I knew her -- I mean knew her -- from a vague pain I had.
A way of thinking that circled in and out of cavernous traps looking
for meaning, yet unable to understand things simple and direct.
So you somewhat enjoy your morning coffee, the vague urban noise,
the sun rising over the building two blocks away, while your brain
bores holes into itself, or chips through those crusty outer layers.
Once free, for a split second it thinks it is pure spirit, but when
it realizes it isn't, it tries to bore its way back in but gets
lost. I like to call this love.
We wonder about in search of our being,
all the while arguing with whatever this consensus of thought is
that we call the mind. But from the outside we contract all kinds
of viruses. A faith healer just won't do, so we find false prophets
who insist upon telling us who we are and which way to go out there
and in there, and even if we're everything we want to be, we can't
stop looking so we keep on looking, arguing with ourselves, hoping
for the best -- whatever that is -- until we think we are loving
and maybe we are, but by the time we realize it, it doesn't matter
any more. It's just another vaguely painful sensation on the road
to understanding nothing. But at least we have something to blame.
And we'd had this conversation over
and over, me and her. No one else really had it, so I'd like to
think. Infact, we never had the conversation, just communicated
Sunday night a couple years back,
we're all out drinking. We all know each other and are catching
up, but I'm mostly talking to Susan. A squeak in her laugh, a twitch
in her eye, some kind of cry within her tells me she wants out.
I notice but don't say anything. Walking down the sidewalk with
my girlfriend and Susan and her husband, and all the rest of our
friends behind us, I imagine we are hitch-hiking through Texas on
our way to start a new life smuggling Mexicans through the border
or something. There's nothing attaching us to our lives and we seem
to tell each other through gestures and glances, maybe even through
pheromones it could happen, but it's just me wishing for meaning,
and infact we all look for meaning, yet different icons live within
each head. Meaning is darting around our minds, and out our eyes,
and our meanings are smashing into each other like so many sub-atomic
In the bar I watch Susan's husband
talk to my girlfriend -- probably about his career or how their
marriage is deteriorating. They look very serious. We all know each
other so well, we talk way past our words. I talk politics but Susan
couldn't give a shit. Facts like how many people are in jail, how
much money is spent on suburban public schools versus inner city
just aren't important to her. She tells me about her crazy sister
who likes to take her clothes off in the middle of winter and walk
around their small town in Vermont asking people for a ride home.
She misguides the poor do-gooders to the doorsteps of the town's
wealthiest families, where she enthusiastically greets the dog,
and upon entering the foyer, alerts the astounded maid that she'll
take her tea in the drawing room, whether they have one or not,
and would she please prepare extra settings for the "guests."
Affection is an allusive angel, and
no one is a hundred percent pro at aquiring it. But Susan's sister
does OK. That is if you call the concern of family plus drugs, doctors,
and notariety as well as a good amount of scorn from the upper-classes,
affection. But Susan quite easily acquires mine with just stories.
Hmm. I suppose I should reciprocate,
but the half-baked jokes in my head aren't funny enough to verbalize.
Elaborating on her sister's hidden motives, doesn't seem entertaining
either. Especially in a bar. I don't say anything.
Then, "Two more," I say to the bartender.
It's noisy and the bartender has a hard time understanding me. I
hold up two fingers. I'm reminded of my grandfather's soft voice,
not meant to speak over stereos or laughing jocks with pints of
Bass or stories about naked ladies in the snow or the din of my
cacophanous interior monologue. He's from a farm in Sicily where
there is no snow and his voice is calm and simple, like an echoing
prayer in a medieval cloister. And it stands to reason that his
interior monologue is also calm and simple and resonates beauty.
Susan's voice is shrill, her R's prominent.
She screams through those R's. She is the lonely farmer's daughter
who awakens one day to find everyone around her is inbred and mildly
retarded. She's been kicking herself for staying as long as she
did, and in the last couple of years she screams for the city to
take her away, or take away her memory, depending on how she sums
up the progress of her journey, or how bad she wants to be urbane
at any given moment.
