Thursday, December 17, 2009
THIS STILL AIN'T NO LOVE STORY text & photos by Walt Cessna
The letter was written on a piece of paper that Ray had ripped out of his sketchpad. It was an eleven by fourteen Strathmore that he had just plunked down eight hard-earned bucks for at a certain overpriced art supply store in Woodstock. It’s not like he was an aspiring artist or anything. Something about lined notepaper freaked him out. He was visiting his ex-boyfriend Vincent’s best friend and muse Sally Seaschell. She was living in a sprawling house nestled deep in the woods that she had inherited from her Grandmother.
He was safely tucked under a vintage seventies hand crocheted blanket that had been washed about a million times and was undergoing a severe lint problem. It was colored all the familiar shades of a youth spent collecting Hello Kitty memorabilia and masturbating furiously over the image of John Travolta from Grease hanging in tattered poster form over a pink canopied bed with a hand-painted rainbow headboard.
The letter wasn’t addressed to anyone by name, but Ray knew exactly whom it was meant for. It simply started by stating;
Thanksgiving this year will be remembered in an entirely different way. Instead of turkey and stuffing, I will recall the hickeys on my chest and neck and the intensity of the way you sucked upon my skin. The deep kisses we shared while groping towards orgasm. Your body entwined around mine and my stomach rubbing furiously against your groin. You’re breathing, irregular and confused and your apparent need yet careful resolve. The way I felt when I took you in my mouth and brought you to climax. The look in your heavily lidded eyes, just before you succumb to my further advances.
And then it continued;
Why can’t it all be as sweet as the seduction? Why should all this beauty come to a crashing halt? I’m confused about a few things. Maybe it’s my neurotic self over-analyzing again. I could be paranoid, which for me is basically my daily existence. I could be correct about all this, but I know I’m probably somewhere in between. How can two people connect so fiercely one moment and find themselves completely ripped apart the next?
My attraction for you is far from just physical, yet I must admit I am more than ready and willing to enjoy the pleasures of your flesh. Yes, I’ll admit it. I’m warm for your fucking form, but I’m confused about how it makes me feel. On one hand I love it. On the other, it straps my already fragile emotions, forcing me to come to crashing mis-conclusions better left unsaid.
I never wanted to be your boyfriend, but I do want to kiss you. To fuck you. To possess you without all the strings attached. I know you think I’ve pressured you, but it always seemed like you preferred when I made the first move. Thing is, I got tired of being the aggressive one who never got anything back in return. It’s not that I’m not interested in the net results. I love pure, unadulterated sexual satisfaction just as much as the next stupid pleasure starved slob. But it got tired chasing after you all the time. I want to be courted. Seduced. I wanted you to make the first move.
You never surprised me unless you were high. You never inspired me unless I was high. You did make me sick to my stomach with lust. I loved giving you pleasure, even if I never really felt you were giving anything back. Why couldn’t you gratify me now and then without wanting something in return? I wanted you to take my cock in your mouth just once instead of sitting your ass back and getting serviced. I wanted; no I needed you to fuck me like I fucked you. Pure, simple and stupid.
But you bisexual motherfuckers are all the same. You take what you want and then you go your merry way. If it’s starting to seem like I have no feelings of love for you anymore, it’s probably because I’m too ashamed to admit them. We all know it’s easier to hurt someone rather than pay them a compliment. That’s how it seemed to end with us, anyway. It’s like our drug habit. We both exist for it and sometimes we even indulged in it together. That is when you weren’t all strung out and hogging everything for yourself. In the end though, it was one more thing that got in the way of our already fragile relationship, if you could even call it that.
I mean, what were we? We were lovers without love, friends without friendship. We seemed to appreciate each other, yet there was never any respect. It was more like enthusiastic tolerance, unsure of why we were attracted to each other in the first place. It could have been your endless supply of drugs and both of our inability’s to get fucked up alone. Misery always loves company and the more miserable we became, the more you seemed to realize that this all might be one huge horrible mistake.
But you left me without any warning and I just can’t accept that. Call me crazy, which you always did anyway, but I’m not sure I’ve gotten what I deserve. So the ball is, as they say, in your court. I’ve given. You’ve taken. It’s payback time fucker.
Ray didn’t sign the letter. Instead he reached down to his black leather knapsack which was on the floor next to the bed. He pulled out a fluorescent green envelope already stamped and addressed and slipped the note inside. As he licked the glue across his dry tongue, he remembered the way Vincent’s armpits tasted and as he sealed the envelope shut, he thought about the last time they made love. In his mind a door closed behind him, leaving a self hung cloak of dealable regret. Resolute remorse. Apprehensive apathy articulated under the crudest of circumstances.
Things were about to change, but for now he had to resolve himself to the fact that there was nothing more to do but mail his message and then make his move. It didn’t matter if Vincent chose to respond or not. That was not the question. Tossing the blanket off him-self, Ray hopped out of bed, grabbed his coat and slipped out the bedroom window. He left without even saying goodbye to his unsuspecting host. The only question left was how he would choose to kill Vincent and if he would even wait to do it until his letter arrived.
About a week later, Vincent was approaching the entrance to his apartment building as gingerly as possible. Paranoia, pure and simple. The kind that makes you hide in the back of your closet for five hours as an imaginary SWAT team swarms through your pad inspecting every nook and crannie in search of your stash. Vincent was a K head and dealer who worked out of his railroad flat on East Thirteenth Street and being gakked out had become second nature to him.
He shared it with his cokehead roommate Suzy, who was also a dealer and dealt blow out of her dark as a cave bedroom in the back. Vincent slept in the front room, which was supposed to be the living room, on a lumpy futon situated under two heavily curtained windows. At night, the alabaster strobe of a street light directly in front of the window would cut though the thin black fabric and threaten the darkness of his eve, leaving Vincent shuddering from too much K and too little sleep. Paranoia reigned supreme.
He bound up the building’s steps and through the front door, shaking as he fumbled with the keys. Once inside, he made his way up to the second floor apartment, let himself in and locked the door behind him, making sure all seven locks were secured and then chained the three chains. Vincent sighed a deep heave of relief and sank to the green shag carpeting beneath his sturdy Redwinged feet. Slowly he dug deep into the pockets of his vintage brown Levi’s cords and pulled the quadruple folded green envelope from its recesses. He had found it earlier pinned under the windshield wiper of the abandoned blue Honda Civic that had been permanently parked ion front of his building all winter.
Normal people got their mail in the mailbox, but Vincent had technically been evicted last month so his annoying landlord had removed his name from the box. He had yet to vacate the premises, but since the landlord was away on vacation, he figured nobody would mind if he kept the apartment for a few extra weeks. Vincent had a crush on the mailman and although he had rebuffed his advances, he took a liking to this kid who always seemed like he was on sugar overload. The mailman agreed to leave Vincent’s mail on the Honda’s windshield as long as he stopped trying to grab his ass on a regular basis.
Vincent knew that Ray was mad, but he never realized exactly to what extent. The affair had been a surprise to both of them, but the break-up only seemed to bother Ray. Vincent could have gone about it with a little more finesse, rather than just disappearing out of Ray’s life completely. But subtlety had never been one of his better virtues and towards the end, Ray had grown a tad too scary for even a kooky K head like Vincent to tolerate. He loved the way Ray had him feel at first, especially sexually, but once he came it was over. There was no warm glow, no spent feeling of easy resolve, the typical course that lovemaking takes once it has completed its path.
Instead, Vincent needed to be alone after their encounters and to add insult to injury, he would wait until Ray’s deep snores lifted from the sheets to quietly break free from his arms and flee to his own apartment. This left Ray pissed off and furious when he woke up alone, berating Vincent with phone calls that were picked up by the answering machine and usually not returned. Vincent finally stopped going to Ray’s about a month ago and luckily, hadn’t heard anything from him until he found this envelope waiting for him tonight. As he read it for the second time, a chill raced down his spine that refused to stop, racking him over and over again with a fear even his paranoid self had never known.
Ray was obviously not over Vincent, but that didn’t give him the right to get all freaked out and shit. Vincent pulled off his cords and walked towards the back of the railroad flat, stopping once he got to the kitchen’s refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of grape Gatorade and drank from it until he could hear his greedy gulps echoing from the pit of the empty container.
He stood frozen in front of the open refrigerator, his body bathed in it’s cold fluorescent light, staring at the endless empty shelves and a lone stick of butter, hardened to uneatableness long ago. It wasn’t until his kneecaps became frozen and a rush of goose pimples had spread across his thighs that he finally eased out of his self-induced stupor. He placed the empty Gatorade bottle back into the fridge, closed the door and padded a bit further back into the apartment until he found himself in front of Suzy’s closed bedroom door.
“Suzy, you in there?”
No answer. He knocks on the door, softly at first, harder a second later. Still no answer and his K addled patience is beginning to wear thin.
“Suzy! It’s Vincent. If you’re in there would you please answer me? SUZY!”
