Below is a reading from Essays and Fictions by Brad Phillips, out in January, 2019 from New York Tyrant. You can preorder right now. Plus, we’re making the audiobook with Brad so everything is very cool.
Brad Phillips’ collection of short stories adeptly walks a very thin line between taboo and propriety, with rigorous self-awareness and generosity. By confusing ideas around fiction and autobiography, Phillips writes with painful sincerity about shame, addiction, trauma, and the more troubling outreaches of sexual desire, with wit that is at odds with the subject matter. Here is an excerpt from the collection called Boo Hoo. Brad read and recorded it. Thanks very much, Brad. Listen and enjoy. <3
well the last year basically i don’t remember. I fired my psychiatrist i think when she kicked me out. and then i wasn’t accountable to anyone. i lived in the studio above her shop for a while and it was very very dark and bad for me. the bathtub was only three feet long, and well you can see how tall i am. there was just a cot and a space to do my work and a pack of dusty cd’s and a a small bathroom and that’s it and i lived there and i could hear her downstairs but she never came up; maybe half a dozen times to yell at me. and in the day i usually just sat in the Metropole on Abbot and i was a regular and i mean in a really pathetic pitiful way and i was there from 11 to 5 or 6 cause it was quiet, and when people started coming in then i either went to really unsafe dive bars or the liquor store and i walked down alleys in the rain or sitting in the rain drinking or i sat in the park near the studio drinking. sometimes i would go to AA meetings but always got drunk after and i was often drunk when i got there and in fact would chair the meeting drunk. my doctor and other people including E____ would say i was drunk and they could smell it and i would just refuse to admit it and make up ridiculous lies and know they didn’t believe any of it. which, to me this is counter to my past because i was always so good at lying and no one ever ever suspected i was lying but it’s the fucking alcohol because it smells and there’s no way around that. before she kicked me out i’d have 5 baths a day and she still knew i think. she’d often call the house and she never knew where i was. i would go out and drink 5 doubles come home and have a bath go back and drink four pints and three shots come home and have a bath. when i was still living with her. and it worked somehow, i mean i was coherent. mostly. we ate dinners i think. but at the end i would say i was going to the store and she basically said you’re going to buy booze and i’d say no but of course i was and i came back after an hour and she’d smell it and i’d lie and it was so fucking humiliating and i was ashamed of my treating her like an idiot. anyway she had enough of that so the studio is where i ended up. a month after my show. which show put a bunch of money in my pocket. but it was untenable there, i remember once i looked at the toilet and realized that, from the appearance of it, i had taken a giant shit just off the back of the bowl near the lid sometime while i was in a blackout and it had hardened and stayed there. fuck cleaning that up was awful. remember i had all this money from the Canada Council grant and some sales. so i was good to go mostly. but the studio was no good and in the end i was hanging out with this dealer named Jay mostly and he had a place on abbot and a lot of times i’d just crash with him and i ended up living with him. which, he was a good guy but a lunatic, and at the bar he’d just pay for everything because dope dealers are lonely but we liked the same music and had the same style so we hung. we got drunk and bought live fish at T&T and shit and put them in tourists backpacks maybe. At his place i’d just snort the fattest fucking lines of MDMA non stop and it never fucked me up properly and he let me eat all his ecstasy and that was getting a bit fucked too cause i was at some point where i’d eat maybe 14 of them and it wasn’t working. or sometimes it worked cause we’d just be in the apartment full of dope with like a dozen or more stolen mountain bikes and watch tv in the dark and i’d also be eating mushrooms like they were fucking olives and when we had to go out for smokes then yeah the ecstasy was working and i was fucked out of my goddamned mind it was insane. anyway that lasted a while then this dude from the AA meeting i went to on a regular told me he had a room in his house and i took it and i shared it with this other fucking psychotic possibly serially raping piece of shit monster who had like sixteen months clean but lost 5k a day gambling and got his dick sucked by the most desperate crack addicted hookers for ten bucks all day long and told me i had to get my shit together. the other guy was a good guy but he was barely hanging on to his sobriety had two older daughters and was going back to school to have a real life again, he was someone i admired and he was trying to help me. but of course i couldn’t stop and i worked some job for i can’t remember how long, a temp job, and i made 9 bucks an hour and took a smoke break every half hour and during that half hour drank 5 double bourbons at the bar across the street where i was immediately a regular so i’d say i was probably spending 8 times what i was making to be at this fucking awful job but at least it got me out of the house. for dinner i’d go to the worst italian place on hastings every single night and order the lasagna to go because while she heated it up i could drink maybe four bourbons even though she loved me and i called her Lucy she really overpriced her drinks and never cut me a break, and then i’d eat half the lasagna in my room maybe pass out in it and often have it in my beard or on my sweater when i woke up. but these guys knew i was using and drinking and i was never remembering coming home and coming home with broken parts of my body and cuts and black eyes and basically they just turned a blind eye to it. i dont know why. but they did. and i fucking went to counselling sometimes with E____ and i’d be loaded and she’d say it right there in the session and so would the doctor they’d both look at me in a small room where i’d be wearing a disgusting beige jacket that must have reeked of smokes and booze and ask me if i was drunk or high and i’d very articulately say no and really just get my back up. and i was doubled up on my clonazepam from 1mg a day to 7mg cause my psychiatrist i’d fired was an unoriginal hack and my GP had kept that super high dosage in my file, i don’t know if he even noticed, so i’m doing all this with a pound and a half of clonazepam in me. so eventually, i just don’t fucking remember anything. i can remember sounds of broken glass. i can remember my forehead being slammed against pavement. i can remember so much vomiting in alleys, vomiting blood, throwing bottles, i can remember a bit of fucking people i’d never have fucked, i can remember colours, a season changing a bit, but that’s about it. and i was also going to DayTox drunk and they knew it too and i just lied to their faces like i was the smartest most special fucking addict and alcoholic who ever lived. then i went to the detox once cause E____ saw i was fucked and suddenly remembered she had a heart and told them i needed help so i went in there. and i was fucked. and i was in paper slippers and pajamas all day and i couldn’t smoke but it felt like home and i didn’t know how to get out or if i wanted to stay in and i remember i talked to my mom on the phone and i remember i felt how i loved her so much. and there were identical twins in there crystal and lindsay and one was a junkie and one was a crackhead and i fucked the junkie one under a blanket in the group room before curfew while we watched that movie with Robert Downey about Charlie Chaplin, she had a fat lip and whispered you wanna tie me up and i looked over and her twin sister gave me a thumbs up and E____ came a few times and tried to play scrabble and her face twisted into the most painfully constructed rictus of a smile i’d ever seen but i saw in her eyes that i had gone away to her. so after seven days in detox i took a cab to the Ivanhoe had a triple gin and tonic and went right back to it. It was summer. I don’t remember where I was living to be honest. I remember going to a Crime Addicts Anonymous meeting to get keys to something and a dude said he was powerless over doing B and E’s and I called bullshit on that in my head. But I was just a zombie on the downtown east side, and I stayed in hotel rooms and on benches and I fucked a girl named Tiana from Luxemburg who was maybe 20 in the bathroom of an afterhours and her face started going blue and her eyes rolled up and i slapped her as hard as I could and she sucked in air and we left and slept in vacant lot off Gore that was a bog they’d filled with foam.