While we were walking towards Amsterdam Avenue, he stopped suddenly and when I turned around, he was looking at a spot on the right side of his chest and cursed "Damn pigeon!" There was a group of pigeons around him on the sidewalk, but none that I could see in the air. I felt his exclamation sounded exaggerated and I pretended to look around and find the culprit, pointing at one pigeon and saying "It's you who did it." He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the spot. My motherly instinct kicked in and I looked around for some water but I saw that at the precise spot where we stood, all the puddles were brown. I looked a little more ahead but all the puddles had the same color. I was disappointed that with all the snow around, it was impossible to find some clean water, then I realized that I was about to be sucked into a trip I didn't want to take, that is spend my energy trying to fix his problem, I felt there was something evil about this pigeon shit and this dirty water, and I stopped looking for clean water. The man said "It's ok, I like it like that, it's like an emblem". Pigeon shit! An emblem!
It's only now, on March 3, 94, that I realize this episode is another reference to bathroom matters. It turns out the Claremont Riding Academy was up the block and the dirty water was a runoff from the stables. So my attention had been drawn both to shit and to piss. Was it intentional? To me, it looks like it was, but if it was, how could it have been planned? Did anybody foresee my future moves when I thought I was acting on the spur of the moment? If so, how? If somebody knew my moves before me, it meant that I had no free will, that I was acting out a program. This lead me to investigate in minute details to what extent I was programmed and acting a scipt I had not written, and to find out what the triggers were, that made me go on a tangent into an adventure that turned out to be unpleasant.
After all, what had attracted me to this man was his beret and the title of the book he was reading, and maybe the cut of his coat, and from this information I had drawn some false conclusions since this man was a creep. I chided myself for being so easy to bait.
We crossed Amsterdam Avenue and I was wondering whether we would go to Broadway to find a coffee shop when I thought about the Hispanic restaurant a few blocks up on Amsterdam, where we could have cafe con leche instead of american coffee. So we walked North and during that time the man talked loudly about my immigration problems so that I had to ask him to lower his voice. Finally he said that he knew a few people in some city agencies who could certainly help me but I was beginning to be glad that he could do nothing for me. Inside the restaurant I ordered two cafes-con-leche without asking him what he wanted. He took off his beret and said that he liked berets, because they didn't have a front and a back like other headgear. I thought he was making a veiled reference to my own berets, which do have a front and a back. Then he looked at my own beret and said that it was nice, that the fabric reminded him of a bathroom mat. I smiled at the insult.
He talked about his coat, saying that he had paid $25 for it in a Goodwill store. I noticed how threadbare it was and it looked really poor at close range. He said it was a fine coat, only it was used, and he grabbed the lower right side of it and said that there was a moth hole in this area. It just so happens that my own coat has a moth mark in the same area. Then he said, forcefully, that he wanted a new coat. I said it was a good time to buy one because they were on sale. For some reason he wanted to talk about coats. He contradicted himself by saying once that his coat had an Austrian loden cut and later that it had a Quaker cut. I said I liked my own coat, that it was warm and comfortable and asked if he liked it. He seemed confused. It was ok to speak of his coat but not of mine.
I was slightly embarrassed by the guy. I thought I would never want to be seen in public with him. When the cafe con leche had cooled down to drinkable temperature, I was eager to leave. He said that he was going to pack his belongings at the end of the week and that if I wanted the phone number of the people he knew could help me, we should meet before he packed everything away, so that meant on thursday at the latest, that is two days later. I told him to meet me in this restaurant at 8PM and he agreed. I asked for the check because since he had said he was broke I intended to pay, and he gave me one dollar. While waiting for the check he asked if I didn't want some soup to take out and I said yes and ordered a large soup. Then I said that I would prefer if we were not seen together leaving the place and told him he could leave now and he did.
My soup was ready and at the cash register the woman gave me a quizzical look. She put the soup container in a brown bag and I walked out of the restaurant, thinking about this guy. At some point I wondered if I was in control of myself or if I was not, somehow, against my will, caught in a daytime nightmare. This guy was quite a trip and talking with him had, I could feel, made me feel alienated from the rest of the living, as if his logic had removed me from them. I checked the brown bag to see if the soup was behaving and everything was alright. Then about a minute or two later, I felt something dripping but curiously, I didn't pay attention right away. Had I not just checked inside the bag? But to my horror, when I looked down, I saw that soup was dripping from the bottom of the bag onto my coat. This heavy, fat broth colored with meat and tomato sauce had sullied the front of my coat from the breast down to the ankles.