It was no use; his scream seemed to fall upon deaf ears. Suzy was either not home, or not listening. Vincent grabbed hold of the doorknob and tried to twist it. Just as he thought, it was locked. Mustering up a false sense of strength, he pushed at the door full throttle, only hurting his shoulder as much as his pride.
“Suzy? Are you in there? I’m scared and I need to talk to you.”
There was a sound of papers rustling from behind the door and an angry voice muttering a string of obscenities that sounded sweet to his ear.
“What could you possibly fucking want now?” a girls voice croaked as the simultaneously opened, revealing a black and blue haired moppet sporting matching bruises around her alluring green eyes.
“Never mind me. What the fuck happened to you,” Vincent asked, trying through his K hole to sound concerned and not fucked off his ass.
“A customer of yours came by last night,” Suzy answered, holding back tears and biting her lip. “Let’s just say he wasn’t too thrilled not to find you here.”
“I told you not to answer the door when I’m not here.”
“I didn’t. He must have climbed up the fire escape and climbed in through your window. I woke up and he was standing over me, all strung out. I guess he found what he was looking for.”
“Don’t tell me my stash is gone. Fuck!”
“Don’t say I didn’t tell you so. You are so fucking stupid Vincent. Don’t you realize you can’t be friends with your customers? And you certainly shouldn’t be sleeping with them!”
“Sleeping with them? Who was it that beat you up Suzy? That crazy K head Bree? Was it Tasmin? No it couldn’t be her. We haven’t fucked around in ages and besides, you could kick her ass any day.”
“It was your ex-boyfriend.”
“Which one? Even I have a hard time keeping track.”
“I thought there was only one? Maybe if you actually made up your mind about what sex you really prefer you could at least narrow the field.”
“Technically there was only one, but I’ve been seeing a few people on the side. Suzy, who the fuck was it?”
“Vincent, you are such a slut. No wonder Ray is so over you.”
“Did you say Ray, as in RAY my extremely jealous and possessive ex-boyfriend?”
“Well I don’t mean Ray’s pizza. Shit, are you dense or what.” Suzy settled back into her room and plopped herself down on the unmade bed. “I’ve got a news bulletin for you. That freak has a bad taste for K and even worse one for you.”
“But he never did that much K before and besides, last I heard he was sponging off Sally up in Woodstock.”
“Doesn’t she know that you two broke up? She can’t stand his ass.”
“I kind of forgot to tell her.”
“Well, he obviously came back to the city earlier than planned. What’s that you’re holding?”
“Bullshit. Give it to me. Now.”
Vincent handed over the letter from Ray. When Suzy finished reading it, she crumpled it up and threw it towards a pile of trash festering in a corner. Then she lit up a Camel and choked on its initial smoke and walked out of the bedroom into the kitchen. When she opened up the refrigerator and discovered the empty Gatorade bottle she exploded, spun around and hurled herself at Vincent who had taken her spot on the bed and was about to snort a bump of K off his clenched fist. Their bodies boomeranged off each other, landing them on the floor in a sprawled heap.
After a few seconds, Suzy lifted herself up and smoothed out the sliver of rubber skirt that was riding up her ass. “What did you do to piss him off so bad anyway?”
“All I did was stop seeing him Suzy, but he’s in love with me...crazy in love.”
“Fucking crazy period. What are you gonna do so he doesn’t kill both of us in our sleep?”
“I guess this is as good a time as any to tell you...”
“Tell me fucking what? Now what did you do?”
“We’re being evicted. We have until the landlord gets back from vacation before we have to get out.”
Suzy was seething. Living with Vincent had always been an unpredictable roller coaster ride, but this was just too much. She stubbed her cigarette out on the floor and flicked the butt at Vincent, narrowly missing his face.
“Stop Suzy, come on...look at the bright side. At least he won’t have our new address.”
“What if he comes back again before we leave?”
“He won’t. I’ll stall him somehow.”
“How are you gonna do that when you’re stuck in a perpetual K hole. I can’t believe you got us kicked out of our apartment. What the fuck did you do with all the rent money I’ve been giving you? It’s all up your nose isn’t it?”
“I don’t wanna go there right now and neither do you.”
“I don’t wanna go anywhere with you Vincent. I’m tired of your shit and I’m not gonna sit around here and wait to get killed by one of your gutter tricks.”
“Fuck you Suzy,” Vincent mumbled, then hoisted himself up and walked out of her room. Suzy called after him, but he refused to turn around.
“Fine. Fucking ignore me. You can ignore me forever for all I care. I’m blowing this crap house and you can live on your own from now on. Hopefully lover-boy won’t catch up with you first!”
Then with all the dramatic flair worthy of a soap opera starlet she could muster, Suzy slammed her door shut, re-locked it and began rummaging through her things to see what she would take and what would have to be left behind. Vincent let the shudder of the slamming door slowly reverberate through his already tense body and padded softly down the hall towards his room. He crawled under the covers of his futon and pulled them up over his head. He began to hum quietly to himself, a song of no particular origin, almost as blank as the inside of his mind.
Ray was shaking as he walked across Fourteenth Street and headed for the subway at Union Square. A slight drizzle started to drift down from the sky. As Ray stood waiting for the light to change, he analyzed each drop that splashed across his face, trickling slowly across his skin, reminding him of the tears Vincent’s roommate cried as he pounded her with his open palms. Red switched to green and he crossed the street taking leaps instead of steps, shaky from the K, his mind twisted like a pretzel. As he reached the subway station, Ray looked over his shoulder, only half satisfied that none of his demons were following him. They always seemed to be there, first telling him to do one thing, then changing to another. In Ray’s mind, nothing was ever his fault. If he did something wrong, it was because they told him to.
Since he had known Vincent, he’d managed to keep his drug habit under control, but lately, there ever seemed to be enough. They met through a mutual friend who was also a customer of Vincent’s. That was about a year ago. Ray had become a steady customer and it was almost a month before Vincent noticed that Ray had been looking at him in, you know, that way. Vincent didn’t really find Ray attractive at first. He usually went after tall, skinny blonde guys (or girls, depending on what was readily available).
Ray was short, dark and hairy as a bear. He wore wire rim spectacles, oval shaped no less and dressed mostly in worn out utility clothes that gave him the appearance of an elevator repairman. Vincent, whom was also short, was often described as an angel. With his long brown hair, parted like Jesus right down the middle and worn just as long, he attracted second glances from most everyone he passed on the street. His hair caught the light as if he was in a high quality shampoo commercial. If he were a girl he could have been a model.
Ray knew what Vincent was about when he got involved with him, but what he never counted on was actually falling in love with him. But that’s what happened and when Vincent had dumped him without even saying good-bye, something in Ray had snapped and the torment he had felt long ago seemed to return in loud, crashing waves that enveloped him in a rage and hatred that scared the shit out of him. As Ray dropped a token into the turn stile and made his way towards the train, he wondered if Vincent had found his letter yet and if he was as full of fear as Ray himself was so consumed by.
Vincent had always taken advantage of whatever situation was at hand. Being a beautiful, young bisexual boy certainly afforded him many and he often found himself with much older patrons who would set him up with some quick cash, a place to crash and an endless supply of drugs. That’s how he got hooked on K.
He had been seeing this guy named Sam, although none of his friends could understand why, because Sam had a head like that of a clam (thank you MC Lyte). Sam was an out of work stock broker who claimed he had lost his job after the crash, but it was more likely his out of control appetite for cocaine that curbed his career. Vincent met Sam at the Gay Pride Parade. He was forty-five. Vincent was twenty-four. It seemed an odd match, but after Sam bought dinner, paid for a cab and cracked open a bottle of Patron, Vincent knew he was on to a good thing and endured the unsurprisingly awful sex that soon followed.
After a month Vincent moved in and quickly became an even bigger coke- head than Sam. Then one day Sam brought home a new treat. He had gotten it from one of his club kid friends that he hung out with on Wednesday nights at the Limelight, or Slimelight as Vincent liked to call it. It was a new drug making the rounds called Special K and within a few weeks, the two of them had gotten over coke completely. They had to. The K left them in such a mess they only had enough time to sober up during the day and fall into an even deeper K hole by night.
K was unlike anything Vincent had ever tried in his life and he had tried everything. It was made from cat tranquilizers and the effect was akin to losing consciousness while floating in an air bubble and rolling on greased ball bearings in a Crisco rain tainted by a Margarine haze. Vincent loved it and soon spent most of his time tiptoeing between two realities, leaning heavier towards the one where he would fall into an inevitable K hole and wake up the next day not knowing where he was or what the fuck had happened.
Then Sam died. Completely unexpected. It wasn’t even from the drugs that Vincent assumed he would one day OD from. No, Sam with the head of a clam walked right in front of a Midtown bus at the height of rush hour. Seems he had finally run out of his savings and instead of letting Vincent know the free ride was over, he simply put an end to it all. Vincent suspected that Sam might have been high, but didn’t waste too much time thinking about it.
