Keith Caputo / 30 / Neuro resident / FC: Adam Scott

A dying man needs to die, as a sleepy man needs to sleep, and there comes a time when it is wrong, as well as useless, to resist.

Keith Caputo spent a long time thinking he wouldn’t ever really love anything. That’s what happens when you watch your father deteriorate, he supposed; sometimes, terminal illness brings out religion or generosity in people, and sometimes it makes you cold. It didn’t help that the family patriarch went the rare way of a hereditary prion disease. It didn’t help that children have a 50% chance of inheriting it, or that it broke down the man’s mental faculties, or that by the end, he was hardly more than a skeleton in a coma. Keith could do whatever he wanted in life—move to Turkey, rob banks, bleed on a canvas and call it art—he still had a coin flip’s chance of going crazy and dying young. Just like his old man.

But what else was he supposed to do? Staying idle made him uncomfortable, living at home with his father’s photographs lying around like sealed test results made him sick, and that whole getting-drunk-and-fucking-women thing didn’t make him ever feel any better. It kind of made him feel worse, really. So he worked hard in high school. He got into Columbia, and after that he went to UMASS Med, and—and wouldn’t you know it? Learning about the brain is a good way to assuage your fears, if your fears are that your brain is going to misfire and take you down screaming. He was maybe starting to be happy, maybe. He was at the very least starting to feel something that wasn’t terrible fatalism or Camus-level apathy.

It wasn’t just the medical school, either. One of the guys in his clinical rotations started bringing up conversations that had less and less to do with their studies, and Keith found himself smiling a lot as he nodded along. Somehow, that led to breakfasts on breaks, and then it was dinners at Dominick’s house, and then it was the two of them in bed past 10 on Sunday mornings, doing the crossword and listening to the Strokes. Keith wasn’t exactly sure how he’d managed to fall in love. He wasn’t exactly sure that’s what this was, not even when they bought an apartment downtown—he didn’t know it was real until Dominick got down on bended knee at the Public Library and pulled a felt-lined box out of his pocket.

Keith shook his head, touched his face, and broke down.

They went to get him tested the next day. Dominick insisted the whole subway ride there that he didn’t care how long they had, or how much hospice he’d have to play—like lines out of a movie, or a book about someone else’s life. And when the tests came back positive, like Keith had always known they would, they cried some more. They took a cab to City Hall. They got married quietly, on their own, and framed the certificate on their wall.

The rest of it happened the way it had been foretold. Fatal Familial Insomnia is nothing if not predictable, after all, and once his sleeping grew threadbare, they both knew it had started. It was the sort of thing they skirted around at all those increasingly-common dinners together. Kind of an arrangement, right? Dominick gave up some of his time, and cooked for them, and in return, Keith skipped out after Dom fell asleep so he could make the rounds and get laid. You can’t have sex with someone who pities you. You just can’t do it. 

At least, Keith couldn’t. And when he inevitably got caught, as he knew he would, Keith was the one ran out. He only made it to the next state over before he stopped to catch his breath: a hotel room he rented out for the next couple of months, all that transfer paperwork he had to fill out before Brown would consider him. But they did, when he was through. It was a long, difficult sell (thank god for his track record and his good recommendations) but at the end of the process, he was looking at another shot at his residency. Fuck Dominick, and the marriage. And, yeah, okay, so Providence was a hell of a lot smaller than Boston and Manhattan had been — maybe smaller was what he needed. Maybe he’ll sleep just fine without the bustle under his window. 

Though he doubts it.

  • Keith is currently in the first stage of his illness, which mostly means mounting insomnia and panic attacks.
  • He’s still living out of a hotel in Providence, but he’s recently had to change to a less costly one, much to his chagrin.
  • Despite his sexuality, Keith is often uncomfortable with discussions about gay rights, and has difficulty socializing at events meant specifically to promote pride.
  • He was born Catholic, and much of that upbringing is still affecting him — though, of course, he has not attended Mass in a long time.

ARTIST: The Decemberists
TRACK: Calamity Song
ALBUM: The King Is Dead
Three ways you might know Keith

(and three plots to come of them):

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