But here in the city, her yearning
comes off as naiveté. After all, everyone is from everywhere
else. A place like hers, and her screams are like the others from
Sicily, Ireland, Jamaica trailing into cavernous outerborrough neighborhoods
that have no idea who she is. Somewhere, perhaps in Sunset Park,
it is her scream that causes a glass to fall from a cupboard and
an Italian grandmother scolds a six year old for playing rough in
Um. I lied about Susan being a farmer's
daughter. She is the daughter of an Episcopal missionary and has
lived everywhere from Africa to China, but always an outsider somewhere
and in the middle of no where. But her parents split up, she lived
in Vermont, mostly, so let's say "culturally" she's a farmer's daughter.
I sheepishly tell Susan my relatively
mild stories. They flow once I get them out. I tell how my mother
married her best friend's husband, who later ran off with the ex-wife
of his ex-wife's present husband. I tell her my dad was so convinced
of the devil, he used to have screaming tantrums yelling at the
top of his lungs, "Damn you Satan! May you burn forever in a lake
of fire!" I tell her about his "Armageddon room" where he keeps
his doomsday literature. My tales are truth, but not the deepest
truth. She laughs. I'm dissappointed that I couldn't at least muster
some nudity for her. But then, "My mother always said," she tells
me, "there's nothing like a devout Christian to put a smile on your
That's funny, I think to myself. Does
it mean we are getting closer or was distance created? I can't tell.
A bond between people is a strange animal, seemingly independent
of its dependents. And why do its dependents depend on it? And are
we really meant to introduce our parents to each other, both in
a manner of speaking, as well as the parent home "selves" that birth
our bond, or do we carry them with us like yet another protestant
burden? I'm looking for clues, but the only thing that comes up
is a large head-shot of Daffy Duck, which is what my favorite astrologer
suggested I conjure when the stars get too confusing.
Perhaps, Susan thinks that colorful
stories should be told in a certain understated way. Naturally,
they're easy to lampoon, and I guess my story came across this way
because she quietly watches the ashes smolder in the ashtray. I
know: she's wondering whether or not I'm worth the trip outside
her head. I am, Susan, I am! Sometimes I'm sick of swimming in the
past, suffocating in my nostalgia, and talking to someone like me,
ie -- you, is scary. See, our trips involve baggage. This I suppose
is a weakness and why I can't let go to be truly "interesting" around
you, but rather I imagine you need someone stronger. Someone who
makes a lot of money and sues people to get his way, but will carry
your baggage come hell or high water. All of our friends are laid
back and groovy. Even your husband who seems to have the most worldly
success is like us, a potential victim. Perhaps one day Susan, you
will leave our circle all together and join the Titans.
Oh, God! If my head would just shut
But later that night I brush my teeth
and ask myself in the mirror, what can I do to have sex with my
girlfriend? Why is it that when I meet someone like Susan who stirs
me it's impossible to pursue these impulses? Why is it I'm with
someone beautiful and I can't muster the impulse to fuck? At what
point did girlfriend and I retreat from our bond? Since when did
I ever like living with my parents?
Susan's laugh reverberates through
my head as my toothbrush scrubs my cavernous jewelbox. She laughs
easily, or should I say she is a willing laugher. She laughs at
her lengthy marriage. She laughs at her life passing her by. She
laughs because everyone likes her husband except her. She is jealous
of his career, his good will, his forcing her into the position
of selfishness. It's laugh or lie. So she laughs.
My girlfriend is beautiful in our
bed. I pull back the covers. Her skin is a hot orange color in the
dim light. She is reading The Lost Father. "How is it?" I
ask.150 pages and zilcho in the hooks department, she explains,
but our neighbor, who took a class with the author, said to keep
reading, it gets better around page 250. That is a long way to read,
I tell her, without hooks. She turns out the light and we spoon.
