Private Magazine

Tag: Love

Smooty’s Funeral

The cemetery grass is vivid green and speckled with dozens of mourners.  Many are here to pay their respects today, looped around gravestones in the humid sunshine.  The crusty clouds of morning finally got the hint, and decided to clear out.  At least you can sleep now, Jason.   His casket gleams silver – locked and sealed like a meat freezer  –  suspended on huge bungee cords and reflecting in the sunlight, ready for its descent underground. 

 A delicate bagpipe melody drifts by on the breeze, whispers in my ear, and then moves on.

There’s a short stubby tree resembling a Joshua tree very close to his grave, making this sad scene very ‘U2 album cover.’  Jason’s family stone is tall, black marble, with edgy font suited for a metal show poster; both of his parents have been here many years. 

“I’m so sorry, honey,” a million of his friends are here and that’s what they say to me, and it’s all a blur as people approach and express their sympathies.   Every time I begin a conversation with someone, Aimee sticks to me like a wad of gum.  

After a second, I reply, “I’m sorry, too.  He was your friend, too.”  Kenny with the coke and his sidekick Jamie, they are here, looking forlorn.   “And look at all the people here.”

The respectable line-up of cars enveloping the chapel does not include Schmitty’s carbon monoxide-steeped pickup, thank God, nor a million scrapyard bikes lying in a heap.  The throng of mourners donned their very best.  Even his uncle – who, by all accounts, was a total dick – is here in an American flag bandanna

“Jason’s life was full of sorrow,”  begins Cousin Valerie in a voice like a sad violin. She drove from Rhode Island; Cousin Cindy and Aunt Barbara drove all the way from Indiana.  Jason once told me over a Brazilian Kiss at Texas de Brazil that he had cousins out of state. 

They are sitting casket-side beside his estranged uncle.  Cindy, Barbara and Valerie-  they saved everything; saved Smooty from being buried in a ‘graveyard for the unclaimed souls’, as the county burial investigator put it; claimed him from the county morgue. Saved everything unbeknownst to them, as I was repeatedly calling the morgue and being told I wasn’t next-of-kin, and in fact, none of us knew of any next-of-kin.  But I knew there must be. 

 “He lost both parents at a young age,” says Valerie.  “ It’s been years since I saw Jason.  I have memories of the house on Pinetree, where he loved to throw parties for friends.  He was a generous soul.”

“Hell yes he was,”  booms a Gen-Xer who’s taken a knee next to me with an ounce of Fireball raised above his head, flames emblazoned on his poly-blend button-up and a drunken smile on his lips.

“Wild African geese, kept as pets,” Valerie continues.  “Summers at the lake cottage in Attica…That’s what I remember most, and I’m sure many of you have memories that you would like to share.”  The bagpiper in tartan picks up his instrument, and begins a somber rendition of “Danny Boy.”

I’m not mentally prepared to say anything. In fact I’d rather hang onto the past.  My mind drifts away at the mention of  African geese…

It was a frozen windy day in March when Jason and I went power-walking in Forest Lawn.  I promised him there was an African goose, a Madam, who lived there. I met her once.  At the end of our power-walk, there they were, a whole gaggle beside the pond.  Their round bodies were curled up and facing the same direction.  If you get too close, one will typically hiss with its tongue projecting outward like a dagger.  In fact, his beloved Daisy once “bit his grandmother’s poodle on the ass,” according to Jason! Another funny story is that his parents went to bring their pets, Daisy the African Goose and Tucker, their dog, to church for a family photograph.  The church did not allow Daisy, only Tucker, because they feared her wildness and her unruly bowels.  Well,  Tucker was the one who peed on the floor of the church that day. Aw, Tucker, poor shaggy-haired, disobedient Tucker,  he was the one who caught the priest’s wrath. And as for poor Daisy, well, she froze to death in a snowstorm. 

And then my mind snaps back to reality.

“Who is that guy videotaping everything?” I poke Tim on the arm.  

I drove to the cemetery with him as my passenger after fetching him by the Thai food takeaway. I also went to pick up Willy, but after we all smoked a joint and cigarette apiece, I turned around in the kitchen and there stood a man I had never seen before in my life. “Hi,” he said, looking all the part amiable nerd, and it turned out to be a guy by the name of Jay “Cruiser,” who took Willy as his passenger.   Jenny from the block and her on/again off again husband, they brought Donnie Dab, one of Jason’s acid tripper cronies with a predilection for Quik Draw. And of course I know Kenny and Jamie, and Donald the Professional Plaintiff and Donald’s Son, and Aimee (barf), and Taco, plus a bunch of others here.  But the man videotaping everything remains a mystery. 

 Tim shrugs. “No clue.”   

The snowy-hair funeral director steps before the casket.  “Would any of you like to say a few words?” 

“I do!” shouts the man who had been videotaping everything.  He carries with him a cardboard sign on two metal stilts. Despite his reverence, forgive me Jason but, I have no clue who this man is. His gold framed glasses have stop-sign red lenses, which match a red polo shirt and both of which immediately call your attention to this diminutive man with a saggy beer belly and  hunched over posture.  He stomps towards the casket, then faces his audience. 

“In 1997 I WENT TO GERMANY WITH JASON,” booms Red Specs Man, He sets up his sign, pokes it into the dirt and it says “Unconditional-love.net” underneath some kind of mythological Greco-Roman image of a woman fainting beneath a domineering guy in a cape.

Red Specs Man continues his monologue. 

“I will be donating my $995,750.32 from my grandmother’s estate to Roswell Park in Jason’s name,” he says. “It’s part of my charitable giving campaign which you can read more about, on Unconditional-love.net.” 

