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Cement and rollercoaster-sky trading places, flipping views, the massive shockwave ripping through the rain and there like definitely wasn’t time to duck or hide or pray or nothing as shop windows shattered, car alarms squealed like soon-to-be slaughtered cattle, and my superlong legs were violently swept up into a totally embarrassing V for vertigo headstand . . . All the kinky city lights swapping dominant top for submissive bottom. All you shameless voyeurs out there sneaking a dirtier than dirty peek at the worn-through soles of my worn-out sneakers without even asking or giving me candy or chocolate or sunflowers or one Sacagawea dollar or like nothing nothing nothing! . . . Ouch. Double ouch. Flat on my back and spread eagle, my button nose bleeding, a stream of humiliating raindrops giggling down my chinny chin chin I closed my owl eyes and like definitely didn’t put up a fight when that very familiar trail of plastic bags coiled itself like a psychedelic anaconda round and round my neck then quickly quickly reeled me away from the horrible scene of the horrible accident—florescent pebbles tearing into my favorite sweater and scraping the bluewhite stripes down to a road rash-red, my canvas tote bag hurrying after me and like actually trying its very best to catch up but I didn’t give one flying fuck if it did or didn’t because all I could think of was like why did she have to go and do it! Like why-oh-why did she have to go and cheat on him! Like why did she have to go and stab him in the back like that! Like why why why did she have to go and ruin our housewarming party! . . . A sidewalk crack broke my back, a Jew-baiting curb stomped my dizzier than dizzy head in, and I like definitely thought I heard my jaw pop, my neck snap, my human heart lose a beat or two or three . . . The big black night sitting on my face. The big black night sitting on my face and farting, farting twice while some supercute, superstubborn part of me held on tighter than tight to the end of the line . . . An ultraviolent tug on the other end. Two or three ultraviolent tugs on the other end and then my one and only lifeline went as limp as Peter’s pouty dick used to get after our nightly vial of pure Columbian cocaine . . . I gasped, I opened my bat eyes and groaned as five condom-fingers wiggled themselves up my runny, my bloody nostrils. The latex gloves brutally lifting Zoe to her useless feet . . . Ugh, where was I? I like definitely didn’t recognize the skyline or the asphalt. There were way too many projects, way too many potholes. I turned and tried my very best to free myself from this vice of smelly bodies pressing in on my personal space. But before I could like even take half a step in the right direction someone’s bastard shadow grunted and elbowed me forward without an apology or a kiss-kiss or a hug or a nothing! Too tired, too weak to look for a different way out, my chipped teeth chattering, my dizzy head bent low to avoid any freezing shrapnel from the ego-piercing shells still blitzing the Island Kingdom I picked a redgreen booger out of my swollen nose and hugged my bloated self, then shuffle-a-shuffled forward and like definitely didn’t look up when a tiny wet ticket was shoved into my shaking, my Ashkenazi hands. Because just like my great-grandparents before me all I could do was not believe as I was brutally prodded and kicked and herded up a ramp and up into some kinda shed or furnace or shower room . . . Oh if only there’d been time for one last orgasm. I pinky swear I’d go smiling to the scaffold after one more, just one more, really nice, really rough fuck . . . All my inherited fears melting away the second I focused on the radiant girl hovering in the doorway up ahead. Waving me out of the colder than cold rain with a shadow-parting smile . . . I sneezed. I sneezed twice and stepped inside the warmer than warm light . . .
Brushing back her bangs the supercute twentysomething smoothed out all the wrinkles in her hospital-white smock and tenderly pulled the tiny ticket out of my rigor mortis grip. Then she pushed back her glasses and handed Zoe a plastic tray piled high with steaming colors, steaming smells. Too numb, too hungry to understand I held the tray tight to my shivering chest and took my place at the end of the muttering caterpillar creep-a-creeping through the kitchen. Creep-a-creeping into the church . . .