She is small and her torso is warm. However, it is the cold skin
of her ass that is the last thing I remember before the alarm wakes
me up. The weekend is over, and I have 2 hours to get to work.
But the relationship with my girlfriend
with the orange ass, warm torso and lovable reading habit doesn't
last. She is depressed. She wants children. I am a marginally employed
loser in a world of sharks. I don't want to inflict pain on a hapless
child, then write stories about how hard it is raising them. No.
Everything would change, and for the worse. Though it's hard to
imagine, I can, and therefore I do.
I imagine a bottomless well of despair
and I'm working 2 jobs. My wife with the orange ass is happy powdering
the baby. We have less and less sex, until I fall into the habit
of masterbating next to her because of my resentment of our procreative
endeavor. One night, my habit upsets her. She cries and I feel like
shit when I cum, and I hate her for letting it go this far. For
the first time in 8 or so years of our romance, I hit her. It's
awful and I fall back on the memory of my father hitting my mother,
and her bruised eyes are crying, "Jimmy! Jimmy! Don't leave me!
Don't leave me alone! Jimmy!" But he's out the door and to the mistress,
feeling dirty and ugly and all of Satans angels are in the car with
him and tag along as he walks up the sidewalk to her apartment.
Infact, there's a veritable parade of Satan's angels following the
car through the streets of our small midwestern town. The snow doesn't
bother them because they've lived in hellfire for so long it's like
a refreshing swim after a long sauna. They are alive and happy and
Dad is giving it to the mistress and she's saying, "Oh yes! Oh yes!"
but she's faking it, no doubt, because women didn't have orgasms
before Our Bodies, Ourselves, especially not mistresses with
blonde boufant wigs, unmarried and hateful of other women. Maybe
the mistress with the hippie pig-tails orgasmed. She did. I know.
I can tell.
I can tell from Art-girl, my girlfriend
after orange-ass. Art-girl has a vibrator that looks like a jackhammer
with a boxing glove on the end of it. Since she's from a rich family,
she doesn't have to work, and often spends entire days in bed with
the thing. She's usually spent afterwards, and we have a peaceful
evening at home, retiring early for a full 8 hours. When she doesn't,
we have lengthy sex at night. Some nights she has 4 or 5 orgasms,
and often 2 "big ones" -- simultaneous -- and this feels good. There
is an exchange of orgons, energy, a communion. And I recognize the
look of a woman like her. One thing's for sure, she's not frigid.
She may have a myriad of other problems but being frigid is not
one of them, and the inability to spot a woman who enjoys sex is
not one of my problems, although, as you can see, I have many others.
We fucked and fucked for months after
we broke up, but Art-girl would never admit we were having a relationship.
Even during the fall after our "break-up" when we were spending
3 or 4 nights a week together, she insisted we were not, repeat,
not having a relationship. Well, I couldn't handle someone who could
turn it on and off like that claiming all this stuff about being
"vulnerable" and thus our relationship, when she acknowledged it,
made her feel like zero. It's just too painful to think that perhaps
she's a lie inside of a lie, and worse, I would believe it.
It's scary to talk about Art-girl
though, because she dumped me. Somehow, I was a dismal future for
her the way Orange-Ass was for me. Like, my being somewhat tired
and cranky before shuffling off to work the morning after 5 orgasm
nights was a bummer to Art-girl. I can't say with certainty what
her image of me was, but I'm sure it had quite a bit to do with
her father and brother. Beware, my friends. When someone tells you
they've fucked their brother, sucked off a couple middle-aged strangers,
and been date raped all before graduating high school, and none
of those events affected them, however, they were traumatized by
their lack of popularity in school, you can be sure you're entering
a hall of mirrors and smoke-screens.
