The Last of Billy Lee
The amber sun shone through the deeply scratched and dented plexiglass of the small single room: there was a beat up cot on a rickety plywood stand. Billy sat there with his copy of the I Ching, the Book of Changes, complete with a forward by Carl Jung; he was contemplating the tumultuous life of wretched change he'd lived in his short years. They felt like decades, but he was still only had one and barely a half. Billy'd lived a life that he wouldn't wish on even the worst sort of rotten fuckboy lunatic: he'd been down 6 months in Idaho, in a mental institution on the foothills of a lonely snow capped mountain, the base of which was littered with towering, viridian pine trees that bent in the whistles of a rambling wind that rolled through the quiet valley. Still, he had no view of this solitary beauty, the mountain that loomed above the sombre town. His window faced a parking lot, but no one ever came. He was in solitary confinement; only two more weeks to go. He'd jerked off maliciously for the first two weeks, but now he was all raw and bloody: he mostly laid on the stained, white floor and cried. At this point his eyes were dried up and he was left curled and withered like a hungry cockroach in an exterminator's apartment.
The room was purged of all possessions but his book, one that he had become particularly attached to in the previous weeks. He consulted the book for all concerns, pressing or trivial. Most of his crises boiled down to whether to hit the meat or wait, but in desperate times, that's a life or death situation. The tiny book was dwarfed by his large, dented hands and he struggled endlessly to turn its pages with his swollen fingers; they resembled fire broiled bratwurst laid sideways on a raw and bloody brisket.
Sometimes he could hear into the neighboring cubicle through the vent below the bed stand. He was usually intrigued by the petulant and depressing happenings on the ward of ragged fuck-ups and old, decrepit psychos, those that rocked back and forth on the ripped burgundy cushions that lined the alabaster day room: they would clench their tired jaws and trail exhaustedly to the nurses station for their nightly doses of anti-psychotics and tranquilizers. It was a wholly fucked and miserable situation: Billy'd been down a couple years of his short life and he'd become accustomed to the sorrow.
“Eyo, fuckboy!” a reverberating ring rose through the vent. It was Bumbox, a small boy from Mossula. His birth name was Michael, no one even knew his last name, he just kind of showed up on the side of the highway, fucked. He never washed or changed his clothes, a filthy little fucker: he smelled like a pair of dirty socks, wrapped in rancid bacon and left out to dry in a springtime Utah monsoon.
“What's good, Chomo?”
“New bitch on the unit!” stammered Bumbox excitedly, stuttering from the unbridled wave of adolescent hormones that had overtaken his wiry frame. “She's fine as fuck, came from Tacoma, way down the road and up west. Big ol' shits, seen'em bounce and everything!”
Billy laughed. “You're going to be all over that piece like a cap on a Hassie, ain't you Mick?”
“Damn skippy, boy! Tryna slide on in real quick-like, keep it low, bust a couple and dip!” Bumbox was an incurable. He'd been there for two years and would soon be transferred to state. It was sad and downright evil, but it was probably for the best.
Billy heard the staffmen stomping down the hall, their large boots echoing through the white corridor with every step.
“Sssshhhhh…!” he whispered into the vent and the room went silent. A staffman stuck his large, white haired head into the room, looking both ways, then shining a flashlight in Billy's eyes. He giddily gave Bill the death glare, then locked the door behind him. Billy laid back on his bed and shivered in the Idaho chill. He then picked up his copy of the I Ching and retreated into the mysticism of the ancient world.
It was the day Billy'd be released back to the milieu and he'd never been happier. Nearly lost his shit in the twilight echoes of his cavernous mind; in the end, he had stopped sleeping, stopped eating and sprawled on the cold floor under the darkness of his towel covered windows. He had rotted for almost eight weeks and two days. He had lost track of the endless hours of nightmare. He had taken to scratching crucifixes in the walls with his jagged, yellow fingernails and praying to Christ for forgiveness. Billy'd be happy to talk to an actual human being without the risk of a lockdown.
In solitary, Billy had watched the world through a waist high slot in the door which faced the prison painted hallway. He'd seen the new girl and she was a beauty: long red hair that fell gracefully down her back, she occasionally tied it up into a holy bun of flaming tendrils. She had boxy features and an angular nose; she was probably some part Native, her piercing eyes bored tunnels into his still beating hart and he was overcome with a love that he had never felt. Never in his life had he been taken aback, not by the fiery sundown that crawled over the magnificent skyscrapers of his hometown and left teeth marks on the unforgiving sky. Not even by the lonely flowers that twirled from their stems in the zephyrs of the garden and landed gracefully on the echoing pond below an old elder tree, scratched with the tormented creeds of forsaken lovers.
