Thursday, August 20, 2015

Every Rose Has It's Thorn (Poison)

Despite attempts to harsh my mellow via Desi-Gate, he wasn’t successful for long. After nearly being captured as live bait for the vampire mistress of all things blood sucking and joyless, Hump had gone underground. According to Steve, he was spending most of his time at the domicile he actually paid rent at. Also, Hump had started a new romance, one with a lady who had three kids. This match made in Purgatory was through an old friend of Hump’s name Mike who's an ex-con, don’t ask.

Apparently she had no job, was living on unemployment, had three kids, and her boyfriend at the time of their meeting was married. With Hump as her best prospect, that was sadder than any Greek Tragedy ever written.

While he had the attitude and ego of Napoleon, he was closer to Napoleon Dynamite. From what I had surmised, Hump could not handle an adult encounter of any kind and make it out alive. Therefore, perhaps dealing with children might be easier for the man.

Via the internet I had found out Polo was engaged in a seedy affair with a burlesque dancer named Mistress Scorpio Jones. My reaction to this was a mix of horror and just pure judgement. While I was aware Polo liked women of the easy, sleazy variety, he was really dragging the dollar bill through the trailer park here.

I had known Scorpio Jones and was not a fan. Actually, I found her obnoxious on top of already being fat and ugly. So the adjective to round this all out would be repulsive. I had known Scorpio Jones, real name Shiree Jarvis, during my tenure as a burlesque emcee.

Scorpio was a pain in the ass on top of being a fat ass in every way. More often than not, at venues, she had elaborate costumes that took up most of the space in the dressing area. When other performers protested, because God forbid the worthless lard share, she would get into a screaming match with them. If her routines were ever rock solid I would say the woman was worthy of her diva-tude. However, she was sink or swim. When she was a hit, she was amazing. But then there were those times where her costume broke or she was just a lummox onstage. Add in the rare, sexist male audience who was unafraid to objectify and fat shame at the same time. If it were anyone else I would stick up for them. Not this bitch.

As if that werent terrible enough, Scorpio always ate either cake or KFC before every show. If your waistline expands and you want to eat away your psych issues instead of taking meds, that is your business. But when you do a Mama Cass live and in color we want you to choke on the damn chicken bone, end of discussion.

Scorpio supported her performing career by working in a dungeon as a dominatrix. I couldn’t understand it, but apparently some men like pain more than others. In any event, on her facebook page, she listed her idols as Betty Paige and then several pin up shots of her, rolls of fat going over her bikini and all. For an instant I admired her confidence, but then she listed the number of men she slept with at 200. That is when I accessed the nearest barf bag.

As I was digesting this fatty piece of tender rainbow meat, I came across Benjy. One of the puzzle pieces of that motley crew, he was nearly six feet tall and had a stream of tattoos. Much like Steve and I, Benjy was intellectual, dorky to a fault. Educated at the Manhattan School of Music, Benjy could play sax, clarinet, drums, base, and piano. In his early 20s, he had toured with Rusch Hour, a “Jewish punk band” that did every major festival.

However, during his days on the road Benjy’s personal problems took over. One being heroin. Over the years, Benjy had been in and out of rehab, jail, and even did a stint at the Salvation Army. During Christmas, he dazzled the Majors by playing piano, everything from carols he didn’t sing as a child to Beethovan. Because he was a Jewish kid in an All Christian program, he earned the nickname Benjy the Jew.

The moniker, which was completely offensive, followed him into the neighborhood as he gained his footing. Hump called him Benjy the Jew on the streets to the horror of Steve, Polo, and myself. But Benjy embraced his identity, and even has signed job log in sheets with it.

“I can’t believe he’s dating that, that thing!” I exclaimed as Benjy and I were talking on the street. Of course, I had just submitted a freelance article for one of my many writing jobs and was completely fried. Benjy was in between shifts as a food runner at Friendly’s bar. He made his living doing that as well as being Hump’s reluctant and lackluster assistant.

“I can. Polo likes trashy women.” Benjy informed me.

“This one is a complete trash pit. Are you aware she works in a dungeon?” I asked.

“Oh yeah. But here’s the thing you don’t get. You see, some women are sluts, right? They sleep with everything. Well then there are men that are sluts. Polo is a man slut.” Benjy explained.

“But why are women slut shamed?” I wondered aloud.

“Men should be too. I am with you. Polo should be shamed for banging that water buffalo. Usually they are pretty skanky but they have never been eligible to fight heavy weight.” Benjy observed.

