My best friend in treatment was Will Dan. Will Dan the Crazy Man, the Sexy Man, the Angry Man...Will was a tweaker, but smart. Will was dyslexic, Will couldn't read, plus he was dysgraphic, so he couldn't write either. Plus he was OCD and ADHD. He'd become incredibly rigid about something, anything, it was totally random, there was no logic, yet the situation was life or death, always. If he wasn't strict on that one particular thing, his parents would die. It was refreshing, actually. Everything was important. He had to shampoo his hair three times or the world would blow up.
whiteHe had little routines and tics that I loved. He would write little notes, in books, on post-its, receipts, even trash, simple stuff like, "Today I read my book," and then he'd rip off the piece of paper and tuck it under his bed or squirrel it away somewhere. I'd walk into our room and find a note with some gibberish like "MI6" scribbled on it folded it up real small under a tennis racquet. He'd draw little figures too, stick figure stuff, battle scenes and cartoons. They were funny, and childish, but when you actually looked at them they were really detailed and sick.

I was the only one that didn't make fun of him. Actually, it was pretty hard to make fun of Will Dan. People would try to be mean to him, and Will would just fucking unleash, telling their twisted darkest secrets, things they didn't even know about themselves, things I had no idea he knew. Quinlan, for example, whom we shared a room with for a while. He was this super short, super pale, annoying, whiny ass kid. Will would call him an albino midget and say that Quinlan wanted to eff his mom because his dad never could. Quinlan would rage. Eventually he'd try to say some shit back but Will would just shun him.
whiteWhen he was younger, Will's older brothers beat him like crazy. Late one night, Will and I had been in our beds talking across the room about random sci-fi stuff, probably our favorite book, Hyperion, or something, when Quinlan piped up. I guess he had just been quietly listening for the past three hours like the little creep he was, and out of nowhere, he goes "Oh yeah, that's why your brothers beat you, Will." When I got out of the top bunk and had restrained Will and gotten him to calm down a bit, we started going after Quinlan, who, along with his gay dad, had at some point been in a car crash with his sister, who was now a paraplegic.
white"Your sister's a bitch, everyone hates her," we said. "Your sister got injured because you're a horrible person."

Will's full name was Will Dan Farley and we called him Will Dan the Sexy Man, Will Dan the Dandy Man, Will Dan The Huge Dick Man, the Naughty Man, the Naked Man...Will Dan was all the adjectives. We'd say it in front of staff members, our voices all whiny and horny, "Oooh yeahhh, Will Dan your cock is so big, oh yeah Will Dan you're so sexy, if staff wasn't here I'd fuck the shit out of you right now..."
whiteThe staff liked us. We were fun, or at least we thought so. We never actually did bad stuff, just joked around a bunch.
whiteWill Dan was also a Dirty Man. He could be kind of nasty. His hand was always in his pants, or scratching his ass, but if someone sneezed in his general direction he would freak out and then run off to take a shower. He would skate for hours, get covered in dirt and grime, and then come back and touch a doorknob and have to wash his hands five times.
whiteAnd he was colorblind. It blew my mind. They'd re-tested him when he got to the program, and it turned out his colorblindness was far worse than the doctors had previously thought. There are special glasses now that colorblind people can wear, but those didn't work on Will at all, that's how bad it was. Things are almost always worse than you think, is what I'm finding out.
whiteWe would go on these long green chaperoned walks around the neighborhood—golden retrievers, stucco houses—and I'd ask him stupid questions that probably every colorblind person gets asked. Even the board games they allowed us, Risk or whatever, would trip him up. We had to stop playing because he'd get all the pieces confused. He'd forget he was colorblind and insist that my piece was his, etc. He'd wear the most deranged outfits. He put clothes together based only on patterns.
whiteHe was the kind of kid that at first glance, or even first conversation, you wouldn't think was smart and might call "retarded." But he was special. Intelligent about history, sciences, English, to the extent that he could manage with his learning disabilities. He tried to read a lot, we stayed up every night as late as possible reading our books, him just getting through a few pages, and we'd go to sleep at the same time. He was creative, always drawing, writing...his little paper slips or in his notebooks.
whiteWill Dan left the program after the shampoo incident. Quinlan conspired with Archie—whose brothers had given him LSD when he was a kid and touched him—and together they got ahold of Will Dan's special scentless sensitive scalp shampoo and pissed in the bottle. And so Will came home from an epic five hour skate session, went to take the first of his three showers, and doused himself in rancid piss. This was at the point where our floor was under constant supervision, and we had to yell our own name every thirty seconds and have a counselor sit outside the bathroom to make sure we weren't killing ourselves.
whiteSometimes, I'd search our room for one last little drawing of his, maybe just a gum wrapper that said "Gabrielle Diffley" or "powerfully high sperm count" or a drawing of his dog back home but I never found one.

After treatment, I moved to a little city and tried to stay sober. My problems didn't get better, but they became specks in the distance, that, like a recurring dream, occasionally bobbed closer until I kicked them away again.
whiteAt a conference in DC, I met someone else who went to treatment a number of years later. When he was a teen, he had taken too much acid and stabbed someone seventeen times. In his fucked up state, he'd intuited another kid, a relative outsider, as a threat, and had wanted to protect the rest of the group.
whiteWe had a drink after the second day of the conference, and I told him about how my mom was shot in the head while she was driving on the highway to work. I told this guy how giddy I was, afterward, how I was getting all of this attention, and how my dad, who had left the family when I was a toddler, finally reached out and loved me again. How after my mom died, everything in my life started to get better and then in the middle of the night two men took me from my bed, stuck me in a van, asked if I wanted anything from McDonald's, and flew me to Utah with my hands zip-tied.
whiteMy new friend blew his hair out of his eyes, buttoned up his suit, looked at the tips of his shoes and excused himself. He didn't show up for the third day of the conference.
whiteFor months, Will Dan and I had fantasized about Big Macs, chicken nuggets, McFlurries with extra Oreos and extra-large French fries, unsalted of course, so that they'd have to fry a fresh batch. My sons don't skateboard. We play board games, my sons treat each other respectfully, and their childhood is, to my knowledge, mostly about surviving the mass theft of innocence. They are becoming adults, and privy to adult things at a normal pace. They read all of our favorite books, Hyperion, Ender's Game, The Name of the Wind. Our home has a living room and a TV room and a guest bathroom and smells just like our family. A maid comes twice a week. I make my wife brush her teeth before kissing me every morning but in every other aspect we are secure, make love well and long, and her childhood almost never comes up. I think there's a million fucked up retards in all the treatment centers out there and Will Dan was crazy, but not out of this world crazy. Why did I ever think anything was wrong?
whiteMy whole life, I've been waiting to see who made it out more alive. Sometimes clouds are shaped like monsters and demons but after a moment, the winds blow them into kittens or bunnies or shapeless wisps, after all.