And that she told him she was going to do it. Did Billy make the connection that his mother's suicide had been a trauma that set his life off in a different direction?
I think there were any number of traumas. I know Billy had his first episode as an adolescent – I don't know what you'd call it. But yeah, I think that was a big trauma, it has to be. I think she had mentioned it [suicide]. But Billy talked about it like she was going to buy a new bike or something. The reality of it was that he freaked out and tried to save her, but when he talked about it, he'd say, "Well, I respected her decision." The hell he did. He didn't. I heard it from people who were there, and that's not what happened. I've heard people say, "He was so young." He was 19, actually, when that happened. Billy would shade these stories. Over the years you'd hear from so many people weighing in. You'd get a broader picture, and you'd realize what Billy's doing to survive. He was just alive as can be. I spent so much time and now I have to think about other things. But unraveling the Billy mystery -- finding victories for him, he needed victories, to tilt against windmills and win sometimes.
How much time did you spend on a day to day basis taking care of Billy?
Billy, when he asked me to work for him, he still had what they call trailing psychosis from his first round of methamphetamine. Then he got more consistently tolerable, pleasant, enjoyable, loveable. He always had his moments, but he went away from that stuff. I started seeing Bill Ruane more – his dad – who was ill, he had lung cancer. But he was around for a couple more years. I would try and help him sort through what he didn't understand. I liked him a lot and I love Billy. If I could be a bridge between these two, that would be great. But it wasn't as much as I would have liked. I was there the last time they saw each other. It was very pleasant. Lunch at the Red House in Harvard Square. When he died, I guess he had left word to the trustees that they should approach me in an official capacity to help Billy. And they did.
The actual work that the trust would have me do was very reasonable. Then Billy would sometimes leave me 20 voicemails a night, expecting me to know every aspect of what he was talking about. He'd have these "important issues" – he say, "This is the most important thing in my life" – and he had no sense of what other people's lives were like. It was always at least an hour a day, every damn day. If he had some excursion planned, it could go on for ages. I remember taking him down to New York, he'd more often than not just want to come right back, so you could usually count on this 12-to-16 hour Billy time. And you'd feel like you'd been jumped up and down on by the time you got back. But he'd do some crazy shit, man. I'd have never eaten foie gras if I hadn't taken Billy to New York for a funeral one time. That was the thing: you went to places you wouldn't go otherwise. And I don't mean physical places, I mean your brain went places, you did things, and they weren't always fun. You know, you'd take him to a Russian grocery store, which I'd never gone to before, and it was fun enough, and then Billy would say: "Taste this" And you'd taste something and you'd be like, Ugh, what is it? "Congealed fat." Why am I eating this? "With cheese it's delicious." Alugh! Oh, no Billy!