“How did this even happen?” I asked.

Then the story unfolded. Benjy’s longtime girlfriend, Kim, a girl who had stuck with him through thick and thin, got tickets to see her wild ass sister Draca dance burlesque. Kim was nice, sweet, and normal. She and Benjy were a strange combo, but they had been together for 8 years at this point. Kim had actually met Benjy through Draca, her wild child sister who had a crush on Benjy but he wasn’t feeling it. Since that time, Draca had decided she was a lesbian and now had a wife, Jane, who was just as butch as Benjy if not more.

In any event, Polo had decided to go to the show, too because he had a night off from the gay bar where he sometimes works as a bouncer. Don’t ask. Polo went to the show and saw Mistress Scorpio take off her clothes and decided she was everything his dreams were made of. The two then went home and had a night of mind blowing sex. Since that time, Polo had not left the dungeon where she worked. If anything, he was posting pictures on facebook giving the world a play by play.

“He’s gonna die. I hope he knows he’s gonna die.” I informed Benjy.

“Oh, not like Hump almost did. By the way, Desi is majorly pissed. I went into one AA meeting and she was sitting there and huffing and puffing about Hump. She kept saying he lied to her and even dropped his full name.” Benjy told me matter of factly. “I was like ‘holy fuck this bitch is steamed up.’”

“Isn’t that against some rule to be telling me any of this?” I asked.

“Kind of, but she said his full name and did put it on her sober stripper blog.” Benjy said as he pulled out his Android, Googled, and showed me the entry.

“Holy fuck!” I gasped. We both started laughing, and then I pointed out that there were only 20 spelling errors in the blog.

Benjy shook his head and continued, “At least Mistress Scorpio has a drinking, drug, and food habit that are still killing her and is a generalized cunt that isn’t robbing everyone of their fun. Give me that Jenny Craig fail over Desi any day.”

“Well he pissed me off so much I hope the fucking encounter gave him syphillis.” I told Benjy.

“What did Hump do?”

“He was himself.”

“Eh, don’t get mad at him. That woman and her three kids are kicking his ass.”

“Good.” I stated. Then Friendly called to Benjy that there was work to be done. Off my pal went.

Just then my phone pinged. It was a text from Jake Judy. Our history had been rather complicated, and to say things were a little interesting or always had been was an understatement. As of late, the next chapter had begun. In my dreams, I was hoping to be the next Mrs. Judy. The catch was, his wife had to be eliminated.

It’s not like it sounds trust me. Just hear me out.

Jake Judy and I had a complex history that went back years. It was complicated. Yes, complicated. First we were childhood friends. Although the Judy family lived one town over, they were in our neighborhood once a week visiting their cousins, the Davis’s.

Karen Davis was a shit starter as a child. There was an incident where my sister Skipper had a bunch of patches on her back pack. As a first grader, her obsessions were Barbie, Hello Kitty, and Kung Fu. While it was a mish mash of things, that is what the petite, strawberry blonde sprite loved. In any event, Karen Davis was Skipper’s friendemy.

So she ripped a Hello Kitty patch off my sister’s book bag. Crying, my sister turned around on the bus. Karen blamed George Welles. A chubby red head with freckles and a pigeon toed gait, he was more The Pillsbury Doughboy than hardened criminal and woman oppressor. But Skipper was afraid because he was twice her size. So she enlisted me. As a third grader, I spit on him and hit him with my backpack.

George, upset, got his older brother Bobby involved. More slight and built like a bean pole, he looked nothing like his younger sibling. At first glance I had a feeling they might have even had different fathers. But Bobby Wells and I soon found ourselves locking horns. The grade school skirmish included a Fort Necessity made of back packs and pencils used as projectiles. Finally, our burned out beatnik bus driver, Chicken, who played oldies and probably had an alcohol problem, had enough. Frustrated, he pulled over the bus until the conflict cooled.

The next day, Mr. Byrd, our principal looked at us through his thick glasses. He explained, “There are two sides to every story.”

Bobby and I explained that we got involved because our younger half was being bullied, we really didn’t know what the hell was going on. Mr. Byrd calmly said, “They are lucky to have you, but in order to get this solved I need the older brother and sister to step out.”

Then the truth unfolded. Karen Davis had created this whole mess.

