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My Fourth Boyfriend

By Tim Doody

I visit him for the first time since he was taken away. I take an elevator to the eighteenth floor of Bellevue Hospital and check in at a security station where I’m told to keep my laminated pass visible at all times—so the orderlies won’t make any mistakes. I walk down the hall unescorted. The metal-meshed windows between the psych ward and the sidewalks of Manhattan seem so thin. In the visiting room, I pace around tables and day-glo chairs. After a couple minutes, he enters with a laugh that says, oh my, what a mess, and even though I’ve pretty much forgiven him, I still can’t ignore what he did.

We first met a month ago, hours after he moved in as my roommate’s long-term guest. I hate hellos and good-byes and I didn’t want another person in our cramped apartment. So I stayed away until late to avoid that awkward moment when he’d shuffle around the unfamiliar terrain and I’d have to make small talk. When I finally came home, slightly stoned and very aware that this was my first impression (hence the hour and my altered consciousness, two cool points for me), I opened the door and tip-toed in. City lights outlined the frumpy lump beneath a comforter on the daybed. Him. Then I heard the crack in his baritone when he said hey, and as he sat up, the frump slid down to reveal a lanky torso. Oh, sorry, don’t mean to disturb you, I said. No no, he said. You’re not. He was mid-twenties. My age. I sat down and blew cigarette smoke out the window and we talked about the music he made.

He crosses the visiting room and then we sit down, three feet of plastic table between us. Hey, he says. Hey, I say. I brought you some books. I place a stack on the table. Thanks, he says. They told me I’m getting out in a week, tops. Our eyes connect for two charged seconds. Cool, I say. We drop our gaze toward the topmost book, a graphic novel illustrating Ginsberg’s “Howl.” My boyfriend’s eyes match the sky-blue of his hospital-issued v-neck and pajama pants.

The morning after he moved in, I went out to get coffee while he slept. I returned home and, just before I opened the apartment door, heard his honey voice soar into the mid-range and dance around the acoustic strings he strummed. Two cool points for him. I tip-toed in. Again. I couldn’t meet his eyes, not when, in the daylight, I saw that he personified the timbre of his song: dirty-blonde Beetles-length hair, pointed cheekbones and those dimples that emerged when he was considering something. And right then, I thought he might’ve been considering me.

He slumps back in his fluorescent yellow chair, arms folded across his chest. His sock-covered foot finds my calf under the table. I try not to smile. I begin to construct a new version of the future: he stays on the medication that he spent a lifetime trying to avoid, and we live on the disability checks provided to him and his caretaker, who could be me. Those checks would cover most of our expenses if the numbers he had said were right.

A week after we met, he and I slept in the same bed. I can love you like no one has ever done before, he said. We did meals and parties, incessant conversations and four a.m. sex, and I started thinking about what the future held. For us. But then there was that night when everything changed again: him and a cab driver fighting outside and then me and our trashed apartment and then the cab driver again and the screaming. His flaring dimples no longer seemed like an endearing display of genetics—more like a warning that he couldn’t stop. The sirens, the cops, their brandished batons. In the Emergency Room, he sat on the other side of what looked like bulletproof glass. A doctor approached me. Bi-polar disorder, he said. Without medication, it’s uncontrollable.

I’m smiling now, can’t help it, and we lean forward, elbows on the table, fingers touching, then palms. We hunch together like we’re passing secrets. Ripples flow outward in concentric circles where our cheeks brush. When the nurse steps in, our torsos peel back, the heels of our feet flatten against the tile. Like two kids still getting away with something.


Tim Doody has been published in Topic Magazine, The Earth First! Journal, XY, The Indypendent, and two anthologies: Best Gay Erotica 2006 and That’s Revolting: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation. In addition, ABC-TV’s Nightline included Doody in a list of “particularly troublesome, even dangerous, anarchists” during its August 31st, 2004 broadcast, and Rush Limbaugh made fun of him and his last name on the air.

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photo by Dinty W. Moore