How I narrate my life has a lot to do with how I feel in the present. Bad things happened to me and I have done bad things. But there has been good people and good things also, and by forgetting them and only remembering the pain, I do a disservice not only to them, but to myself and my own wellbeing. I have been changing my story, not because the old narration is not true, but because it omits. It was not intentional omission, I just couldn’t remember. So
I want to tell the story about a boyfriend I once had named Jack. Jack was a huffer, he huffed paint, and you could always tell what color spray paint was on sale, by the color of the ring around his lips. I believe Jack loved me. He was older than me by about a decade, and I was young, but emotionally I think we were the same age. At the time of my relationship with Jack, I was a ward of the state and moved in and out of foster homes, behavioral modification centers, juvenile hall, and state mental hospitals.
I want to tell this story about Jack not only because he is most certainly dead, and tenderness and epic feats should be remembered, but also because there is never a place for me to speak about Jack.
So Jack loved me. When I was struggling with my sexuality and claimed that I only had sex with him and with men because they were easy, he stopped touching me, and allowed me to use his place to explore girls I liked. He would make them feel at home, make food, and leave to do something else elsewhere. He would never participate in a threesome when girlfriends and I were tripping our asses off, or drunk or high on something else, instead he’d go to a corner and huff paint and leave the world for a bit. When a john beat the crap out of me, and I wouldn’t go to the hospital because I was afraid of being arrested, he stitched me and set bone, all while cheerfully talking about how we would murder the bastard. In recovery we made elaborate plans for execution and giggled, and snuggled, and listened to music and had gentle sex, because I like girls, but I am not really gay.
Jack was also a planner. And not only could he make a conversation about plans to murder some deserving asshole, he could also devise and follow through on plans on how to bust me out of my various incarcerations. Most of them failed, and one cost him his own incarceration, but he had some successes. When I would be incarcerated, Jack would go to libraries and planning offices and find architectural and electrical plans for the buildings I resided in. We had this coded language we used in our letter writing where I could let him know where exactly I was located inside the building and he could let me know how far into a plan he was without a censor being able to casually figure out what was going on.
And Jack succeeded. Power went out, and I crept down stairs without alarm, and we met in bushes, and we moved through yards, and made our way to bus stops and subways until we were safe, and far, and naked, to talk and laugh, to tell the story, and have or not have sex. And then he would go to the corner and huff and fall away from the world. And I would go out into the night to make a buck.
Jack made it his mission to keep me from being locked up. He would pretend to be the brother or uncle to gain entry, to find weaknesses and to exploit, constantly on the lookout to find ways to extract my freedom, almost like he understood that I was locked up not because there was something inherently wrong with me, but that there was something wrong with the system that could not be bothered to parent the child who they had authority over. Me drugged on Thorazine, Jack carrying me down an elevator through a front door towards freedom, a quick puff at the parking lot, a friend waiting in a car around the corner, laying zoned out together, looking at Jack with his mouth stained blue. Grateful.
He had a horror story of his own that he never foisted on anyone. He also had once been a child of the state. And paint and other inhalants completely annihilated his pain. But he loved me, and paused his own decline to show me acceptance and love and tenderness. I could rest.
Jack’s name is not Jack. His name was Bill Pfeiffer. And it has been easy in my life to tell my story that no one loved me, that no one believed in me, that no one ever let me breathe. But Bill Pfeiffer did. And as the narration of my life changes, and I focus more on what I have had instead of what I did not have, Bill once again comes to free me.