My Historical Boyfriend, Doc Holliday | by Lou Johnston | March 2022
It’s like I’m gasping for air and trying not to cry while the woman carves my nails. The other lady asks me what color I want. Fisher, holding my attention through a single earbud, talks to me about it: “How could you do this to me? You ruined my whole fucking day, honey!” The night before, my phone died in the ER. My body feels weird from all the stress and, uh, mental illness, and then a Tik Tok about a brain tumor got me so fired up that I went to the center of abjection, uh, I mean in the hospital. So I sat with the sick and injured and fantasized about, you know, getting the kind of help I really needed.
A Pueblo Revival recovery center outside of Tucson. One with pool and view of the Catalinas. A dual diagnosis treatment center where I would meet people who also want an escape from their life paid for by insurance. Someone would say to me, “this place was a sanatorium in the early 1900s.” Doc Holliday, next to me by the pool, smoking a cigarette. He tells me he wishes he had never tried benzos. I smile at him and shake my head. Oh, doctor. Save it for the band, man.
“It’s the best thing that ever happened to me, Doc. Otherwise, I would have killed myself in my twenties.”
“So what makes you want to quit now?”
“Oh fuck I’m not giving up. I just want everyone to leave me alone.”
He’s laughing. He spits blood into a small handkerchief, fatally hit by an internal enemy.
“Doc, I love everything you do. Honestly. Are you and that bitch, uh, exclusive?”
Honestly, I’ve had a crush on Doc Holliday ever since I saw Tombstone when I was ten. That’s my fucking type. Sick, violent, dying. I wrote every elementary school book report on some shit I read about him: “that book, ⬛, was about my lover, Doc Holliday and his greasy black hair. A handsome man. A dentist. A dead man. He did great things. He did horrible things. He fucked whores. He’s my historic boyfriend. The end.”
In my childhood fantasy, I’m a beautiful prostitute, and around town, I’m known for doing weird things. That’s why men pay so much to have me. They pay so much, in fact, that I’m a rich bitch, but I still work because, uh, you know, because I like my job. And then, in the walks, Doc Holliday and we begin an immediate and violent love affair that includes a not insignificant number of shootings. He would give me consumption and, in the end, after years of whatever it was, we would kill each other together before we got too sick. It was fucking romantic.
Back in Arizona, by the pool, I would ask him.
“Hey, tell me about OK Corral, baby,” I lowered my sunglasses.
“I’ve told you a hundred times, honey.”
One more time before music therapy?
“Honey, are you there,” Fisher asks, still just a little speaker in my left ear.
” Yeah. Damn, I’m sorry.
“What color are your toes, miss? What color?”
“I called you and I called you, Lou!” How could you do this to me? You ruined my whole fucking day, honey. I was literally about to book a flight.
My God. It’s classic Fisher. Like, deep cuts, vintage Fisher.
“Can you just choose a light blue for me? Or, like, gray?”
“You want gray? No, it won’t be fine, miss. I will do blue.
Can we paint everything blue? All. Azure.
“Please, honey, don’t shut me out like that.”
“Okay. Ok. I’m sorry. I’m fine. I’m fucking sorry, baby. I’m fine.”
In the hospital, I reflected on the number of times I went to the emergency room with strange worries. I went there at least three times because I was convinced I had a brain tumor, once because my saliva tasted like blood, another because I thought my cerebrospinal fluid was leaking from my ears. Why am I here? It’s a place for physical illness. As I walked back to check in to tell them I was leaving, I found myself limping. Why am I limping?
When they’ve finished my nails and I’m going to pay, the guy asks me if I’m coming back from the rodeo – the annual Houston rodeo. One of the biggest annual events in the country.
“Did you go to the rodeo today?”
I look at him then take inventory of my outfit: cut-off shorts, high, dirty, brown leather boots, and a long kimono. I was thinking, like, 1879 Arizona, but the kimono screams 2010 Houston. Slim.
I do! I look exactly like one of those rodeo ladies!
“No, man. I always look like this. »
He laughs either with me or at me. Hard to say which one.
As I drive home, I have my first distinct “I’m going to miss Texas” feeling. Beautiful titan orange 18h. Oleander flowers bloom around the ironwork ranch gates. “Established in 1998.” Across the road, a lot of Mexican food trucks with red cage lights draped from side to side, front to back. The sun hasn’t set, but they’re still on. I hear the music. It smells like sweet grass while someone sells custom belt buckles out of the back of a pickup truck. Florida pink. I remember you. Fruit stand. Car repair shop out back that also does 4x4s. Live bait vending machine outside a two pump gas station. Waffle restaurant. A billboard: “Life has many choices. The afterlife has two.