Jake Judy was the cousin. An awkward kid, he was a year ahead of me in school. A wrestling star one district over, Jake had dreams of going to one of the military academies, specifically Air Force. As a student, Jake was also a stand out when it came to math and science. Socially, he was an odd ball.

Jake’s dad on the other hand was very outgoing. A former college track star who still ran local road races, Jack Judy had a physique most working dads would die for. However, during his school days Jack didn’t pound the books like he pounded the pavement, so he was forced to take a job working for UPS. Jack was a nice guy and well-liked by everyone on his route. As a matter of fact, he and my mom hit it off when it was revealed Mr. Judy ran cross country with my father.

Both were track stars in high school. My father, who was a year ahead of him, was scouted by West Point. However, it was during the Vietnam War and my dad had no interest in being blown up. Although my dad and Mr. Judy were contemporaries, he always regarded Jack Judy as a “play baby.” Then again, my dad worked two jobs seven days a week. Everyone was a play baby in comparison.

Mr. Judy enjoyed his job, but a tad too much. Translated, he was all too eager to make house calls to some of the women on his route. He had multiple who continuously enjoyed packages several times a week, hint hint, and his truck was always auspiciously parked out front of the same three houses. Yes, Mr. Judy was a “cat around” as my mother would say.

Mrs. Judy was a nice lady though, quite sweet and a stay at home mom. Although she wasn’t a knock out, she was personable and long suffering, putting up with her philandering husband. She went through phases where she pretended she didn’t know, then she threw him out, and of course there was counseling. Finally, one day she snapped and threw his clothes on the lawn……

Jake was not like his father at all. More or less, he was quiet. Always rocking a Pirates hat, Jake wore his hair in his eyes. An admitted non-reader, Jake was a gifted math student and dreamed of being an engineer. In sports, Jake excelled as a wrestler, winning local and state titles. At one time, he had also been nationally ranked. Jake’s dream was to attend Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. After high school he did just that.

Here and there, I kept track of Jake and his family. His father, who rented an apartment once the divorce was finalized, informed my mom that Jake hated Air Force. Then in the next breath he was captain of their wrestling squad. Of course there was the update where Jake was graduating and did not want to go to Iraq or Afghanistan. This threw me for a loop. It’s like being a lifeguard and not wanting to get into the pool.

Jake then dropped me a line when he married his wife Jaci. Apparently, the two had met at Air Force and had been college sweethearts. Much like his mother, she wasn’t terribly beautiful but seemed nice. I went to her facebook. There were people remarking that she didn’t let her platoon swear and punished them when she did. Jake had married the fun police.

Then again, it struck me as weird that Jake was getting married at all because his woman skills were a big zero. Yes, Jake was an oddball. When we were little, he often tapped me on the shoulder and ran away. Looking back, this was a stunt to get my attention but it more or less annoyed me. Jake also tried to ask me stupid questions about his summer reading knowing I was a supreme dork and loved books. I would answer his questions and of course the entire time he would stare into space. Once I suggested he actually read the book. This was an idea unheard of. 

Of course add in that Jake had borrowed a pen of mine once for some reason. Next thing I know he’s knocking on my door. My mother answered. There was the awkward, brown haired lad with a Pittsburgh Steeler’s hat on. He said, “Mrs. Brucker, I borrowed a pen from April and I lost it. So I got her a new one.”

“Thank you, Jake. I will be sure that she gets it.” My mom replied trying to search for words.

Standing on the top of the landing, witnessing this exchange, I thought it was the odd just like everything else Jake did. “What was that?” I remembered asking my mom.

“What in God’s name makes that boy think he has a chance with my daughter?” My mother asked, throwing the question out.

“What are you talking about?” Now I was confused.

“That boy really likes you. But he’s too short.” My mom informed me making a declarative statement but then dismissing it. Of course nevermind that she was barely five feet tall herself.

“Mom, he’s weird. He doesn’t like me. Guys don’t talk to me.” I said, filling my mother in on the fact her daughter was the Dork Queen. High school musical, public access television, and then add in local paper and literary magazine don’t exactly put you on the list for the best parties.

“Sweetie, he likes you. Boys like you. They are scared of you because you are smart.”

“Mom, they only want girls who put out.”

“Eh, but those girls get old. You also scare them because you are sort of aggressive.” My mother said. “Stop biting their heads off so much. No man wants a man hater.”

“But you were a member of NOW in college.”

“Yes, and then my boobs started to sag and I wanted my bra back. Saggy boobs makes a screaming woman even uglier.” She fired back and then exited.

