Another of my forced-ambition therapies involves Billy Noe. I am to attempt a bio about his somewhat subconfirmable life. The visits have a feel of something imposed by the courts. It involves changing buses and signing logsheets, security codes, lunches of beans and thick whitebread.
Porn Behemoth. Ritual Chicken. Wrathbone.
He watched me up the freight elevator, had a cup of coffee in his hand for me. He nodded at the top of my head. “What’s with the hair?”
“I had a job interview.”
“Are men coloring their hair for job interviews these days?”
“I couldn’t say.”
He slid the gate shut. “What a disturbing trend.”
We sat in the kitchen of his eighth floor studio in the old tobacco district, in very severely perpendicular and tall ladderback chairs at a 12′ pecan plank table. Despite the attic heat of the downtown afternoon the 2.5″ thick tabletop was cool as polished granite. He sat very close to me, as he always does, trying to instill a sense of urgency that he feels is lacking in me, but it’s a freakish closeness, an odd gravity that reverses the investigative responsibilities of the meetings, especially within the enormous loft, half a city block of exposed beams and scarred hickory floors and obscure glass. At one end a rehearsal space & recording studio are set up, at the other living spaces and 20-foot interior walls that moved on casters and lighting stages for his wife’s photography business.
While we talked diffused flashes popped often but there was little noise except for an occasional whimper.
Throughout the interview Noe scratched his head violently & fanned the dust away. He matched me coffee for coffee and cigarette for cigarette and we shifted often in the creaking chairs to accommodate accelerating torment.
By the time we shifted to beer we hadn’t established much. I went over my notes, essentially doodles superimposed over multipractic nounverbs like ‘crank’ and ‘waste’. Unfathomable abstractions. The whimpers from the studio were becoming more frequent, in litany with Mme Noe’s hushed whispers, as if cored from cathedral stone. For our part it became difficult to keep the conversation from turning to aging, as if the whimpers were the incidental music of bad teeth, digestive foibles, depreciating hair and bowels. And then he opened the inevitable can of beans, baby white cannellini today, and began to search for the texas toast, freezer bagel, or some other such legendary white bread.
“Food,” he said. “Christ but I can do extraordinary things with ordinary food. I never had a unusually bad diet, but now. The things I can do with a morsel of ordinary cheese.”
“Dairy… You plead, you try to negotiate…”
“The horror,” he whispered. “And if you’re married you have to suffer quietly.” He hooked a thumb over his shoulder. “Because the wife’s waiting with the drastic greens. My wife’s not a health nut, but, I don’t know- it’s like the whole gender is some thunderstruck witness to the history of gastrointestinal holocaust. You deny, evade, but they stand there, gaunt eyed and somehow judgmental and inconsolable at once.”
“‘Do it for me.’ Personally, I no longer use the bathroom at home.”
He looked at me, weighing the inconvenience of this. He shook his head, fanned the dust. “You’re slipping in my eyes, Wim. I could shit syringes and nuclear waste but I’d have to do it at home.”
We fell quiet. It occurred to both of us that I had taken the fun out of the subject, somehow robbed aging’s consolations of its demonstrative or territorial bent, compromised its maleness. As if the process was gender-specific. On my notepad I wrote resume crapping at home.