Falling Through the Cracks
Joey Sands; Filipino hi-bred. Unclassifiable. His background reveals no more certainty about his identity than his fanciful last name. Son of a whore, abandoned by a black GI father, raised by a corrupt and compassionate uncle, not forced, but forged into a dreaming junkie, momentarily content with the life of sex, drugs, and music that he knows and loves. The sense of uncertainty and ambiguity that surrounds Joey’s life is what makes his character so intriguing and captivating.
He is introduced as “Mister Heartbreak” at the beginning of the book, although at first his character seems to betray all boundaries of the title. He is a man-whore, a seemingly lowly and immoral occupation. But it is no job for Joey, it is a lifestyle, one that he makes all his own. Joey is much more than a lover, much more than a thief, a player, and a junkie. He is a manipulator and a heartbreaker. His dependence on sex and drugs keeps him teetering on the edge of life, which is what makes him so captivating. Watching him spiral, twist and turn in and out of peoples lives, burning and building bridges on top of fake feelings and lost hopes, is mesmerizing. His life is gripping and tantalizing, his character demands attention without even acknowledging his own overbearing necessity for approval. He admits his dependence on drugs, his job with Andres, his love for money, and the thrill of pain, but not without a casual air of superiority in his voice. He is the best in his field, a master of his craft.
Joey brings a sense of longing to the novel. Just as Rio subconsciously longs for the memories of her childhood in the Philippines Joey longs for a better life, a different life, while simultaneously pretending to make the best of what he knows. His life revolves around the idea of instant satisfaction with no guarantee of what is around the corner tomorrow brings. But his dreams are clouded with hopes and wishes of a more secure and meaningful life. A life still slightly tainted with satisfaction of course, but more meaningful than anything he has ever known. When asked by the German, “Have you ever been in love?”, memories of Neal flood silently to the back of Joey’s mind, the crumpled and tired postcard carried so long in his back pocket now bright and crisp as the day it was received. He cannot admit any feelings that are too humane, too real. It is not in his nature, and those dreams of living a life of leisure and pleasure with Neal in America, Las Vegas to be exact, are broken, shoved back into the depths of the mind left to be covered by new sensations and recollections.
The character Joey portrays in this book is one of self-struggle, self-reliance, self-hatred, and self-destruction. To understand and connect to such a character is an interesting feeling to ponder. Even though Joey is impossible to classify, impossible to tie down or catalog, perhaps it’s just that fact that Joey is everything. He is every person’s want, and need, every desire and hatred, every enemy, and every friend.