199610


AUGUST 1996 TO THE END OF THE YEAR


            I went to Alex's party on the 31st of August on the terrace of the Whitehall building at Broadway and 100th Street. He wasn't on the terrace when I arrived but he came a few minutes later. He probably had been taking care of the food and drink in his apartment. He approached me with a fixed stare that impressed me greatly. He looked fresh this time. I stayed away from him since this was the building where he lived with his girlfriend.


            Later, about five people were sitting in a circle with him. One chair was empty and I came to join them. As I approached, I heard Alex say in a tone of exasperation "... but she confuses kindness with stupidity!" and a tall young man named Bob said "But Alex, you can't blame her for everything. You have to look at your own actions. Maybe she thinks you drink too much."


            Contrary to Alex's statements about how French women enhance a conversation, everybody shut up when I sat down and there was silence for a while but Alex didn't say "Shhh, the baby's sleeping." Then a boring conversation started and I didn't say anything. Then people got up and the circle broke up.


            I went to the other side of the terrace and started a conversation with a man named Dick who said he was a writer and a journalist. I said I was writing a book, a legal thriller. We spoke for a while about publishing then were joined by Bob. He was also writing a book titled "The Bronx Bible" and he started to hog the conversation. Dick got involved with him and I was left out. Bob got up to get some beer and asked which brand I wanted. He brought it and I put it on the floor near me but when I wanted it it had disappeared so I got up and got one myself.


            Rosie was attending to the three grills just as she had done at the previous party. I was reluctant to eat for fear of dripping barbecue sauce on my white pants, but I ate at the end of the party, when it was dark and after the clean-up had begun. I liked the food very much, I was hungry too. I didn't stain my pants.


            Alex had not introduced me to his girlfriend so I assumed that she was not attending the party and that they were really breaking up. I found it a bit strange to throw a party while breaking up. I didn't see her until she was asking everybody to leave because the building policy was to end terrace parties at 11.30.


            Once in the street, Bob approached me. He had looked rather handsome in the dark. I think I even told him. But now, in the street light, his eyes made him look at bit crazy and he was not handsome at all. He told me that as unknown writers we needed publicity and he had an idea: We would stage an assault, he would assault me, and after he was arrested I was to tell the police that I loved him and drop the complaint. I repeated to make sure I had gotten the idea. "So you assault me, you get arrested, then I go to the police and tell them "I love him." I laughed at the good joke. "Yes! That's it! That's the idea. This way we get some press coverage. Let me give you my address." I wrrote down his number. Back home I thought "You asshole! And what if I didn't drop the complaint? What if I let you be indicted and do some time? That would serve you right!" The idea of double-crossing him pleased me. But then I thought that he wanted to assault me, who knows, maybe he would beat me up more than I bargained for. What creep. Talking about beating me up like it's a great idea.


 

The next time I saw Alex I thanked him for the party, said that I'd had a great time. I saw him maybe five or six time between then and the last time I saw him on Sunday January 12th. After the August 31st party I decided to stay away from him. Since he was with a woman, even with all his talk of breaking up, I didn't want to get involved, even on a friendly basis. Several times I bought the Sunday paper next to the Tavern and didn't even look inside. I was more interested in Dick who was a writer. Dick had told me that he went to the Tavern every night after eight.


            He walked in while I was drinking a margarita and he sat at my table with a draft beer, overjoyed. When I finished my drink, I could feel his unease because he felt he should buy me a drink but he couldn't afford a margarita. I bought it myself. We talked about the party. He told me how he had liked it, there was potato salad. At the party he had asked me if my father was a lawyer and I had said no. Now he was asking me what my father did for a living and I said "Real estate, among other things."


            Why had he thought that my father was a lawyer? Was it because I made sense when I spoke? And if so, why did he have to attribute that to my father, not to me? He didn't know how to get the conversation going and it was worse than if I had been alone. At 11pm we got up and he wanted to walk me home. I said it wasn't necessary but he insisted. I thought how vain and cruel it was for him to protect me on a walk to my home when the life-threatening danger was neither there nor then.


            When we started on 103rd he held me loosely by the elbow and his hand was brushing against my ribs. I thought how lowly it was for this man to pretend to protect me while he was trying to arouse me, taking advantage. I tolerated it for a while to make sure it was no accident and then I protested. He reacted innocent and went on doing the same thing. I was relieved when I got to my building. Some protection. But he asked me to meet him at the Tavern next week and I went.


