June 23rd, 1999:When I arrived at the eighth floor of the courthouse McFarlane was there, tapping numbers on a calculator. She pretended not to notice I had arrived. I said hello, she hushed me with a frown and kept tapping on her machine. I sat next to her, my head empty, a sense of foreboding invading me. She took her own sweet time to show me who was in control, then she turned to me and with her expression frozen in a blank mask explained to me that it was in my interest to settle out of court. I retorted that it was against my interest to do so because a settlement could not be appealed and since my constitutional rights had been violated I had grounds to appeal whatever judgment would come from a trial. Then this thin-lipped law secretary approached us.
What she said was similar to what MacFarlane was saying, to wit that it was in my interest to settle because if there was a trial and I lost I would be evicted within five days, and she insisted that it would not be five working days, that is a full week, but five days including the non-working days, and what would I do? I would find myself homeless! Where would I go? She was trying to put the scare in me, provoke a knee-jerk reaction of panic to make me sign a stip. She offered me to speak alone with the judge. I smiled contemptuously and said that it was against the law to speak alone with the judge, outside the presence of the opposing party. Anyway what would the judge advise me to do if not to settle? Did I need a third piece of rot to tell me the same thing?
If I settled out of court, she continued, and accepted to leave my apartment I would be granted a certain amount of time to leave, a month at least. The bitch was making it look like the only choice I had was between losing my apartment within five days if I went to trial or losing it within thirty days if I settled out of court. Did she really believe me so naive that I would consider her a friendly advisor? Anyway was she authorized by law to twist my arm into settling out of court? It was like last December 8th when the woman with a ring on her thumb tried to make me settle too. "I have a right to a trial and I want a trial" I said. "But if you go to trial you'll be evicted within five days!" she exclaimed. "What will you do? You will sleep in the street?" "I'll be homeless but at least I'll be able to appeal the judgment," I said.
The law sec became even more forceful. She cranked up the volume and repeated the same litany and I had to endure the horrible sight of her obscene lips which looked eroded by too much friction. Her eyes were cold and calculating, scrutinizing me to see if her words had any effect. It was obvious that she didn't believe what she was saying. Then MacFarlane stepped in front of her and told me the same thing but in a different tone, in a tone of concerned benevolence, but both treated me as if I was being unreasonable, as if I didn't know what was good for me because I was actually mentally ill. I realized then that the law sec and MacFarlane had rehearsed this scene and were now performing it for me. I felt nauseous. I interrupted them. "Listen!" I said "You're making me sick! I have a right to a trial and I want a trial. Now leave me alone!" and I walked away, sat down and leaned forward to calm my stomach. The law sec went back inside the courtroom.
From the distance I saw Steiner arrive and sit down with MacFarlane. I got up and joined them. They were speaking in a low voice, MacFarlane probably explaining that I didn't want to settle out of court. Though I was standing near them they ignored me. Steiner went into the courtroom and came out holding a paper, then he sat down next to MacFarlane and started writing. I read from above while they both ignored me.
I had a sense of unreality, this could not be happening! But I was seeing them, Steiner and MacFarlane sitting next to each other, their heads close like two conspirators, I was seeing Steiner write and hearing him with horror read aloud what he was writing, and it was about me consenting to leave my apartment within thirty days: "Respondent (me) consents to a final judgment in favor of Petitioner for possession only." I was not consenting to any such thing! When Steiner wrote "for possession only" MacFarlane mumbled something as if in protest. Steiner explained that he only wanted the landlord to regain possession of my apartment, nothing more, that the landlord was willing to give up his claim to the unpaid rent if I left on or before July 23rd. He made it look like he was such a compassionate guy. MacFarlane looked relieved and sat back. The truly horrible part was when Steiner wrote MacFarlane's name with the mention "guardian ad litem" at the bottom of the stip and I saw her sign above the line. It was like a film in slow motion, the horror of it gripping my guts and twisting slowly. Her face was closed, the mask looked obstinate. Hey it's a dirty job but someone's gotta do it.
I had never trusted them but still I had believed Steiner back in December when I asked him if a guardian ad litem was authorized to sign papers without the client's consent and he had assured me that it was not what they intended to do; and I had believed MacFarlane when I had asked her to promise never to sign a paper without my consent and she had promised. They got up. "You're screwing me." I said to MacFarlane. "No I'm not," she said."Yes you are." We entered the courtroom and our case was called right away. I sat in the middle, MacFarlane to my left, Steiner to my right.