File under priceless.

I hadnt thought of Jake until I did a show in the city and he popped up. At this point, Jake had left the service. He was living in Inglewood working as a civil engineer. Harriet, his sister, was a doctor and engaged to the son of a Jordanian diplomat. As for the youngest, Marga, she had dropped out of college and was living in an apartment with her boyfriend “trying to find herself.”

When I brought up Jaci and the fact he had gotten married just because it was the last update, Jake made a face like I had told him the test results had come back positive. His wedding ring was missing in action. It appeared Jake and Jack Judy were more alike than I originally thought. My mother even echoed with the sentiment, “He’s a cat around off the old block. Watch out, there might be a black sedan slowing down with a bullet coming out of the window in your near future.”

Despite my mom’s warnings, I had other plans. Jake and I were calling, chatting, and texting on the regular. He wanted to know if I wanted to catch coffee at some point. As the conversations got deeper, I said yes.

We got together. At that point, Jake, who had grown into a handsome man with chestnut hair and a broad smile, told me his tale of woe. His wife, Jaci, had been a fun loving girl upon first meeting. Like him, she was a math and science whiz. However, she was always “down with Jesus” as Jake explained.

Jaci came from a family in Northern California with a father who was a lumberjack and a mother who was morbidly obese. Her parents had met in high school and got married, never going to college. Jaci’s oldest sister got pregnant in high school, dropped out, and was dumped by the teen dad who would later turn into the dead beat dad. Her second sister joined the army and did well for herself. The third sister was a lesbian, which cause Ma and Pa to disown her. And then there was Jaci.

She studied hard and got into Air Force determined to make something of herself. In her mountain church in the Ozarks as a child she had gotten the message. As an adult, she had been religious. During her cadet days, she punished the plebes under her for swearing and other ungodly language. Now she wanted to become a minister. Jaci attended divinity school at Yale, and God spoke to her. Translated, she had to be pure renewing her virginity. This meant no more sex with Jake.

Jaci explained to Jake that “Even Abraham had a concubine. Where do you think Islam comes from?” So as she renewed herself for God, Jake was welcome to have as many concubines as need be as long as there was no emotional attachment. The story seemed flat out insane but I had heard crazier be true, and I had grown up in an area with religious cults. Plus Jake Judy in my experience did not lie.

As we chatted into the night my heart flew. I really liked Jake. During the IM, he was talking about being “So sick of Jaci that I just want to leave. Fuck her, fuck her God, and fuck her faith. I am getting a Goddam concubine and leaving her ass.”

“Sounds like a real drip.” I said. Then Jake signed off. Apparently Jaci walked in the room and he didn’t want the drama.

During our next outing, dinner and a movie, Jake confided in me about why he had left the Air Force. Apparently, he had been on an Air Craft carrier during his time as an officer, and had gotten sea sick. I remember thinking how on one hand he sounded like a wimp, but I also knew through experience, as someone gets sea sick, that it’s a real joy kill.

After that date, Jake kissed me. It was a long, thrilling, forbidden kiss. An hour later, I found myself facebook stalking Jaci Judy. Not saying I am proud of the low road I took, but I was a woman in love. Jaci no doubt was something else. Inside an army base where she was apparently visiting her uncle she had on a skimpy little number and was posing seductively. Then there were the weird Bible quotes. After which she tagged over 100 photos of her husband in a day, only three of which he was actually in. One was even of a washing machine. Wow, this woman was nuts. Jake had to get away and fast.

The next morning, after paying my rent, I saw Steve outside The Club. Sucking down a cigarette, this spider web tattoo in the inside of his elbow, he straightened his arm.

“Rough morning, Sir Steve?” I asked.

 “You have no idea. I am waiting for food for this establishment. Hump is upstairs doing a remodeling job. Benjy is supposed to be helping him and is late. Hump insists I didn’t order enough spackle or whatever the fuck he throws down.” Steve said in an agitated tone as his puffed his cigarette.

“What the hell is spackle?”

“Hell if I know. And Polo is in love with a psychotic wildebeest who works in a dungeon. What about you? How is the wonderful world of April Brucker?”

“Nothing that exciting.” I replied. “Except I saw Polo’s picture with his new squeeze.”

“I hope he hides his food because that bitch is gonna eat him outta house and home.” Steve snipped.

“What about Hump? Shouldn’t he be minding his new stepchildren?” I asked.

