Where I Once Stood by Stephen Joyce

9/5/17

This is a story of a boy who is trapped in the landscape without the love of his life. He doesn’t want to be there, but he doesn’t want to leave either. He likes the pain. It’s a good thing that he is sad because he was having trouble adjusting to being happy.

How can you be so heartless, she asks him. That’s the worst thing anyone has ever done to me, another says. You’re just using them. They fall for you and then you just leave them, says the boy's friend. You disgust me, says too many to count. But his mind doesn’t linger on the woes of his own flesh. His whole being has been changed by the deterioration of another.

Eighteen years reduced to one moment. When he asked his son to kill him. He pleaded with him for weeks, with a constant flow of tears running down his face. When they stopped putting a tube down his throat and finally just cut it open, he simply mouthed the words to the boy. Kill me, the man said. The boy internalized it all and screams it when he drives drunk at night with his car lights off. He whispers it in bed when he’s alone. Kill me, he still says as he haunts the boy’s dreams. He used to pray to dream of the man so he could just talk to him. Now, he hopes beyond hope that he doesn’t appear to him in his unconscious state, because the man’s vocabulary has been reduced to those two words.

The boy can’t get over the moment when it all came to an end. Blood flowing out of the man’s mouth. His whole body convulsing. He couldn’t stop looking at the man. Now just a body twitching with a giant hole cut out of his chest, showing the boy his rotting organs. After bubbles of blood came to his lips, they popped sending blood to the far corners of his mouth. His body seized, and then went limp. Seeming to be outside of time, the boy just stood there. Touching the now firm forearm of the man. Pushing on it, and having it not push back. Then he started to breathe again.

More blood this time. The twitching was more pronounced, too. The sound of the man gargling on his poisonous blood penetrated the boy’s ears. It’s okay, buddy boy, he tells the man. But that doesn’t stop his mouth from writhing to form indistinct sounds. The boy’s words don’t stop the man from looking at him with blood infiltrating every last white space in his eyes. This dance that the man performed for his audience went through many acts. They thought the show was over several times, but then he would perform a most violent encore.

The boy knew that he could leave this sterile theater when the man’s skin went from yellow to gray, all in the course of no time at all. The fat lady, quite literally, sang for him. She walked in front of the door and sang, is he dead? She nodded her head and never came in. The coward.

You see, the boy has been trapped by this moment. He’s been living inside the fragility of that room ever since. This is a glimpse inside of the world that the boy has created for himself. He has created a realm that attempts to put together the broken pieces of his memory. Grabbing at words that reveal themselves to him, he uses them because they linger for too long. Because all of these views were constructed in the city that he once shared with the man, the boy is attempting to leave that painful place in his darkest dreams, as if it’s a room in the back of his house. He can’t escape the impact of the sport that he shared with his poor father. It has now become the boy’s religion, elevating the man into the divine. This deity doesn’t exist anymore and his physical nature is rapidly being forgotten. With these images, the boy wants to show anyone who will look that he still isn’t okay. He is trying to show where his love once stood. He wants to show that the man still matters. Before the boy loves him no longer.

-Stephen Joyce


Stephen Joyce was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1993. He enrolled in the Photography Program
at Bard College in 2011. At Bard, he studied with An-My Le, Stephen Shore, Gilles Peress, Lois Connor,
and Tanya Marcuse. In addition to majoring in Photography, Stephen concentrated his studies in Latin
American and |Iberian Studies. While at Bard, Stephen interned for Stephen Shore, Nan Goldin, David
La Spina, and Phaidon Press. Upon receiving his BFA, Stephen lived and worked in New York City.
There, he worked as a printer in the Digital Department of Laumont Editions. At Laumont, he printed for
artists such as Glenn Ligon, Zanele Muholi, Alfredo Jaar, and Teresita Fernandez.

Stephen currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.

www.stephenmichaeljoyce.com

@stephenmjoyce