It took the landlord a month to successfully get Vincent out of Sam’s apartment. One day when he had gotten home from drowning his sorrows, the doorman informed him that he was no longer welcome and should leave before they had to call the police. Vincent lost everything. His clothes, comic books and the tiny amount of money he had managed to save. As he left the building and walked down Lower Broadway, he was in shock, almost talking to himself and seriously began to contemplate giving up and moving back home. He was in a complete stupor and hardly noticed the beautiful black haired girl sitting cross-legged on top of a mailbox reading The New York Post and sipping from a forty encased in a wrinkled brown paper bag.
She noticed him however and as he sullenly walked by she tried in vain to catch his eye, failing miserably. He was almost past her when she decided to stick out her long stripy stocking leg and block his path. Unfortunately, she almost decapitated him in the process, causing him to fall back on his ass and stare up at this intriguing nymph that had gotten in his way.
“Do you want something?” Vincent asked, slightly annoyed as he brushed himself off and stood back up.
“Just an introduction,” she replied. Slowly sliding off the mailbox until her entire five-foot frame was situated smack in front of his face. Vincent just stared at her; still unsure of what this surprising new entry into his life wanted.
“Don’t be shy. I’m not and besides, what d’ya got to lose. Do I look dangerous or something?”
“Not really. My names Vincent,” he answered, surprised by how sure he sounded even though he was still in a state of confusion. He held out his hand and she took it within her own, squeezing it lightly and causing him to look down at her small, pale white fingers with nails painted the most obscure shade of chartreuse he had ever seen. Vincent let go of her hand and stared self consciously down at his feet, unaware of his sudden shyness or her futile attempt to get him over it.
“I’m Suzy or Suzanne Joshua Moody if you wanna be formal, but I never do, so why should you?”
“Having a boys name as your middle name.”
“Well it’s better than Charley, or Bruce. Or even Harry for Christ’s sake!”
“Well, you certainly don’t look like a Harry.”
“Gee, thanks. What do I look like then?”
“I really don’t know and besides, I have to get going.”
“You’re not getting off that easy buster. What DO I look like?”
“Without flinching, Vincent stared her straight in the eye and said, “like a girl who’s about to be seriously disappointed.”
“Why? Don’t you think I’m pretty? Most guys think I’m fucking fierce! What’s your problem?”
“Anybody who accosts me from the top of a mailbox has to be some sort of a problem. My Karma is seriously fucked at the moment.”
“Welcome to the fucked up Karma club. And by the way...”
“Don’t fucking flatter yourself. What made you think I was even coming on to you?”
“I just assumed...”
“My momma told me never assume anything, especially when it comes to sex.’
“So what do you want?”
“Just a friend and maybe...”
“Maybe what? Listen, I’ve only been with a few girls before.”
“There we go, back to the sex thing. You must think your God’s gift or something. Listen, I’ve had my share of fag boyfriends.”
“I’m not a fag!”
“Whatever! Anyway, I’m not looking to share your bed, just your pad.”
Vincent laughed out loud and shook his head before speaking. “Well your out of luck then sister. I just lost my place. In fact, I just lost fucking everything. The only bed I’ll be sleeping on tonight is a bench in the park.”
“Well then, looks like we’ll be sharing a bench, cause I don’t have anyplace to go either.”
Before he could object, Suzy put her arm around Vincent and led him down Broadway, neither of them aware of where they were going or what the future might hold. The only thing Vincent could be sure of was this strange girl named Suzy had just popped into his life and it must be for some reason that would come to him sooner or later.
That had been a year ago. After a month of sleeping in Union Square Park and changing benches every three hours to appease the cops who inevitably would wake them up and tell them to move along, they got lucky. With Suzy’s help, they found a sublet on East Thirteenth Street. Now came the sticky part. Both of them had beyond bad credit and getting a landlord to take them seriously was almost impossible, but Suzy had come up with a scam for renting illegal sublets.
She would scour the Village Voice and circle all the cheapest ones she could find. The going rule was that they had to be fewer than eight hundred dollars a month and located below Fourteenth Street, preferably on the East Side. She would then go and check out each apartment until she came across one that seemed fishy. When the words “under no circumstance should you try to contact the landlord if there’s a problem, call us instead” were uttered, a little bell went off in Suzy’s head. This usually meant that the apartment had a no sublet clause in it and the tenant was illegally renting the apartment under the landlord’s nose and would be evicted if found out.
While Suzy worked on the apartment situation, Vincent spent his days stealing CD’s and reselling them seconds later at Kim’s on Saint Marks Place. Each one usually fetched about three to five bucks and on a good day he could pocket almost fifty dollars. After about a month of searching, stealing and re-selling, they had found the place on Thirteenth Street, a dilapidated Railroad flat with four rooms and available for two months. It was seven hundred dollars and they had managed to save a little over that. Suzy got her mom to Western Union another seven hundred for the deposit on the condition that she never call again. Not even is she was dying and had less than an hour to live.
The tenant subleasing the apartment was a grossly overweight and pasty-faced guy in his forties who looked as if he was having a hard time getting oxygen to his big fucking head. Suzy said he was perfect and put her plan to work once they had secured the place and the fat pile of slop had left for wherever the fuck he was going. Maybe a fat farm, Suzy joked.
About a week before the sublet was up, Suzy conveniently broke the kitchen sink and demurely called the landlord. When he asked who she was, Suzy explained that she had been subletting the apartment for the past month and a half. The landlord started cursing in German and said he would be right over. Suzy changed into the most conservative outfit she owned, a long black dress with a white satin collar and a pair of flat suede t-strap pumps. Kind of Morticia goes to work.
When the landlord arrived he heatedly explained that there was a no sublet clause in the lease and that she would have to vacate the premises immediately. Suzy started to cry on cue and hysterically blurted that she had no place to go. Then, for further dramatic insurance, she led the bewildered landlord into the bedroom where Vincent lay huddled under an avalanche of blankets, his face ghostly white and his body a shivering bag of bones.
“My brother has Aids,” Suzy casually announced. Then she launched into her prepared schpiel about how she and her brother would make the perfect tenants because their parents paid the rent and they had to lead a quiet life so he could rest. The landlord took about ten seconds before he decided that tenant should be evicted and the apartment turned over to Suzy and Vincent. As soon as he left, Suzy ran back into the bedroom and jumped on top of Vincent, smothering him with kisses and smearing off the white make-up he was wearing all over his face.
When the poor sucker came home, he found the locks changed and an eviction notice, all his stuff having been moved into storage (billed to him of course), with the exception of a few things Suzy felt they couldn’t live without. He tried in vain to contact Suzy and Vincent, but always reached an answering machine (his), that said “Hi. This is Suzy and Vincent. We’re out having fun, so leave a message and we’ll return it when we feel like it.” Eventually the number was changed to a non-listed one and he gave up, leaving the despicable yet dynamic duo free and clear.
Now it all seemed like yesterday. A passage of quickly elapsed time that seemed to go on forever, but caught up with them way too soon. In order to pay the rent and support their drug habit, Vincent started cooking up K in the kitchen and dealing it out of the front room, while Suzy dealt coke out of hers in the back. Then Vincent met Ray and embarked on a relationship that was doomed from the start. Suzy had tried to get him to end it several times, but Vincent just kept lying to her and saying he had everything under control. He never realized how fucked up everything was getting until his whole life had spiraled out from under him, just like always. Now they had been evicted, Ray was out for blood and Suzy wanted nothing more to do with him. Worse, there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it.
Vincent had developed an annoying habit of barging into the bathroom while Suzy was taking a shower. At a few seconds before noon, just like clockwork, Vincent would stumble in, leave the door wide open and take a long and liberal piss. Suzy would ignore him at first, but would inevitably succumb to her urge for screaming. Vincent would just ignore her, slowly shake his tail dry and then retreat back to his room, usually forgetting to close the door which would further infuriate Suzy.
One would have thought after their fierce fight the previous evening, Vincent might think twice about his mid morning ritual, But he burst in on Suzy without hesitation just like always. Only this time he was greeted by a burst of liquid shaving gel that jizzed right into his surprised face.
“What the fuck is your problem Suzy? I gotta take a leak.”
“Then go piss in the kitchen sink. I’d like to take my shower in peace for once.”
“I’m not pissing in the god damn sink!”
“Because I don’t wanna.”
“Because you can’t reach it, you short sorry ass little troll. Now get the fuck out of here before I have to seriously fuck your shit up!”
Vincent ignored her, unzipped his fly and took aim at the toilet with his now released penis. Just as relief bestowed itself upon him, Suzy threw the shower curtain aside, ripping it off the rod in the process. As it cascaded down upon her, it began to resemble some strange, plastic couture dress artfully draped around her wet and naked body. Suzy tossed the curtain aside and leaped out of the shower at Vincent, grabbing his rod which was issuing a steady stream of piss that splashed about everywhere as he resisted her attack.
They fought for a moment, but were soon reduced to fits of laughter as their bodies began to retreat from collision and carefully slide down to the waterlogged tiles at their feet. Vincent broke the conversational ice first.
