A quick note: This story ran longer than intended twice because I was having too much fun, and I absolutely will not apologize for that. Just know that these won’t ALL be what this platform tells me is an “18 minute read”.

[HAVING SAID THAT: isn’t READING why we’re all here to begin with? So we can enjoy something beyond the shallow clickbait content/attention/monetization/algorithm complex? Ideas given the necessary time and space and care to… grow to their own size and find their audience? OK wait chill chill, deep breath, I’ll back-pocket this for another time.]

AND SO: let’s flip this record, shall we?

I did wind up making my Romantic poetry class at 9am, though I wasn’t fully-conscious for most of it.

I skipped the rest of my classes though, I just didn’t have any gas left in the tank.

I went back to my dorm suite — two double-occupancy rooms connected by an absolutely disgusting bathroom I shared with three lovable sophomore suitemates — or “sweeties” as we called ourselves — who were, by some mystery, all home and hanging out at 11:14am in my side of the suite.


There was STEVIE, who spoke with a working-class Rhode Island accent that reminded me of Popeye. After cheap beer, Stevie’s favorite thing was squatting over you bare-assed while you slept and waking you up with a gut-punch, which made you spring awake and plant your face between his butt cheeks. He called it “birdnesting”. His close second favorite was using our shared bathroom to put on “gallery shows” of dirty Polaroids he’d shot with his girlfriend. He was elected President of the student body senior year.

DON was legitimately the nicest Italian-American Catholic boy from Philly who ever lived. He deeply loved then-new early 90s hip-hop, almost as much as he loved his horny girlfriend Gretchen, whom he promised to marry upon graduation. He spent most of sophomore year twisting his morality to fit every existing sexual loophole in Catholicism while also exploring all of Gretchen’s loopholes. He quoted Bible verse to me about how the only real sin was “vaginal penetration” before marriage. Don (and usually also Gretchen) was my roommate so I had front-row seats to his guilt-ridden cognitive gymnastics and her frustration at just wanting him to fuck her already.

MATTIE was the third sweetie: he was from Massachusetts, played lacrosse in high school, constantly used “wicked” as a modifier. Mattie struggled to hang on to his long-distance girlfriend back home while falling in drunken love every weekend with someone new that he refused to act on. Two-thirds through the second semester, she broke things off with him. Mattie was a mumbler but he was the funniest of us. If you were listened closely, he was vicious. If he wasn’t at least part Jewish, he should’ve been.

And me? I mean, you’ve been reading this. I was a tiny coiled mess: lost, over-medicated, zero confidence, sexually-numbed. But I lived for music and “mature readers” comic books and I’d never had guy friends like the sweeties before: regular dudes from real America who loved sports and drank Bud Lite, brutal with their jabs but real with the love too.


From the twinkle in Stevie’s eyes — and how his arms opened to embrace me like a proud papa — I knew I about to get roasted for not coming home the night before.

STEVIE: I can’t believe my eyes! Danny Boy copped some action? [hugging me, then humping my hip] I’m prouda this one, I tell ya!

Don pats the space next to him on his bed — since Mattie and Stevie were sitting on mine — and I join him. Girlishly, he asks for the whole report, all the juicy details. And tired as I am, I light up a Camel (indoors! it was 1994!) and I give it to them. They want more detail about Billie’s looks, her house, what we did, her outbursts. We’re all nineteen years old. But it’s Mattie — the smart one — who harumphs:

MATTIE: I dunno dude, she sounds kind of… unbalanced? You’re lucky nothing—

STEVIE: —he’s lucky she wasn’t somebody’s granny calling you at the radio station from her wheelchair! [mock granny voice] Ooh Danny, come suckle my saggy baggies!

We all yukked it up and then the sweeties had to get to class and I finally was able to pass out. I slept like a corpse until dinnertime.


Billie and I saw each other a few more times. She never came to me, we always met on Miami Beach near her place, late at night, and paw each other furiously until dawn.

The last time we hung out was the only time we were out in public on any kind of “date”: she really really wanted to see Disney’s The Lion King. We met at the multiplex one afternoon, the only two adults without kids there. We sat in the back, and by the time the film started, she’d guided my hand down the front of her pea-green biker shorts. I still can’t hear “The Circle of Life” without remembering myself shuddering as I came into her mouth in a cinema full of toddlers and mommies.

But it was after the movie, when we were almost back to her place, that she asked me the question:

BILLIE [mischievous]: So, did you see it? Did you like it? [off my blank look] In the theater? Or was it too dark?