He was free, or more free than he was: he breathed in the stale air of chaos happily. He was brought to the milieu with his hands behind his back by two large staffmen with flapping white uniforms, Billy was given back some of his clothes, though they were ruined in the dryer. He didn't even care.
He walked to the day-room and saw the new girl sitting at a table of misfits, some incurables, some fuckboys, some wretched old alcoholic skeezers with hollow eyes that'd lost their mind in an Omaha dust storm in '63. He walked up proudly, as he was no stranger to spitting game: his mack was thorough and rigorous. Sat down across from her in between a tired heathen and a corpulent ruin.
“Hey, I'm Bill.” he said smoothly, sliding his hand on his short, black hair and quickly tapping his nose with his stubby index finger. He was nervous but he was in love: he wanted to know her, to sit with her, to breathe her air back to her to rejuvenate her weary frame.
“I'm Emily,” she said with a mid-range, breathy voice, slow wheezing every syllable.
“What you caught up for?”
“I tried to off myself,” she lulled quietly, with a little laugh to hide the tears. She looked down to the piss stained, linoleum floor. Billy hadn't noticed the tightly wrapped bandages that were twirled meticulously around her fragile wrists.
“I wanna go home...” moaned a wasteman, suddenly bowing his head in a Seroquel nod. 'That's a damn shame,' thought Billy.
“Hey M, can I call you M?” mumbled Billy as his wisdom teeth were jumping up hard through bloody gums. She nodded. “Everything's not so bad. When it's bad it's never the worst. And when it's the worst, that's when it's good. You're not fucked. This your first time down?” She nodded again, though her shame seemed to be rising. “Chin up, cutie. Stick with me. We'll get there.”
For the first time, she smiled. Her head rose slowly from deep in her shoulders and her wretched grin that hung low on the filthy linoleum was lifted to the heaven to reveal her jagged, overcrowded teeth. Her clear brown eyes burrowed into Billy's soul. He saw her and thought she was beautiful.
They were in the milieu, staff shouted lunch and all the patients formed an aggressive row, even the most Xannied up were kicking and biting for food; Billy forced his way to the front as M's eyes twinkled into his. They were on com-hold for fooling in the bathroom: he couldn't speak to her and she couldn't be within five feet of him. Still, they passed love notes with pathetically scrawled hearts and flowers through mutual conspirators, the notes were slid beneath the doors of their respective rooms. It was her last day and this would be the last time he would get to see her.
She sat way down on the opposite side of the off white, plastic table with puffed and bloodshot eyes from a night spent on futile tears. They had fallen in love: over the short three months that they knew each other, their whole lives became woven together like two skinny trees that refused to grow straight, their gnarled and crooked limbs holding each other desperately for loving support.
They ate their meal of microwaved grits, sausages and the dubious bug-juice in silence. They were too frightened to make eyes; guardmen watched them furiously with an expectant gaze of a jackal to a wounded owl. Meal time ended abruptly at 12:35; all that were finished stood up and those still eating were filed out rudely. Billy and M shuffled out to the milieu, where all of M's belongings were packed and ready. She had all of her earthly possessions; they all fit neatly in a worn, ragged crimson side bag, that was weather-stained and thin. She stood before the nurses station. Billy didn't give a fuck about the com-hold: he had to see her off, his heart called to her. He walked right up to her, unafraid.
“So you're leaving, huh?”
“Yeah, it seems like.” she pouted. The guards were coming closer.
“Remember me when you're gone, okay? Is there a way that I can reach you?” pleaded Billy frantically as the guards rushed across the room.
“Bill get away from her!” shouted a staffman. A nurse prepped the booty-juice.
“Gimme a call: 253-456-0082.” she spurted in between sobs. The flowers of romance that once blossomed now were wilting rapidly in the chill of departure.
“253-456-0082. Got it.” The guards were now less than five feet away with their vicious, outstretched arms grasping for Billy like the angry gates of night that dimmed the lights of the institution.
“I love you, M. I'll love you til death.”
She smiled through her molten tears, her skyline teeth glistening in the gleam of florescent light. “I know you do.”
Billy was dragged off to his lonely, white room and there, with a piece of porcelain from a hastily kicked in toilet, he scratched her phone number into his right forearm and wept into the rays of sundown that brought a chilling glow to the rainy parking lot that laid untouched for years to come.
Billy had been transferred to a residential in Utah. It was a big shift. It was hot and dry: there was no AC in the overcrowded building and he was placed in a putrid six man room. His roommates were all psycho jailbirds; some there for selling, some for assaults, all too crazy for prison. A couple of them sold stolen paint (for huffing) under the door for smuggled cigarettes. Billy had tried, but he didn't need the stress. Plus, he just wasn't good at distribution. He just needed a big score, and he knew that it was coming down the pipeline.