“Please don’t move out Suzy.”
“That’s kid of hard since we’re being evicted.”
“I mean don’t leave me. Please.”
“If I stay here any longer I might end up dead like you.”
“I’m not dead.”
“Please Suzy, help me. I need you.”
“You need me like you need another bag of K. Listen Vincent, if you’re smart, you’ll leave here today with me.”
“Do you know where you’re going yet?”
“I’m gonna stay with Sally in Woodstock. I leave on the three o’clock train. Wanna come?” Suzy asked in what sounded like less than an offer and more of a threat.
Vincent just ignored her, got up and left the bathroom. Suzy grabbed a towel and hastily wrapped it around her still soapy body as she followed him into the front room. Vincent was sitting on his futon clutching an ancient looking Raggedy Andy doll. His birth mother had given it to him before she put him up for adoption when he was three. It was the only thing he had from her and he remembered it as clearly as if it happened a minute ago.
“I’m sorry we fought yesterday. You know I really care about you, even if your friends can’t keep their fucking hands off me.”
“It was only one friend...Ray. He’s really fucked up Suzy. You read that letter he left me. He isn’t going to be satisfied till he gets what he wants.”
“And what’s that? Revenge? All because you dumped his ass? How boring. Can’t he get off in a more original way?”
“Depends on what you consider original. Anyway, I know it sounds strange, but I think that’s exactly what he wants. Revenge.”
“All because you broke his crazy fucked up heart? Give me a fucking break.”
“Listen Suzy, Ray is not what you would call a stable person.”
“I know. I’ve got the bruises to prove it. And besides, we’re not exactly stable ourselves.”
“Compared to Ray, you and I are not only stable, we’re downright responsible!”
This brought a stream of laughter from both of them, but underneath the temporary joy was a feeling of anxiety that scared them both shitless.
“Well I’m going to Sally’s,” Suzy said. “And I think you should come with me.”
“I can’t leave today, but I will tomorrow morning. I’ve gotta meet my connection tonight and pick up a fresh stash tonight, which hopefully I’ll be able to move by the end of the evening. That way at least I’ll have some money so we just hang and lay low in Woodstock.”
“Could you stop thinking with your fucking nose in a bag of K for once? You can do whatever you want, but you better watch your ass. If Ray is sick as you say, what’s to stop him from showing up here tonight?”
“Listen,” Vincent shot back as he got up and pushed Suzy out of his room and back towards the bathroom. “I may have screwed up with Ray, but I won’t be that stupid again. I won’t even stay at the apartment tonight. We’ll be smoking a joint under a tree by Crystal Lake before sunset tomorrow. I promise.”
“Why do I have such a hard time believing you Vincent? But I guess I have to. You never seem to leave me much choice.”
Suzy slammed the bathroom door shut, but Vincent didn’t sneak up to the door until he heard the water stream from the showerhead and splash down to the tub below. Then he burst through the door and resumed taking the wiz that had been cut short earlier. Suzy didn’t say anything or make a move to stop him. All she did was laugh hysterically, joining Vincent whom was laughing just as fitfully.
Suzy was gone by two o’clock and Vincent was finally alone in the apartment, not quite sure if he was just scared shitless or shaking uncontrollably because he was jonesing for a bag of K. He kept repeating in his head that it was just nerves and nothing else. He flipped on MTV and caught a glimpse of a newly brunette Courtney Love leading her band hole through an especially strong cover of Stevie Nicks coke anthem Gold Dust Woman. “Shit,” he thought to himself. “If that crazy bitch can get it together, so can I.”
He pulled himself away from the television brain suck and followed his own premonition towards the telephone, which instantly rings as if on cue. It rang almost fifteen times before Vincent realizes the answering machine isn’t on and he picks up the receiver. The voice on the other end is all too familiar.
“You know who this is, don’t you?”
“Well, I know it’s not the Candy Man. How ‘bout Santa Clause?”
“That’s cute, but you’ve been a bad boy and your not gonna get any toys.”
“Not even one?”
“Maybe one, but it won’t be gift wrapped.”
Vincent squirmed, unsure of how to proceed or if he should even attempt to. It was Ray and it sounded as if he were calling from a pay phone. He could be as far off as Brooklyn or as close as down the block. Vincent figured it would be best to humor him along until he could gather up his shit and get the fuck outta there. Without thinking, he stumbled into a pair of gray Levi’s and looked around his bedroom to see what would be the easiest to shove into his backpack and escape with.
Vincent whispered into the phone as he struggled into a shirt and tried to button it as he balanced the phone with his chin. “Ray?”
“I was just wondering,” Vincent asked as shoved his Raggedy Andy doll into his knapsack and slipped his feet into a pair of vintage Adidas shell tops he liked to save for special occasion’s, like escaping with his life. “I was just wondering if you realized what a big fucking freak you are?”
“Don’t push me Vincent, you know how annoyed I can get. Just ask that sweet little roommate of yours.”
“Leave Suzy out of this. You had no right to fuck with her the other night. As a matter of fact, it was a real fucking pussy thing to pull!”
“And you really know about pussy, don’t you? You fucking faggot!”
“Thanks Ray. Coming from you, that’s a real compliment.”
“I have no compliments for you Vincent. In fact, if I were you I would be wondering just how long you have before I decide to stop playing games.”
“Oh please Ray. If you’re gonna hurt me, then come over and get it over with, I’m sick of your ill fucking innuendo.”
Vincent stuffed a few shirts and some underwear into his knapsack and then tried to locate his wallet. As usual this was no easy task since Vincent lost things with an alarming frequency. He was completely ignoring Ray who was now screaming into the phone like the raging maniac he was. Vincent was becoming increasingly freaked and wasn’t quite sure what to do next. He put the phone down and sunk to the floor, flipping over everything in his wake as he searched for his wallet. He started to look through a pile of crusty socks and smiled as he spotted his wallet, scooped it up and shoved it in his back pocket. Then he shook his backpack until he heard the familiar jingle of his keys and threw it over his shoulder before he picked the phone back up and screamed into the receiver.
“Piss off Ray! It’s over. Deal with it!”
Vincent threw the phone against the wall and watched as it shattered into a hundred pieces. He thought about doing another bag of K, then decided to save it for later. He had no idea how long he had, or where exactly Ray was calling from. He looked around for his date book, but decided that it might not be worth the extra time spent looking. There was a loud crash in the hallway that made Vincent jump like a scared cat. It was probably just his crack-head neighbor, but just in case it was Ray, he figured why take a chance. He walked over to the window and slowly pushed it open. He stepped uncertainly through it and climbed out onto the second floor fire escape.
Like a scared ostrich, Vincent navigated the corroded metal under his feet until he reached the rickety ladder. With a bit of hesitation, he groped the ladder with both hands and pulled down on it, not stopping until it had reached the first floor. With a dry throated gulp, he began his downward ascent, his almost squeezed close with fear. He had taken about one step when he heard his name being called from a relatively close proximity. He froze as still as a mannequin and eased his head slowly around towards the sidewalk below.
It was Ray, still screaming into his cell phone, oblivious to the fact that Vincent had hung up on him. Vincent prayed that Ray wouldn’t look up as he bounded the front steps of the building and for once, God was listening. Ray pulled out the key that Vincent had foolishly given him months earlier and made his way into the building. As soon as Vincent heard the door slam shut, he scurried the rest of the way down the ladder, missing the last step and falling with a thud on top of the garbage cans below. As Vincent and the can’s contents spilled onto the sidewalk, the sound of a gunshot cracked through the air, followed by Ray’s voice booming from the apartment above.
Vincent hopped up like a bunny on speed and adjusted his backpack as he brushed some trash off his ass. With one last glance towards the building’s still empty foyer, he began to tear down the block. A second gunshot temporarily froze him in his tracks and when he looked over his shoulder he saw Ray struggling his way out of the second floor window and waving the gun in his direction. Vincent simply turned back around and tore ass, not stopping until he realized he was all the way up on Seventy-second Street and Broadway. He looked for a subway entrance and headed for it, hopping on the first 1 train that pulled in and headed back downtown, finally secure that Ray hadn’t followed him.
As the train pulled out of the station and lost itself in the dark tunnel ahead, Vincent closed his eyes in exhaustion. This wasn’t going to be as easy he thought. Ray really was crazy and he was more fucked up than Vincent realized. He wasn’t going to stop until one of them was dead.
Suzy hated Woodstock. All those barefooted hippie girl freaks made her sick. Thank God Sally wasn’t one. Sally used to work for her Uncle Morty at Aqueduct Racetrack, but had quit after a run of bad luck that would have made less strong souls consider suicide. Not Sally though, she was a survivor. She moved into the city from Queens and started taking classes at the Wilfred Academy of Beauty, or booty as Sally jokingly referred to all the queens in her school constantly in search of a fresh piece of ass. That’s where she met Suzy. They became instant friends and hung out so much people thought they were either sisters or girlfriends.