I’m sure Jason would have wanted some of that while he was alive?  I glance from side to side to assess what effect this is all having on everyone. The funeral director seems cautiously amused, although I can’t really tell with his mask on. 

“I’m writing my life story which will be out in 2022 and there will be a whole chapter about Jason.”  Now I look Red Specs straight in the eye dubiously but he seems to be in the throes of personal rapture, Hitler-style. 

“It’s not right what happened to Jason,” he continues, the volume of his voice ever so steadily rising.  

“IT’S NOT RIGHT!”  

His words echo through the cemetery.   And then, he steps aside for the next party.

“Hey guys, I’m Aimee,” she begins mindlessly.  

Ugh. 

Thankfully, as by an Act of God, a strong wind sweeps in and drowns out her muttering.  Her flimsy Walmart sundress blows around until finally she steps aside.  The funeral director invites us all to approach the casket to bestow any final goodbyes, any au revoirs, any parting words, and the like. 

“Hell I gotta have one last drink with you buddy,” Fireball confidently struts towards the casket, another mini bottle raised skyward. 

Fireball and Aimee and Red Specs and a few others crowd around Jason’s soon-to-be-resting place. The scene around me melts into a dripping abstraction.  I’m shut out, closed off from the casket.   I allow the breeze to blow through my ruffle-hem wrap dress from the Lord & Taylor liquidation sale.  Jason would think I look chic, despite the fact it’s constantly blowing about. And of course, I donned the sloth socks he just bought me from FYE. 

When Jason went to the mall, he always bought me something.

 It’s messed up when the only upcoming social occasion marked on your calendar is your own bunnyboo’s funeral, the burial of your snuggle-bear, with whom you had so much planned and so much to look forward to.  In fact, Jason had just bought new sneakers; he told Willy “I’m walking on clouds.”   Since he was on vacation from work he went and bought Thai noodles with peanut sauce for us to make.  But instead of Thai noodles, that was the day that he passed away. 

Instead of us indulging in Thai noodles, that was the day  Detective So-and-So delivered the news. At 4:00 while at the office, I looked at my cell and saw a missed call from a random (716) number, as well as a text that said “Ann Marie this is Detective So-and-So from Cheektowaga Police please call me at this number.’

 The packet of Thai noodles now sits unacknowledged and dried up on the kitchen counter; Willy will never touch them. In fact, he already re-arranged the whole apartment and scrubbed every surface clean. His government-grade flagpole, jackhammered cement circling the base, hangs at half mast alongside the shed which desperately needs to be saged. Char hid in the basement for days, sad and lost.   Jason would brush her fur for an hour straight, and made sure she was well fed.

Fireball slaps his clammy palm on the casket like cold deli meat. SLAP.  I’m still a foot away from the grave and a foot away from my Smooty, forever.  This is the closest to him that I will ever be.  The snowy-haired funeral director specifically beckons me forward.  Fireball staggers away sideways , so I 

 so I lean down and kiss his casket.  Just a peck is all I can muster. One last kiss for my Smooty.  The metal feels so cold on my lips on this hot day, and the tears stream down, uncontrollably.  It’s the Amazon River over here, or Niagara Falls.  I’m drowning in that really big waterfall in South America of tears. And it makes me think of sloths.   

 Just two days before he died, we went to the zoo. We took mushrooms and rode the Metro and looked for Flash, the sloth.  Jason loved sloths. But we found ourselves empathizing with the depressed reindeer, and once we found Flash, drugged up and squished in a tiny glass case (all the animals were separated from each other and locked indoors that day), it all became very ‘Fear and Loathing at the Zoo,’ so we lazed around beneath My Tree on the Delaware Park golf course. Being Sunday morning, balls whizzed around our heads and Jason’s picnic that he packed in a bag labelled ‘St. Luke’s pantry,’ became something of a political statement. After various psilocybin fueled epiphanies, Pete joined us and took us to Daddio’s.  After he dropped us back at the house, I turned to Jason and said, “Today was too good to be true.” 

“We have to clear the area now,” says the Funeral Director. “The vault company needs to come in.”

“You gave me this shirt right off your back,” Taco rushes towards the grave now and swiftly removes his shirt, a black tee shirt with squiggly metal calligraphy, and throws it down in the hole.  Tears are streaming down his face, and he doesn’t bother to wipe any away.  He is openly weeping like every man could and should do now and  then.  He hugs me to his chest.

 Damn. 

Jason had the most stellar collection of band tee shirts purchased at shows over the past 30 years. He gave me one from my favorite local band, Gutted Alive, as well as his Pig Destroyer with sawed-off sleeves which was garnering negative attention during protest summer.  When I went to his bedroom the night I got The Call, I found his beloved Type O Negative shirt, threadbare and musty and worn, and his camo fatigues that were his father’s from ‘Nam. This ensemble, along with his glasses and father’s dog tags and brand new sneaks – I brought it all to the funeral home for him to be buried in.  Even though Willy pieced together a “suit”, I knew, and Jenny agreed, that his Type O shirt would be what he wanted. 

Three women from Jason’s manufacturing plant approach and tell me that work’s not the same, that they still have his empty desk same as it was and everyone is really sad.  

And then Aimee sticks to my shoulder like a wad of gum. 

“Excuse me, the bagpiper is looking for an Ann Marie,” the Funeral Director approaches.  

“Oh right, I have to pay him,” and I rush over there with my wrap dress blowing to and fro, and my envelope with $200 inside almost blows away too.  I had to get some live music here at Jason’s burial, obviously.  I wanted to put a whole band together.  

