In the 1980’s most of my alternates were as
active as they are now.
They used performance writing as a cover.
To other people they were characters.
Though our username was Rob Goldstein, by the late
1980’s the dominant alternate was Bob.
Bob carries anger and depression.
Bob was certain he’d die from AIDS.
In 1988, when Bob tested negative for HIV, his reaction
was fear and bitterness.
His function in life was dying.
Bob had already written his suicide as a character
named Loleeta, who is almost a separate alternate.
Bobby carries our hopes and dreams.
He can watch the family from inside and Bobby
was confused: if the body isn’t dying, why does Bob
want to die?
Bobby wrote a letter to Bob in late 1988 and started
He had also placed a hidden penknife on Bob’s nightstand.
Bob found it and thought it was something he’d lost. He
also found the letter on his desk and thought he was
writing in his sleep.
As with the penknife that Bobby left out for Bob, I discovered a
large stash of writing in October of 2010.
I read the Letters from Home but didn’t understand what
they were about or how to edit them.
They make sense now.
I am the Narrator. My job is to make sense of our story.
As strange as it sounds, I have a Father’s affection for Bobby.
He will always believe that God has work for us.
He will always do what he must to keep our faith alive.
Letters From Home
Bob feels bad.
Diarrhea is caused by fear; he’s read that somewhere.
His tiny room stinks of sweat and stale cigarette smoke.
Oh, the danger of all that smoke and what it’s done to his lungs; oh, the danger that Xanax will do for him what Valium had done to Rosemary Clooney.
Morning for Bob is 4PM. He wakes and has his first cup of coffee. He wakes and has his second. He wakes and has his third.
Bob flops into bed and thinks. About bitches, boredom, and trendy
cynicism. About sensitive poets sucking their way to anonymous
A 4PM as black as night.
He takes three more Xanax and sleeps.
He wakes and finds a penknife on top of a handwritten note:
I got this penknife from my Dad. I think it’s a treasure ’cause it’s full
of love. I want you to have it ’cause I love you. You might remember
me as a friend.
I think you need to start eating apples, dude.
That penknive is good at slicing apples.
Bob throws the penknife into the trash. Then he sits
at the laptop and writes:
I’ve wanted a pen knife ever since I was that little fag.
At that time, I kept wax models of movie monsters on
my bed stand to protect me from the human monsters
Have you considered writing a real friend, someone
whose grief won’t spoil your soul?
Bobby’s letter is bright is full of reconciliation.
I’m at Battery Park where I go to when I want to figure things out.
I watch the birds and smell the ocean and think something
wonderful has happened.
When I feel the rain it feels like everything magic!.
I guess I like to talk to older dudes because they’ve got things
more figured out.
I bet you have stuff figured out, right?
Yesterday Mom was drunk again.
Do you remember my Mom’s problem?
Do you remember we talked about how the real problem is she
thinks she don’t have one?
I try to help her but all she says is laters.
4PM at on a hot September day at the Laundromat on 16th Street and Mission Street; a toddler screams and Bob’s skin crawls. He takes a Xanax and writes:
I’m may stuff a nerve wracking baby into a hot drier; it sounds like your Mother needs to dry out too. Charleston must be a beautiful town; I’ve read that it reeks of Magnolia and racism. It’s nice that they let the poor visit parks like the Battery. Science will eventually discover that everything is magic. Why do you write to me? I’m a hateful
In the early 1960’ss a bacteria infected the Spanish moss in Charleston. Bobby has watched the Spanish moss vanish from the tall oak trees that line Battery Park. An old woman shares a bag of peanuts with the squirrels. Bobby jots her down in his notebook. Then he writes another letter to Bob:
I just read a bunch of books about astrology. You’re a Scorpio. These books say Scorpio is a dark and passionate sign. They say we’re shamans and can turn dark into light.
I’m back at Battery Park and there’s a sweet old woman hand feeding a squirrel.
It’s hard to make a frightened creature trust you.
How come when I say I believe in magic adults say grow up..
Do you still believe in magic?
The cruising was vicious last night. Bob watched the boys dance at the End-Up and wondered what sign they were. He stumbled home at 2 and took enough Xanax for 12. He woke at 4 and had his third cup of coffee.
He wrote a reply to Bobby.
We think of children in terms of potential.
When children believe in magic, we call them imaginative; when adults believe in magic, we call them devout.
Two women had a fist fight in front of Bobby’s house that day.
They were tweaked on dexys.
They called each other names and chased each other around the courtyard.
Bobby watched from the porch and wrote Bob:
Sorry it took so long for me to write but I thought you didn’t want to hear from me no more. I thought you was being polite in that way adults are sometimes polite to kids by being rude.
Two women beat each other up in the Courtyard today. They called each other a whore- dyke-bitch and how one of them said ‘I can buy and sell you!’
I gotta laugh when poor folks say shit like that cause everyone knows we’re slaves.
Momma says they was fighting over a man.
Do queers in San Francisco fight over men in public?
We can’t even look at each other here.
I bet it’s nice to hold your boyfriend’s hand in public.
Bob, why are you so unhappy!
You sound like you got no hope.
Maybe your planets are outta wack!
Astrologers say that when your planets go outta whack things get crazy
Love and Friendship,
Bob was too high to read all Bobby’s letter. He tossed it into the trash but decided to reply:
I’m fucked up and listening to Aretha’s Gold.
I wanted sex but got high instead and decided to answer
your little letter.
Did you know a drag queen won the Barbie doll lookalike contest?
Is it a coincidence that when I toss an r into your name it’s Borbbie.
See-Saw—Life is like a see-saw baby .
What Aretha really wants is Respect.
But if a woman has to beg for this from men what about us poor faggots:
men once removed?
There is nothing like cutting to make me feel like one of God’s hated children, Borbbie.
I flop on my bed, a bloody wrist draped over my eyes.
I imagine my sufferings are those of a great artist; a dying drama queen.
One day you’ll grow up to know how this feels.
Bobby read Bob’s letter and hid it with the rest. He knew he had to do something.
When I was little I believed in ghosts.
I thought we had the bones of an old woman stashed in the attic.
One day I threw a chewed up old chicken bone up there and begged Daddy to go up and look.
He said it was nothing but a chewed up old chicken bone but I knew it was the leg of that old woman.
When I was little, I slept with a wax devil’s head on one side of my bed and a picture of Jesus on the other side; I wanted to get in good with both.
When I was little, I opened a medical book backwards and saw pictures of a baby shrink down to a dot. It was years before I figured out that ain’t how folks die.
I tell you these stories to remind you of the magic, to make you remember faith because faith and faith in God’s magic is all we got.
I know what a drama queen is and sometimes they die for attention.
I can’t let you kill us.
You gotta stop dying.
You gotta go away.
(c) Rob Goldstein 2016 All Rights Reserved