ME: I… do you mean the movie? I was kind of distracted most of the—

BILLIE [smacking my hand]: No dipshit, I mean when you were down here.

She tapped a finger between her legs. Again, a blank look. I had no idea what she meant.

She plopped herself down on the cement stairs of a random Art Deco apartment building, spread her legs wide, and yanked up the leg of her biker shorts to reveal: a fresh tattoo, still red-ringed and scabby.

Black gothic script letters on the inside of her left thigh read “DAN”, the N framed by a wisp of pale blonde pubes.

A bent-backed old woman stopped in front of her for a moment to tsk-tsk at her, but Billie smiled big and proud, tendrils of need reaching out for me and finding only… horror. Which she matched.

BILLIE: Oh no. No no no— what’s wrong, baby? Is it… did I fucking spell it wrong? Do you spell it artsy like D-H-A-N or — [snaps her fingers] do you prefer DANIEL? Cause I can do the I-E-L on my other—

ME: No, no, it’s just— Jesus Christ, we barely know each other, Billie! This is so—

But I stopped because… those hot tears again. Hurt tears, slowly boiling on her cheeks as she swallowed her rage and turned away from me, stepping off the curb—

—and right in front of a MetroBus. The driver squealed the hydraulic brakes just in time but Billie didn’t even look up, the leather fringe on her white cowboy boots whisking side-to-side like cat’s tails as she crossed Alton Road and was gone.


I didn’t hear from her again for over a week.

My sweeties all knew the story and I was roundly and regularly ribbed. Our shared bathroom now featured a new gallery show of Polaroids: all three sweeties in their underwear, spreading their legs with my name drawn on their thighs in Sharpie. Stevie even added blonde “pubes” from a thrift shop Barbie. Haw fucking haw.

The story’d entered our dormitory floor’s lexicon too: any time something crazy came up in real life or even on TV, students I didn’t even know would exclaim “Whoa, that’s so Billie!”

Which made me feel like even worse. Because confused or not, I knew I’d hurt her.


Then I found the first note on my car.

Tucked under the windshield wiper, the ink was smeared by Florida rain and baked onto the glass by Florida sun, but I could still make out the message in a child-like scrawl, tiny letters that read: “you said you loved me”.

Over the entire surface of the paper, she’d just scrawled in different color highlighters over and over — DAN DHAN DANNN DANIEL DANNY BABY FUCKER DAN DHAN DANNN DANIEL DANNY BABY FUCKER DAN DHAN DANNN DANIEL DANNY BABY FUCK — right off the edges of the paper.

I took it back upstairs, and the sweeties laughed even harder. Mattie called her “Billie Cheese and Crackers” and to this day I’m not sure what that means, but it stuck.

And once the phone calls started coming — and they came not hourly but every ten minutes or so, for weeks and months — they’d answer the phone “Cheese and Crackers Mental Hospital, Doctor [insert dick joke] speaking.” With each call, early morning, twilight, dusk, noon, midnight, Billie would calmly ask to speak to “Dan or Daniel please”. And they, like dorky college kids, would tear her to pieces and hang up on her.

Of course I wouldn’t get on the phone, that would be an admission of… something, a door I didn’t want to re-open. But it was hard to hide and listen to them circling her like coyotes through the campus phone line.

Actually, I’m remembering now: I did speak to her on the phone. Early on and just the once:

BILLIE: Dan… or Daniel? Did you get my no—

DAN: Billie, what are doing? You’re freaking me and my suitemates out calling us all the—

BILLIE: Freaking you out? You broke my heart, you… you.. tease! You… love-liar! You suh-said y-you—

DAN: I know I said… that. You asked me to say it, remember? Even if I didn’t mean—

BILLIE: NO!! No no no NO! We shared suh-something real and you’re… you’re twisted and cruel like the rest of the men out there who think I’m just a pretty… thing to stick your tiny dicks inside and chew me up and spit me out, like bubble gum… like—

DAN: Waitwaitwait, Billie— I’m trying to tell you that—

BILLIE [through sobs]: I told you that you were special, do you remember that? That you could be taller than other little men… I did see that in you, but you chose the wrong side in the war, buster! You were aligned with the Savior Queen and instead you’re turned traitor and you’re gonna fucking die fo—

STEVIE [taking the phone away from me]: Cheese and Crackers Mental Hospital. Thank you for calling, but our doctor has other patients. Buh-bye now!

He hung up on her and we locked eyes, Stevie receiving how shook she’d gotten me and transmitted back… understanding:

STEVIE: C’mon. You can’t reason with that level of Billie [told you it was a thing]. And your lil’ pookie there, she sounds — sorry to say it — schizophrenic.