About three months later, Suzy had dropped out and literally disappeared. Sally lost touch with her until a drugged out Suzy showed up at graduation with some scary looking dude wrapped around her like a fucking noose. Sally took Suzy to the bathroom and quickly got her long lost friend to spill the beans. It turned out Suzy had met this guy at Coney Island High, a club on Saint Marks Place and he was a heroin dealer. Suzy was hooked on the shit and didn’t seem to mind. Sally decided she had to do something. Fast.
Sally had just inherited her Grandmother’s house up in Woodstock. She was leaving to move into it that night and asked Suzy if she wanted to come along and clean her act up. At first Suzy resisted, but Sally wasn’t taking no for an answer. The only problem was how to ditch the date from hell. The answer appeared in the form of an open window at the back of the bathroom. Luckily, they were on the first floor. The two of them climbed out through it and raced to Sally’s apartment where they hung out until it was time to take the train to Woodstock.
Once they got there, Sally took care of Suzy’s immediate nervous breakdown and helped her go cold turkey off the dope. After six weeks, Suzy was clean, but she hated Woodstock so she headed back to the city. She started selling coke to support herself and even indulged in it once in a while. Sally didn’t approve, but she didn’t diss her either and they remained steadfast friends. Sally used to be a total pothead when she worked at the track, but had managed to stop once she got into beauty school. She would check in with Suzy on her rare trips into the city and they would spend their days creating new hairstyles, trading make-up and bemoaning the lack of good men left on the planet.
As Suzy got off the train and waited outside the station for Sally to pick her up, she thought about Vincent and wondered if he would actually show his ass up or not. She also reminded herself of how lucky she was to have a friend like Sally. If only she didn’t live in hippie heaven. Something about nature and tie-dye made Suzy physically and mentally ill. After a few moments, Sally pulled up in her silver spray painted Volkswagen bug and Suzy hopped in. The girls shared a long hug and an immediate case of the giggles.
“What’s up girl? You look so correct! But what’s up with that hair? I don’t remember giving you that haircut,” Sally squawked as she narrowly avoided hitting a group of teenage hippie princesses crossing the street.
“Run those freaks over!” Suzy screamed through her open window as Sally burst out laughing at the sudden insanity Suzy always brought with her. “And by the way, I cut my hair myself and Vincent said it looked great.”
“Since when is that kooky K head Jose fucking Eber? I’m your stylist, not Vincent and I would appreciate your not taking liberties with my creation. And by the way...”
“What?” Suzy said with a tone of mock astonishment.
“I’m just kidding. Your hair looks fierce, completely correct. In fact you’re the best thing I’ve seen in ages.”
“Still don’t have a boyfriend, huh?”
“What else is bugging you?”
“You always could see right through me. Suzy, I’m scared.”
“Of what, the dark?”
“No stupid, Ray. He was up here last week.”
“I know, Vincent told me. I can’t believe he never told you that they broke up."
“Ray never said anything either. He kind of invited himself and I didn’t want to be rude and say no, especially since I thought he was still Vincent’s boyfriend. But he always creeped me out. When Vincent didn’t even call once for him, I started to suspect something might be wrong.”
“Why didn’t you call us? You don’t know how fucking crazy he is,” Suzy said through clenched teeth. Then she raised a hand to her face and rubbed away the Cover Girl make-up she had used to shield her boldly bruised eyes. “Do you see what he did to me?”
Sally just stared at Suzy in disbelief until they came to a red light and she burst into tears.
“Sally, did he do anything to you? Why are you so freaked out?”
“He didn’t do anything to me, in fact, he was a perfect gentleman. He mostly kept to himself. That’s why I didn’t suspect anything until one morning I woke up and he was gone. He even made his bed.”
“Then what’s got you so...”
“Freaked? It’s what he left in the room. The entire thing is covered with pictures and drawings, every square inch.”
“Pictures? What kind of pictures?”
“That’s the weird part Suzy, they’re all of Vincent!”
“The scariest part is they look like they were taken without Vincent knowing. He’s not making eye contact with the camera in a single one.”
Suzy couldn’t speak. Now, she was really scared. She wanted to get to Sally’s house as soon as possible and see the room for herself. She also wanted to call Vincent and see if he was all right. That careless little fuck. Shit! Why did she love him so much when all he brought we’re more and more problems. He was such a selfish prick, but she had to find a way to help him get away from Ray. The light had turned to green and the sound
of honking horns broke her train of thought.
“Step on it Sally. We’ve got to get home and call Vincent before it’s too late.”
Sally put the pedal to the metal and they sped the rest of the way home, finally pulling up to the house fifteen silence filled moments later. Suzy immediately headed for the guestroom and stood in shock as she struggled to understand this sick shrine to Vincent. She didn’t even hear the phone ring until Sally walked into the room holding the cordless phone and crying furiously.
Suzy spun around and blinked hard through her own tears as she looked at her distraught friend.
“Is it Vincent?”
“No,” Sally answered. “It’s Ray.”
Suzy wanted to pass out, but quickly regained what composure she had left and took the phone out of Sally’s hand.
“Hello,” she practically whispered.
“Vincent is dead. You’re next. Then Sally. See ya.”
The line went dead, but that wasn’t the only thing that seemed to have died. Every ounce of blood in her body froze and for a moment it was all she could do to breathe. Without speaking, she walked over to the bed and lay down, crying without tears and burying her face in the pillow. She didn’t lift her head until Sally came over and touched her back and then stroked the hair away from her face.
Ray hung up the phone in the lobby of the hotel he was staying at and padded softly back to his room. It was a ten by ten walk in closet type space with a slim bed, a wobbly desk and standing closet that monopolized way too much space in such a small room. His one change of clothes, a brown, Dickies work suit hung in it like a dejected being, a stark silhouette in a characterless environment. He sat on the bed and lit a Parliament filter tip, sucking on it so hard that it burned a quarter of the way down before he stopped and let out a thick stream of smoke.
Vincent had managed to escape him this afternoon, but fortunately he had left behind a clue. As Ray was rummaging through Suzy and Vincent’s apartment, he had found Vincent’s date book. He had been hoping to come across some drugs or even money, but this little black book covered with Garbage Pail Kids stickers was full of something better. Information. Ray swung his legs up on the bed and rested his head back on the poor excuse for a pillow behind it. He hated cheap pillows. These were probably from Woolworth’s before it went out of business or some other shopping establishment catering to the synthetically challenged.
He pulled the pillow from behind his head and tossed it on the floor. Then he let his head fall back against the wall with a short, slow thud, closing his eyes and instantly falling asleep, the cigarette burning in his hand until it puts itself out and it’s flame burns into his numb skin.
Once Vincent had made it downtown he cursed himself for not looking for the date book. Without it he had no idea where he was supposed to meet his connection. He fumbled through his knapsack for a few moments before he realized that pulling out his Raggedy Andy doll for solace might seem a little strange at Starbucks. He was about to order a Cafe Mocha when his stomach started rumbling and he remembered he hadn’t eaten anything since yesterday. The K in his pocket was beginning to burn a hole, but he figured he should eat something before getting high so he headed for the closest diner his eye could find.
It appeared to him like a beacon in the night. The Sparklhorse Diner, a fine eating establishment since 1978. At least that’s what the neon pronouncement attached to its side announced. Vincent zipped up his bag and headed towards what would have to be an extremely cheap meal. Like free. All his wallet held was a snot covered single dollar bill, two bags of K and his I.D.
He walked in and sat down at a middle booth and took a quick look around the joint. It strangely reminded him of this place he used to frequent as a teen called The Disco Donut on the corner of Fourteenth Street and Third Avenue. He used to go there after the Palladium, back in the mid eighties when he was still young enough to get fucked up all night and be able to digest sugar coated confections on top of a steady stream of alcohol and cocaine. That was then, this is now. So he thinks about ordering some toast, burnt, a coupla’ poached eggs and an extra large glass of ginger ale with two packs of Alka-Seltzer bubbling to it’s brim and over.
A tall, black as tar waitress wearing enough lip gloss to moisturize a third world nation walks up to Vincent and asks him, slow and surely, if he needs a menu, or does he know what he wants? Vincent looks her over and decides to go for broke, tossing his earlier cravings aside and orders a double Swiss cheese burger deluxe, rare, with raw onions, red preferably and onion rings instead of fries. Extra pickles, please. Then he orders a black and white shake with a triple Johnny Walker Black chaser which she brings him first and he downs in one long, pleasure filled ice cube free and room temperature gulp.
She looks him over once, real quick since she’s an expert at summing up down on their luck dudes with no chance of leaving a tip (or even paying for that matter) and decides this skinny little angel faced jerk-off is desperate looking enough to run out on the check. She wouldn’t mind actually, he was cute. But it would come out of her pocket since her boss wasn’t on the charity tip. Something about his face made her think of heaven sent cherubs though and contrary to popular opinion she was one of the few babes left in town with a cliched to death heart of gold. She left him alone and returned ten minutes later with his order and a reprimand.
