Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 126 in 2011.
I'm smoking outside with Jack. We’re at the Bank, oh sorry, we’re at Element. Jack’s in drag as Sabrina looking like a cross between Andy Warhol and Tina Turner. I’m wearing my red Girl Scout hat, a pair of ripped jeans I stole from Jenna long ago, which I’ve pulled up to my knees, a pair of tube socks with holes I poked into them earlier, my Converse, and a tie. I feel the warm wind on my body; the boys keep checking me out. We’re smoking outside because it’s illegal to smoke inside. “This bullshit makes me feel like I’m a child,” I say to Jack as we move from the basement bend through the crowded dance floor above.
“Well, honey, that’s exactly parental government.”
Parental government and the blaring bright intrusive eye.
Twenty-four hour patrolled people.
“Moth—er, oh my god!” Two pretty, tall girls walk up to us. “Trannie realness. Mother, you are the trannie realness,” one of them, the darker one, says.
Then she looks over and says, “Who is this?” moving close to me.
“This,” Jack says, “is _______________*.”
“Hello, beautiful. I’m your Epiphany,” she says.
She puts her arm around my neck, and my head ends up level to her breasts.
(My Epiphany tells me that she’s on heroin and a little Methadone.)
“Nice,” I say. “Heroin is fun.”
“Yeah, but it’s the Methadone that really feels good,” she says.
“I’ll bet. Well, you’re set for the night, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, on what?”
I feel something on my ass. It’s the hand of my Epiphany.
Some guy comes up to me, starts chatting me up, tries to steal me away from my Epiphany, tells me, “I’m (crackle, crackle, crackle),” like it’s supposed to mean something.
His eyelids are collapsing slowly. He keeps trying to keep them open. Open and shut, the lips of a pulsating pussy.
My Epiphany says, “I just want my lipstick all over that ass of yours.”
I take a drag and smile.
Jack has gotten on top of a car (cue static) and is dancing to a music from some faraway place. (Cue music. Play static.) Some guy in sunglasses walks up to Jack. Snippets of the conversation hit my ear like broken glass falling from the sky, as I watch the guy—street level—and Jack—on top of the car still dancing—speak mutely. They seem to know each other from “the Max’s Kansas City days.” (Stop static. Stop dancing Jack. Play music very low. Play static very low.)
Suddenly, Johnny, gets the feeling, he’s being surrounded by, ---ses, ---ses, ---ses, ---ses.
“Sure isn’t the Bank no more,” says Guy-in-Sunglasses—(coke alert coke red!)—looking at the building.
Jack takes a moment, then looking up at the downtown sky: “First time’s a tragedy, second time’s a farce.”
(Loud laughter from some unseen elsewhere. Cue-and-play-thunder-and-cue-and-play-crash. Stop static. Play music at full volume): “Horses, Horses, Horses, HORSES, HORSES, HORSES, HORSES, HORSES….”
Somewhere in my life I’m falling.
There’s a little place….
A place called space…
It’s a pretty little place….
I am falling….
It’s across the tracks, across the tracks….
A Polish boy is hanging on the other pretty girl, Acid Betty. I begin to try to get the Polish boy to take out his cock. My Epiphany joins in. The Polish boy is a pretty boy—skinny, nice straight brown hair cutting across his forehead. I begin to imagine him prone on an unknown bed. His jeans are pulled down to the back of his knees, and his white ass jerks around under the ceiling light of a New York City apartment. His face is buried deep in Acid Betty’s crotch. Her skirts rest on her torso. She watches him coolly from a higher vantage point as he gorges himself on her cock.
“This kid looks like he’d take a good fucking up that little ass of his,” (crackle, crackle, crackle) says, putting his hand on the Pole’s ass, hardly able to stand.
My Epiphany tells him to shut up.
“Who’s (crackle, crackle, crackle)?” I ask Epiphany. “He seems like a fucking prick.”
She smiles, looking his way. “He is, but he’s also this big time photographer, and he’s good for some things.”
“Yeah,” I say, “like what?”
She looks down at me. “They don’t just give Methadone out for free on the streets.”
I point to the Polish boy—
“That boy’s in love with your friend.”
“Yeah, well, she’s a good girl, and she’ll definitely teach him a thing or two.”
“I wonder what his cock looks like.”
“I don’t really care about cock,” Epiphany says. “Once you’ve seen a couple, you’ve seen ’em all.”
“Yeah, and once you’ve sucked a hundred you’ve sucked them all.”
“Oh, is that how it is?” she asks. “I wouldn’t know.”
“I’m sure you wouldn’t.”
She stares at me for a moment.
“So what do you do?” my Epiphany asks.
“What do I do?”
“Yeah, in New York.”
“Well, I write.”
“Really, what, like stories or novels...?
“No, nothing like that. It’s kind of like graffiti on paper.”
“Sort of, but…”
“So you write graffiti?”
“Yeah, but not the way you think. I guess I call it graffiti because just like graffiti, it’s raw and true.... kind of like a loud yell, that only some people can hear.... I don’t know.”
“I guess that makes sense.”
“How do you make money? Are you a trust fund baby?— ’cause then I lucked out.”
I laugh. “Far from it. Right now I’m waiting tables, but I’m quitting.”
“So you’re a waiter,” concludes my Epiphany.
I stop for a moment and look around me. This lost nocturnal menagerie; these living ones attempting life. Now, my identity out, I feel like Clark Kent. I get sick for a moment, the days shadowing down on me. I think about running around that restaurant and sneaking peeks at the clock, hungover, depressed, worrying about drops of noseblood hitting bowls of soup as I place them on the table. I think about all those people traveling through, and me trapped here, another twenty-something-restaurant-statistic; and even though I’m standing above them, somehow, in my mind, I’m always on my hands and knees. Waiters are just legal whores.
I think about all those times I just stopped in the middle of the floor wanting to quit, no longer able to take it, and what kept me going? The call. The call to my dealer at the end of the night. I remember standing there, waiting for a bunch of losers to decide on which one they’re going to put down their throats.
“What do you think is better…?”
Who knows, who cares? It all ends up as shit, lady.
“Oh, that. That’s much better.”
9:03. Five more hours, and then the coke reward. Break your teeth eating the rocks, and get to the surprise toy at the bottom of the crackerjack box. Tonight, I made two hundred dollars, already spent one-fifty on coke. I hate my job, but I love the pretense of myself; cocaine helps me get there.
I wonder how common it is, this dilemma/excuse. You can’t be Superman without paying the price of being Clark Kent. “How do I buy the outfits,” “how do I keep my body hot,” “how do I get cigarettes and take cabs,” and “how do I get that coke,” that thing on whose rails I can ride into the lone phone booth in the secret corners, the only phone booth where you can become a superhero. I need the money.
She’s smiling. “You do a good job pretending. I thought you were some rich kid, but you’re just like the rest of us.” She pauses. “You’re just another whore.”
I look at her. She’s unraveled into the strokes and colors of my revulsion.
She blows a smoke-ring toward E HOUSTON ST.
“I told you I was your Epiphany.”
Copyright 2007, 2010, 2011 by Rami Shamir