What follows is a story about my friendship with Dory Ben-Shalom, AKA Dory Tourette, a person beloved by many. The story is very much about my experience with Dory, which occurred during a tremendously difficult period of my life. As such, it is cast through a certain prism of addiction and depression, a rendering which will both coincide and differ from others’ experiences.
I realize this is sensitive material. In writing this, it was not at all my intention to cast Dory in a negative light or even to infer that my experience with him was the definitive one. Rather, I hoped to create a complex portrait of a complicated person–exceedingly talented and often quite troubled, but who at the end of the day was a very good friend to me.
I believe that the best tribute to Dory’s memory is an honest one, with the messiness as well as the sweetness. Therefore, while I appreciate how difficult a read this is for many, I will respectfully keep it published. Thank you.
After he’d freaked out.
After he’d stood between the planks of a half-built patio pounding the guitar strapped to his chest, howling into the night and the sound rising up all around us. After the neighbors’ lights flickered, the dog that’d had its vocal chords cut out rasping and scratching its claws against the fence. After he’d fallen over; after we’d drug him inside. After he’d pounded the piano keys, sank to his knees, laid on the floor with his arm raised above his head, still banging out a melody. After he’d broken a chair and slapped me across the face.
After he’d stormed out; after he didn’t make it too far; after he collapsed on the front porch and I found him there, on the steps, curled up against stucco and sobbing into his hands.
The light from inside cast a stripe across his back. I could see his muscles move inside his t-shirt.
I sat down next to him. I pulled my knees up to my chest – my dirty sneakers next to his dirty sneakers, half-drank cans of beer strewn at our feet.
“My mom kicked me out,” he cried. “She kicked me out, she kicked me out.” He said it not to me but to the buzzing black around us.
He dropped his head down, tugged his calloused fingers through his hair like he wanted to rip it out.
I put my arm around his back. And we sat there like that: quiet on the steps, in the light and muffled sound of the party, the awful neighbor’s dog still rasping away.
Slowly it all sank back. It got real still and that’s when I felt something, a kind of presence standing in the darkness. It was that big lurking beast that was always there, even when we pretended it wasn’t. That thing we couldn’t blot out, stamp out, silence or erase. That followed me and that followed him and that had found us there – Dory and me, on an island of a porch.
I felt it rustle, stir, come creep-creeping up the steps.
There wasn’t a goddamn thing I could do.
This story is a special multimedia Vela Single, published on The Atavist’s digital platform: read the rest here!