Since she's rich, there's nothing
in the world to say "no" to her, so she keeps saying "yes" to herself
and her delusions. I mean, she's out there going "yes, yes, yes,"
and she's so very out there at this point in her life you can only
fly with her so far before she shakes you loose. See, she's just
moving at the speed of light. There are no stop signs. She can move
before she sees her reflection. Of course she's been taking photos
of herself for 15 years. That's what she does. Her thing. But she
practices throwing her ego at the camera the way a ventriliquist
throws his voice at the far wall. It's completely thespian in nature.
A French newspaper commented on her "unique ego" which I thought
was quite amazing coming from someone who's never met her. But you
know art...people just know things. And I couldn't help but
"know" things. And she couldn't help pretending they weren't there
and that I was trying to kill her nature with concern.
Oh, God. I just want someone to love.
So Susan and I meet up after work.
I'm pining and pining over my Art-girl who dumped me and we order
another and another beer. It's been a couple years since the fore
mentioned bar episode, and we've had a couple enjoyable drunken
nights together, her and I, swaggering down the East Side trying
every stinky dive we can find from 70th to Delancy. Susan and her
husband since separated, although things are too murky to nurture
a clear fact. I've always been attracted to her in this vague but
unavoidable way, and we've always...you know, some people you don't
talk to them socially, you just talk directly to each other's core,
each other's "heart in French" or so it seems. I think she talks
like that to many people, her husband, no doubt, who is a somewhat
overly sensitive 90s man, or simply inside out, like me. He, like
me, has given up on staying intact. Best go where your center is,
and if it's in her core, it's dangerous but real. Frightening knowing
you've drilled a way out of yourself and your survival instincts
aren't as strong as your attraction to another.
So Susan and I begin the evening's
sweep of midtown bars. The downtown hipster crowd can sometimes
get a bit too familiar, so uptown to the grumpy old men it is. I
have to admit, romance was in the back of my mind, but not the front.
After all, I've been vaguely but unavoidably attracted to her for
years, as you know, but can you act on every impluse that surges
through you? Well, nowdays people are more often saying yes, but
you can't. And you'll see why.
We were talking to this retired bartender
at the Subway Inn. It's one of those dark and red bars with tons
of little figurines and caricatures caked all around. My favorite
bartender's on duty. He's like 70, built like an ox, vaguely maintains
a close-cropped, squarish parted-on-the-side haircut, always cradles
a red Rothman from his lower lip, unless of course it's simply smoldering
in a forgotten ashtray while he's lit another. He pops those Buds
within seconds of mere eye contact, as opposed to the hipster joints
downtown where if your voice isn't cool enough you don't get served
at all, no matter how many times you ask.
So we're discussing olde worlde ethics,
and the fact that some 30 years ago the guy next to us used to work
with my favorite man on the other side of the counter, and they
worked together right there, on the other side of the counter. The
guy next to us actually got beat out for the job by my favorite
guy, then worked down the street but maintained a friendship. So
Susan and I talk to him about bartender ethics of yore, and Susan
has this adorable wool cap that mimics the lines of a fedora with
four points on top. The old man notices, not me. He says, "Would
you look at that hat?"
Old people are so right on. That old
man knows I'll always remember him for drawing attention to Susan's
hat. So, I start playing with her hat like I would a real fedora,
poking this place in, turning this side of the "rim" up, and all
of a sudden, this warm, fuzzy sensation takes over. God, it just
washes over me like a tropical bath. Mmm. Give her a big, wet kiss
on the spot.
We meander down Lexington, kissing,
hugging, talking about where we should eat, but mostly just sort
of kissing, then she needs a bathroom, so we walk into that huge
Virgin megastore on Times Square.
This kid who works at the yuppie coffee
stand next door to where I work is in the doorway handing out flyers.
It turns out he's some kind of evangelical Christian -- but a nice
one. He's got his flyers, he's inviting people to their alternative
church in a classroom at a high school, and he says, "hey, I know
you," and it has a double meaning to me because once my mom sent
me to a Seventh-Day Adventist boarding school in northern Michigan.