Oh boy, oh jeez, I like definitely couldn’t remember the last time I’d been in a real church. I mean we like never even went to temple growing up so it must have like definitely been on some really fun trip to Europe or something when Daddy took me to see all the amazing medieval architecture. All the cool crucifixes. (Mrs. Miriam Dreamstein was probably sunbathing at the hotel.) But like apart from the stained glass windows and the crosses, this church sure as fuck didn’t look like any church I’d ever been in. Not even close. I mean there like weren’t any pews or booths to sit in. There was just an open space with a bunch of picnic tables crammed in tight between the supporting pillars and the wooden altar up front. On top of which, sadly, instead of the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail or the head of Saint Catherine of Siena or the sword of Ali or some other really awesome relic, a bulky TV with a forklike antenna was buzz-a-buzzing the local news . . . More than a little disappointed I swiveled my dizzy head round and round but since I couldn’t see my harpy tour guide anywhere I swallowed my shyness and plopped my scarecrow self down in the first empty seat I could find, sneaking a quicker than quick peek at my new playmates . . . Sitting straight across from me, a bleach-blonde street urchin who must have like definitely thought he was Slim Shady had already cleared his tray and was stuffing his mouth full of yummy-yummy M&M’s. To his left, a middle-aged black mime with magenta tears painted on his powdered face was feeding his invisible baby with his lemon lips and winking at the elderly Indian couple sitting nervously on the other side of the table. I blinked. I blinked twice because I could have like totally sworn on my ancestors’ mass grave at Chelmno that I had seen this couple before. What with their toothless craters in their copper death masks. What with their skeleton claws poking out from underneath their camelhair trenchcoats . . . But it like definitely must have been in a past life. Or in a galaxy far, far away . . . Ears and nose and prefrontal cortex twitching I pulled a slightly bent spoon out of its napkin cocoon and took a really suspicious bite of the macaroni, the cheese. It was warm. It was really nice and warm . . . I sampled the carrots, the broccoli, the canned peaches and buttered pumpernickel bread. Chewing, moaning, chewing I ate and swiveled my head round and round. There must have been at least thirty or so other tables. Each table packed tight with the citizens of that other NYC. That scrotum city colonized at some point in underworld time by jailbird humanoids, disabled vets, expat gauchos and laid-off mystics of all ages, all races. I took another bite of the macaroni, the cheese, and watched what obviously had to be a volunteer twirl from table to table with a pitcher of water. Like a gardening dervish or a Red Cross hostess. Refilling empty glasses and smiling genuine smiles . . . I took another bite of the macaroni, the cheese, and wondered what my really successful, really Polish parents would think if they I knew I was sitting in a church right now. At a soup kitchen. And if they knew I like definitely wasn’t volunteering . . . Would they call 911? Would they fly in from Florida? Drive down from the suburbs? No. Zoe shook her dizzy head no—no way. Because they’d like probably just frown and say it was another one of my “phases” or whatever. That I’d like obviously get over this one too . . . I gulped. I stared across the crowded cafeteria at the supercute girl with glasses and black bangs. I watched her lean against one of the stained glass windows. Watched her talk and laugh with another volunteer. A hot goofy guy wearing an extra-large denim apron and a camouflage patterned bowtie . . . I gulped, I stared, and they must have like obviously felt my very hungry gaze because they both turned and slowly, slowly smiled a sympathetic smile at little ol’ Zoe. I blushed as something squeezed itself into my bloated core—like right below my bellybutton. I took my last bite of the nice macaroni, the warm cheese, and thought that I sure as fuck didn’t wanna ever go back to that smoggy spectacle up there. No way. I closed my black cat eyes. I laid my dizzy head down on the sticky tray and tried my very best to remember my sunny suburban childhood. When this whole thing seemed so much, clearer . . .
A TV buzzed in the corner of my lavender reminiscences. A local news report droning on and on about the record-breaking opening weekend of some hit sci-fi movie or other . . .
A couple hundred million dollars later, a couple Oscars later I heard a honeysuckle voice whisper in my left ear. “I’m really sorry. But you have to go now.”
I blinked. I blinked twice. “Wha-wha-whaaat?” lifting my dizzy head off the tray, the supercute girl leaning over the table, her square-framed glasses resting on the adorable tip of her adorable little nose.
The volunteer brushed back her bangs. Smiled. “I know, I’m sorry. It’s just that we’re closing now. You can come back tomorrow though.”
Seriously confused and seriously about to scream I swiveled my dizzy head round and round but there definitely wasn’t anything to see. My table was like totally empty. Almost all the picnic tables were like totally empty and were being folded then carted off by two or three burly men in plain white overalls . . .
