Day Fifty-Six: An Excerpt

by Tom Noonan

Johnny told me a story he’d been working on about this guy who lived with different families most of his life.  Not like a foster child or some romantic shit like that.  This guy would pay the families, just show up at their doorstep with a checkbook, and they would take him in for the night.  That’s all it ever was, too, just a night.  Johnny said it wasn’t about the food or the shower or the bed.  This guy just wanted to move through lives.  He thought it was like moving through time or something close to that, changing everything so drastically, what religion he was, what food he ate, where he worked, who he voted for.  He never wanted to be any one thing.  Johnny said this guy wanted to be everything.

“Would he pretend to be their brother or uncle or what?” I asked.

“It would change every time, but he wouldn’t pretend or act.  When he was there, he was who he said he was.  He just told them to be friendly and treat him like family.  And he’d pay them for it, whatever they needed or asked for.”

“How’d he get the money?”

“I haven’t figured that out yet.  Maybe his family died, and he keeps getting life insurance checks or something.  But I don’t want it to be sitcom-y.  I don’t want it to be fucking Oliver either.”

“Well what happens to him?

“One night, when he’s staying with an Irish family somewhere outside Philadelphia, the guy falls in love with their fifteen year old daughter, and he fucks her.”

“He fucks a fifteen year old?”

“Yeah, I know, fucked up right?  But they love each other.  It’s real love, like this explosive, hideous love that they both can’t shake.  This kind of love that burrows underneath their fingernails, shooting along their veins, and filling out their bodies, making it always feel like everything might burst.  So he can’t leave, and they become dependent on it like a drug, like a real potent, destructive drug.  And their teeth start falling out and their skin peels and they age quicker than everyone else.  The family just lets it happen because of the money, and the girl drops out of high school.  By the end they’re both just these skeletons, just these two violently dependent addicts fucking and crying and praying that they die before the other one.  They have kids and move out into an apartment in the city.”

“Who dies first?”

“Neither.  One day it just stops.  They just don’t feel it anymore, that awful love.  So he leaves, and somehow they both recover completely.  She gives up the kids and goes back to school.  He moves out to L.A. and works in production.  She calls herself Karen, and he goes by Steve.  They make up new stories.  They won’t see each other again but will also never feel anything like that rupturing love.  They sit light, always, and both die on the same day, December 11th, two years apart.”