Damage control. I put down the bag on the sidewalk. Inside, the cover of the container was distorted and the container was out of shape as if soemone had bended it or punched it. It looked horrible, like a smirk from hell. I could not understand what had happened when just a minute ago everything was fine. To me it was obviously a reference to the pigeon dropping the guy had said he received on his coat earlier. After all he had stepped back and I hadn't seen him during a few seconds, which allowed him to put this thing on his coat and pretend a pigeon had done it. And after having talked about coats more than seems necessary during a conversation, it ended with my beautiful coat being dirtied on the front. How could they do it? This was frightening. Not only the degree of control that someone had over me, but foremost the baseness, the patient cruelty, the evil intention that underpinned all this mise-en-scŠne. The hatred that revealed itself through this incident seemed boundless. Someone must be spending a lot of time and money to prepare these dirty tricks, just thinking about me with an obsession to destroy.
I removed the container from the bag and walked with the dripping torn bag in my left hand and the hot, dripping container in my right, murmuring "I can't believe it" until I found a trash bin. Then I headed to the nearest bodega and asked for a fresh bag and walked the remaining three blocks home. Now, was I going to spend fourty to sixty dollars to have my coat cleaned? And how long would I be without a coat? And wouldn't they destroy my coat at the cleaner's and refuse to pay for a replacement? It was just the beginning of the bad weather days and if there was a problem and the matter went to court, it would take all the winter months before I would recover any amount of money and I would have to spend all winter without my beautiful coat. This started to remind my of the Gogol's story "The Overcoat". I couldn't afford to take a chance with my coat so I decided that I would clean it myself with just steam. I was using my iron a lot and was all equipped to steam-iron the wool I bought for my berets. I thought that the steam would melt the grease and transfer it from the coat fiber to the wet terry cloth towel I was pressing with, and this is actually what happened. I had to do it twice but after spending quite some time at it, resolute that the incident was going to cost me neither in money nor in dignity, and that I would entirely restore my coat, I saw with satisfaction that all the spots had disappeared. The next day I went out with my coat as if nothing had happened.
In the evening I started to sneeze. My feet had gotten wet from walking in the slush and I had caught a cold.
The next day at 6:30 pm I had a court appearance and all day I was miserable with the flu. It was only around 4PM that I started to write on my computer the history of my problems with Steve Cohen. But somehow I left around twenty after six and there was no way I would make it in thime at the Court. When I arrived the roll call had stopped and I approached the clerk. He told me I was listed as "No appearance by plaintiff" and that a default judgment had been entered against me, but that I could file an order to show cause to nullify the judgment and restore the case to the calendar.
So I went to court the next day to file an order to show cause. The flu had vanished. It had been the 24 hours flu, just the day I had to be in court. And I had caught it walking in the slush beside this guy. Was it one of the purposes of our interview? To incapaci- tate me the day of my appearance? In the afternoon I learned that the order had been signed and that I could go and pick it up. I went the following day and my paper was not where it was supposed to be, on a sideboard with other papers where people could pick them up without waiting for a clerk to be available. I asked the clerks around and they looked for it but didn't find it. Someone left the room to look for it and it took some waiting.
Finally someone suggested that I file another one, and if I would wait, they would have it signed so that I wouldn't have to return to court to get it. So I returned to the Small Claims clerk at the floor below and filed the order to show cause another time and returned at the desk after the Small Claims clerk had filed it and waited for the judge to sign it. Then to avoid returning to court, I had to go to the post office to send a copy of the order to show cause to the respondent by certified mail and give the receipt at the desk to prove that I had served the defendant. It was a particularly bad day to be going out on errands, since there was slush everywhere, and in deep puddles on Canal Street.
At the elevator bank, a bald man rather short and skinny, com- plained that his opponent was messing with his papers. I said that it seemed the same thing had happened to me, and that I was glad that it didn't happen only to me. I complained about the weather. But the guy had a kind of frozen expression that made him look phony, as if only his ears were working, as if he had made me say what I had just said and wanted to be sure to what extent I believe that these things happened to everybody and not only to me.