 I hide under the Joshua-esque tree and eventually go stand by Tim, and we watch the casket slowly, ever so slowly, be lowered deep into the earth. 

I find Jenny from the Block and her on-again off-again husband, Jason’s fellow obscure vinyl-listener; we often hung out in their living room.  All three of us, along with Donnie Dab, who I’ve agreed to let travel with me, and whoever else decides they want to follow – we all gradually drift in the direction of Otto’s bar. 

Swerving into Otto’s back parking lot with Donnie Dab waving a large joint laced with God-knows-what in my face, we find ourselves parked next to Donald in a giant truck, with Willy in the passenger seat and his son in there as well.   Donald always looks sketchy no matter what he’s doing. I can’t quite put my finger on how or why, really, it’s more of a vibe.  I dial Tim’s number while applying numbing eye balm in the rear view. 

“Tim, hi,” I say. “Are you coming to Otto’s?”  

“Yeah, I just think I may,” he says.  

 I emerge into the fresh air, and spot Aimee  lurking around my car like a stray.

“You have to wear masks inside,” she buzzes in my ear. 

“You’re kidding,” I say, my completely-bitchy sarcasm hanging in the air before dropping like a  dead body in a lake, totally lost on her.  

“Who is going to be my escort to Otto’s?” I take Donald’s son’s arm, who is 20 years old.  Jason and I went to their house last Thanksgiving, sat at the kid’s table and talked about crushes with the fifth grade girls. 

Now all holidays are ruined.

Donald’s son and I walk arm in arm.

“Thank you, I need emotional support,” I say. 

Our totally motley crew stomps into Otto’s dimly lit bar/banquet area, and I state my suggestion of all of us sitting outside, however many of us may turn up, as we are going to be unbearably obnoxious.

“It’s a… funeral party,” I whisper to the blonde bartender, gravely. 

“You have to order food with your drink,” Aimee buzzes around me again like a tweaker mosquito. I start wishing I’d brought Donnie Dab’s electric fly swatter. I cringe against a random pillar in the middle of the room, and discover a seemingly calm, cool, and collected guy behind it that you can tell is retired and spends most of his time in Florida.

“I like your shirt.”  It’s one of those loose linen Hawaiian ones. “Jason had just bought a black one with palm trees just like it.”  

“She’s single now, Pops,” Fireball sneaks up behind me and suddenly flips up the back of my skirt. 

“Ugh!” I give Fireball the death stare. Then I turn to his supposed dad.  “Ugh!” 

“Cool it, Jimmy,” warns Pops. 

Jimmy doesn’t care, just continues jerking around inside his own personal pinball machine called life. 

“Ugh!” I march away from both of them. 

“We need alcohol!” Fireball Jimmy whips through the room like a boomerang. 

Eventually we all settle into the enclosed patio,  a maximum of 10 allowed per table.  Willy, Red Specs, Dab and Cruiser are relegated to a faraway table which I regard as the “degenerate table.” Or is our table the degenerate one? 

The unaffiliated patrons occupying the other outdoor tables quickly get the hint, close their checks and immediately head for the hills. 

“You can sit next to me,” I pull out a chair for Donald’s son. “Since you’re my escort.”

“No – down here!” Fireball shouts at him, and he obeys. 

“You can sit by me, Tim,” I plead as he passes by.  “Please sit by me!”   

“No – down here,” Jimmy interjects, and Tim obeys. 

I’m all alone at the end of the table, misty-eyed, except for Jimmy’s Pops sitting across from me. A college-aged waiter arrives to take our orders.  

“I’m saving this seat for my friend Jenny, and her husband, they aren’t here yet!” I say, draping my arm across the two sad empty seats next to me. “Don’t want them to wind up over there…” Across the patio, the forecast at the degenerate table looks pretty grim.  Jay Cruiser’s all shmushed between Red Specs and Donnie Dab, with Willy swilling a beer and holding court.

“Hey, down here – a Corona!” Jimmy shouts, like a short-circuiting toddler.

Aimee, who kind of situated herself next to Pops,  mostly buzzes in his ear and rushes to and fro to no apparent destination while Pops sadly attempts to order a bloody caesar beneath the ceaseless din of his ignoramus son.   Aimee talks over him too and confuses the poor waiter boy who clearly has no clear idea what a bloody caesar is.

“Bloody ceasah…” Pops meekly mumbles, “Ceas-ahhhhh.”

“I want a long island iced tea,” Aimee interjects. “And marinara bread.” 

All I want is a tidal wave of pinot grigio to wash over me and take me away from this stupid, sad, embarrassing mess.  Waiter boy brings the drinks.  My perfectly chilled glass is filled to the brim with the most sparkling, the most quenching, the most majestic liquid my eyes ever did see.

“You’re beautiful,” I whisper.

A lovely 8-year-old girl and her Generation-X father plus his mother are at their own small table to my right.  She is the most composed person here. It makes me sad really,  childhood innocence mixing with utter mayhem.  The cold cruelty of the world. But maybe she’s seen it all before. I saw her, graveside, holding a floppy hat in her hands and staring down into the grave.

‘What, no alcohol on the table?”  Fireball Jimmy emerges onto the patio with a drunken sneer, like a reject from Jersey Shore auditions.  Jenny and Harry, her on/off hubby, have finally arrived and grabbed the seats to my left.  I stare down at my cobb salad so long avocado slices dance in front of my eyes, and pray that it swallows ME.

“What is wrong with that fool?” I whisper to Jenny.  She just laughs and looks uncomfortable. 