It was miserably cold and they made us hand out flyers and proselytize
at college campuses even go door to door "witnessing" where we'd
beg people to let us sit in their living room and watch TV so we
wouldn't have to knock on another door. They'd feel so sorry for
us because they knew the Adventists were kooks. "Sure," they'd say,
and we'd watch Dukes of Hazard for an hour. Once, up there,
I made out with this girl who convinced herself she was devil-possessed,
and I thought, how strange that she articulates her "dark side"
in such specific terms. And that is the story of these opposing
icons meant to bring meaning to our little heads. The personification
of characters simply varies from person to person and are simply
more specific in Christianity than say, Buddhism, or Freudian psychology.
Devils and angels fluttering about, possession, redemption. Such
drama. Such science. But the long and short: I knew the kid at the
Virgin Superstore better than he thought.
Funny. He was so sure we weren't Christian.
I think he thought I was Jewish. This happens a lot to me in New
York. I've got a chip on my shoulder about it, actually, because
I figured out that whenever someone meets a mediteranean who seems
educated or middle-class they assume "Jewish" and uneducated or
working-class "Italian" even though there are tons of middle-class
college-educated Italians and tons of working-class Jews. I don't
know why. I never experienced this until I moved to New York. But
back to the "story"... He's so sure we aren't Christian that he's,
like, appologizing for handing out flyers and that we don't have
to take one if we don't want to, which of course makes me say, "please,
give me one." Of course, perhaps he hesitated because we were stinking
drunk and thus most likely, not "born again." Although Bob Dylan
doesn't seem to have a problem with that -- or being a Jewish Christian.
Nevertheless, I stuff his flyer in
my back pocket and we walk into the night in search of this ellusive
Brazillian restaurant. Somehow, what with Jesus, less than fuzzy
childhood memories, the newly arranged Times Square, everything
seems shuffled. We give up on finding food and go to another bar.
We are nicely drunk and everything seems funny: The Christian, the
old man who brought us together, and especially this bar. It's great.
I haven't heard Pat Benetar in years. You get the feeling every
"female" in the bar is a hooker and "she-male," all black
latex mini-skirt over muscle-bound buttocks, except for Susan who
has a slinky sexiness, however subtle, and I start thinking about
fucking and about sleazy and slinky sexiness and about how 2 weeks
earlier, I got severly drunk in another mid-town bar and wound up
talking alternately with this pro-golfer and a bunch of writers
and editors for The New Yorker that were all young and sexy
and some even slinky and a couple even went to my college, though
years after me. As a -- you know -- writer, I'm sure this was not
a brilliant professional move. I am certain that if I ever in my
life apply for a job at The New Yorker, someone in the office
will say, "Isn't that the drunk guy from Rudy's?" Lit and lonely,
after Rudy's I walked by Show World on my way to the train, and
I remembered a previous conversation with Susan about the "booths"
where you have one-on-one encounters with "girls." For $20 the window
opens and you have a five minute peek at a young lady playing with
her equipment behind a plexiglass window. Susan had told me last
time we went drinking that she wanted to go to these places before
they finally get closed down by Disney, which has been a court battle
for months now, and at any moment, they will be closed down
simply because Disney has more money for more lawyers to do more
work than these relatively poor strip & porn shops, regardless
of where "objective morality" might lie. So, I thought, what the
hay. I went in, bought tokens, then went upstairs where I found
my tokens and did nothing in the way of getting a "live" girl. I
took the first one the hostess lead me to. She was lovely, plump
in all the right places, a perfectly ripe fruit of a woman who was
simply delicious to behold. It took two shows, $40 + every bit of
small bills and change in my pocket, save a single token, to get
home, but I shot my load against the plexiglass and stumbled into
the subway a spent man.
So I'm telling Susan this on the night
of the hat in the funny bar while feeding quarters into the jukebox
for Bruce, Patti and Eddie Money (no, not a hipster joint), and
you of course can figure out what's next. "I wanna go," she says.