He had stolen a flip from a therapist's office that he had broken into to steal the other patient's records. He could get maybe five cigarettes for a file. He had tried calling K, but there was never any response. He was beginning to think that she had forgotten their love, forgotten their promise. He still loved her with his whole heart, but now he was deathly afraid of fading to the black cobwebs of her memory. It had to have been a year.
Billy slunk down from his perch on the rickety top bunk and slid down the hallway. He was avoiding McCool, a big country fuck from under a wet rock in St. George. Kept kicking Billy's ass for a laugh and a time, he was a sadistic bad-man from county.
Billy ducked under the gray, faux-marble medicine counter, looking both ways anxiously. The nurses station was empty. He stuck a styrofoam cup over the spherical security camera (that really works in a bind) and he opened the cupboard with a key that he procured from a guard for a good time. 'Seroquel, no… Thorazine, no… Librium, Xanax, yes!' he thought as he snuck the bottles from the cupboard into his waistband, sliding out of the well-lit room unseen. He carefully removed the cup from the camera and slunk into his overcrowded room unnoticed. He could give them to Big Mac for a couple weeks reprieve. And he could take a couple himself, McCool was too lazy and stupid to count them all. He felt accomplished and collapsed into his bed with a snicker and a well placed grin.
He woke up to a vibration underneath his pillow that startled him and raised him from a much needed slumber. It was 3:42 in the morning, who could possibly be calling? He had no family, no friends. He was confused but still picked up:
“Hey Billy,” purred a silky voice. He'd know that voice anywhere and all of the sleep shot out of his weary bones! It was M.
“Holy shit!” he shouted, then lowered his voice as to keep his possession of a cell phone low. It was still lights out. “How are you? What's been up?
“Ain't shit, just out here. I'm in Olympia, been running from a fuckwad BF for a couple months. Used to beat me evil, but I still love him. Just gotta get away.” Billy heard of her love and was reduced to the size of a small puddle of spilled whiskey in a bar, only to be mopped up thoughtlessly at last call.
“I wouldn't treat you like that.”
“I know you wouldn't, baby. You've always treated me good.”
“How'd you end up in Ollie?” Billy asked.
“I hitched a couple, dipped down the roadway. Been sleeping in a laundromat, but the speed's good out here.” she drawled casually. “Had to sell the goods, but what can you do?”
“Yeah, I guess,” said Billy nervously. He didn't fuck with meth, turned you to ruin.
“I gotta go now, just copped. Gotta hit this piece.”
“Wait,” Billy whispered harshly. “I gotta bottle of pills. Wanna get high together?”
“You got it babe.”
Billy crushed up three bars on his nightstand with the edge of a leather bound book, after thoroughly soaking them in his saliva. He ripped a page from the Bible of a patient that slept below his bed and rolled it into a funnel for snorting. 'I'll say a Hail Mary later.' he thought. “Here we go...” he crooned low to M and he heard the slow crackle of crystal meth come through the receiver as he blew down a line. Billy didn't believe in getting a little high. He had made a big line out of the crushed pills. Within ten minutes of their talking, he grew tired and wobbly.
“Billy? Billy?” she jabbered manically through the phone. No response. “Billy, I gotta go. I'm hanging up.” The phone went silent and Billy was too barred to even care.
Billy'd grown quick. Made it to New York after escaping res: he was nineteen. He was a professional sleaze now: he was a small-time Patton, he didn't run much, but when he ran shit, shit ran. He'd made a life of selling stolen shit, he was a good con. Gave money to the church every Sunday. Impeccably dressed, he strutted down Mulberry Street in his silk suit and Ray Bans. He wore a stylish gray overcoat, he looked like a shadow slinking down the snowy street. His suit was black, so was his shirt, his fine leather shoes matched handsomely. He now had a shock of wild black hair that formed into a cloud, fluttering above his head and trailing into deep sideburns the ended right before the bottom of his ears.
Billy lived in Chinatown, that's where he did most of his business. A casual racist, he spat at the Chinese kids that went by on their brightly colored, knock off big wheels. 'Chinatown's nice,' he thought. 'Only problem is all the damned Chinese.' He snickered. Still, most of his business came through the Young Lions, baby Triads. He was tired of them, but he needed money. In fact, he'd fucked them out of a couple grand, a fact that keep him up at night. He wasn't afraid of the Lions, they came to fight in dress shirts and SB's, never won: he was afraid of the top man. Ricky Wong: downright evil, they say. Absolute vision of malice down on Grand. There was a rumor that he was seven foot twelve, with red eyes and not a hair on his cold, blue tinted body. Billy wasn't one to believe rumors, but he was scared all the same. Pretty Jimmy ripped off Ricky three months back. They found his body broken in an oil drum down under the BQE. But the one thing that Billy was good at was making money. He was confident.