“So what grade are you in?”  I strike up a conversation with the 8-year-old girl at the table to my right. 

“Third,” she says.  

“Aw,” I say.  And I talk to her ‘grandmother’ although that designation isn’t really fair as this woman is only around 50-something.

“How long did you guys date for?” she asks.

“Only a year and a half,”  I say.  Too little time together, it’s not fair. “But in 24 hours, we’d go to the beach, a show, make dinner and watch movies,” I continue, “I guess we crammed a lot into a short amount of time.”

Aimee suddenly appears back at the table, her untouched Long Island iced tea dripping condensation next to the bread and marinara she was mandated to order.  Pops ordered for her, while she was darting about with Fireball Jimmy, standing around Pop’s silver convertible parked in the lot, smoking cigarettes and Lord knows what else. She’s back now, and looking wretched.  There is a ring of marinara sauce looped around her mouth, like the lipliner of  a diseased homeless clown.  The top row of teeth now reduced to nothing but gums rests dumbly upon her dry, mummified skin, and her expression is perpetually glazed over and slack-jawed.  So many people, when speaking of dear, sweet, parasite Aimee, say – “She used to be pretty.”  Well,  not anymore. 

 “Look, look at this,” she butts her head directly between Tim’s face and his lunch plate, shoves her phone in front of him.  “Me and Jay at Sportsman’s,” she shoves the picture into my face now, and in it, Jason looks like complete shit, with greasy hair and a bored expression.  

“Uh, yeah, I remember him telling me about that,” I brush her hand away.  “That’s not a very good picture of him.”

Now suddenly Aimee’s in the mood for a grown-up conversation, sits down across from me and asks, “So when did you last see him?  What did you guys do?”

I finish choking down a piece of dry chicken, swallow.  “I was there the night before,” I begin, “We made coconut rice, watched The Muppet Movie -”  While I’m talking, Aimee is dialing a number into her phone without looking at it and looking straight at me; her dead eyes are murky as a pond, cloudy like a neglected fishbowl sitting stagnant for decades. “He really was looking well -”

Before I can get to the meat of the story, Aimee puts her phone to her ear and seems to be listening to something, probably checking to see if anyone transferred funds to her account – so I roll my eyes and end it there.  “Nevermind,” I say. “Forget it.”

Eventually I muster the strength to pass around the Polaroids Aunt Barbara gave me.   In one, a maybe 12-year-old Jason and his father kneel in front of a Christmas tree decked in a multitude of fun-looking ornaments and tinsel.  Next to his father, who perpetually wore tinted aviators, is poor sweet white-haired Tucker the Dog.  Both men are in flannel shirts, jeans and socks.  Father and son.  

When I went into Jason’s room after getting The Call, his boombox still played the classical radio station he put on to go to sleep.  It held the poignancy of a child’s music box left behind, abandoned and forgotten, forever stuck on repeat, churning out its lonesome melody.

I called out for Char, but she was nowhere to be found. 

“There’s no despair – I love you!” Jason shouted one night I wanted to break up with him again.  Because honestly, was it all for real? Could I really trust him?  But our last night together it was still the same – making rice, watching Muppets. I guess things really could be quite simple.  But what went on outside of our little bubble?   What even killed him, anyway?  We still don’t know.  The autopsy report has not been released to Cousin Cindy yet, and the mind can wander to some dark places.  

He has sent me signs. A bluejay appeared on my windowsill three times and peered into my room. Jason was into bluejays. I read that bluejays are in fact monogamous creatures and keep the same mate for life. They are supposed to represent patience and truth.  Hmm. 

As morbid as it is I go and hang out besides Jason’s grave (which has yet to be engraved with his name). Sometimes I leave a little trinket, other times I just sit and talk or smoke and cry, and I feel his presence there. We had a picnic there, just me and him, which is conveniently located directly across from John & Mary’s pizzeria.  I almost forgot that he lives so close.  When I feel the most sad I remember that he is really only a minute away if I need to tell him something important. 

Lifestyles of the Rich and the Homeless

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Oh, to be nice.  Isn’t it so rare? Nice, nice, nice.  Nice guys finish last.  Well, that’s a good thing.  Nice guys make sure their ladies come first. NICE!

What I really need is a nice man.  Someone who considers my feelings.

Pete seems like he can keep up.  Plus, he makes me laugh.  He reminds me of Philip Seymour Hoffman, he’s really nice, and he’s down to go out any and every night of the week!   I met Pete last year through my social butterfly bestie, Maurice.

Recently, I ran into Pete at Caffe Aroma (where the writers hang).  He asked me out for a drink.

A few days later, he picked me up in an environmentally-conscious car stickered with hippie quotations.  The passenger side said, “Kindness is an act of rebellion.”

“You know, when I met you three years ago – “ Pete’s driving us downtown, and hasn’t stopped chain-smoking.  “I got so nervous, I got so…” He sucks a hard drag. “I felt bad about myself for a week.”

“What? I met you one year ago. With Maurice.”

“You guys came into Aroma,” Pete continues, and inhales another drag. “And you looked at me and didn’t say anything, and I felt bad about myself for a week.”

“Pete!” I’m shocked, because I don’t even remember. “I’m sorry.”

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Before we hit the town, Pete needs to shower.  We pull up to the truck stop.  You can apparently shower for $8.00 here.  It’s a full moon.  Turns out, Pete is a legitimate homeless person, albeit one with rich parents on the West Side.

We walk into the smoggy diner. There’s a smoking section enclosed by glass.  The vibe here is of a hospital waiting room on an 80’s soap opera; Pete introduces me around to some people he knows, an old saggy couple in stretched-out sweats.