“Yo, you gonna make good on that burger or what wimpy?”
Vincent takes a juice dribbling bite, swallows hard, with a bit of difficulty and stares back at this black burger priestess in front of him before answering. She had his number and he knew it. She was also one of the most striking women he had ever seen. Big and goofy almost in her features, but gorgeous.
“I’m good for it. Why? Do I look shady and shit?”
“You sure as fuck do little white boy. You gotta monkey on your back? You’re sweatin’ like its August and it aint even April.”
Vincent took another bite, then a long sip of the black and white without the straw so when he put the shake down he had a creamy moustache to show for it. She was right, he did have a monkey on his back and his constantly trembling hands were proof enough.
“Aren’t you just the perceptive one. Guess you need a little bump yourself, or are you on the wagon baby?”
“I don’t take no fucking drugs, but you obviously do. Look at how your hands are shaking. My sister used to be on all that shit, always shaking like she was in the middle of an earthquake or something.”
“Esta! Your orders up sweetie,” booms a voice from the kitchen. It prompts the waitress to suddenly spin around and head towards the cook bellowing her name. He’s just put a plate of limp looking spaghetti drowning in a pool of Day-Glo red sauce on the counter. Esta picks it up and delivers it to one of the only three occupied booths in the diner. After arguing with it’s occupant over the fact that “no, we don’t serve no garlic bread. What d’ya think this is, the goddamn Plaza!” she drops the plate on the table.
She slowly saunters back over to Vincent, surprising him by squeezing into the cramped booth. Vincent shoves the last bite of his burger down his throat and tries to stare at her as innocently as possible through chews of meat that leave strings of hamburger blood etched between his teeth.
“So what’s your name? Esther?”
“Esta. No h-e-r. Just an a at the end.”
“Isn’t that original? Don’t you have to get back to work?” Vincent queried as he squirmed in his seat, trying to give her a subtle hint that she wasn’t leaving him much eating room, or breathing room for that matter. Esta just pushed in closer. Vincent started to realize that she was actually being nice to him. Friendly, maybe more. More food at least.
“Look around. Do you see a stampede at the door? This joint is lucky to have more than three paying customers at the same time. Are you dense or what?” Maybe she wasn’t being so nice.
“Fuck you ...Esta, or whatever you call yourself.”
“Why the fuck should I? Miss Esta.”
“Because I know you aint got the money to pay for that burger, wimpy.”
“My name is Vincent.”
“Well Vincent, d’ya got the buckeroos to pay for your munch out session?”
“Of course I do,” Vincent lied as he stuffed a pickle into his mouth. He held his breath for a few seconds and then let out a deep-resonating belch before he resumed conversation with his new friend.
“What makes you think I can’t pay for yer greasy grub? I’ll have you know on certain occasions I am known to carry large amounts of cash and further...”
“More! Don’t even go there, little mister must be a junkie, or worse, a drug dealer. Drug dealers are always bragging about walkin’ around with a whole lotta money. Yeah that’s right, they do a whole lotta talkin’...when they’re broke!”
This sent Esta into hysterical fits of laughter and Vincent sinking so low in his seat that all you could see was his nose and eyes hanging above the tables edge like Kilroy Was Here. Esta stopped her chuckling when she noticed the dejected state of Vincent. With slow enthusiasm she pulled a toothpick out from behind her ear and peeled off its paper encasement. She popped it into her mouth and sucked a bit of it between her lips before she allowed it to roll across them, mixing with a slow trickle of saliva that bubbled around the toothpick.
“Tell ya what I’m gonna do little mister man. I’m gonna pay for all that food you just sucked down outta the goodness of my stupider than shit heart.”
Esta spit out the toothpick and grabbed one of Vincent’s onion rings. She held the fried circle up under her nose and looked at him as seriously as possible.
“Do you think I should get my nose pierced?” Esta broke into another bout of fierce laughter as Vincent stared at her with an uncertain smile, fascinated that this loud, obnoxious black chick was actually starting to turn him on.
He grabbed the onion ring out of her fingers, dipped it into a pile of ketchup on his plate and casually tossed into his mouth. Then he moved closer to Esta, almost sitting on her lap. When she didn’t protest, he lifted his trembling hands and held Esta by each side of her face, then gently planted a kiss on her forehead. His lips traveled slowly down to her nose and then slid right to her lips, where he kissed her until she relented and kissed him back. Their lips came together and parted, allowing their tongues to roll against the inside of each other’s mouth, sharing the chewed onion ring as if it were some holy-communion wafer.
“Esta! Your orders up!” screamed the cook, but his announcement fell on deaf ears. Vincent and Esta were practically under the table now, furiously making out like two love-starved teenagers. They stopped long enough to plan their next move.
“Esta, I know your gonna think I’m full of shit, but for some reason I am really digging you right now.”
“Are you little mister Vincent? The feelings mutual.”
“I’m leaving for Woodstock tomorrow and I know you don’t even know me or nothing, but do you think you might wanna come along?”
“Is it a vacation or are you running from something?”
“Someone. My ex-boyfriend kinda lost it and he’s trying to kill me.”
“Boyfriend? Are you gay?”
“Yes and no. I mean I’ve only been with a few girls.”
“That’s a whole lotta drama you got going on there.”
“I know, it’s kind of my life story. For some reason though, I just can’t bullshit you. You seem to see right through me. I mean, you knew I had no fucking money.”
“I guess, but I didn’t see through you enough to figure out that your one of them bisexual boys.”
“Look Esta, I am what I am, but for some reason I can’t really explain, you’ve completely got me going. Can you deal?”
Esta got up from the table and wiped a stray onion ring off her uniform. She looked over her shoulder at the cook who was returning her glance as if he might jump over the counter and kill her. Esta turned back to Vincent and mouthed the word yes as she took his hand, dragged him out of the booth and calmly walked him to the front door. Before they walked through it she turned back to the cook and returned his nasty look. No words were exchanged, just a mutual feeling of disgust and hatred that had obviously been brewing for quite some time. Then Esta and Vincent walked out of the diner, holding onto each other as if they had been together forever. A tall, superfine and strong black diva with her short angel faced trembling K head white fag boy. It was perfect.
Ray turned the pages of Vincent’s date book until he got to that day. There was only one appointment scheduled and it was for ten p.m. at a bar called La La Land on the West Side Highway below Fourteenth Street. He knew it well. Vincent had been meeting his dealer there for the past year and had once taken Ray on a run to the bar a few months ago.
Ray showered and got dressed, then wasted a few hours watching the boob. After Hard Copy he got up and left the room. As he passed the front desk, he noticed a young blonde tourist type checking in. He was also checking out Ray. Before Ray walked out the door he turned around and smiled at the boy, who returned his look, not quite attracted, but not repulsed either. He would have to pursue this new distraction later though, when he was through with Vincent.
Ray smiled to himself and bounced down the lime green carpeted steps and into the first cab that seemed to arrive the moment he hit the corner. After giving the driver directions and getting into a mini argument over the best way to go, which Ray won, he sat back and pulled out a cigarette. As he lit it and began to smoke, the driver cursed him from the front seat and insisted he put it out. Ray responded by sliding closed the plastic partition between them, pulled out his Walkman and turned the volume all the way up. New York was something he had learned how to ignore. If he hadn’t, he would have killed himself years ago. The city seemed to choke him with gigantic hands around his already frail throat. He was a victim of his own karma, if you believed in all that crap. He knew that with each person he fucked over, he sunk a little deeper into the black hole of his own screwed up shit that seemed to be consuming his life. Ray blew out a stream of smoke and as the wave of acrid fumes dissipated, so did his thoughts, straight into thin air. He looked out the window and lost himself in the street scene playing before him, preparing himself for La La Land and beyond.
Suzy and Sally had recuperated sufficiently to meet a bunch of their friends at a local hangout called The Lake. It wasn’t on a lake, nor remotely near water, but the tag stuck and after many years it’s customers stopped questioning the name and simply came to swill it’s cheap beer and generous shots. After a couple of hours, the girls had out-drank their friends and had mover their asses from the bar to a well-worn booth all the way in the back.
Suzy was sipping from a huge glass of dark, thick Guinness Stout, while Sally was throwing back so many shots of Stoli, she might as well have ordered a bottle. Between sips, Suzy would dial the apartment on Sally’s cell phone, only to keep getting a busy signal. For the past three hours. Things were not looking good.
“Maybe he took the phone off the hook to avoid Ray?” Sally offered, trying hard to sound sincere, but hardly coming off convincing.
“Vincent’s too obsessed with selling his K to take the fucking phone off the hook. I knew we should have sprung for a cell phone when we had the extra money,” snapped Suzy. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bite your head off Sally, but I just know something’s wrong.”
“That’s OK Suzy, I don’t feel good about it either. Do you have any idea what Vincent was going to do tonight?”
“He’s meeting his dealer to get one last stash. He was going to sell whatever he didn’t shove up his own nose so we’d have some money to relocate here.”