Judge Klein looked kindly at MacFarlane and asked if her her trip to the West Coast had gone well. Oh, that's right! At the last court date she had said that she was going to the west coast for her daughter commencement ceremony, that's why this court date had been postponed by two days. MacFarlane started a recitation of her trip. I thought I was dreaming. Here she had just stabbed me in the back with a stroke of the pen and two minutes later she was making small talk with the judge. It seemed horribly insensitive. Anyway, is a courtroom the proper place to discuss a commencement ceremony and the vagaries of air travel? The small talk seemed to last forever while felt I was dying.
Then Judge Klein turned his gaze to Steiner, avoiding me, and Steiner explained that both parties had entered into a stipulation, and that the guardian representing the respondent had signed it. The judge read the stip aloud and made some small talk and noted that I had not signed it. I raised my hand to speak on the record. All I said was that the guardian had not been lawfully appointed, meaning that she was not a legitimate actor in this suit and that her signature was invalid. Judge Klein pretended he had not heard. He said in a conciliatory tone that if I paid a substantial amount toward the back rent before July 23rd the stip could be vacated and the eviction avoided. He wrote at the bottom of the stip: "Respondent refuses to sign the stip. However the court accepts the signature of the guardian ad litem in her legal and official capacity as binding on respondent." and that was it. We got up and left the courtroom. Steiner disappeared but I stayed with MacFarlane although I had nothing to tell her, but stupidly I asked for her e-mail address and gave her mine. In the elevator she observed that I kept my cool. "Well," I said, "with a mother like mine one needs a certain amount of philosophy to survive. Some people are born with cerebral palsy, others have a mother like mine." What had she expected? That I would make a scene with wild screams and tears? Maybe they had been counting on this to prove a-posteriori that I was mentally unbalanced!
Back home I told Felix that this whore MacFarlane had signed an agreement in my name that I did not agree with. Out of the blue he started a speech about the greatness of motherhood and of my mother in particular. He was sitting on an upended plastic milk crate at the back of the bodega and he even mimed the birth process, pretending to pull something from between his legs and cuddling it in his arms! He said it was impossible that the person who had given me life could be as bad as I said she was. He elaborated nauseatingly about motherhood while I looked on in disgust and he ridiculed me for my fear of my mother. I knew somebody who was friendly with her had told him to do this little skit in an effort to influence me and make me change my mind about my mother. As if this despicable rapist who took advantage of my poverty to screw me for seven dollars could influence me! Besides it would take an awful lot more than this to make me change my mind about her! Mother must still think that theatrics have the power to hypnotize me.
At home the sink doesn't drain so I have to use the dirty sink in the collective kitchen.
On Sunday the 27thFelix took his usual break from 10AM to 3PM without first giving me any money so I had to spend the whole day without a dollar. I voiced my rage to Glen, who said that Felix wasn't supposed to give me any money. I asked him if he thought that I would have sex with Felix if I was not starving. Later Felix fucked me and gave me eight singles. I had complained that he was not keeping his word because we had agreed that he would give me $10 bucks every time we fucked, and he rarely kept his word, giving me rarely more than seven dollars. Besides I didn't like when he gave me singles. This time he gave me eight singles.
Around 11PM feeling bored, lonely and depressed I go to the arab shop to buy a cigar. That's the best I can think of in terms of finding company. For the past month or so the younger Arab there, who is skinny with nice legs and a not bad-looking face has been acting funny without saying anything: he just happened to be in front of me more often than mere chance would allow so I was forced to look at him. I pretended not to notice. Now our eyes meet through the thick plexiglass as soon as I get there as if we had both been looking forward to this meeting. I'm wearing a T-shirt with no bra and a pair of men's boxer shorts without panties because of the heat. I buy my cigar and instead of leaving I stand at the entrance of the store looking out in the street while listening to the Arabic music he's playing. I haven't been there thirty seconds when he knocks on the glass. Because I'm not dressed decently to have a conversation with anybody I pretend I do not hear and leave.
