My heart wandered without direction, untethered and searched up and down Manhattan for safe harbor, usually without success.
September 23, 1993
I met Jennifer at the Algonquin for drinks. I love that place. I like taking out-of-towners there. If it was good enough for Graham Greene and Hemingway, it’s good enough for Ohioans. An odd thing happened. An older waiter—not the one who served us—walked up to our table and stood over me, looking down. He didn’t say anything for a while. It was uncomfortable. Finally, I said, “Can I help you?” He asked to see an ID! He wanted to make sure I was 21! It’s dark in there, but not THAT dark. What an idiot.
I can’t get past the fact that Jennifer graduated from Yale. She’s way smarter than I’ll ever be. What am I doing with her? We talked about our families. Or something. She’s fun. She seems game for anything. Last week, we went to a Freddie Jackson concert out on the pier. As far as I can tell, we were the only white people there. I mean…there must have been others. But I didn’t see any.
We were sitting the in bleachers off to the side. I was fumbling with my keys and accidentally dropped them. They bounced down onto the pavement beneath us. Jennifer said, “I’ll get ‘em!” and before I knew it she was crawling between the seats and down the scaffolding to retrieve them. We were up about 15 feet. While she was climbing back up to our seats, a big black woman sitting next to me leaned over, nudged me and said, “She’s a keeper.”
Yes, I’m sure she is.
We walked out of the Algonquin. She turned left to Grand Central, I turned right towards Times Square. I crossed 6th Avenue, turned around and walked right back into to the Algonquin. I got on the payphone and called Bonnie. I wanted her to come meet me at the bar or invite me over. Preferably the latter. She shocked me with the news that she’s got some guy living with her. She made a point of telling me he sleeps on the sofa. He’s an old friend who is in a crisis and needs a rest. I can’t believe how much I care. I care!
Instead, I met Cindy at Nightingales down on 13th and 2nd. We drank and shot pool for a bit before she had to leave to meet her scary lesbian friends. She was in a foul mood because she gave herself another shitty haircut. We played teams with some guy who was a Lower East Side cliché. Full of pretension and manufactured anger. He said his name was Evil and he wore a skull ring. “Hey, Evil, it’s your shot” got stuck in my throat a few times. While waiting for his turn, he’d pose with his pool cue and smoke in an overly-dramatic fashion, like he was a model in the middle of a location shoot or a tragic character in a bad Tennessee Williams play. When he shot, he’d rest the cue on the side of the table and only use one arm. Idiots uptown. Idiots downtown. I’m surrounded.
Cindy left so I sat at the bar. That hippie barmaid who was always mean to me isn’t there anymore. The new hippie barmaid is much more personable. There was a pretty blonde sitting at the end of the bar writing, but I was too nervous to say anything to her.
Margaret was just here at my desk and I worked on her resume. She’s so pretty that I might be able to overlook her unrelenting unpleasantness. There was a lot of standing over me unnecessarily close while I worked. Her long, red hair cascaded down onto my shoulder. She said it’s too bad I don’t have a car because then we could hang out on weekdays, but I’ll be damned if I’m buying a car just for that. She smells nice. Her blouse hung open a bit between the buttons and I could see the outline of her breasts. She’s even prettier since having her nose done. How do I get my hands on her? Other than buying a car, I mean?
The third grade had an assignment to write a poem based on a color. 8-Year Old Daughter was given red. Hang in there for the Flannery O’Connor ending.
Red is a grape tomato ripe from the patch.
Red is the sunset on a cold fall night.
Red is a strawberry so juicy and ripe.
Red is Christmas with the bells ringing.
Red is blood on a child’s arm.
I didn’t see that coming. Jesus. She’s just a kid. It’s even more macabre when you see it in her own handwriting.