In the evening I was supposed to meet Eric, the man with the green beret but I was sure I didn't want to see him. He called in the afternoon and said on the answering machine that he would not be able to see me today but that he would call me before the end of the week end. It seemed that he expected me to have put hopes in him and that he deliberately frustrated that hope and was trying to wrest control from me by making me dependent on his call. I had started reading Parliament of Whores, the book he had "loaned" me, the same day we had met and finished it the next, and I had been appalled to find a few sentences in the book that seemed to make direct reference to what was going on in my life. When I read the book it had become obvious that Eric had had the intention from the start to give me this book. On page 65 it says "One constituent wrote every week for months saying that the CIA was using low level pulsed microwave radiations to read his thoughts. Finally, the congressman suggested that he line his hat with tinfoil, and the fellow has not been heard from since." I took it as a reference to my hats, and also to the fact that my enemies seemed to anticipate my moves.
He called saturday night and said on the answering machine "Sorry, wrong number". That meant he was at the 103rd street subway station. I was in bed reading and had no intention to see him. He called an hour later and repeated the same thing. The next day he called again, said that he wanted to speak to me and asked me to pick up the phone.
Having nothing to do I started going to the library. I sat at a table next to the magazine rack to have them within easy reach. Several days after I started this routine, shortly before closing time, two women walked to the rack and left the 1993 PETA report. There was a green parakeet's head on the cover, and I noticed immediately that this magazine didn't have the plastic cover of the press provided by the library and I reached for it even before the two women left the rack so that they saw me grab it, and they smiled. Inside was a horryfing report full of color pictures, on how animals get maimed and killed by industry and it was so gory that I felt nauseated. I felt all the death and suffering meted out to animals for man's profit was an example of pure evil at work and without reading the whole report, I put it in my bag. After all, it was not Library property. The women had put it there so that other people would know and care, as recommended by the publisher at the end of the report.
There was a mailing label in the back that gave an address in the West nineties. I could find the subscriber's phone number and call, say I shared their concern for the welfare of animals and hope that we could maybe become friends on that basis. But there was something disturbing about this report. At some point I could not help thinking that there could be a pornographic aspect to it, that some people might enjoy the sight of what was supposed to incense.
In the following days I learned that PETA members were using terrorist tactics to prevent designers from selling fur coats and magazines from advertising them. I got the impression that this kind of organization was likely to attract people for whom concern for animal welfare was only an excuse to act out their terroristic longings, their will to power. Forcing a designer like Calvin Klein to withdraw his fur line from his collection, forcing the Editor in Chief of Vogue magazine to relinquish fur advertising revenues, wasn't that a proof that these PETA guys are powerful? They promote the ethical treatment of animals through unethical treatment of humans, is all.
After a while I wondered if the two women had not put the PETA report there not for just anybody to pick up but especially for me. After all, my family members know how I care about animals, and hurting me by hurting animals had been an old technique in the household since I was a child. So it could be that by showing me in a circuitous, seemingly fortuitous way the suffering of animals, my family was trying to make me suffer, and probably trying to attract me to the subscriber who had left her address label on the publication, and after having made me make the first move, would then carry out a predetermined script, like pretending to like me but behaving in an insulting manner. So I curbed my spontaneous reaction and did nothing, except keep the PETA report. Basically, I had to curb my altruistic conditioning, which made me want to help people (or animals) and neglect my own problems, this "How can I help" conditioned reflex which had been ingrained not only in my own but in generations of women's psyche for centuries.
I believe that there is a natural duty of assistance for a human being towards another in need and particularly that human's child, but just because she is female doesn't make that duty more stringent. It's a clever way to keep a woman low, making her believe that she has the duty to sacrifice herself for anybody. If she tries to escape the limitations of this belief and tries to do something for herself, the guilt feeling, like an electrified cattle enclosure, promptly sends her back in the middle of the self-sacrifice area, the comfort zone. If her only justification on earth is to allow people to feed on her, on her time and her material, intellectual and emotional resources, then what is left for her of herself, and what does it say about her value as a human being? Is everybody deserving of her? Because certainly there is not enough of her to help everybody in need of help, not even coun- ting the predators, and if she doesn't put a stop to it, she's gonna be bled white and devoured to her bare bones. So should she feel guilty for wanting to save her own life?
If I obeyed my impulse to rescue, how would that be for a distraction, to embark on a crusade for animal rights when my own human rights were being trampled? If I didn't fight for my rights, who would?