Tag Archive: gardner

You would have been willing to spare the change if the court jester, in his polka dot jumper and pointy red shoes, hadn’t been swinging a stray cat in the air about your head. The jing, jing, jongling of bells in your ear was annoying. You didn’t want a mangy cat. That wasn’t why you’d come here. It was teatime for Pete’s sake, and the bronzeberry was piping hot and sparkling off your glass eye with an infusion of dreams eternal. Cherubim, Harps, The Works. You’d put in for it­ — keep the pennies and everything — so this time you wouldn’t be tricked, stupid jester. This time, you held the cup in a gloved hand so the periwinkles wouldn’t give you a rash, as you sat, barefoot with Buddha, the air filled with the abundant odor of fetid cheese while aged children sang carols and played hide and seek in the cloud of steam swirling in the ether around you.

The swami said his dance card was filled when I propositioned him at the party. Artists have such interesting friends. Maybe it’s the grit under their fingernails or the turpentine smell on their breath, or maybe, it’s the idea that because they are artists their opinions strike everyone as fresh. The artist was a friend of ours. Between the art talk, the cat food pâté, and the tinkling glasses of bubbly, we hadn’t seen him all night, so we sat on chocolate plush and talked. In another life, the swami said his name had been Frank. When he was Frank, he’d lived a life of barbed wire and hemp knotted tightly where the days were dusty, full of burning sagebrush and lies. I thought that sounded like an interesting life for someone named Frank.

The only Frank I knew up to that point sold stale pretzels at the corner of Sussex and 57th Street. He was an artist too. I might have even had sex with him once. The swami said, “Anything is possible,” even for someone named Frank who may or may not be an artist and sells pretzels for a living. Later, I wondered how one might become a swami. If anything was possible for pretzel Frank, then I, at least, had half a shot. I’d had a lot to drink by then, but the idea still seemed like it had some merit. I asked him how to go about it, and the swami said, “You have to find your own way.” Even when sober, I’m directionally challenged, but how hard could it be?

The next day, I crawled out of bed with a hangover, went to 57th Street, had a pretzel with mustard, and then I fucked Frank

The goddamn telephone was always ringing. No one I know would call me at this hour … any hour. No one I know would call me here, period. I felt like a ragtime prohibition floozy with one foot in a drain and the other atop a case of Chinese gunpowder, all blanched almond cheeks, dental dams, and laughing gas. “What’s so funny?” you asked when I giggled wildly at the thought of someone else and that they might be calling you. You couldn’t know what I was thinking, though, and I shouldn’t have found it amusing, since I wasn’t the one playing with all the sharp objects: You were, and I loved to hate you, even if you didn’t notice or didn’t care. You just wanted me to “hold still” as you leaned in close, the moisture vapor collecting in tiny droplets on the inside of your mask.

The air smelled of saffron crushed under foot, the clouds of white smoke and jungle prayer, filling the empty spaces as the sun dripped heat down the sides of your opium pipe. At dawn, you might venture into the street like a spider creaking out from a crack in the folds of time. You might visit a cafe and pass the morn idly by. Later, you might dance, sure-footed, along the wet cobbles only to find yourself at the market. You might even trade some spice for a cupful of soiled leaves, or bestow a kind word upon a stranger — a stranger whose sad siren song made you think of the postman three days past, and the letter you had wished would never come.

There was this diner I liked to go to. A real greasy spoon if you feel the academic need to pigeonhole its culinary style. I liked it there, but I ain’t no sweat lodge expert or nothing. I just liked the way it smelled most days and the way the brittle red vinyl stuck to your skin when you were wearing short pants. It was a typical person’s joint, except during the summer heat … and when the moon was full. Last week, the moon was the biggest it had been in years. In the booth next to me, worn out shoes and broken teeth were discussing Rachmaninov and the merits of romanticism and structural ingenuity in Russian classical music while a drone wiped up the spit and blood that had collected on every surface around them. Then there was this slovenly waitress. I called her Tuesday cause that seemed to be the only day she worked. She had huge breasts with light red peach fuzz all over them, and she covered them with divisive little bits of flare. She often burned the coffee, but I didn’t mind. In every bitter cup there lay at the bottom — like the grit in Juan Valdez’s soiled underpants — her dreams of the Jamaican coastline.  She was no sommelier, but she could sure pour a cup of joe, and her eyes, she had the eyes of divine retribution. She told me once that I didn’t need the fake iodide … and ya know what, she was no naked bicycle ride with Ghandi, but I believed her.

I sat there, in the cold barren light of the full moon, looking at my scars. It all started with the party pills and ended in the dirty basement of a nearby haunted house. I had arrived somewhere, early in the evening, somewhere loud and bright. Somewhere throbbing and sweaty and a little frightening. I met him there — wherever there was — pressed up against a smooth slick surface while we waited and admired all the pretty colored glass. He called me his French Kitty and smiled just right. He talked about curing diseases and the squalor of the ghetto. He said he was from Warsaw, said it with an accent. I giggled. I don’t even know where Warsaw is. He gave me a little velvet box fastened with black ribbon and offered me something sweet — brittle white icicle sugar, he called it — dusting the cuff of his sleeve. There was a spider in the box … and then I was in the box. I awoke to a mouthful of dust and footsteps on the stairs, shuffling towards me in the gloom. I wished I could see better in the dark, but when the footsteps finally reached me, I wished I couldn’t.