At last, one day, late in the afternoon, he is released. He gets his bag of
stuff, most of which he has long forgotten about, and a few bucks so he
can get a bus to Boston, where he was born.
He moves back in with his sister, who still lives in their childhood
apartment in Dorchester, which has remained largely unchanged since
their mother’s death.
He reenters a world vastly different from the one he left. It is different
in part because of him. What he did changed things. Changing himself
At the same time, nothing is different. The same assholes rule. Same
cruel habits abound. Old friends are shy, skittish, or just not there. They
don’t return his calls or his e-mails. He doesn’t press them. Instead of
fretting, he turns to Chopin. The sheet music is wrinkled like an old
man. Even Chopin, when he sits down to play him on his electric piano,
is not as charming as he once was. Even Chopin can’t ignore the insults
from all sides—his B minor Étude bleeds like a motherfucker.
He avoids meeting people. He still enjoys studying them from a distance: such beautiful, cultivated creatures with all their charm, wit, and
vitality—light in their eyes like they’ve seen nothing, plus wet lips and
wild hair. . . . His time in solitary, he realizes, was one of the happiest
periods in his life. How delicious: to think unconstrained by the expectations of others, uncontaminated by their habits. In school he felt like
he was always thinking the wrong things. Yes, there was the guard, but
that was only now and then. Other tortures greet him on the outside.
He wakes one morning to find his eyebrows have fallen out. Simply gone. In their place rise crescent moons of pale skin. Is it possible
to contract alopecia overnight? Instead of calling a doctor, he goes to
the bathroom, where he finds one of his mother’s old eyebrow pencils.
How many nights had he stood before a mirror swabbing rouge and lipstick over his face, powdering his forehead and neck, preparing to speak
lines from someone else’s life—often ones he only dimly understood or
couldn’t feel, which may account for his “success”—ha ha. Who is this
I see before me? he’d coo . . . Yet, now and then, there’d be a part he felt
was, as they say, made for him—like Trinculo, the drunken jester in The
Tempest: There would this monster make a man. Close quote.
Staring into the mirror above the vanity, he thinks what a perfect
moment this is. Never before has he been as sure of his own death, as
confident that one day, who knows when, he will no longer be here, and
yet this mirror and these walls and even the Monopoly game he dis-