I started to cry and shake. I stuttered— “Oh, I, di, di, didn’t, kno— ”
“Shh, don’t worry about it,” hushing Zoe with a neck and shoulder massage. “Now if there’s anything specific that we can do for you, just let us know.” The girl smiled and pointed an supercute finger (candy apple nail polish) at the only table left in the ecclesiastical café. Zoe had to blink and squint to read the cardboard signs offering free legal advice, free substance abuse treatment, free sexual assault counseling and free job-hunt assistance.
“We’re here to help you,” honeysuckle whispers in my ear. “All you have to do is ask. Just ask.”
The nicer than nice words racking my body like some sort of exorcism or epileptic fit I held my breath and thought really hard about going over there. Because I mean we’d probably have a lot to talk about. Like all things considered or what not . . . But then the bone-cracking convulsions and the facial tics ebbed away like they always did so I just wiped the froth off my mouth and shook my stubborn head no.
The cute girl smiling a sympathetic smile and twirling off toward the wooden altar, the hot goofy guy waiting for her with a purplegreen wine bottle in his hot goofy hands . . . Blushing and wobbling to my feet I bussed my tray then dragged my superlong legs toward the heavy church doors. Pausing on my way out to read the black and white flyers taped above the mahogany gates . . . Missing persons. Missing lives. I squinted and scanned the blurry blobs for any sign of the legendary Giacomo Jones. Of my Giacomo Jones . . . But I like definitely couldn’t find him anywhere and I sure as fuck didn’t know if that was a supergood or a superbad thing . . . Licking the cheese off my lips, holding my tote bag close to my shivering chest I blew a kiss up at the blurry blobs, mumbled my goodbyes, then led Zoe out for one last splash . . .
Sirens were wailing a little ways down 9th Avenue, and except for a few hooded shadows huddled up underneath a creaky fire escape, smoking a menthol cigarette or a spliff or a crack pipe or something, I was like pretty much the only living creature still out—tonight? Ugh I like definitely didn’t know what time or day or life it was. I like definitely didn’t know anything. My bloated core still reeling with hungry snakes I lowered my dizzy head and waded through this really dark, really scary quagmire, my bearings totally jumbled by the grayblack city, by this thicker than thick fog of war . . . Cars and trucks rowing past me. Flooding Zoe with their headlights as we all floated down this stupefyingly long hangover together . . . Cliffs of misinterpretation crumbling on all sides. Masochistic whirlpools behind and in front . . . As we all floated down this self-signifying drain which just kept on going and going and going and going and going and going and going and—NO! Stop. This all seriously had to stop. Like right now! I gritted my chipped teeth, I pulled harder than hard at that same knot of nasty hair and hauled my superlong legs out of the choppy, the nowhere-bound current . . .
Way beyond good and evil or whatever I splashed my exhausted self into the nearest alley tunnel and slumped back against a bubbling dumpster. Letting my swollen knees break me down to the grimy pavement so that this interstellar storm could just hurry up and finish drowning my Hollywood dreams. Because my truelove rom-com was like all just one big blur now. There were just way too many puzzle pieces missing. Plus I seriously didn’t even know if it still qualified as a rom-com or not. I just hoped. I just really really hoped it wasn’t an urban documentary or anything horribly horrible like that . . . But either way it was obviously never ever going to get finished. And obviously Zoe was never ever going to get ridiculously famous, ridiculously rich. Never ever going to celebrate my directorial debut by popping bottles of Dom Pérignon with all the heartthrob actors, with all the fast-talking producers, with all my fans. Because it’d just be another one of those things. Just another one of Zoe’s “phases” or whatever. And it’s not like we could finish it even if we wanted to. Because that Deutschland bitch had like definitely done something to Giacomo! Ugh everything would’ve been perfectly perfect if it weren’t for that backstabbing LA whore and her slutty greengold lamb eyes! Panting with rage, Zoe’s human heart banging up against my extra-small ribcage I screamed and screamed and emptied out my tote bag on the sidewalk. Dumping out my apartment keys, my headphones, my ultrathin laptop, my favorite clutch wallet from my favorite thrift store in Brooklyn, my tampons, my pens, my pencils, my sticky notes, my bottles and bottles of prescription pills, my kinda new pocketknife, and my new Jolly Roger bolo tie. Still screaming Zoe grabbed the toy bottles and yanked the childproof lids off with my totally chipped teeth, rainbow-scattering all her yummy-yummy meds over my alley tunnel . . . staring and staring at the way the tasty treats glinted in the asphalt grease . . . scooping up a handful of Superman flavors (blue tablets, red pills, yellow capsules), stuffing it all right down my hungry little throat . . . gagging and wiping a blurry memory off my swollen cheek. Because I’d like totally forgotten about Precious. Because I mean what happened to us? Weren’t we like really good friends once? Weren’t we like best friends who always stayed up extra late and talked about all of our superstar goals in life? Didn’t we drink wine and watch movies? Didn’t we get high and have fun! Like once upon a perfectly perfect time . . .
