Foley Gaspers has had enough. Enough of imagined lies. Enough of unsettling suspicions. His girlfriend, Amanda Yi, is late coming home again. She works twelve-hour shifts as a recreation therapist at a veteran’s hospital and her commute to and from the facility consumes an additional two hours of each day. Foley suspects Amanda is having affairs, the most impure of these being a triagonal liaison involving her cousin, Tamara, and her cousin’s infidel husband, Shayne, a district attorney for the city of Los Angeles where Amanda resides.
Tonight, Foley is incensed. He moved in with Amanda shortly after being released from prison, and, while she has his full and undivided amorous attention, he has also been a consensual thorn in her side. Rather than wear a human face after his release, a face that would grant him the ability to rationally make meaning and relate to others, Foley chooses to wear the mask of a god, the visage of grind music star Morris James. Under the influence of this controlled hallucination, Foley is told what to do and how to live his life. Foley is driven to drink, to shoplift, to wander alleyways late at night, scared, looking for what he calls “affective stimulation.” James’ sway over Foley prohibits him from positive thinking or anything like being law-abiding and quote-unquote normal. According to Foley, “Wearing James’ face makes me take very foolish chances,” chances that only people with sustained mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or borderline personality disorder take.
Rather than accept the more likely fact that his girlfriend Amanda is stuck in heavier than usual traffic tonight, or that she has stopped to get gas and go to the store for groceries or other household goods, Foley fantasizes Amanda is with a gigolo tonight, in bed with a man to whom she gives money for sexual favors.
Shortly after Amanda comes in the door, Foley, who earlier in the day bought his girlfriend a bouquet of sunflowers, takes the bouquet and hurls it against the wall. The sunflowers hit the wall like a Vandal’s sword hitting a Roman shield. The petals fall to the wooden floor boards like so many shattered teeth.
Amanda sees a slew of empty beer bottles on the kitchen table. Foley takes one in hand and says to Amanda, “You owe me something.”
Amanda states the obvious, “You’ve been drinking.” For Foley, who prefers to deal with hidden meanings and unacknowledged conspiracies, obviousness is a social currency that purchases passionate anger.
“I’m tired of sharing what I don’t have,” responds Foley.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” replies Amanda.
A beer bottle smashes on the same wall that allowed for the destruction of the sunflowers.
“I don’t have you, you’re not mine in heart and mind, and I’m tired of sharing you…with Shayne and Tamara and with whatever for-a-fee Adonis you’ve been with tonight.”
“You know paranoia and schizophrenia go hand in hand,” says Amanda, knowing full well that laying the blame for his maladjustment on mental illness is likely to further incense Foley. Also knowing that what she is about to say will only further aggravate his instability, she nevertheless adds, with an iciness that would dissuade a conscientious man from further madness, “Now clean up the mess you’ve made.”
Amanda puts her keys and purse on the bureau in the foyer and steps further into the house, into the room where the landline phone rests on a desk. Foley approaches her and demands to know the gigolo’s name.
“Whose name?” says Amanda.
“Don’t play stupid,” says Foley, and makes the irreversible decision to hit Amanda with an open hand. The slap is glancing and not strong enough to sting, but it is unprecedented, and stuns the unprepared girlfriend, who responds with a shocked, “You son of a bitch! Don’t hit me!”
Amanda’s demand is clear and unequivocal. All Foley’s altered mind can hear, however, are the last two words of her exclamations. She likes it, he thinks. The, “hit me,” he hears is accompanied by a hallucination of menacing canned laughter as if he were cast in a deranged sitcom. Foley decides these distortions of reality created by his psychotic mind merit slapping Amanda again. This time the blow to the face knocks her eyeglasses off.
Amanda’s rescued pit bull, named Murdock, but sometimes called Murder by its owner, barks in the backyard.
Foley repeats his first unyielding question, “Are you going to tell me his name?”