Billy strolled uptown through the slush to the Blarney Stone. It's a shit bar, but it didn't card in those days. He'd given up on drugs, he was too lazy too wait for a pathetically late dealer to skimp him; he still chain smoked and drank whiskey. Bill sat down at the bar, his long coat limp on the whiskey soaked floor.
“Eh, Paddy! Gimmie a whiskey: Jameson, double, no rocks. You know what I like.” the bartender nodded and hurried away.
Billy felt a vibration in his pocket. He had two phones: a burner for business and an iPhone for bitches. He had three girlfriends at the time. One high society, one college girl and one prostitute that he'd nutted in a couple months back. She refused to get the abortion, so Billy'd slapped her around a couple times, the bitch still wouldn't change her mind. He looked down at the number that was strangely familiar to him. 253-456-0082. He had forgotten about the love of his life, but his heart remembered. He picked up and raised the phone to his ear slowly.
“Hey…!” a voice squealed. It was low and ragged but he'd have known that voice anywhere. It was M, the only person he'd ever loved. He'd forgotten about her in his drunken rambles across America.]
“I'll be damned… How you been?” he sang smoothly in a silky baritone that he practiced in front of the mirror every morning. His voice cracked at the end, betraying his usual cool demeanor.
“I'm good,” she shrieked excitedly in her scratchy voice. “I'm in New York.”
“Where in New York?” Billy nervously inquired.
“I'm by a big statue of an old fuck, next to a big brown building and a park. Across the street is a pizza place.” 'St. Mark's Square,' Billy thought.
“Hold on! I'll be there in a minute.” Billy shouted hurriedly. He hung up and quickly took his double, throwing down a wad of cash on the bar and running out to a downtown train to find his prodigal love.
M had been staying with Billy for a week. They'd been hiding out in a hotel on 11th, where the streets all have tattoos and no children play. The Lion's would never find them there. And they were about to dip out for good. They didn't go outside much, but when they did, it was for alcohol and cigarettes.
M had become thin over the years, with dark circles under her eyes: her ribs jumped out of her chests and her tits fell low, covered in black scars from shooting. Meth had done her dirt; the fire in her smile was all but extinguished but Billy still loved her. He was in love with the ghost of her smile, the masterful specter that hung in the corners of the plexiglass window at dawn. He was trying to nurse her back to health, get her off speed.
The night was growing old. Billy had been tipped off by One-Up that Bobby Chu had found out where they were staying. 'Goddamn Chewie,' Billy thought. 'May he rot in hell.' Billy had $500 hundred dollars to his name in the drawer next to his beat up motel mattress. He was packing frantically, running back and forth across the room, searching and combing the suite.
“What's going on?” said an exhausted M, who was laying across the bed, her arms and legs splayed across the bed, exposing her withered body.
“For the millionth time, we gotta get out of here! I pissed off Ricky Wong, I'm a deadman!”
“Who's Ricky Wong?” she asked, nodded and uncovered.
“For Christ-sake, just help me pack! We gotta be out of here at five am. I have $500: we're going to dip to Rahway to stay with Deemo and catch a bus to Minneapolis. They won't find us there. We can finally be together and happy. Don't you want that?”
“I do. Sit down.” she said soothingly. Billy finally relaxed, plunging into the love-stained bed right next to her. She put his head on her lap and Billy wept. He didn't cry ever, hadn't since he was six.
“Come on, baby,” she cooed. “I don't even know your full name or anything about you.”
“I was born Willard Lee Hewitt, down in Illinois.”
“You'll be alright, Billy. We'll be alright. We'll be happy together.” She produced the whiskey which they downed quickly, then pulled up her shirt and undressed him. They burrowed into the sheets and quietly made love in a broken down welfare motel on the edge of the highway.
“I love you, M,” slurred Billy in a black out drunk. “I'll love you til death.”
Her smile woke from a three year slumber and erupted across her face like a banner of Christ. “I know you do.”
When Billy woke up, M was gone. So were most of his clothes, his watch and all of the money. Billy had overslept as a result of his indulgence. He was covered in bedbug bites and scratches from the sex the night before. He was terrified, he had no money to flee to Deemo, no money for Ricky Wong: he was fucked. He should have known, she was just a junkie: he cursed her name. Billy then stared out of the window to the empty parking lot of falling snow.
“This is it.”
He dressed himself. He was going to die pretty. He combed his hair, took a shot of his pocket Jameson. He folded his arm and prayed: Hail Mary full of Grace…
Footsteps pounded on the stairs: they would soon be to his motel room. He looked to the window, wondering if he could escape, then realizing that he was on the third floor. 'I'll be fine.' He assured himself. 'I always make it out on top. I always do.' He looked down on the trashed motel room and found his ragged copy of the I Ching and smiled. It had been with him through all of his troubles. The footsteps were at the end of the hall.
“I love you, M.” he whispered softly and as the door busted through violently, he was unafraid.