Source work and author: Original Door: Gotham Character Journal name: pyrrhicvictory Character Name: Joseph Bernard Walsh Character Age: 29 Character Played By: Adrien Brody
Character History and Personality: Marjorie Phillips married Robert Walsh on a sunny June day in 1983, at Our Lady of Ransom Catholic church in Niles, Illinois, because it was prettier than the Lutheran church, it was where Marjorie had taken her first communion, and neither of them cared much for church-going. At work, Marjorie started the next school year as "Mrs. Walsh", and even her grade school students could see how happy it made her to change the little sign on her desk and write her name on the chalk board. They had met at a meeting for the district, as Robert Walsh was teaching Economics and the occasional advanced math class at the local highschools, stretching his time thin as he finished his education and worked hard on becoming the kind of husband Marjorie deserved. By that June, he was a financial consultant pulling in close to six figures. The two loved eachother with a fierce loyalty - she lit up his dry intellect, dusted off the debris of number-crunching, made everything bright and cozy. He gave her an outlet for her womanhood beyond the matronly, made her feel and genuinely saw that her mind was good for more than A-B-C's. He saw elegance in her lanky figure and after a few glasses of red on a wintery Friday night called her Olive Oil -- she laughed and called him Cyrano de Bergerac for his nose. They were clever, they were each other's play things, and they were hopelessly in love. A little more than 9 months after the wedding, there was a miscarriage. Daunted but not defeated, they put in love's labours, and in early May of 1986 they had a little boy. They named him properly, after his grandfathers -- Joseph for his, Bernard for hers. Money was good enough that she could stay at home entirely for 5 years, and when she got bored and Joseph (never Joe or Joey) started going to more play dates and preschool, she began substitute teaching middle and highschool classes.
For those first 5 years, Joseph was the perfect little boy. It was when he entered school that they began to pay for skipping the terrible twos -- every injury he could give or receive, he did so repeatedly. He once tackled a skunk out of curiousity. What had seemed like a certain brilliant, quick cleverness when he was at home translated poorly in the classroom -- meetings were held, ADD and medications were mentioned, and Marjorie fumed, indignant. Joseph was one of the lucky few misdiagnosed rowdy boys who avoided Ritalin and its speedy siblings. It was during grade school that he began to feel what he would never be able to articulate. He did not excel at anything his parents did. He could climb ropes, do pull ups, run faster than all but three other boys and one other girl in his class. He could make people laugh, make people like him. But his academics were middling at best. And when his mother surprised the family by bringing a daughter into it when he was eight, there was someone else to compare himself to. Emily Walsh didn't delight her parents the way he had, but she was precocious in every way he wasn't. Reading at 4, skipping a grade, rattling off science facts at the dinner table while he spun his spaghetti and felt ever more the idiot black sheep. Joseph realized that the rest of his family was smarter than he would ever be. And there was another difference from what he had learned was normal and right and good for an all American boy to be - he liked boys. Men. Team mates and class mates and teachers. While no one would describe him as "light in the loafers" or any other gentle epithet, he knew what he was early on and without doubt. Joseph told no one. He kept girls at a distance, teasing and trying to find excuses for why adolescent experimentation was lost on him. He joined track with a desperate vigor, a determination to silence questions that no one asked, because no one saw reason to. In the summer before his senior year, he met a boy. His popularity and reputation for unbiased kindness made their facade of friendship acceptable, but in their time alone they did everything two high school lovers are wont to do. Still, it wasn't what he had hoped for. Something in the chemistry was cold - a lack of love on Charlie's part, he would realize many years later. It gave him the impression that society was right - there could be no true love between two men. Two men couldn't have a home together, a life together. Just sex.
There were several factors that went into his decision to visit a U.S. Army recruiter half way into his senior year. Some were noble, others misguided, and others self-loathing. He was trying to correct himself. He felt he couldn't be good at anything else. And perhaps most of all, he was terrified of a future that seemed to suggest nothing but failure and loneliness. When he entered training, it was clear from the beginning he was meant for military life. The structure and the challenge made his dogged nature shine. His marksmanship was extraordinary, rivalling those recruits from the trigger happy states who had grown up shooting pigeons out of grand old oaks and sycamore trees. All it earned him, however, was deployment to one of the most volatile theatres in Afghanistan. "2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173st Airborne Brigade Combat Team" - a highly decorated unit of the U.S Army, with a history of fifteen Medal of Honor recipients. He served from 2004 to 2008, his service ending after being wounded in the Battle of Wanat. The encounter cost the lives of nine men he considered brothers - lives he couldn't save. Yet he survived, and saved others. He had made himself a hero, and was utterly broken for it. A lengthy hospital stay for multiple gunshot wounds and head trauma stretched on through painful surgical complications and bone infections. Through miracles of modern medicine, Joseph was able to keep his left arm and leg, but even years later the pain would make him wonder if it had been worth it. Even more damaging was the burden on his soul. As soon as he was conscious, it was apparent he had experienced a break, and one long overdue.