Or something. Stevie was a business major, not a Psych major like I was, but I found out later that his family had their own history with schizophrenia. That’s how he knew when to put on the heavy gloves and toss the rabid weasels back outside.

Also? I barely knew Billie. I didn’t even know her last name. I still don’t.


The phone calls kept coming. Campus administration couldn’t do anything because technically nothing had actually happened yet. But my sweeties protected me, filtering out Billie’s calls from our families and friends — back when cell phones were for doctors and dealers — and taking their shots at Billie to justify the effort.

But somehow — to this day I know not how — Billie got access to my class schedule. I didn’t know this until I walked to Creative Writing one Thursday and she was waiting outside for me. She stood on the grass in the sunlight wearing a shimmery sun dress and holding a ratty old parasol like a ghost of a character from an old novel. I could feel her eyes on my neck before I saw her, locked onto me like prey. I took off my headphones and looked all around until our eyes found each other.

Her mouth opened as she took a step towards me, but I hot-footed it right into class and took my seat in our writers’ circle. I mean, she threatened to kill me!

Creative Writing was an elective-level class for “serious writers” taught by a serious writer named Lester Goran, who suffered no fools. His lines in the sand were drawn on day one — no navel-gazing, no stories about your parents not loving you, no college romance “piffle” — and if you were there the next day, you agreed to take whatever you’d brutal criticism he’d slap you with. If you wanted to write bubblegum airport novels, the English department had other professors who would help you cultivate that “career”.

No, Goran pushed you to dig deep through pain into truth, and then pushed you to not hold anything back telling the tale you found. I can’t claim to have been any kind of prized student, because I wasn’t. And I can’t claim him as a mentor because I only took two classes with him and he scared me… but he did show me what good brave writing looked like. Hopefully there’s a drop of that in this.

Professor Goran had no idea that day as he faced his circle of students, talking about the difference between complicated emotional truth and tawdry reader manipulation, and anger slowly reddened his face. No one was paying attention. Instead, one by one, they were watching whatever was happening outside the classroom window.

This got Goran’s attention. He did a double-take and rolled his eyes.

I didn’t have to look. Except when I did, I made it worse. It was Billie, of course. In her sundress. And then, not in her sundress as she let it drop to the asphalt.

She stood like a valkyrie in the English Department parking lot, arms spread, the words FUCK YOU LOVE LIAR scrawled across her breasts and belly in red lipstick… and my name tattooed onto her thigh.

GORAN [annoyed]: I founded this department in the late sixties. You’d imagine in all that time you horny young chimpanzees could have found a more original way to deal with your hormones. Truly, this… [looking back at naked Billie] is simply boring—

“Boring” was lost when the windows shattered inwards and covered us in broken glass. This way five years before Columbine and no one even imagined guns going off in classrooms.

But this wasn’t a gun. Billie had thrown a fist-sized landscaping stone through the window to get my attention. It worked. But it also got the attention of two Campus Police officers, who rolled up in their sprinkler-stained golf carts only to stop and grin a mile-wide upon finding tiny blonde Billie, naked as a baby. They were good natured about it, having a good time until they put their hands on her.

She began to scream, up from someplace deep in her gut, like a mother mourning her child and… wouldn’t stop. She screamed as the officers covered her body with her own sundress and kept screaming as one Campus Cop drove her away in the golf cart until her voice slowly faded away away away to nothing. The second Campus Cop asked if anyone was hurt — nobody was — and said he’d have somebody take care of the mess.

Then, in a muggy classroom showered in broken glass, we Creative Writers looked around at each other in silence until Professor Goran cleared his throat:

GORAN: So then.. who is our “Love Liar”?

I guess he didn’t make out the tattoo. Everyone’s eyes scanned their classmates and, sheepishly, I raised my hand. Goran smirked, amused.

GORAN: Goldman, it appears at least you’ve got something worth writing about. [to the class] Writing without experiencing Life is empty masturbation. You’re all just children with empty heads and nothing to say. If this is the only thing I teach you this semester, may the Lord rain blessings down upon me for it.


My sweeties were shocked/not shocked when I told them what happened.

MATTIE: Death threats. Called it!

DON: What happened with the police? Is she in jail?

ME: I don’t know. I stayed out of it. I figured if Billie gave my name, they’d get in touch, but… nada.

STEVIE: Nothing’s gonna happen. She’ll be back. Just you watch.