“Here ya go, honey,” the waitress’s voice crackles like a record.

I sip diet cola slowly and page through XXX Guide.  

“Thanks.”

All I hear is the ticking of a clock, and the gradual burning-down of a cig.

Suddenly Pete emerges, towelling his hair. “I feel so much better now,” he says.  “Ready?”

“Sure.”

We leave, and continue on our way downtown.

Homeless4

Pete squeezes his car into a spot across from Thin Man, still chain-smoking, still a nervous wreck.

“I only have twenty-eight dollars in my wallet and thirty-two in the bank,” Pete says.  His glasses fog up. In his car are empty cans, clothes, even a half-full mug of coffee is in the console, which he spills all over the place. “Oh my GOD,” Pete yanks the rearview mirror down towards his face. “I just have to do my hair quickly.”

Pete grabs a container of pomade from somewhere, rubs a giant globule between his palms, then pours bottled water over it and slicks down his coif with the mixture.  It becomes a methed-out Morrissey kind of look, and it works.

“The other day I almost smoked crack,” Pete declares. “This girl came out of the alleyway over there…”

The two of us cross the street. Apparently, a show is about to begin. Pete is a huge fan of the band playing tonight.  I didn’t even know this place was a venue?  I’m apparently not as hip as I once was. We sit in a booth at the far end, so we can order fries and absorb the mood.

“I need to smoke,” Pete says, standing up.  “I need a cigarette.”

A waitress approaches; she has a Tori Amos/Ani DiFranco kind-of vibe.

“Hey, guys,” she says.

“Oh, uh,” Pete fumbles with his pack of smokes. “Hi,” he says. “Let’s all have some shots. I’ll buy you a shot,” Pete says to the waitress as her patchouli wafts across the table.  “Look at all this money I found!” Pete opens his wallet and there’s a bunch of twenties inside.

“What about me?” I say.

“Of course,” Pete says.  I look at the table, embarrassed. The waitress is looking at me, and I mean really looking at me, almost through me for God’s sake.  I know my shirt is low cut, but…

“Can I please also order some fries, with a few avocado slices on the side?” I say. “Is that weird?”

“No,” the waitress says. “Not weird at all.”

The waitress disappears, but soon enough another girl is at our table.  She’s a plain jane of indeterminate age.  She stands at the side of our table and gives me the stink eye for thirty seconds, but it seems like forever.  My confusion and the awkwardness is too much to bear.  I turn to Pete and say,

“What IS going on?”

“I’m sorry,” Pete says. “This is my ex-girlfriend Mandy.”

The waitress is ten feet away, and definitely eyeing me up and down provocatively.

“I invited her,” Pete says.  “Mandy, I just wanted you to be able to meet new people.”

“Pete?” I say. “What IS the situation?”

“I’ll be right back,” he says, and the two of them go off and argue in a faraway corner.  I’m certain I’ll be left with the bill from the shots and alone to fend for myself.  I’ve never truly been this close to a lesbian encounter in my life.  I return the waitress’s gaze.

But soon, Pete comes back, apologetic, and we continue the evening at Rohall’s.

HOMELESS3

“I wrote a song about you,” Pete’s text says the next morning.  There’s a video attached and sure enough, it’s  of Pete singing into a mic in a living room somewhere.  He crashed at someone’s apartment last night.

“She takes away my misery….” he croons. “She took away my virginity…Metaphorically….”  

The phone video crackles and cuts out.  Hmm…

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I’m never bored with Pete in my orbit.  He’s always down to hit the town even though we are in the friend zone, or maybe because we are in the friend zone?  His thoughts are always scattered and never able to be pinned down…

My mom and I are going to an event at the Hotel Lafayette.  There’s supposed to be vendors, and cocktails, and more.  I invited Pete via Facebook.  He told me he would be there.  It’s Sunday, and the sun is shining down upon the beautiful pigeons and street people of the Square.

As my mom and I walk up to the Hotel, I can already spot Pete dramatically inhaling a cigarette and pacing around the sidewalk.

“Good morning,” he says.  I wonder how long he’s been here? Maybe Pete is always here. He manages to be everywhere at the same time, omnipresent if you will.

“I can’t stay,” he says. “I’m double parked, and I lost my wallet last night. But I wanted to give you something. It’s my most cherished possession.”  I look at my mom. She’s unfazed by all this.

Pete presents me with a heavy cast-iron amulet on a leather cord,  an upside-down cross with a snake wrapped around it.  It’s mildly Satanic in nature and in line with my aesthetic.

“Wow!” I say. “Thanks Pete.”

HOMELESS2

There’s a show at the Mohawk tonight. Pete invited me. We are supposed to meet up on Washington and Ellicott to get some sushi, get some chow.  It’s Wednesday, and a balmy night at that.

Hump day.

Can Pete actually seduce me?  Ever since his ex showed up on our first date, he’s been stuck in the friend zone. But I can’t help but think Pete is so nice.

“Hey, how’s it going,” Pete walks towards me from the curb. His outfit throws me for a loop – white linen pants, loud aquamarine Hawaiian shirt, and a floppy bucket hat.  In my world, Wednesday is strictly an all-black affair.  I didn’t get the memo. Maybe tonight is a special Beach Boys/Gilligan’s Island tribute…

We go into Seabar for some chow.

Homeless

“I’m going to tell Mandy tomorrow I have strong feelings for you,” Pete says. “We are meeting at Spot.”