The sirens were wailing louder, closer now. Zoe winced as an ugly florescent light flashed her hiding spot—three totally hairless chests and one girl in a goldgreen dress photoshopped across the side of the honking bus. A Gollum-like gurgle choking our tiny throat I looked back down at our puddle of failure and grabbed one of the ballpoint pens. I lunged for the neon-pink pad of sticky notes . . .
Stop comparing yourself to other people! Stop worrying about the things you can’t change! Everything’s going to work out fine! All you have to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!
P.S. That bitchy girl from your gallery called. She said she found your glasses and your smartphone. She also said she wants to be best friends and she hopes you had a very merry Christmas!
P.P.S. Your parents called to let you know that they completely understand that you couldn’t make it home for Hanukah!
P.P.P.S. The landlord called to congratulate us for putting a plug in the leak!
P.P.P.P.S. I was just kidding about the whole moving out thing! Why don’t we get high!
Laughing, crying, laughing I glanced over the annoyingly compressed, annoyingly flawless handwriting. Then, just like we used to do in kindergarten, I creased and folded and creased and folded the little note into my favorite origami shape . . . Zoe’s mouth stuffed with another handful of Superman ice cream I flicked the neon-pink spaceship up into the night sky. I squinted and watched it fly up over the indentured streets, up over the rooftop plantations. I squinted and watched Giacomo and Zoe leave all this fabricated business behind. Because now I like totally understood that these last two or three years with Peter had actually just been a very intense, very traumatic, but very necessary foreplay session. That it had all just been to get Zoe good and ready for Giacomo. Because now I like totally understood that Giacomo Jones was our one truelove. That we were like totally meant to have superhairy kids and grow old together. That we were like totally meant to build our very own home on our very own planet. I nodded and squinted and cheered us on. But just as we were about to flutter off toward our perfectly perfect life together our neon-pink butterfly stalled over Manhattan, gave a heartbreaking yelp of distress, then nosedived à la Icarus all the way down down down into a swirling gutter . . .
The traitor still somewhere on board Zoe kicked and screamed and waved her superthin arms for help as our spaceship got sucked under the Island Kingdom. Zoe yelling Mayday Mayday. Zoe grabbing the pocketknife, the bolo tie. Zoe leaning over the street and while trying her very best to make some sort of castaway signal or poor man’s flare or something! I brilliantly remembered the advice Professor Amís had hummed to me. Zee must take zee control, ma chérie! Zee must take it! Yes yes! I nodded and squeezed my fists. Yes yes! I nodded and squeezed my fists till Zoe could feel metal cutting into her palms, unraveling our veins. Yes yes! I nodded and squeezed Zoe into one of the totally cramped escape pods. Glancing at the other passengers, plotting our revenge I stretched Zoe and her superlong legs straight out across the greasy asphalt, arms tight to my sides, real tight, the small of Zoe’s back flat against the pavement, thousands of shaper than sharp omens digging into my spine, tapping in our future coordinates two or three at a time, two or three at time . . . Stretched out like a rocket. A rocket aimed at Queens. Because we like definitely needed to flush out the traitor. Nodding and closing my Cerberus eyes. Because Zoe like definitely needed to get her affairs in order. Squeezing myself through time. Squeezing myself through these musical catacombs called space. Because Zoe like definitely needed to take her very legitimate grievances before a twentysomething tribunal if we were like actually going to detonate the doomsday device.