            Out of pity I ordered a beer. He hadn't been writing for quite a while. Now he was a salesman at a golf equipment shop, and a few drinks with him convinced me that he was utterly boring, depressing and poor. If you're poor, you've got to have redeeming qualities. He wasn't even young, he was well into his fifties.


 

One day on B'way I met him. he said that he would be at the Abbey Pub at 105th and B'way the next Saturday and to meet him there. It irked me that he assumed that I was interested in seeing him. I didn't know why he wanted to see me so bad, he had nothing to say. Anyway that Saturday it rained all day and I got soaked, and in the evening I didn't feel like going out again, even less to see him, and I never saw him again.


            One Sunday afternoon at the Tavern, Alex told me that he had been married and had three children from that marriage. He wanted to break up with his current girlfriend because she was a crack addict. He had given her a roof after her husband died and they had remained together. She didn't work and spent his money on crack. In fact there was nothing good at all about her, and the only thing that prevented him from throwing her out was that she had nowhere to go. And on and on.

            "Do you have sex with her?" I asked.

            "Of course I do! At least I have this. I'm not going to go without if that's the only thing she can do for me."

            This sounded sordid.

            "Well, maybe you shouldn't, then it would be easier for both of you to separate."

            "No way!"


            Another time he let it be known that he was still married to his first wife. He was a veteran and she wanted to obtain a street vendor's license in his name and that was the reason why she wanted to remain married to him. This reminded me of a problem I had in 1993 and 94, unable to obtain a vendor's license to sell my home made berets. He also had a son from a subsequent long term affair and that was the son who was studying photography and of whom he was the proudest.


                        "You know you should be more careful about what you say to people. I know you were drunk but you did ask me to marry you the day you invited my to your friends'party. And now you say you're still married. I didn't take you seriously but still, I would personally like to get married and you could have hurt my feelings."


            He said nothing. He said that he wanted to divorce her but she was preventing him. Upon which I started to explain to him that he could divorce her on the grounds of abandonment and I went into some details. A second woman was taking advantage of him and I wanted to help but suddenly I realized that I sounded desesperate for him to get a divorce and get rid of his girlfriend as if I wanted to marry him myself, which I didn't. So I stopped exerting myself.


 

One Saturday night I went to Tap a Keg. A woman came in an sat next to me. She leaned forward an talked to the barmaid. From bits of conversation I understood that the barmaid was also a paralegal. After the two women stopped talking I asked the one next to me if she was a paralegal also. She said that she was an accountant at a law firm and she had just discovered the principle of billable hours and how scandalous it was that the attorneys charged the same hour to several clients etc. She sounded drunk and she had a British accent. I asked where she was from and we started comparing notes about our respective experiences as foreigners in America. She had come in with a short man who looked Indian and who remained standing behind her. I talked to him a while. He said that he was from Guyana and referred to Jim Jones because that's where the guru had his community and where the mass poisoning took place. When I said that he looked Indian he said that the British had brought Indians to Guyana for slave labor and that a lot of Guyanese had Indian blood. He offered me a drink. A chair was available next to the woman and I asked the man why he didn't take it. He said that he preferred to stand and he remained behind the woman. It was difficult to include him in the conversation and I resumed speaking with the woman. She had traveled to several countries and asked why the French were so unpleasant. I said that's because they're assholes. Maybe because they have a collective sense of guilt regarding the "Jewish question" during nazi occupation, and regarding the Algerian war of independance in the early sixties. Sometimes a sense of guilt and shame makes a person try to compensate by being arrogant. She said that of all the people she had met, the French were the worse and that when she worked in a restaurant, if a French person asked her for a coke without ice, she stuffed the glass full of ice.


            Suddenly the man started to insult me, saying that I was a lesbian and I was trying to pick up his girlfriend. I was completely astonished then angry. He had just bought me a drink and now he was insulting me. I yelled at him, told him to get the fuck away from me and to leave me alone. He went to the end of the bar. I asked the woman if he was her bohfriend. He was. I told her that the guy was no good for her if he got jealous even of the women she spoke to. The woman was getting drunker and I advised her to go home. She asked me for my address and phone number and gave me her address book to write in. I wrote but told her that she couldn't call or write because I was under surveillance