“I don’t know, are you sure?” I say. “ You don’t have  to do anything hasty…”

“It’s something I have to do,” he says. “She keeps wanting to get back together.”

“I admire that,” I say.  “I’m nervous about settling down with someone.”

“I do want to get married again..” Pete says, staring into the distance.

“I couldn’t marry somebody unless I’ve known them at least ten years,” I say. “Even for a few years, somebody can hide their true self, who they really are, and turn out to be some kind of psycho…”

“Are you a serial killer?” Pete says.

“No,” I say. “No one’s ever asked me that before.”

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The next day at work, I receive a text from Pete around noon.

“I’m back with Mandy,” it says. “We decided we both want the same thing. We are going to get married with the Justice of the Peace.  I can’t wait 10 years.”

The JUSTICE of the PEACE? I shouldn’t have fallen for Pete, not even a little bit, even though he did just give me a bouquet of black, faux roses two days ago.  His world is one of chaos. My therapist says that I connect with chaos.  I think Pete and I are better off as friends.

I’m sure he’ll change his mind. But I mean, a plain jane?  Then again, I’m just not “nice.”  Let’s face it – I’m too much of a diva to settle down and have kids while also being the breadwinner of the family and breastfeeding while wearing yoga pants and “practical” shoes.  Bah!   The next man I date will surely be wild, more wild and crazy than ever before. But at least now I know I can appreciate a man who is nice.

 

Cupid, Cuckolds, and the Cherry on Top

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A Valentine’s Special

It’s a cold winter Saturday, the time of night when fog creeps into this part of downtown and hangs over the cobblestone streets. It seems haunted, eerie, like something from the days of Jack the Ripper.  Smoke clouds emanate from a factory on the horizon.   I’m wandering the casino with Louis and my Cousin Phil.  Rows of slot machines glitter into the distance.

I’m sitting at the Playboy machine with Louis, who’s just put in $20.00  I look into his eyes. They’re blue, like mine.  A cherry pops up in one, then a dollar sign in the other. I’ve hit the jackpot as far as online dates are concerned.  Who knew finding a boyfriend would be this easy? We’ve been seeing each other for about a month now.

 

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For our first date, Louis and I met up at an art show.  As he came through the door, I admired his beard and chubby physique. Via message, Louis confided that he has a foot fetish – but what’s so weird about that, compared to all the other stuff out there? What’s a simple, normal foot fetish, in the grand scheme?

We sat down at the little bar area in Revolution Gallery. He bought drink after drink. Throughout the night, he held my hand.  Louis’s body is encapsulated in tattoos, yet he has a sad puppy-dog face.   At the end of the night, while walking down the street, Louis revealed he bought me the painting I liked while I was in the bathroom.

“Louis!” I was shocked, because I knew it was $300, but Louis had the receipt and everything to prove it wasn’t stolen. “You really didn’t have to, though. It was expensive.”

“You don’t like it then?”

“I do,”  I said. “Of course I do. Thank you, Louis.”

From that night on, I’ve spent every weekend with Louis.  He lives 45 minutes away, in a small rusty town.

Tonight, I thought I would introduce Louis to my Cousin Phil, who is up from Tampa and already tipsy, because he has been here at the casino drinking way before we even arrived. We are all going to see Dave Attell at Helium together, and I just know the two of them will get along.

“Lou,” Cousin Phil puts his arm across his shoulders. “You know, I like you already. What do you do, anyway?”

“I do signage, commercial signage.” Louis pulls out his phone to show Phil some pictures. “I carve stuff out of wood. And metal, sheet metal mostly -”

“Excuse me, sir,” says a security guard coming towards us. “You’ll have to check that knife.”  I look at Louis’s crotch, and notice the folded-up blade against his hip.  This security guard is a petite lady, and she doesn’t seem pissed or anything.

“Sir?”

Louis looks up from the musty carpet.

“Oh, my knife?”  he says. “Sorry.” He walks off with her towards the security desk.

“That’s hot, right?” I say to Cousin Phil. “The fact he has to go check his knife?” Cousin Phil leaves to buy some drinks.

“You’re manly,” I say to Louis upon his return.  He stares at me with an unflinching stare.

“Um, sorry” I say, leaning into him. “Daddy,” I whisper.

Last week, Louis said that he doesn’t want me to call him “Louis” anymore, I am to call him “Daddy” and nothing else, and frequently too. Louis sucks on his lithium-powered vape, and exhales strawberry-flavored smoke.

“What do you want to drink, Doll?” he says.

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Louis owns many knives and guns, as well as a Harley.  He seems  like the kind of guy who could kill a bear with his own hands.  In fact, he can make and shoot bow-and-arrows, which seems like a totally romantic thing to do, very Cupid-esque.

But I’m noticing that behind closed doors, Louis is rather intense.

“Fuck,” Louis gets up from his couch and heads towards the kitchen,  naked as a shucked clam, which is customary because Louis is a self-proclaimed nudist. “His numbers are still good.” He’s talking about the Donald Trump “news” on TV  that he found after 10 minutes of trying to find news on Hulu. “They’re still good, fuck what they say.”

The elephant in the room. Louis stomps off with the empty pizza box.

“Get the fuck out of here, dog,” Louis yells at his dog, Bruce, who’s sitting straight up and staring at the wall.  Louis rescued Bruce from a shelter, but I feel really bad for Bruce’s current situation, because Louis keeps him cooped up in his stupid apartment all day and yells at him all the time.

“Aw,” I hug Bruce. “He’s not doing anything.”

—-

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“You know what would be hot to do while I’m out of town, Doll?” Louis texts.

“What, Daddy?” I reply.