Days later, a different Campus Cop did come by the dorm to complete the report. Billie didn’t give them my name, but someone in my Creative Writing class did. The officer asked if I wanted to press charges. I didn’t. I just wanted her to stop calling and leave me alone. The semester was ending in about a month. I needed to focus on passing all my classes, especially the trigonometry-heavy Statistics class which was required to complete my Psychology major.

SPOILER: I did not graduate as a Psych major.


The phone calls Billie returned that night, furiously:

BILLIE [raging]: You little fucker, traitor! You called the cops on me? How dare you— I’m your LOVER! I’ll cut you open with a Rambo knife, you—

Stevie started answering the phone and recording her rants on his cassette boombox. He thought it was funny to play them back at weird hours, until he realized how much they stressed me out.

Her calls — all with this level of energy — came about every seven minutes, around the clock, for weeks. I don’t know what kind of drugs she had to take to manage that; it was like she ceased to be human and became a weapon of jilted fury machine-gunning rage continuously at me from her condo across Biscayne Bay. It was making us crazy, but we couldn’t exactly leave the phone off the hook either and be cut off from the world, from dating, from our families.

And if we had, I would’ve missed the call from my mother that came just before finals: my Zeide was in the hospital. He’d had another heart attack and didn’t have much time left. If I wanted to say goodbye, I should drive over to Mount Sinai on Miami Beach right away. I did. Immediately.

I dropped everything and ran out to the parking lot, only to find my semi-trusty Toyota in a… state.

That car was already a mess — I hadn’t washed it in years, the AC didn’t work — but now the word LIAR!! was scratched violently into the paint with a key across the driver’s side door. I hadn’t needed my car in almost a week, so it could’ve been done any time since then. As I walked around it to survey the damage, I saw Billie’d also scratched it into the passenger door and across the hood… where she’d also left another surprise:

A big lumpy pile of shit.

I didn’t— I mean, my zeide was—

I grabbed a handful of banana leaves off the ground and wiped off as much as I could in a single motion and motored away to Mount Sinai’s Intensive Care Unit.


When I arrived at the ICU, my family was nowhere to be found.

Inside, I found my Zeide’s bed. He was obscured by a Code Blue team defibrillating him. The flatlining tone rattled my molars but I was only able to see his feet, his rough-skinned soles and yellow toenails, flexing and spasming before someone’s hands found my shoulders to pushed me out in the waiting room.

My family was there now, shocked to see me emerge from inside the ICU… and so I got to be the one to tell them that Zeide had just died.


Hours later, we walked out of the hospital as a family. Nobody spoke. We just helped my Bubbie put one foot in front of the other.

My father’s eyes found my trashed, keyed and shit-smeared Toyota, then my flushed humiliated face. He swallowed. Things needed to be said but this wasn’t the time and we both knew it.

I drove back to campus, windows down, breathing salty wind off the bay and spiralling through… everything.

When I got back to the suite, I yanked the dorm room telephone out of the wall. Nobody complained. The silence was medicine for all of us.


And before I know it, finals were over. The semester ended and summer break began. I went home, about forty-five minutes to the north, to stay in my old bedroom and reunite with a handful of friends in town for the summer.

Since Billie had re-awakened my hunger for sex, I spent the summer seeing a girl who was in the grade below me in high school. We ran into each other at a Fugazi concert and ended the night making out in her Camaro in my parent’s driveway. She was my first real “girlfriend”. She was tender with me and very understanding that it would take all summer to fuck me back into my body while she taught me about hers.

A few things I learned that summer:

  1. I was not a psychopharmacological eunuch. I had a bad/greedy doctor and a family who was afraid for me and thought this was the best way they could help.
  2. Lithium does not interact well with cannabis and/or LSD.
  3. Cannabis and/or LSD (and/or MDMA, mushrooms, etc haha) made me feel alive. Lithium made me feel like a child’s ghost.
  4. I refused to hide from my emotions any longer. I would face anything — horrible, wonderful, meh — head-on. I was ready to fucking live again.


When the new semester began, I moved into an apartment off-campus with a friend from high school, a tiny place behind the butcher shop delivery entrance of a Publix supermarket with daily 4am meat-drops.

But most importantly, I had a new address, a different radio slot, a new phone number and class schedule.

And I never heard from Billie again.


I hope you enjoyed this whole thing. Let me know in the comments (please)!

Also: I mentioned this a few weeks ago: I’m going to start posting some old deep-cuts artwork of mine — from pre-digital sketchbooks, even some old paintings — but instead of putting them here, I’m posting them over at my Instagram, which I think is a less-spammy home. This space is for new stories.

OK that’s all I got. See you next time!