I call Fisher one more time before heading home because I miss him, and I’m sorry I scared him even though the idiosyncrasies of his language gave me flashbacks to New York. “You ruined my whole fucking day, honey.” And I’m back in the trenches at the Marriott Marquis. His suitcase hit the ground like a gust, then, the roar of its wheels, the door slamming like a boom. The field howitzer itself, in the distance, was gone before I knew what hit me. Schon. Outcry. Shit. How did Nietzsche say it? “Greed and love: such different feelings that these terms evoke! And yet it could be the same instinct, named twice…” Oh yes. It’s fucking perfect.
” I am sorry. I shouldn’t have said that, honey. Shitty fucking thing to say. I am sorry.
Sinner. It’s the war! Damn, do you understand that?
“It’s okay. It’s okay. Let’s forget it, baby.”
“Well, I really am, Lou. Really, honey.”
And then I’m in my neighborhood and the Binder People are back on their rounds, looking for suckers. Last spring, one of them came to my house with his binder full of pictures of spiders and told my husband that the neighbors were complaining about the number of spiders on our property. This Binder Guy told him that the neighbors are worried because of the amount of spiders they’re seeing, that our spiders would make their respective ways into neighboring houses looking for, I don’t know, more square footage? A variety of freedoms that we could not afford at home? The promise of a new frontier? Damn expansionists. Maybe one of them got their dream job, a tenure-track job teaching spider literature, and the whole family has to pack up and move. May be. I do not know.
The Binder Guy wanted us to pay him two hundred dollars to spray poison in the nooks and crannies of our house. Chemical warfare? Right out the door like this? Slim. I mean, they were here first, right? Before Doc died in 1887, I wonder if he could have imagined those pretty green clouds of German chlorine covering the fields of Ypres face to face with another gentleman in a dead end. .38 Caliber Colt Lightning in one hand, a knife in his pocket. A fucking Marfa-style tumbleweed goes by and he’s deadpan. Fisher is there. He watches her roll through the empty town square, says, “Damn! I love tumbleweeds,” before putting his hands in his pockets and smiling. He shakes his head at Doc. “Uh,” he clicks his tongue, “I should care. I don’t.” It’s hard to say who would win.
I stare at my fingernails, an exquisite shade of periwinkle, and marvel. War was different then. In fact, maybe not. So I smile at Fisher through my phone, tell him I love him, and looking at his face, I’m suddenly overwhelmed with appreciation. I understand! That’s why I love this particular man. And you know, that’s why he likes me, I think. I mean, it’s like Nietzsche said, “war is the father of all good things; war is also the father of good prose”. Lol, Nietzsche. You stir.
We told The Binder Guy to get laid, you know. “Spiders are friends.” That’s what I tell my son and I mean it! I do! I love spiders. They are fucking beautiful and dangerous and totally themselves.
“Don’t be afraid, baby. This spider here is a friend. Let it be.”
“Oh, yeah. He’s curled up like that because he’s dead. … Yeah, like the jellyfish at the zoo. It’s like that, baby. We all die, but it’s okay. Uh,” how did he say it? “Our souls, like, change and we end up somewhere else. Maybe. Nobody knows. It’s like the Wild West! Who knows what we’ll find.”
“Oh! Um, these spiders here? They’re friends too, yeah.”
“That? Damn, uh. That’s a spider nest full of, um, baby spiders. … Yeah. They will all be our friends. Like, a million boyfriends.”
“God damn! He’s a fucking great friend, baby! Damn! … Yeah, uh, they’re wolf spiders, son. Uh, damn, we got a lot of new friends.”
Doc wouldn’t put up with that shit, man.
We told the Binder Guy to go. But, uh, the thing is, a few weeks later, we called another exterminator to come and kill them. “Kill, uh, everything, man,” I said as I signed the papers. “Is this stuff, like, really toxic,” I ask.
“It’s poison, ma’am. Yeah ! Don’t eat it.
“Alright Alright.” And like looking into a crystal ball, I see myself in the center of abjection registering myself. “Yeah. Uh, they sprayed spiders and I think maybe I ate poison. … How? Oh, uh, maybe I should just go.