“Vincent is seriously fucked. He knows this guy is after his ass, yet all he can think about is his next high!” Sally downed her shot and got up from the booth and headed straight for the exit. Suzy attempted to give chase, but knocked over her glass of beer in the process. She stood frozen as the almost black Guinness spilled over the tips of shoes and slivers of broken glass crashed all over the floor around her.
“Sally! Sally!” Suzy screamed. Sally stopped and turned around, a look of amazement coming over her face. She raced back to Suzy and pulled her from the mess and out the door to the car.
“My hero,” Suzy whispered, half-joking.
“Shut the fuck up and put your thinking cap on,” Sally said as they hopped into the car. “Try to remember where Vincent meets his dealer.”
“Oh that’s easy,” Suzy said as she checked her lipstick in the rear view mirror and readjusted her bangs so they better showed off her eyes.
“Well where is it?”
Suzy broke away from her own reflection and turned to Sally just before she had lost all patience.
“We’re going to La La Land!”
Esta took Vincent back to her apartment where they immediately began to make love. Only one problem though, Vincent couldn’t keep it up. It started out OK, but once he got it in, it went limp as an overcooked noodle. After almost an hour of this frustration, they gave up. Vincent ordered some Chinese and Esta wandered around the apartment naked, muttering to herself that she “was gonna make a man of you yet, Mister Vincent.”
After the Chinese came and went, they took a shower and kissed each other under the steaming water while taking turn soaping each other up. They emerged looking like prunes and giggling like little kids. Vincent went into the bedroom to get dressed. As he slipped on his Levi’s, he turned his attention to Esta singing from the bathroom where she was putting on her make-up. She had a beautiful voice, almost like Roberta Flack, but deeper. She was singing “ooh- la-la-la, that’s the sound...” It was a Fugee’s song, Vincent’s favorite band, but it was reminding him of something else. It was nagging him, biting the back of his brain, teasing his temple. Then it came to him.
“La La Land! Fucking La La Land!”
Esta walked out of the bathroom clearly puzzled. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
“La La Land. I’ve got a very important meeting there at ten o’clock. What time is it Esta?”
Esta, still naked, sighed as she pulled a pair of panties from her dresser and pointed to a digital clock on top of the television. It blinked nine-thirty.
“Shit! Esta, hurry up and get dressed. We’ve gotta go and meet someone for a quick drink.”
“I don’t drink.”
“Well, I’ll order you a seltzer or something. Jeez! Just get fucking dressed, OK?”
“OK. What should I wear? Are we going someplace fancy?”
Vincent pulled his shirt on and tucked it into his jeans. He looked at Esta who was still debating her wardrobe choice as he reached for his knapsack.
“You could wear a mail sack for all I fucking care. Move it!”
“Yes mister man, whatever you say.”
La La Land was the kind of bar where anything could, would and usually did happen. The mix of patrons was eclectic to say the least. Creepy criminals mixed with modular models. Wall Street pinstripes slumming with Fourteenth Street scum. Bridge and tunnel trolls and Madison Avenue triumphs. Everyone just hung as one, sitting at crooked metal tables that surrounded the bar. A small stage sat all the way in the back, but hadn’t seen any action since some wannabe Warhol starlet was shot in the face during her one and only performance twenty years ago.
The place was lit like a mausoleum, with a distilled green glow oozing off a couple of colored bulbs haphazardly placed into a few light sockets sticking out of the ceiling. The bar was extremely long and curved at one end and it sat about forty people. When the joint got crowded, it could become three to four deep with customers vying for a drink, frustrated by the lucky few who had come early enough in the evening to claim their bar thrones.
At nine o’clock however, the crowd was usually sparse and the mood much less keyed up. When Ray arrived, there were a few neighborhood whores, or chicks with dick’s as he liked to call them, nursing beers that they took almost dainty swigs from. The tables were empty except for one in the back by the stage. It was occupied by a small guy in a dark burgundy colored sweat suit worn with a high collared white turtleneck underneath. He had on a powder blue Kangol cap, backwards and was smoking a stank ass cigar as he sipped a Martini from an oversized and pretentious looking glass.
He was listening to the jukebox, staring at it and tapping his fingers to the beat of a really bad Queen song that Ray only recognized by Freddie Mercury’s voice. He seemed distant and tuned out. High. It was Vincent’s dealer. Ray walked over to the bar and ordered a triple shot of Wild Turkey. After downing it in one smooth gulp, he looked for the men’s room, which was conveniently located on the left side of the stage, close to the dealer’s table.
He threw a ten down on the bar and headed for the crapper, sneaking a second glance at Mister Burgundy Warm Up Suit before walking into the john and locking himself into one of the two stalls. He pulled out a cigarette and settled back on the toilet seat until his head softly hit the wall. Ray was more than ready, but his timing must be perfect. He was prepared to wait, but not forever.
Vincent and Esta were sequestered in the back of a taxi that had gotten stuck in traffic on Fourteenth Street. It was ten of ten and Vincent was growing increasingly impatient. Esta was doing her best to soothe him, without much success. Once again, she was almost sitting on top of him, stroking his long silky hair and tenderly nibbling on his ear. It wasn’t that Vincent didn’t enjoying her sticky, spit slicked tongue popping in and out of his lobe, but if he didn’t get to the bar soon, his dealer Vermouth would leave instead of waiting for him. Just the very thought was freaking him the fuck out.
“Cut it out Esta,” Vincent said as he squirmed in his seat and poked his head out the window. “Give me a fucking break with this traffic already!”
He pulled his head back in and started yelling at the cabbie. “Can’t we get outta this fucking mess man? We’re gonna be late!”
The cabbie ignored him, but after a few more moments of unbearable stillness, the traffic began to move and Vincent settled back in his seat. He rested his head on Esta’s shoulder and pulled her hand up against his chest until she was pulling at his shirt and stroking his nipples till they were hard and erect. Esta got down on the cab floor between Vincent’s legs and started to lick his soft, white belly, slowly at first and then fast and slippery as a serpent. Vincent became aroused and freed his cock from his pants with one hand while the other grabbed Esta by the back of the head and forced her mouth down on it.
Esta took it hungrily at first, then slowed down until the effect was more than he could tolerate. He tried to pull her off him, but she clamped down like the Jaws of Life and sucked him until he came in her mouth with a quiet roar. When it was over, Esta pulled herself back up and started to reapply her lipstick as Vincent sunk low in his seat and casually shoved his cock back into his pants. He pulled out his wallet, located a tiny bag of K and dumped a tiny mound on his clenched fist. He snorted it in a way that made Esta cringe with curiosity and put away her lipstick.
“Give me one,” Esta asked, almost sarcastically.
“A bump. A line. A snort.”
“No. You’ve never done K before. You’ll flip the fuck out and besides, we’re almost there,” answered Vincent as took another toot. This one caused him to giggle out loud and shake his head a bit.
“I wanna bump, you little faggot!”
“I’m not a faggot and the answer is still no!”
“Just because you shot a load down my throat doesn’t mean you’re not a faggot. It’s just a lot easier for you to get it up for a blowjob than it is for some pussy. I’m feeling reckless and just because I’ve preached to you about the dangers of drugs, doesn’t mean I’ve never tried them. I’ve smoked pot a few times, so I know what getting high is like.”
“Well you’ve never been high on K before and it’s a hella lot different than pot!”
“Give me some of that shit so I can understand what the attraction for you is or I’m getting out of this cab.”
“No,” whispered Vincent, but it was too late. Esta grabbed the bag out of his hands and poured a mini mountain of K onto her fist. She raised it up to her nose and snorted it all at once in one fitful toot. She rubbed her shnoz as Vincent just stared at her in astonishment, wondering when the stuff was going to hit her. He had only had a bit and he was already flying like a fucking kite. Esta had done way more than him and it was also her first time, so he had no idea how fucked up she would get. He would have to wait for an answer though, for the cab had just pulled up to La La Land. Vincent paid for the cab with a few bills that Esta happily pulled from her purse and the two of them exited the car.
Vincent kept looking at Esta as if she were about to explode.
“What the fuck are you looking at?”
“You! I can’t believe you’re not like tripping out and shit.”
“Why? Are you?”
“Oh yes, most definitely. Certainly, not maybe, but yes!”
“Child, you are making absolutely no sense. Are you high or not?”
“Yes Esta. I am very high.”
They both started laughing and Esta opened the door to the bar. They walked in and Vincent led them to a table in the back. Vincent spotted his connection and called his name.
“Vincent!” Vermouth answered, his voice tinged with happiness and a bit too many Martini’s. They exchanged hugs and Vincent introduced Esta whom was still showing no signs of being high. They sat down and pulled their chairs close to Vermouth, but Vincent sensed something was wrong with his old friend.
“What’s up Vermouth, you look like something’s wrong.”
“Something. Maybe nothing,” said Vermouth. “But earlier, a very strung out came in here and was obviously checking me out. Then he went to the bathroom.”
