This Clouded Heart (excerpt)
by Sean H. Doyle
When I got out of the military and went back to Phoenix to try and salvage/mend my relationship with my father I had no idea that the drug habits I had partly joined the military to escape would come rushing back to the forefront of my simian brain. I figured that I had replaced all that longing to be fucked up for no reason with a new and improved longing to be fucked up for different reasons. I didn’t want to snort trucker speed. I didn’t want to stand around in the parking lot of a sketchy Circle K waiting for some cat I’d never met to bring me cocaine. I didn’t want to huff ether. I didn’t want to eat mushrooms and go climb to the top of Squaw Peak and watch the valley unfold and show me how every last yard of land had been stolen from the Hopi and the Papago.
I just wanted to be his son, to have a few drinks with him now and again. He told me I could live with him and his new wife for a while — they had a spare bedroom in their apartment. My father told me to take my time getting adjusted to being out of the military. Told me there was no rush. Told me he wanted to get to know me, to know the man I was becoming.
Because my father was the manager of the apartment complex where I lived, I would use the set of master keys and go into the apartments of some of the elderly when they were in and out of the hospital and steal their morphine pills, valium, and if I was really lucky and they had a really good pain management doctor — handfuls of dilaudid.
I used to think the crimes I committed to get high — my petty little drug crimes — were not crimes at all. I used to think they were victimless. I didn’t think that sneaking into some old person’s apartment when I knew they were in the hospital to raid their pills was a criminal act — I felt like it was some sort of divine thing, some universal accord that allowed me to maintain my bad habits without having to resort to any real crime, without violence. I never took any money or anything of any real value. That was a line I wasn’t willing to cross.
Something about having a secret habit or two is almost as intoxicating as the habits themselves. You just never know if you’re going to get caught, and the dopamine rush attached to the checklist one has to run through to make sure they aren’t caught — well, them’s some motherfucking good times. Until you get caught. Then the game gets switched up and you have to spend a good amount of time and energy convincing people that they are wrong about you, wrong about what they think they caught you doing.
You are seventeen years old. You are seventeen years old and you — being the fledgling punk rocker you are at seventeen [all nerve and no brain] — have punched holes in the door to your bedroom. All the way to the elbow. Multiple times. At this point, there are three rather large holes in your bedroom door that anyone can peer through and witness every last activity you attempt to pull off behind that closed door.
You are seventeen years old and you are sitting on the floor in your room with the door closed and in front of you is a mirror covered in crushed up amphetamines that you intend to snort into yourself and that you also plan to share with the girl who snuck in through your bedroom window. You are seventeen years old and you are hoping that maybe after the two of you get high she will take her shirt and bra off and you can run your face all over her young flesh while the amphetamines surge through your seventeen year old veins.
You do not care at all that she is the girlfriend of some other seventeen year old that you casually know. That is not a problem for you. You have already done plenty with this girl that is not your girl, but the girl of another you. Because that is a truth — you’re all the same. All of you seventeen year old boys trying to snort amphetamines with girls you hope to nuzzle and kiss and rub up on. You’re the same.
You offer her the mirror and the straw first. You watch her as she takes the straw between her fingers and uses her other hand to push her hair out of her face as she bends to the mirror on the floor. You look at her hair — chunks of it are bleached so harshly that it looks like hay, combustible — and you think about her head resting on your chest as you visualize the two of you in your bed, smoking. You see a shadow on the floor and quickly look up to see an eyeball in one of the holes in your door, scanning the room through the bruised and battered particle board.
Before she moves toward the mirror you reach out and put your hand on her shoulder.
“Sean? Are you awake? I need your help opening a jar — could you please come help me?”
“Just a minute, grandma. I’ll be right there.”
You move your hand from her shoulder to her mouth and cover it so that her laughter is inaudible. You hold a finger to your seventeen year old lips — the lips you want to give to her — and you make a stern face. You get up and go out the door and to the kitchen to help your grandmother.
Every person who lives at the apartment complex is wary of you until they find out you just got home from a war. Once they find out you are a veteran, everything opens up for you. You no longer get weird and cold glares from folks when they find you passed out in a lounge chair by the swimming pool. Nobody shies away from you when they find you asleep on the floor in the laundry room surrounded by empty beer bottles. Nobody gives it a second thought when you’re found having sex in the pool with the one semi-young woman in the complex — a supposed sex addict in her early forties who was in recovery until you entice her with marijuana and a youthful lack of pretense — they just figure you need to let off steam.
When the sweet old Michigan snowbird who owns the complex comes to you to offer you a job — painting the exterior of the complex for him — you know he is just doing you a solid because you are a veteran. At first you lie to him and tell him you have another gig lined up, because the money he offers you is so embarrassingly little that you would rather go rob Girl Scouts. Your father pulls you aside and tells you to take the gig. Your father tells you it isn’t just about you, it’s about him as well. You take the gig.
The first time you use the master keys to go into someone’s apartment and root around for drugs you go into the supposed sex addict’s place. You take off your shoes as you close the door behind you. You stand there in the air conditioning, your sweat turning to ice water. You fumble around in the medicine cabinet, but all you find are expired packets of birth control pills and bottles of vitamins. You make your way into her bedroom and the smell of incense is overpowering. On her nightstand you find four prescription bottles. Valium. Xanax. Zoloft. Soma. Each bottle is close to full. You carefully take the top off of each one and shake out half the bottle into your hand. You put the pills in different pockets. You put the bottles back on the nightstand exactly as you found them. You open up the drawer of the nightstand. A ream of condoms. A huge rubber dildo. Lubricant. A leather cock ring that you can smell as soon as you opened the drawer. A diary.
You pull out three of the valium and pop them in your mouth as you sit down on the bed and crack open the diary.
To read the rest of “This Clouded Heart,” purchase a copy of issue 3 here!
SEAN H. DOYLE lives in Brooklyn, NY. His writing has appeared in Vol 1 Brooklyn, The Fiddleback, >kill author, The Rumpus, and other wonderful places kindly enough to publish him. He works hard every day to be a better person and is learning how to love himself more. seanhdoyle.com