“Send me some photos of you fucking another dude,” he says.

Yikes! Why is Louis so into this idea? Honestly he’s brought it up before, but I’ve been stalling for time by saying that I will eventually, later on, after we date a while.  After I figure out if he’s worth it.  Because honestly, this whole time, I’ve been fantasizing about having sex once again with my ex,  “S.,” but I’m scared about releasing S. into my current dating situation.

Comparing Louis and S. below the waist is to compare an acorn with a log, respectively – a log any beaver would thirst for.  Sex with Louis sucks.  He seems depressed about his own manhood. It’s true what they say, that men with small packages compensate with cocky personas.  Louis struts around like a cockatiel, whereas S. is quiet and shy.

The more Louis pushes this idea on me, the more I have sexual fantasies about S. Since I’m sexually frustrated and about to blow,  I decide to send him an email.

In the subject line, I type the word “Orgy.”

“I suppose this letter may come as a surprise, I write.  “I have a new boyfriend. He’s soooo romantic. Plus, turns out, he is very open about wanting to watch me have sex with another man. Someone to be a “sex slave,” so to speak… 

You came to my mind as a potential sex slave for this orgy because you wanted sex without any emotional involvement or attachment, said you never want a relationship, ever, and seem okay with a straight up friends with benefits scenario.”

What the hell am I doing? Talk about a can of worms.  I hit Send and do not expect any response at all.

___

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“I just want you to be happy, so I’ll do that for you,” S. says over the phone a mere five minutes later. “Just tell me one thing.”

“What?”

You can tell S. is driving because I hear the whoosh of the open window since he’s probably smoking a cigarette with me on speakerphone.

“How’s the sex?”

What?”

“The sex,” S. exhales. “ I mean, I’m asking because clearly there must be a reason you thought of me.”

I’m not telling S. that sex with Louis sucks.  That would only feed his ego, and have me eating from the palm of his hand. No, this time I’m going to be the one in control.  

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“The last girl I dated didn’t work,” Louis tells me over brisket at his town’s BBQ pit.  “I took care of her.”

“Oh, really?” I say.  Louis insisted on paying for this meal, and these drinks, again, even though I was the only one carrying cash. He never lets me pay for anything. That’s why   I decided to buy him a gift, some Viktor & Rolf SpiceBomb cologne, to show my appreciation.  The bottle is shaped like a grenade, perfect for Louis’s heavily-armored self.  I hope he likes it.

“If we ever lived together,” Louis says, staring at the bar TV screen with a diamond ad projecting from it, “I would want to pick out what you wear when you’re at home.”

“Um, really?”  I haven’t touched my Bloody Mary. “I am very particular about my wardrobe.”

Louis stares at me with his penetrating stare.

“I have something I want to give you,” I say, to change the topic as Louis pays the bill.

“What is it?”

“Just something small,” I hand Louis a tiny gift bag with the cologne inside.  “What’s wrong?”

“I really wish you wouldn’t have,” Louis stands up and puts his hands in his pockets, starts walking towards the door to the back parking lot. “I won’t accept it.”

“What? Why?” I walk faster to catch up with Louis, who’s standing in the shadow of his giant truck. “I wanted to show my appreciation.”

“The way to show your appreciation for me is to call me daddy, and let me play with your feet, “ he says. “For future reference, I don’t like surprises and never accept gifts.”

I climb into the passenger side of the truck, and don’t bother saying “Sorry, Daddy” this time.

After all, what did I really know about this dude?

 

Murray’s Return

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I have a bad habit of “boyfriend recycling.”  As soon as one romance fades away, his predecessor twice-removed comes out of the woodwork. That’s exactly what happened with Murray. He slid into my emails, asked me to go to a “strip club in PA,” and of course, I couldn’t say no.

Murray’s living room

It’s sunny inside Murray’s living room, for once. Probably because it’s mid-July, the perfect moment of the year when one’s perpetual drunkenness is enough to make time stand still.  I study Murray’s coffee table like a map.  What cards does tonight hold?  There’s a bottle of Fisheye Pinot Grigio, a bottle of Evan Williams Green Label, copies of Playboy that I unearthed from Murray’s bathroom, and an ashtray of smouldering Senecas – some of them  lipstick-stained.

“We should probably head out soon,”  Murray says, squinting like an old man. He’s wearing those dangerously-skinny jeans again, but he’s not  exactly “thick.”  I guess skinny jeans for a skinny man are okay.

The Echo Club

In the backseat of a black Nissan – why are all rideshares so generic? – Murray and I gaze out the window. We’re buzzed. Smoke stacks reeking pollution pass us by, and that’s not even counting what lies beneath the surface of Niagara Falls.

The Nissan pulls to the curb of Burt’s house, which sits among shot-up bodegas.  At one, you can score stolen appliances, hookers, and some bomb-ass pizza.  But you didn’t hear it from me.

“So are ya ready for a funky-ass night?” says Burt, who’s wearing lobster-print shorts. He and Murray record music together. Last weekend, they wound up at the Echo.  Since Murray and I have been hanging out regularly again, he invited me there.  We all joined together on this shadowy, Saturday night.

“Do you really think it will be open?” Burt asks,  popping open a Michelob.

“It’s gotta be,” says Murray, sauntering around in his worn oxfords.

We pile into Burt’s van and search for the Echo along the pitch-black road.  I’ve got a blunt danglin’ from my mouth; Murray’s on his twelfth Seneca. Finally, I perceive a dim yellow light.

“There it is!” I squeal.  “The Echo.”