“So what? He had to take a wiz,” Esta said, a bit of sarcasm dripping from her voice.
“So he never came out. He’s been in there for thirty minutes. Either he’s got a bad case of the shits or...”
“Or he’s waiting for someone,” said Vincent, finishing Vermouth’s sentence and quickly succumbing to the fear he had managed to hide all evening. In his heart, he knew who was in the bathroom. His face turned white and his knees began to tremble so violently the table started to shake. Esta looked at him and then placed her hands on his knees to steady them.
“Vincent, what the hell kinda shit is going on here? Are you scared of something?” Esta put her arm around him, but Vincent hardly found it soothing.
“Esta, I’ll explain it to you later. But first, we’ve gotta get the fuck out of here.” Vincent took a sip of Vermouth’s Martini and asked the question he had been dreading all day.
“So Vermouth, you got the stuff?”
Vermouth pulled a felt Crown Royal satchel from his pocket and handed it to Vincent who shoved it in the crotch of his pants.
“So you got something for me Vincent?”
Vincent crossed his fingers under the table and answered Vermouth.
“I will after I move this stuff. I’m a bit short till then.”
“Yeah, like broke and short,” laughed Esta, suddenly feeling a bit strange.
“Come on Vincent, it’s always the same old shit with you. Listen, this is the last time I front you. I don’t have the time for your bullshit lines anymore.”
Vincent smiled at Vermouth and thought to himself, “yeah, if you only knew how last time it really is.” He had no intention of ever paying Vermouth. By tomorrow he’d be in Woodstock and no one would ever find him.
“Vermouth, as always, a pleasure,” Vincent said as he looked at Esta and realized she was grinning ear to ear.
“Don’t mention it. Just don’t fuck me, OK Vincent? Oh yeah, Esta?”
“It was a pleasure meeting you. Just make sure you keep an eye on your boy here.”
Esta just looked at Vermouth confused and laughed her ass off. She must be high, Vincent thought, then the three of them got up and made their way towards the door. Vincent kept looking back to make sure no one had come out of the bathroom. Suddenly the front door opened, surprising and stopping them in their tracks. Then the sound of two girls yacking broke them from their temporary spell. Vincent couldn’t believe his eyes. It was Suzy and Sally.
Nobody noticed the men’s room door open and Ray creep out. Just as everyone was hugging each other and making introductions, he snuck right up next to them and tapped Vincent on the shoulder.
“Vincent!” yelled Ray.
Vincent froze. He didn’t need to look and see who it was.
“Hi Vincent, how are ya?” Ray taunted, spreading his legs wide and reaching into the deep pockets of his work-suit.
“Ray, this has to stop. What the fuck do you want from me?” Vincent pushed a visibly agitated Esta behind him, all the while looking Ray straight in the eye, trying to guess his next move. Suzy and Sally moved behind him as well, but Ray ignored them, focusing solely on Vincent.
“You know what I want,” said Ray as he pulled out a gun and took aim at Vincent’s face. This really annoyed Esta. Something was tickling the inside of her brain and she began to realize what it was. The K was starting to kick in big time and it was having the strangest effect on her. She noticed that with Vincent it seemed to immobilize him, turning him into a lethargic jelly- roll, but that wasn’t happening to her. Instead, Esta felt every nerve in her body spring to life and her blood seemed to be jetting through her veins at the speed of light. Her toenails tingled and her fingertips burned. Her eyes weighed a ton and her head felt like it might erupt like a volcano.
Ray had taken another step closer to Vincent and was pressing the gun to his temple.
“If anybody makes even the slightest move, Vincent’s head is gonna end up as wallpaper,” chuckled Ray, his body shaking with laughter as he rubbed the gun roughly against Vincent’s forehead.
Esta was beginning to shake uncontrollably her-self and the sight of this trigger happy freaked out troll humping Vincent’s puss with his pistol was sending her into a bigger frenzy than the K hole she was about to slip into. Just as she was about to explode the stillness of the room was broken by a girl’s voice piercing the sound barrier and breaking Vincent and Rays staring contest. It was Suzy and before anyone could do something, she lunged at Ray like a caged tiger attacking an annoying visitor at the zoo.
“Suzy,” screamed Vincent, just as Esta sprung into action as well and shoved Vincent roughly aside. She grabbed for the shaft of Ray’s gun with both hands as Suzy landed on top of him, pulling his hair with one hand as the other smacked him fiercely in the face. Sally joined in the fray, madly groping for his legs and then twisting them like a pretzel until Ray, already unsteady from the weight of Suzy on top of him, toppled over, losing his grip on the gun in the process. With a deafening bang the gun went off and for a split second, everyone in the room thought they were dead.
Esta was the first up. After looking at her stomach for a few seconds and realizing, much to her relief, that there was no bullet-hole, she looked down at Ray and noticed he was reaching for the gun that had fallen between Suzy and Sally who were eerily still. Esta took a step towards Ray and kicked him hard in the face, knocking him for a loop as if she was a new member of the X-Men. One of the still girls began to move and reached for the gun next to her.
It was Sally. She picked it up and took aim at Ray as Esta dropped down besides Suzy and rolled her over. Blood seemed to spill everywhere, her face having received the full impact of the blast. Vincent was now standing as well, hovering near the carnage, but still too afraid of Ray to get close.
“Suzy! Oh my fucking God, Suzy!” Vincent was screaming and Ray began to laugh again, further infuriating Esta. She kicked him again, but as she went to do it again, he grabbed hold of her leg and flipped her over.
“Don’t move Ray or I’ll shoot you! I swear to fucking God I will shoot you dead.” Sally was sobbing and not exactly holding the gun steady. Ray got up and started to walk towards her. Esta had landed against a wall and was in the process of getting back up, when a hand appeared out of nowhere to help her. It was Vermouth and he was holding a gun of his own. Esta grabbed it from him, but Vermouth didn’t put up a struggle. Instead he smiled as Esta bolted towards Ray.
Everything happened so quickly, it almost seemed as if it wasn’t happening. Ray went to grab the gun out of Sally’s grip and they both fumbled with it until Ray finally took back possession. He got off a shot, but it missed Sally, lodging in a trannie at the bar instead. Esta leaped at him like a jackrabbit till she was directly behind him, practically shoving Vermouth’s gun up his ass.
“What the fuck,” Ray seethed, but it was too late. Esta’s gun first blew into his butt and sent him spiraling across the floor, colliding briefly with Sally who simply brushed him aside. The second shot hit him in the back of the head and pretty much finished him off. The third shot surprised everyone however, so Sally, Esta and Vermouth looked to see who was shooting now. It was Vincent. He had picked up Ray’s gun and was standing over his body, pointing the gun straight at his head. Without speaking he pumped the last bullets into Ray’s lifeless body until there were none left and the sound of police sirens could be heard approaching from outside. He dropped the gun and walked back over to Suzy, collapsing upon her and trying to hug her back to life.
“He’s dead Suzy...he’s dead,” Vincent cried. “He’ll never hurt us again.”
Sally and Esta were both crying and hugging each other at the same time, while Vermouth made his way to the bar.
“What does a guy gotta do to get a drink around here?” he mumbled as the police burst in and another round of chaos ensued, a moment none of them would ever forget, but always wished they could.
Vincent got busted for the K he was stashing in his crotch. The police held him for a few days, but when the press got hold of the story and Esta and Sally milked it, Vincent was released and the charges dropped. He was flat broke and Esta didn’t really have much herself, but Sally told them to get their shit together and drive back to Woodstock with her. She’d support them till they got back on their feet on one condition. Vincent had to go to rehab and then AA. If he did anything, drug or drink wise, Sally would toss him out on his ass and Esta backed her up. For the first time in his life, Vincent would have to rely on something besides getting high to get through the day.
It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t hard. It just was. After a few months in rehab, he returned to Sally’s house in Woodstock where the girls gave him a heroes welcome. Esta had gotten a waitress job in town and Sally had opened her own beauty parlor in the basement of the house. Vincent had picked up some skills in rehab and started working as a mason during the day, while he started writing a book at night. The bond between the three of them grew stronger each day they lived together and Vincent found himself missing Suzy less and less.
They had buried her in the woods behind the house, close to Crystal Lake in an unmarked grave and Vincent often found himself drawn there. Sometimes he would talk to the trees, imagining she was there. Other times he would just sit by the lake and cry. One day, he found himself being called to Suzy’s grave, but this time he didn’t want to go alone.
He woke Esta up from a nap and dragged Sally away from a perm that shouldn’t have been performed in the first place. He led the three of them into the woods and stopped once they got to the spot that was only identifiable because it was surrounded by five young trees that they had planted in honor of Suzy. They stood silently for a moment, until Vincent let out a shriek of laughter that caught like wildfire to the girls, forcing them to smile even though there were tears streaming down their faces. Vincent pulled them close and the three of them shared a hug for along time. As the sun began to set and the crickets started their nightly serenade, they walked back towards the house holding hands, comfortable for the first time in a long while that everything was actually going to be alright.