The first word to come to Amanda’s mind is the name of a street three blocks from the house. “Irving, his name is Irving,” she gasps, hoping both that Foley won’t be further triggered by her ruse and that it will prevent him from striking her again.
Now that he knows the identity of the imaginary monster he is hunting, Foley decides he will find out what he looks like.
“With a name like that, he must be black, right?” lifting his hand again, as if it were a serpent ready to sink its fangs into hapless prey.
“No! He’s white, short and bald!” says Amanda, shielding her face with a forearm.
A scapegoat, Foley thinks. He’s most likely ethnic, tall and hirsute.
Despite doubting the sincerity of Amanda’s answers, Foley refrains from further physical aggression. He feels sick to his stomach and is consumed by thoughts of torture victims making false confessions simply to avoid further torment at the hands of their inquisitors. Foley falls to his knees before Amanda and embraces her hips. “I’m so ashamed. I’m a monster. Please don’t call the cops!”
“You’re pathetic,” says Amanda freeing herself of Foley’s hold on her. She wants more, a voice tells Foley, but before he can heed the suggestion to continue aggressing against Amanda, she lets Murdock in the house. As soon as the pit bull is by her side, Amanda kicks Foley in the left shin. Foley emits a grunt, and as he lifts his injured leg, the dog growls, then bites his right ankle.
Foley loves Murdock, who was abused by his previous owners, but he fears the dog as well. He is tempted to kick the pit bull, but thinks of the consequences of adding fuel to Amanda’s rage, of further kicks to the shins and bites to the ankles, of intervening cops, handcuffs, tasers, of jails, and of prison. Foley fails to act out any further.
Accurately sensing she has been avenged by her loyal canine, and seeing blood spotting through Foley’s good jeans, Amanda grabs Murdock’s collar. As her feeling of helplessness abates, Amanda’s helper’s heart, the spirit that motivates her to work sixty-hour weeks primarily with veterans with a host of disheartening ailments, kicks into gear. She has Murdock heel, and guides Foley into a high-backed desk chair. “Should I call an ambulance?” Amanda asks her bleeding boyfriend.
“Don’t worry, it’s not a mortal wound.”
“It looks serious.”
“It doesn’t warrant calling the paramedics. Murdy has his shots.”
Amanda thinks of the substantial lies she will have to tell the intervening emergency medical technicians for purposes of covering up the evenings shenanigans and reconsiders picking up the phone, knowing enough basic first aid to assist Foley on her own.
As his resilient girlfriend daubs his ankle with hydrogen peroxide, Foley, against his better judgment implores, “I have a better idea. We’ll call Daniel. If you want to have an affair, have it with him. Unlike Shayne, who you know I think is scum, Daniel is like a brother to me!”
Foley calls me at 10:17 p.m. as I’m doing my bedtime reading. I’m reading Maya Angelou and astounded by how unforgiving she can be when describing the dirty and disadvantaged white folks who were the source of so much torment to her and her properly spiritual and hardworking ebony kin. I’m shocked by the way she couldn’t even consider bigoted white folks to be people. I’m sharing these observations with my wife when my phone rings. It’s late. It’s unexpected. It’s Foley.
“I screwed up big time Daniel! I’ve manhandled Amanda. I know I don’t satisfy her. Will you get together with her? You’re a brother. You’re black. You’re my brother. I trust you. Will you please sleep with her, so that she stops seeing her sleazy district attorney cousin-in-law?”
My head is reeling, but my curiosity is piqued, “Wait a minute, Foley. You’ve what?”
“I put my hands on Amanda. I know she’s cheating on me.”
I can hear Amanda, who is listening to her boyfriend in disbelief, say in the background, “Foley, I’m not agreeing to any of this.”
I ask Foley, “And you want me to go to bed with her because I’ll wean her from a worse habit?”
“Yes, Daniel. That’s exactly what I want you to do. Just talk to her. Tell her what you’re working with. You’re probably better endowed than Shayne anyway.”