We walk onto the Echo Park Mansion’s giant wraparound porch. A cat scampers off.  It’s got a William Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily” vibe.  It’s a relic of a more prosperous time, when the grandeur of this stately mansion wasn’t overshadowed by run-down wreckage surrounding it.   Rumor has it the owner kept debtors in a basement jail cell.  We climb the steps, and peer through the bars of a steel storm door.  There’s a sign flickering inside – “Karaoke.”

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“Hello?” Murray walks in, and I follow, and so do Burt and his finacé, Noelle.

The wood floor is buffed and polished. At first there’s not a soul.  But then, a middle-aged brunette rises from behind the bar. She’s got a Scrunchie on her wrist and a gray tee shirt on.

“Hey,” Murray says, already taking a seat on the vinyl barstool.  “Dina, right?”

“We were here last week,” says Burt, standing behind him.

I sit next to Murray, who’s got his denim shirt half-unsnapped.

“She’s going to have a pinot grigio,” Murray says to Dina, ordering my drink of choice.

“I’ve got some right here,” Dina says, stooping down. “Wait – what happened to the pinot? It was right here.  The other girl must’ve put it somewhere.”  She leaves.

“Spooky,” Murray says.

“Look what I brought in,” I whisper in his ear, and look down so that he notices the clutch purse open on my lap.    “Kinky Liqueur.”  I pull out the tiny bottle of neon pink liquid, and take a sip while looking him dead in the eye.

“Hmmm….” says Murray. “Let’s go on a tour of the place.”

I agree, even though this punctuates the seductive moment.  The four of us walk through a dark, dusty banquet room with black-and-white portraits on the wall. Murray leads the way – since he’d been here with Burt – and takes us on a tour through the mansion’s three floors, via a peeling “Yellow Wallpaper” staircase, past end tables of porcelain dolls and hand-painted china, up to a diseased-looking bedroom with wedding dresses hanging all around.

“We could be up here later, Burt,” Murray says, pulling a curtain aside to gaze at the moon.  “To watch the sunrise.”

This captures my attention. How come Murray didn’t invite me to watch the sunrise? I look to Noelle, but she’s off in another room, apparently. We return to the bar and Murray continues to buy me drinks and bum me cigs and do all the things I like men to do for me (that pretty much covers it) and then a whole bunch of Murray and Burt’s pals start to show up.  So I call my girl, Trixey, who’s often driving around The Falls for no apparent reason.

“You guys seem really cute,” Trixey tells me at the bar while Murray does a rendition of Brian WIlson’s “Good Vibrations.”  We’re the only group in the place, besides Dina, the ghosts, and a karaoke facilitator/DJ. “I can tell he’s into you.”

“Really?” I say. “I’m really into him, too.  Although, if I continue hanging with him I’ll get cirrhosis of the liver.”

“Do you want a Valium?” asks Trixey.

“Yeah, sure” I say.  “I’m knock knock knockin’ on Heaven’s door and I really don’t give a fuck.”

After that, I decide to sing “My Own Prison” by Creed as my karaoke debut.  Court is in session, the verdict is in. Then we all go on the porch to smoke. Shoulda been dead on a Sunday morning banging my head. Murray and I are seated on the concrete ledge, overlooking the front lawn.

“I only take people I trust to the Echo,” he says, inhaling his final drag.

“You trust me, Murray?” I say, hoping this will become one of my more memorable functioning blackouts.

“Whoa…WHOA!” Murray falls sideways and takes me down with him; we fall completely off the porch and into a patch of bushes underneath.

“Are you guys okay?” Trixey calls down.  “I’ll drive you back to Burt’s.”

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On the way back to Burt’s, Murray’s not the only one who’s passed out in the car this time around.

“Hey, hey,” Trixey is shaking me awake.  “We’re at Burt’s.”

I head upstairs to brush my teeth, then crawl into Burt’s guest bed and wait for Murray.  I’m wearing a fishnet outfit  from the porn store.  I’m sure our makeout will happen any moment now…

…………..ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ……….

Before I know it, sun is streaming through the open window.  It’s morning.  I’m on top of the covers in the same position as when I got here. There’s no trace of Murray.  I get dressed and go downstairs.

Murray and Burt are slouched on the couch alongside an almost-gone bottle of whiskey.

“Oh, hey,” I say, nonchalant. “Good morning.”  I sit in a chair on the other side of the room.

So wait….we really didn’t make out? 

“You guys drank all that whiskey last night?” I say. “When?”

“We just went to bed two hours ago,” Murray says, scratching his chest.

“Oh.”

I look from Murray, to Burt, from Burt, back to Murray.  They are two peas in a pod. I guess this is how sexual frustration feels.

“You don’t remember?” Burt sits up.  “You came downstairs, took the whiskey bottle from Murray, went up and were cuddling with it.”

“What?” I say. “I was sleepwalking?!”

“You really don’t remember?” Murray says.  “You were cuddling with the whiskey bottle.”

Probably because that was the closest thing to a make out as I was gonna get….I drag my weary body out the back door and sit on Burt’s dock, overlooking the river.  After a few minutes, Murray comes out, still in his dirty, all-black clothes from yesterday, and lights a cigarette.  I look at him, but don’t say a word.

“I’m not boyfriend material,” says Murray, exhaling a smoke plume.  He’s pale, sweaty, and totally unhealthy in every way.  And we didn’t even make out.

“You know what, Murray,” I finally say, “You say that all the time, but I think it’s just an act.”

“No,” he says. “It’s the truth. I’m honest about that part.”

“Well then, let’s just get an Uber back to town,” I say. “I have some weed I need to be smoking.”

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