On Monday the 28th I complain to Glenn about the drain which still doesn't work. He replies that everybody have their problem. At 11:30PM I go to the Arab store and this time the young Arab is standing at the door that leads into the store where the coolers are (there's a small entrance with the daily newspapers where most customers do their purchases of papers and cigarettes through a window in the plexiglass, they go into the store only to buy drinks or a few groceries). So he's standing there in his knee-length shorts, his hair tousled, his eyes dreamy, there's no glass wall between us for once and I feel at once the heat of sexual attraction. I'm dressed like last night and feel my nakedness and how easy it would be for him to undress me. But I know that more than ever it could be a life-threatening mistake to give in to my needs and in order to deflect the heat wave between us I turn aside toward the window and all he says is to ask me if I want a Dutch Master cigar, to which I nod. He goes inside and the commercial transaction is all that happens on the surface. On the way back I tell myself that if I hadn't been so scantily clad today and yesterday I would have spoken to him. I regret that I didn't acknowledge his knock on the glass and his mute appeal today. I want to apologize and explain to him but on the other hand, why should I apologize for dressing lightly when it's so hot and I don't expect to meet anybody? Shouldn't he instead apologize to me for disturbing me when I'm not dressed to meet anybody? I feel so needy for physical contact and tenderness that I am tempted to take a blind plunge, to act on my wishes rather than on my knowledge. I know that it's exactly what has repeatedly sunk me so far, but the need is almost intolerable and it's almost intolerable to resist this hot looking man. Still, there's something dangerous about him.
The next day I decide to attempt to talk to the young Arab. This time I wear a long summer dress and flat moccasins so if we talk I won't feel self conscious about being half naked. But first I take a walk in the neighborhood and around midnight I go to his store. I can see that he's reading, but this time he's not using his glasses. A white man comes out of nowhere and precedes me by a half second into the store and goes to the coolers where all the drinks are. I follow him into the store but go to the coolers on the other side of the store. I remain there for a while, so does the white man. When I have picked a bottle of soda the young Arab bars the way out. He's kneeling at the cooler next to the one I was at, putting some bottles in the bottom part and I have to wait until he's done while he's kneeling at my feet. And then when he's done he pretends to pick up something on the floor just at the tip of my shoes and it's like he's humbling himself before me. Then the white man comes from the cooler to pay and I'm behind him waiting to pay. At this moment two noisy white girls arrive. They sound tipsy, like they just come from a party, speaking loud. They wait at the plexiglass window to buy cigarettes. The Arab completes the transaction with the white man, makes me move aside so he can open the door for him (he locks the door after midnight and has to admit people and lock the door after each of them) then he attends me. I had wanted to talk to him but of course it would have been possible only if he was alone in the store. To defeat my intent I've had to contend not only with a white man inside the store who could have overheard everything I said but also with the two tipsy girls who are waiting their turn to be served. I feel I've been cheated but I can't say anything. I ask the Arab "How much?" for my soda. He asks if that's all I want. I say yes and stare at him with mute questions. He makes a little Chinese-dancing movement with his arms, index fingers pointing in the air. It lasts only a second. It's as if he was happy to see me. Do I have to content myself with this? Then I have to step aside to let him pass so he can open the door for me. The passage is encumbered with merchandise and the Arab does not step back enough so as I pass to get out our bodies touch. I feel my breasts against his chest like a tantalizing sample of pleasures we could exchange. Then I'm out in the hot night. It was as if the Arab had known in advance of my intention to talk to him, to ask him what he wanted from me, and he had wanted to thwart me by having the white man then the two white girls present to prevent me from talking to him.
Wednesday the 30th, as I go to the back of the bodega looking for Felix I see Mitch coming out, then in the back I see Glen putting money in his pocket. Around 10PM the bathroom is flooded by water cascading from the ceiling. So Mitch pays Glen in advance for the mopping job! Glen keeps saying that it's the people upstairs who clog the toilet, that they throw food in it, and he grabs the big plunger wearily as if he was doing this all the time, but he sounds like he's lying and anyway, it doesn't explain the continuous cataract so this time I go with him upstairs to take a look. The fat Puerto-Rican bitch who works at the numbers racket parlor is there and she also says that people throw food int the toilet and that it's the cause of the problem. The floor in the bathroom is flooded and the toilet bowl is overflowing but I don't see a trace of food. Glen puts his bare arm into the toilet and doesn't let me see what he pulls out. It happened so quickly and I am so astonished that I don't react. Now the toilet is unclogged but what about the flow of water? The valve that is supposed to shut the waterflow into the bowl is up. So I understand that two conditions must be met to create the flooding: th toilet must be clogged and the valve must be open. I say this to Glen. He makes no reply. It happens so frequently that it cannot be by mere chance. Besides this morning I saw Glen put money in his pocket in the backroom of the bodega just after Mitch had left him so there is quite a lot of circumstantial evidence to infer that the flooding is deliberate and meant to harass me. But should I let them know that I know?
Around 11PM the young Arab is not at the store. I see a white plastic chair in the back, identical to the chair I was sitting on and which had disappeared when I returned from the bathroom when I was last playing with Mike about a month ago. It's as if the chair had disappeared there and re-materialized in the Arab's store.
[August 99 - 1/2]