“Isn’t Shayne a district attorney for Los Angeles? You realize if your suspicions are true, and she is involved with him, or he at all cares about her, you’re not going to have much of a shot in court if she decides to press charges, right?”
Foley makes eye contact with Amanda and says, “She’s not going to press charges.”
I say, “Foley, as your attorney, as your friend, I strongly advise you seek help now, that you check yourself into a psychiatric ward to-night. You’ve told me you have no desire to return to jail, that you’d prefer suicide to seeing the inside of a cell again. Spending seventy-two hours under observation is a small price to pay to avoid incarceration.”
“I meant what I said about preferring to die before being thrown in jail again,” says Foley, adding, “Will you just talk to Amanda?”
“There’s no reason for that,” I hear Amanda again speak, relegated to third wheel status.
“I’m not committing myself to a hospital tonight. I’ll be alright,” says Foley. “We’ll be alright,” he adds and reaches out to grasp and squeeze Amanda’s hand.
“I’ve given you the best advice I could, my brother,” I say into the phone.
“I’ll call you in the morning, Daniel,” Foley tells me.
“If you’re not in jail come the morning,” I say.
Foley disconnects from the call and makes amends with Murdock, by foolishly allowing the dog to lick his face, not long after he has drawn his blood. Thanks for not biting me, good beast.
“What makes you think I’d agree to have sex with your lawyer?” asks Amanda.
“He’s more than my lawyer. You know that. I just thought…,” Amanda does not let Foley finish his sentence.
“That’s the problem with you,” she says, “you’re always thinking. And it’s not ‘just’ thinking. It’s unjust. It’s unfair. Unfair to me and to you. You torment me and torture yourself with all this nonsense. I’m of a mind to tell you to go spend the night at your mother’s, but I’m going to spare you the humiliation of seeking refuge with her tonight. I hope you appreciate my hospitality given this evening’s turn of events. Now, let’s go to bed.”
Amanda’s concluding request strikes Foley as odd. It sounds like a demand. Given the past hours’ occurrences, and the fact that there is a spare bedroom in the house, Foley would have expected Amanda to say, “Now, I’m going to bed,” or “Now, you go to bed.” Also, Amanda doesn’t work tomorrow, so there is no imperative that either of them retire for the night.
If Foley wasn’t wearing the face of Morris James, he would have ended the evening by meekly retiring to the spare room on his own volition and insisting that Amanda sleep in her own separate room. But there is something enticing and irresistible to Foley’s alter ego about Amanda’s proposition.
“I do love you, little momma,” he says. He takes her hand as the bluesy chorus of the James song “Break and Enter” plays in his mind’s ear: “Gonna break and enter/spend what the Lord lent her. Gonna enter and break/do the give and take.”
Foley turns out all the house lights and when they walk into the back bedroom, the one Foley keeps respectably clean and organized, he brazenly embraces Amanda. Foley expects the cold shoulder or some resistance. His expectations are confounded by the sensuality Amanda exudes. She responds to his kiss with an open mouth and a darting tongue. “I’m going to be laid off again,” she says as they disrobe.
They make articulate love, but Foley suspects nothing good comes without a price, and at early sunrise he disconnects the land line and disposes of the phone in the outdoor garbage bin. He also takes Amanda’s cell phone from her bag and takes it outside where he begins to clean out her car which is sitting in the driveway. The task is herculean, since Amanda is a pathological collector. For weeks Foley has been intending to empty the car of years’ worth of both hoarded useful items and detritus.
The endeavor takes the better part of an hour, and by the time he’s finished, the garbage bin is full of refuse removed from the car. As the morning’s cloud cover commences to release a fine mist on the street, to Foley’s dismay, a police vehicle pulls up on the street in front of the house. Foley looks at the living room window, and sees Amanda before she closes the blinds.
