Artwork by Joy Garnett
Photographs by Gary Indiana
—The fat whore is out there, Ray said. —The fat one and the skinny one wearing platform heels. And their pimps are on the corner. This is such a strange neighborhood to have whores in it.—We are right near the center.
—I hadn't thought of that.
—They can't go any closer to the center. They aren't like high class prostitutes.
—Last night, a lanky guy, I couldn't believe, he was fucking one of the skinny ones right on the street for anyone to see, up against that little place I buy coffee sometimes. The car lubrication place. She just lifted her skirt and he unzipped his pants and pulled it out and put it in her cunt, just like that. I mean I didn't see the actual...parts, Ray gestured at the empty room for no reason, it's too far away, then they would be like stuck together a little while, he fondled her tits, I did see a tit come out of her top, but then he would break away and walk across that little divider–
—They are not high class whores. What is lanky?
—Lanky is like, skinny in an attractive way. I don't think I've ever seen that. They were right under a light, they didn't even go into the shadows anywhere.
—That's how we do in Romania.
—I wouldn't do that, Ray laughed.
—Nor me, Eugene said. –The guy was maybe drunk.
—He was. He couldn't walk straight, he kept weaving around and changing his mind. He would walk away from her but then go back and fuck her a little more. He was like a bee drawn to honey.
—That is how they do here.
—Not everybody, surely.
—He wanted more of the honey, Eugene said. –This is how they do.
—I wouldn't do that, Ray said again. Are they gypsies?
—No, Eugene said. –Not gypsies, low class Romanians. Maybe you would do it if you were drunk.
—I might if I was drunk, Ray allowed. –I probably have done it when I was drunk but not under a street light. There's three guys out there now. Standing on that kind of little island, the fat whore is in front of that motorcycle you can win as a prize or something. What is that, anyway?
—How did you get the phone all the way over to the window?
—I called you on my cell phone, not the room phone. Oh, now the police are down there. The skinny pimp is going over to talk to them.
—They have to pay them.
—They're laughing. You're so handsome, Eugene. If you really don't know what you want to do you should try to be an actor.
—When I was younger two teams wanted to buy me to play soccer. That was my dream, to be the best soccer player. But then my family didn't want it, my mother wanted me to finish school.
—What do you mean, 'when I was younger'? You're only 32.
—I'm not 32, I'm 22.
—Oh! I heard 32, when you said that I wondered what your secret was–
—I look older than I am.
—No, you don't, actually I thought you looked 22. So when you said you were 32—
—I didn't though.
—Now a blond whore with a pony tail I didn't see before just got out of a white car, like an official car—they pulled up right under the window, she has to walk all the way back down there.
—Maybe she wanted them to think she was staying here.
—I don't think so. The car was still there when she started walking away from the hotel. I'm serious, Eugene, why don't you take an acting class–
—In Romania it isn't possible, all the famous actors here are poor–
—But you could marry well, if you were famous—
—I would never. I would never get married and have children and I would never marry so that somebody takes care of me—
—That's the only reason people do get married, Eugene.
—I have principles. I am old fashioned. I want to be the man, and make a nice life for a woman.
—You don't have to be old fashioned. If you were a movie star, you wouldn't be poor. Why does it have to be a woman, you can make me happy in my old age if you like. Become a movie star first, if you don't mind.
—Maybe in old films, that I didn't have to talk. My English is terrible. I have a thick accent.
—Now just the one skinny pimp is out there.
—No, those guys are not pimps, the fat whore we think is in charge of all the girls, the men, it's their boyfriends, who come and stay with them while they work. The fat whore, she is something, you would not mess with her. You say mess?
—I think the one who was fucking the skinny one in the street is staying in that other hotel.
—That isn't a good hotel. Not like this hotel. They have a glass door on the bathrooms, it isn't nice there.
—I think he is staying there. Or was staying there, because I think he was with two of his friends, and when he met up with the whore and started doing stuff with the whore these two guys went over to the hotel entrance and sat there smoking cigarettes, for like an hour.
—They were probably Italians.
—God, Eugene, just because one them fucks a whore in full view of traffic doesn't make them Italians.
—But I admire Italians, I want to be like the Mafia.
—They're not all in the Mafia, either. But tell me, do you think one of the pimp boyfriends would fuck me if I paid him?
—He probably would do it. I can tell you like the, what did you call the Italian? Lunky?
—Lanky, the pimp is lanky also. He looks sexy from here but his face could be a mess of knife scars for all I can tell.
—He would fuck you maybe. But I told you, they aren't pimps. Anyway I couldn't let him into the hotel.
—Really Eugene how much damage do you think one of those guys could do in an hour?
—If you think he would fuck you for an hour, you are more of an optimist than you pretend.
—Don't you get very bored down there at the desk?
—No, the door is locked, I go down to the basement and play video games.
—You should read a book about acting.
—I have only ever read two books in my life. One I liked very much, 'The Catcher in the Rye.'
—Eugene, that's the book that every maniac in America has in his back pocket–
—You think I'm a maniac? I like the story of that guy, I would like to have the life he had.
—He was totally alienated, did you actually read it? Mark David Chapman was reading 'Catcher in the Rye.'
—Who is that? I would like to live in New York like the catcher in the rye did.
—And some old English teacher can feel you up while you're sleeping, is that it? What time is it?
—It's 3:20. You never sleep. I know because I hear you moving around. Maybe you sleep in the afternoon?
—Sometimes I do. I might actually be sleeping when you hear me. I talk in my sleep and I thrash around, all over the bed. What was the other book?
—It's by a Romanian guy who moved to New York and had a whole new life.
—A work of fiction obviously. I don't know. If you want to go there, go. You're only 22, if it doesn't work at least you won't be 50 saying Shit I should have moved to New York. But Eugene, you will have to break with your family.
—I know that. I know. They know they made a mistake though, with the soccer. But I have two questions for you. If you were deciding between two cities which would it be, New York or Los Angeles?
—Oh, Los Angeles. No question.
—Because...New York is a vertical city. Los Angeles is horizontal. You can be more—
—Maybe more relaxed. Even if you're boxed into something, you can get in the car and go have a whole different life for a while a few miles away, you can't do that in New York.
—And the other question I have, do you think 9/11 was a conspiracy?
Ray heard himself tell Eugene that yes, he did think 9/11 was a conspiracy, maybe not an organized conspiracy, but a conspiracy of indifference all the same. He had not really given it a thought until now, and was himself surprised at what he said. He thought: they had all these warnings. All through the whole summer just before. Something big, the warnings said. Well, logically, unless it was a nuclear explosion, what would qualify as big?
He watched the fat whore waddle up to a dark blue sedan and speak to someone in the passenger seat. I could make a move, he thought, with Eugene. And Eugene would go for it or not, but he wouldn't be freaked out and it would be fine either way. And I won't. Because I won't follow through, I'll forget him the way I forget everything.
—I like you so much, he almost groaned.
—I have to try to sleep, I think.
—You should try. The whores will be out there tomorrow night like always. Close your eyes, that's the first thing.
—Think how much better you would feel, if you were rested.
—Someone nice is kissing your eyes when they're closed.
—Like those fish they have—
—Maybe like little fish. Just touching, like clothing on your skin.
—No. Not a big fish full of teeth. Tiny fish that only want to kiss.
—I love you, Eugene.
—Thank you. I will wake you for breakfast at 7:30.