When transferred to a psychiatric facility, he hid between the bed and the wall, refused meals, attacked those trying to care for him. Of this period, he remembers little. It was only when he was back with his parents that Joseph was "stabilized", and after many medication adjustments, he nearly felt human again. His life became repetitive, shameful, lonely. After an altercation that ended in violence, Charlie told him he couldn't take it anymore. And after he nearly bashed his mother with a dining room chair, he told her he couldn't stay there anymore. There was no where he felt safe, so he went where he could try his best not to feel anything.
He fled to Las Vegas, Nevada. Drugs, cheap sex, alcohol and money. He lived alone, supporting a heroin habit through disability checks, hustling, boosting, rough trade, and any manner of petty crime he could justify.
It was at this time a certain skinny lowlife of similar habits insinuated himself first into Joseph's life, then into his heart.
At some point, he realized he was no longer shooting up in Las Vegas, but in a place called Gotham. As bizarre as the change was, it changed very little - dope was the same, Trystan was the same, the laws were the same, and he was still utterly outcast, severed from what prestige his past held by the indiscretions of his present self.
Both junkies knew well that loyalty and fidelity were separate sentiments, and when their joint activities aroused the interest of law enforcement, there was no question in Joseph's mind - he took the burden of culpability from Trystan's skinny shoulders for any charge that didn't strain credulity. He knew he could live through prison, but despite Trystan's insistence to the contrary, he remained unconvinced that the waif would be anything but fresh meat for the unkind delectation of his cellblock.
When he knew Trystan's sentence had expired and he heard nothing, received no letters or visitors, he couldn't bring himself to feel bitter. He simply hoped the boy was well and whole, or as much so as either of them could ever be. And when he was released, given his old dirty clothes and a bus pass, it wasn't grim necessity that drove him to stalk their old haunts, but a sense unspoken of reclaiming what was his.
He knows he used to be a good kid, a good son. A good soldier.
"Get high and hope to die," he laughs, his smile still as sweet as ever. "Get high and hope to die."
Journal/Key: A nondescript key with a black open-face key cover, an outdated smartphone with a lightly cracked screen.
External Door items: Dog tags, their accompanying crippling baggage, and the resultant drive to self-destruct.
Open: Underground associates - the type of person who would know the type of person doing the things he does. Open: Buddies from the war - the type of person to know the person he used to be. Open: Hometown acquaintance - the type of person to have met who he was as a boy.
"One forty. No bareback, no gay shit."
It was hardly an act. With one hand jammed in the pocket of his jeans and smoke blown through the car window, Joseph effortlessly embodied the fantasy - straight boy hustling for a hard habit. Three day stubble, shaggy hair cut, dirty beater over muscles that had gone sinewy but never gone away. Big belt buckle above a big package. Track marks on display so they knew how bad he needed it.
Sometimes he flipped on them, pulling rough trade. A knife or a needle at the last minute, coated or filled with his own blood. Slam the queer against the wall. And he'd lie, and he'd say it --
"Pay up, faggot. Wanna keep your money or do you want AIDS?" "Oh god, fuck -- easy man, calm do-- " "Wallet, bitch. Yeah, that iPhone. And your watch. Okay. Okay. Empty that shit -- I don't need your fucking ID. All right. All right, fucker... On your knees. Count to a hundred."
And off he went, clean as when he started. Sometimes being a felon made him laugh and sometimes it made him want to call his mom and tell her everything and go home and sleep in his bedroom with the bed that used to be shaped like a space ship until his heels started dangling off the end and he got a grown up bed. A grown up bed, and then a cot in the racks. A hospital bed at the VA. Sleeping in a dirt ditch he dug while taking fire in the night, surrounded by sand bags and men he loved like brothers.
Sometimes he flipped on them, and sometimes he popped a Viagra on the way to the by-the-hour, stretched a condom over his forty bucks for the privilege of sucking it dick, slicked it, fucked them like the tired old sluts they were. He had never heard of Kaposi's sarcoma before Las Vegas, and now he could spot it in a second.
Oh, god. He closed his eyes and prayed the way he did when he had his back to the wall, hearing four men die in twenty minutes, four men he loved. Mortar fire. Allahu Akbar, Allahu akbar. Air ringing him deaf and dumb with an Apache and a Predator, dropping Hellfire down on the sons of bitches. Why am I alive was what he thought when he woke up and when he woke up every time since.
Sometimes (becoming always) he woke up and remembered that he had done something he hated for something he loved. He tried to tally the fuckings to the getting fucked - maybe ten to one, maybe wishful thinking. Feeling like a man or not feeling like a man didn't matter to him much any more. Nothing much did, so long as he was warm and loaded and wanted in whatever hollow way he could get.
Joseph looked in the mirror to shave and check the pinning of his pupils. To find his jugular when his arms were abcessed. In it, a messy collection of wounds. Purple Heart, black and blue. A brave soldier, not a man. A hustler, not a human being. A pulse without the heart to pump it.
"One forty, right?" Hands jammed in his pockets. Cash pulled from between his fingers as the bag went in the hollow of his palm and then in the liquor store bathroom with the fruit flies buzzing the needle went in the crook of his arm. A pulse without a heart to pump it, a man without the grit to end it.