A cop emerges from the vehicle and says to Foley, “Please have a seat on the curb, sir.” The tall, well-toned officer’s brass name badge reads, “Gallo.” He has a receding hairline and wears black leather gloves.
“What’s the problem?” asks Foley, knowing full well what the problem is. Amanda ratted me out. But why would she have had sex with me last night? Foley complies with the officer’s request.
“We got a call about domestic abuse. The woman inside says you have schizophrenia,” says the policeman as his partner joins him standing close to Foley’s sitting figure. The partner’s name tag reads Martinez. Foley thinks, I don’t have schizophrenia, I’ve been culturally conditioned by a mad world to take extreme actions. I feel like a specimen, a lab rat. The woman inside the house is a victim of her own sexuality and of predatory men who don’t have the balls to say ‘no’ to themselves. But Foley also realizes his musings are all theoretical. He has no evidence to back his claims. He never does. He has screwed up with Amanda again, but she’s the one who made the first advance last night…under distress. She’s going to lose her job. Did she just want some compassion sex, to get laid in order to cope with the stress of getting laid off?
“There’ll be an officer who’s also a mental health professional here to assess you in a minute,” says officer Gallo, cracking his knuckles.
Before he can overcome his shock, Foley witnesses four more police cars, each occupied by two officers, roll up to Amanda’s home. There are now ten officers on the scene. Scandalous cops. Overreacting like always, Foley thinks. He wonders why he left his own iPhone in the house and how Amanda figured out his iPhone’s passcode, but this source of puzzlement is now the least of his worries. Officers other than Martinez and Gallo approach the front door, and Amanda lets them in.
Foley starts having different visions, dreaming while awake of the profanities occurring between Amanda and the cops inside the house. They seem to be in the house for hours. Foley compulsively rubs his head. He imagines the rubbing is raising welts on his scalp. Martinez interprets Foley’s action as a sign of distress. “Can we do something for you, sir?” asks the cop.
“I’d rather be inside the house with my fiancé,” says Foley.
“She’s fine in there with our boys in blue,” says officer Gallo.
The policewoman trained to assess perpetrators with mental health difficulties finally arrives, gets out of her SUV and approaches Foley. “Hello,” she says, “I’m here to help you out.” Foley glares at her.
“Having a tough time?” asks the woman, whose badge reads Petersen.
“I don’t like what’s going on in the house. I don’t trust those cops in there with my fiancé,” responds Foley.
“Why not?” says the officer Peterson.
“I hear things. I have intrusive thoughts.”
“Your fiancé is safe. She’s told us you have a mental health diagnosis. Is that true?”
“What’s the problem? Ms. Yi reported that you hit her last night and that you need to be hospitalized.”
“I’m not going to argue with you about that,” says Foley, who is being goaded by inner voices to tackle officer Gallo.
“I don’t need you to agree with me. I need you to breathe with your diaphragm, and pay attention to the questions I’m going to ask.”
These cops are soulless, thinks Foley, they’re evil.
“Are you having hallucinations?”
“I already told you I hear things.”
“Are you currently hearing things?”
“Yes, I hear your annoying voice asking equally annoying questions while your pussy partners are gang banging the woman I intend to marry.”
“Whoa, mister slap happy! Watch your mouth!” exclaims Gallo with a smile.
“Guys, I’d sell my soul to Satan for a better life,” says Petersen to her colleagues.
“You’ve already sold your soul to Satan. By wearing those uniforms, all of you have,” complains Foley, who then attempts to rise to his feet.
“Stay seated,” says Gallo, delivering a kick to backside of one of Foley’s knees.
Foley falls to the ground and the two male officers are on top of him.
Although Foley is practically motionless, Gallo utters, “Stop resisting!”
“Book him, he’s forfeited a 5150 hold,” Petersen says.
As Foley is loaded into one of the patrol vehicles and begins his latest journey to jail, hoping that he is leaving Amanda behind, she exits the house and waves as the car pulls away.