And it will be fine.” I threw out 22 years worth of HIV-medication bottles.
Stephen: How come you’re saving them, are you a hoarder?
Mike: No, it was the only thing I’ve saved.
Stephen: Empty pill bottles?
Mike: I thought one day I would do something with them. And one day never came.
Stephen: Well it’s interesting because those things have all changed, right? They go in and out of fashion as you wear them out. What number of cocktail are you on? How many have you used?
Mike: Not many.
Stephen: Really?
Mike: I think I’m on number four.
Stephen: I’m on four or five.
Mike: That’s not many.
Stephen: Over a ten year period?
Mike: Ten years?
Stephen: No wait, it’s more, sixteen years. The drugs came online in 1996, right? September 1996. I know because I was just about toast. CMV (cytomegalovirus) had started and I weighed almost nothing. I was a total disaster area. I jammed my foot in that door as it was closing. I started the drugs when I got back from kayaking with John and went on medication the next day. They didn’t work for the first month, I felt just vile, and then on the thirtieth day the light started shining again. (laughs) I was riding in a car and felt strangely happy, which I hadn’t felt in quite some time. I thought, “Oh I don’t feel like projectile vomiting.” It’s amazing what that does for your sense of well being. (laughs) I was on Saquinavir which was not the best of the drugs.
Mike: None of the early drugs were the best.
Stephen: And then I went onto the wasting ones, like 3TC and DDI.
Mike: Norvir, that was also called something else.
Stephen: They always had two names, I’ve never really understood why. It’s like an alias.
Mike: It’s so that the parents can talk together and the kids won’t know what they’re saying.
Stephen: I’ve given up on the names. They ask me sometimes, “What are you on?” and I have no idea. It’s like, you know, you’ve had so many lovers you can’t remember all their names. (laughs) I’ve been on so many drugs, whatever. What’s your name again? Norvir? DDI? Yeah, I’ve been sleeping around with them all for quite some time.

Stephen: I’m almost positive I seroconverted in 1982 in Haiti, because we had this very wild sex with a fellow by the name of Ti L’homme, who was anything but petit. I can’t imagine it was anywhere else, because the symptoms started showing up in 1985.
Mike: What were the symptoms?
Stephen: I got shingles at the age of 28, twice over the course of two years, in my legs of all places. It’s a weird place to get it, right?
Mike: I don’t know what’s weird with shingles. People get it on their face.
Stephen: Yeah, when they’re 90. Not when they’re 28. (laughs)
Mike: I didn’t get shingles until I was in my 30s.
Stephen: Did you get it on your face?
Mike: No I got it here, on my chest.
Stephen: Isn’t it awful?
Mike: It’s fucking painful.
Stephen: It goes on for months. I still have neuropathy from it. After half a bottle of red wine it’s like being plugged into an electrical socket. The nerve damage is still there.
Mike: The body remembers.
Stephen: The disease is writ large across your body in so many different ways.
Mike: Did you know in 1985 that you were HIV positive?
Stephen: Alex was diagnosed with ARC at the time, an acronym for AIDS Related Complex. He was having night sweats and losing weight. Then it just became obvious that he hosted a series of opportunistic infections on and off until his death.
Mike: From the mid-eighties to…
Stephen: Yeah, from about 1986 until 1993 when he died. I think because I’m a mongrel I didn’t get sick until quite late. I have the genetic superiority of mixed blood to get at these things from different angles, whereas he was a thoroughbred and they could take him out right away. But as soon as he died I went down the hill.
Mike: Do you think there’s a relation between his dying and your health?
Stephen: Yes, it’s very depressing losing someone you’ve loved so deeply. This is someone I was with for almost fifteen years, someone I went through all of my changes with.

Not only do you lose them, you lose what they remembered about you. And if you don’t fully understand yourself, then you’re doubly bereft. Suddenly you start to feel the hollowness in yourself because you had it backed up, with these people. And you didn’t even know it was there sometimes. You know they’d be like, “Remember when you did that?” And you’d be like: “No, I did not.” And they’d be: “Oh, so totally you did that.” And everyone else can triangulate it and go “Yeah, don’t try and get out of it.” It’s about being known too. Suddenly if you don’t have these people who know you, then where are you?

Scene 3
Image: People in fog, Machinefabriek music.

Scene 4
Image: Mike with shingles. Scott and Santosh kiss. Mike in hallway, waiting room, medical office. Tree shadow.

Mike: I also couldn’t tell anymore: am I sick? Am I dying today? There were so many days like that. I’m tired. Am I really tired? Am I dying tired?

Stephen: I got that sense when Colin died that he was pissed off that I hadn’t died before him. He had done all this worrying about me, and suddenly he was checking out before me. There was a certain kind of animosity directed towards me at the end. It’s something I could recognize because I had other friends who were in the same boat, but maybe not as far down the river, and I became angry, even resentful. Oh, they’re so healthy, I hate them.

I hadn’t anticipated the difficulty coming back from that brink. It took me three or four years to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. How do you start again from below zero? We were in the integers at that point in time. It was time to rebuild a rationale.

So much of my sense of self is about being loved. I need love and I had lost my love. I thought: I’m down a pint or two or three. Who is going to love me again? How will I live when I can’t be loved?