121 University Place: Sample Chapters



A Bloody Back Leads To My Lucky Break


“People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.”

-Audrey Hepburn


May 1975

I’m startled by a car horn honking behind me. I’m stopped at a red light in Oakland where the University of Pittsburgh is located. I must have been daydreaming. I’m nervous and scared because I’m on my way to my dermatologist’s office. I know I’ll have to take off my shirt in front of people again. I hate doing that. I know they’re professionals, but it still bothers me. Why shouldn’t it? Even I feel frightened every time I see my back in the mirror.

Why does it bleed all the time? I can’t even sit back on my seat without it hurting. This has been going on since the tenth grade. Blood keeps oozing through my shirt and it won’t stop. I wear extra undershirts to soak it up. Now I have to wear three of them under my regular shirt. I’m tired of wearing all these shirts. It’s hot. It’s going to be 80 degrees today. I don’t want to wear all of these shirts.

As I drive down Fifth Avenue toward the doctor’s office, I see all these beautiful girls walking to class. Tears well up in my eyes. I know deep down I’ll never be able to talk to girls like them. I’m only three months away from being a 20-year-old-virgin.

Who would want me, after all? My own family hates me and has disowned me. Last Saturday, my dad and grandpap threw me out of the house. They’d always told me I was hopeless. They said I’d never amount to anything, that I’m a loser.

I guess they’re right. My car is falling apart. I’m working as a janitor at the Holiday Inn in Greentree. At least the homeless shelter took me in. The people there are nice to me.

I wish Dr. Gibson would see me by himself. Why does he have to have two nurses with him? The fact that they’re young and pretty makes it even worse. I’m sure they cringe when they see me on the exam table. Why can’t he help me? He’s my fourth dermatologist in the last four years. So far, no one has been able to cure my bloody back.

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“I Hate You”


“What the heart gives away is never lost because it stays in the hearts of others.”

-David Lam


Finally I’m lying on the couch. Dr. Shoemaker sits in a big soft chair behind my head for the first time. I can’t see him.

What do I say, Dr. Shoemaker?

Say whatever comes into your mind.

What do you mean by that?

Just say whatever you want to say, Lou.

I don’t know what you mean. I don’t want to say the wrong thing.

You can’t say the wrong thing. Just say whatever you want to say.

But I’m afraid to do that.


Because I’ll most likely say something that isn’t appropriate and you’ll get mad at me

Everything you say is appropriate, Lou.

I’m scared.

Scared of what?

I’m scared that you will yell at me.

Why would I yell at you?

Because I’ll say the wrong things and you’ll feel like I’m wasting your time and then you’ll get mad at me.

He doesn’t respond.

Please give me an idea what to talk about.

He doesn’t respond.

I don’t want to talk if I don’t know what the ground rules are.

There are no ground rules, Lou. You need to talk about ninety percent of the time. I’m just here to help you along.

But what if I get off on a tangent that you don’t like?

No response.

I already know what’s going to happen.

No response.

You’re going to criticize me for talking about the wrong stuff and wasting your time.

No response.

Now I’ve asked you very nicely to help me with the ground rules so that I don’t waste your valuable time. But you won’t help me understand how this is supposed to work.

No response.

Why won’t you help me?

He talks in a very soft voice.

Just say whatever comes to your mind, Lou.

I already know exactly what is going to happen here.

No response.

Here’s what will happen. I’m going to do as you say and start talking about whatever comes to my mind and you’re going to yell at me and say, “Don’t talk about THAT STUFF; talk about THIS STUFF.” Let me tell you something, IF YOU DO THAT, I’M GOING TO GET OFF THIS FUCKING COUCH AND COME BACK THERE AND PUNCH YOU RIGHT IN THE MOUTH. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?

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Reader Reviews

Best Book of the Year, May 13, 2009

"This book is, first of all, a phenomenal read.  It’s well-written, interesting and answers many questions about the human condition.  Lou Panesi has joined the ranks of the very few writers in history who’ve put to pen the suffering that can be correlated with the actions of a parent."

Important Story, Well-Written, May 21, 2009

"I read this book in one day.  It was well-written.  Poignant.  Heartwrenching."

Courage, July 12, 2009

"Louis Panesi shows great courage to write this about the abuse and his passion to overcome these circumstances in his life.  “Thanks Louis” for your passion and courage that you have shared."


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