Billy Skye is the only surviving son of single mom Roberta Skye, who brought up her son in working class Philadelphia doing whatever she could to get by and provide for her son. He found out later that she'd had perhaps half a dozen aborted pregnancies and miscarriages over the years, and that his own birth had only happened because his own abortion didn't 'take'. Billy was therefore her 'miracle baby', and while she worshiped him, she provided little guidance since she was busy working to support them and then drank a lot once she got home. Though Billy had a lot of 'uncles' growing up, he had no stable father figure at all, and looked to fictional figures on TV for guidance and fatherly advice. He could never figure out why the families on TV shows that he loved were so very far from his own version of a family he assumed there was something wrong with him and his mom and that unless they pretended to be something else, no one else could possibly want to join their family. It never really occurred to him that TV families were based on an unrealistic ideal and that reality was just harsher.

Billy was an outsider at school, although he did have friends in other outsider kids from his neighborhood. Without those few friends, he probably wouldn't have graduated from high school at all. He was extremely dyslexic and had a terrible time with reading in school, which meant his grades were barely passing. When he applied himself and studied with a tutor, he had no trouble grasping concepts, but rote memorization and basic reading and math skills were very difficult for him.

The only thing that he did enjoy in school was music. He was horrible at reading music but learned notes and keys and chords easily, and while he wasn't comfortable with singing, he picked up the piano easily. They couldn't afford a piano, but one Christmas his mother managed to get him a used Casiotone keyboard, which he treasured for years. He never let his friends know how good he was for some reason, he wanted to keep it a secret, safe from the prying eyes of the world - something that no one could ruin.

He managed to squeak by through high school, although he never really felt comfortable talking to anyone outside of his own tight little circle of friends. He never dated, because the only girls in his group knew way too much about him by then to ever consider him more than a friend. So he became adept at fixating on strangers, obsessing on girls he barely knew, and admiring them from afar without ever really dating or getting to know any of them. Conversely, if a woman showed any interest in him, he assumed there was something terribly wrong with them and was even hurtful to them if they tried to tell him how they felt. Instead, he'd just have meaningless hook-ups with strange women whom he had no interest in getting to know. He just didn't want the headache of a meaningful relationship.

College was out of the question due to Billy's poor grades and lack of money. He hated living with his mother, whose alcoholism was making her more and more of a burden to him. He started working at menial hard labor jobs to help pay the bills and eventually, he became the sole breadwinner as his mother's health started to decline. He worked at the docks for a while, and on fishing boats, eventually realizing that the answer to his prayers was in deep sea fishing. It allowed him to make money outside the home and to be away for long periods of time. The pay was good to make up for the long periods at sea. Eventually, he'd return to Philadelphia at the end of the season with enough money to help his mom and keep him in beer and burgers until the next job came along.

Billy's friends, meanwhile, had pooled their money together to buy a bar, and in the off-season, he would help out with janitorial and maintenance work. They even gave him a room above the bar, since they knew he didn't like being around his mom's house. It was that or an SRO hotel room, so he traded rent and board for working there, mostly as a barback and janitor. He took pride in his work, and did a great job at keeping the place running smoothly. He stopped taking the fishing jobs once his mother died of liver failure and he didn't have to worry about supporting her.

He and his buddy Richie started going to the race tracks and it became a weekly - often several times per week - thing with them. Usually they lost their money, but every now and then they won on a long-shot. The ability to hold onto his money eluded Billy, although he always had enough to feed and clothe himself, but not much else. He and Richie started running a few get-rich-quick schemes, which almost always flopped. Then Richie started working with local drug dealers as a runner, and tried talking Billy into joining him. It was easy money, a victimless crime, he argued. Cops were corrupt in Philly and it was easy to buy your way out of trouble, Richie assured his friend. This was how Billy started to really go down a self-destructive path.

He'd always been a big beer drinker, along with the rest of his bar buddies. But the availability of drugs and the company they were keeping threatened to pull Billy into a darker underworld, along with his friend Richie, who was already there. It was a matter of survival, Billy thought, and so he followed along with Richie, lying when his friend lied and stealing when his friend stole. It was a slippery slope, and Billy was sliding down it along with his buddy.

Things were on the cusp of going really, horribly wrong when Captain Tripps broke out. He and Richie had ripped off the wrong people and lost it on a bad tip at the race track, meaning they needed to get out of Philadelphia very fast. They headed north to Boston, thinking they could get work on a tuna boat until things cooled down at home, but no ships were leaving port. People were dropping like flies.

Richie didn't last long in Boston. He caught the sickness and died within two days, leaving Billy completely without any connections. Phones were down so there was no way to get ahold of his friends at the bar. Billy holed up in a bar for a few days, until the power went out and things got too dangerous to stay.

When he finally made his way back to Philadelphia, his entire neighborhood was not only dead, but looted and burning. It looked like a war zone. Billy didn't have much to begin with, but now he had even less, so he got ahold of a Vespa, figured out how to drive it, and started heading out of town. It wasn't easy he had no idea where he was going or what to do. But he kept a low profile and kept to himself and traveled west.

It was strange, but he didn't really miss his old friends. He missed Richie a little, but the more he was on his own, the more Billy realized he'd made most of his worst life choices based on goading from Richie. And the friends at the bar had obviously been taking advantage of his desire to be out of his mother's house by barely paying him anything in exchange for his work.

He talked to himself a lot during those days on the road. Sometimes, he was talking to some unseen traveling companion that he felt was there, like a ghost buddy. He talked to the dozens of TV dads he'd 'known' over the years, from Bill Cosby to Alan Thicke to Michael Gross as he traveled further west than he'd been in his life, almost as a way to hang onto his sanity and his sense of identity in this strange new land.

At some point, he started getting very clear and disturbing - yet also strangely comforting - dreams of a man with no face, beckoning him to Vegas. He would have true importance, and a network of friends there. People who would always have his back. People who knew the value of hard work and wouldn't take him for granted. Billy figured he'd head in that direction and see how real any of it was. But instead of heading straight towards Vegas, something inside him redirected his journey to the Grand Canyon. He'd never been there before, so he thought he should stop there first. It was on the way, after all.