Straight to Show World, but only to the lower level with the videos.
Yes, a choice of 96 videos at any given moment. There's a little
joy-stick in the booth to change channels, but we're not interested
in the particulars of the screen. Rather we make out for hours on
the grimy floor, our clothes in heaps no doubt sopping up other
Well, considering my heart is even
now not fully detached from Art-girl, plus the fact that although
Susan has been separated from my other friend for over a year now,
her husband still holds a torch for her, the way I did with Art-Girl,
and they were married for so long, and were basically each other's
first and only serious relationship and the whole trip plus drinking
crashes around me and I can't ... get it up. We do like lesbians
rubbing pelvises. She goes down. She sits on my face. Soon her clothes
are off and my thing is nestled in her moist labia. Nothing. A floppy
anchovy of a member on a nicely dressed platter, perhaps, her finely
seasoned sauces bubbling at peak temperature, but nothing -- bonewise.
We make out and make out and make out. It's actually very nice.
So nice. I can tell her things that Art-girl simply doesn't understand.
It's not words, it's more subtile, as I've told you: the core thing,
"heart in French."
But no one person is everything, I've
realized, which of course is part of the argument that libertines
use against monogamy, and who knows? I guess the attraction to monogamy
is getting the other person to open up to those territories that
didn't occur to them before, and it is a challenge! A constant loss
of virginity, which I suppose libertines experience in another way.
Perhaps my particular uncharted territories didn't interest Art-girl,
and although hers did interest me, I wasn't catching on at the speed
she wanted me to. But then, you know, I've been flogging myself
plenty on this.
Susan and I have so many friends in
common, including my lovely X-before-Artgirl with the orange ass,
whom I now have the nicest relationship with any X ever. Susan is
perhaps Orange X's favorite person, and it is precisely our similarities
that draw us, all of us, to each other and makes us vulnerable --
to use Art-girl's words -- to each other's, uh, musings. It's very
nice, yet I see everyone's pain as well, and I'm not sure what will
happen if Susan and I pursue further. We are all such sticky, gooey
friends, all of us, and I'm sure we will all go through menopause
and old age together. But perhaps Satan's little angels know more.
On the floor of the booth, we kept
pausing and smiling and sort of laughing at the absurdity. She kept
saying things like, "I guess I'm essentially amoral" which isn't
quite true, if I must be truthful. (God bless puritanism and its
many colorful perversions.) Actually, it's like this thing had been
with us for so long, and although nothing more than thought, or
spiritual/sexual urges, perhaps only a direction which we were turning,
it was taking on a form, as if our child, at which point I'm now
going to leap and simply state that both Orange X and Susan want
children, and I didn't with X because I was poor and feared her
bouts of depression, and Susan doesn't want to have one with her
husband for some vague, inexplicable reason, even though he's the
nicest guy in the world and even I love him, and that point
of not procreating was the revealing force in their marriage, the
ungluing of both our relationships, and it's like this relationship
thing here and now in the booth has its own spirit and it's making
me understand the nature of birth and destiny. Our future could
be seen that instant on the floor of the booth over other people's
cum, other people's fantasies manifested on the floor, redirected
on the screen. But ours was in the here and now, unfolding before
our eyes. The pain of Susan's husband at our marriage, the kid,
our attraction to each other, the way we relate to ourselves and
others. The abortion will not take place in a clinic, but on the
floor of the peepshow booth. We will not nurture this relationship
to maturity or maternity. We will fall asleep on each other, wake
up to find my scarf, her bra and coat have been stolen through the
3 inch gap at the bottom of the booth. Luckily, the night will be
warm. I'll walk her to the train. She'll go one way, I'll go another.
We will linger kissing over the turnstyle. My heart will leap when
we separate. We'll smile and wave one more time before I run back
up the steps to the street. I'll go home, call in sick, watch the
sun rise over my coffee and sleep off the day alone in my bed, without
a girlfriend or an impressive vibrator.