“Oh that mess. The girlfriend of some ex-con Hump knows fixed them up. It was one bad date.” Steve told me.

“Dear God.” I uttered.

Just then Benjy arrived. Taking center stage, he announced, “Listen, Lady and Gent! I apologize for my tardiness in this endeavor! Kim and I had a huge fight last evening and he had makeup sex for several hours. We then had a cuddling session where I fell asleep and actually strangled her. She got scared, tried to call the cops, and then told me this is the third time I have tried to strangle her in my sleep. So I promised her I would go into a sleep study, and then we had even more makeup sex-“

As Benjy rattled off his night Steve put his hand up to stop the disaster. “Just go upstairs. Hump is pissed off enough.” Steve informed him, exasperated.

 “If he gives you shit remind him that he stuck his dick in Desi.” I replied.

“Oh I will if you don’t. That girl is annoying and ugly.” Steve opined. “I was sitting next to her and this writer’s thing and she just kept talking about this woman who she took in that tried to burn her house down and I was looking out the window. Jesus fuck, she’s so mental she would drive anyone to commit arson.”

Just then my phone pinged. Jake. I texted back. He texted back. “And who is she texting?” Benjy mused.

“No one.” I told them.

“It’s someone.” Benjy insisted looking over my shoulder. Then aloud read, “Your wife seems like a crazy bitch.”

“It’s not what it sounds like.” Then the story came out. Yes, I was dating a semi-married man. It was complicated.

“Wow.” Steve said as he lit another cigarette and was simply silent. Benjy just started laughing.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

“As compared to you, Polo is fine with his KFC eating white trash wafer.” Benjy explained.

Seconds later, Hump thundered down the stairs. “Where the fuck is the spackle! I told you I needed more spackle!”

“More cowbell!” Benjy exclaimed, referencing the Christopher Walkin skit on SNL.

 “Where the hell have you been? I told you I needed you an hour ago!” Hump was less than amused.

“He and Kim were having makeup sex and lost track of time. Have a heart.” Steve said, trying to add levity to the situation. Despite his small stature, Hump was huffing and puffing. Although he was over six feet tall, I felt the fear emanate from Benjy.  

“And we were hanging out with Polo last night and his gal pal. She’s fat and ugly. You should see her.” Benjy offered.

 “Polo has been working all those hours as a bouncer at the gay bar. He needs a girl like that on his arm. With that mustache people are starting to wonder.” Hump surmised using logic of the great philosopher Archie Bunker.

My phone pinged. Jake. “Is that your married boyfriend?” Benjy asked, because he had no filter whatsoever. Steve laughed again, and Hump turned in my direction curious. I smiled as if my hand had gotten caught in the cookie jar.

 “Look, stop making it out to be what it’s not. His wife gave herself to Jesus and won’t sleep with him. She said he can have concubines.” I explained.

“Damn that line is good. Later, I am going to Friendly’s and am using that.” Steve suggesting, smiling.

Well, maybe she won’t sleep with him because he’s a fucking dog.” Hump surmised, delivering his findings as if he had gathered them via university study.

“Hey, at least the last place I stuck my dick didn’t have a sober stripper blog riddled with spelling errors.” I chided.

“Then don’t make it a classic ‘men are dirt’ moment. You recruited this floating turd ball yourself.” Hump fired back.

Steve just kept laughing, and Benjy kept yelling, “Zing!” after each insult.

 “While I would love to stick around, I have to go talk to Jake. At least he isn’t going to make the egregious error of trying to keep me prisoner.”

Egregious. Hump looked confused. “It’s a big word I know, especially since your knuckles drag so often that they bleed.” I said, bitch smile flashing all over my face.

I waved and departed. Fuck him.

An hour later, I got a call from Jake’s phone. He had promised me tickets to the Yankees, so I was stoked. Instead, it was a female voice. “I don’t want trouble, but I have to know a few things.” She said.

“Who is this?” I asked puzzled as to what was going on.

“Are you fucking my husband?!” She asked. It was a tense whisper, one where the person on the other end of the phone was perhaps gripping a weapon to either use on themselves or the person on the other end of the receiver.

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“Just answer my question.” She commanded.



“Look, he said you were in Divinity School and found Jesus. Jake insists you let him have concubines.”

There was a silence on the end of the phone. “YOU ARE A FUCKING LIAR! STAY AWAY FROM MY FUCKING HUSAND OR I WILL KILL YOU, YOU BITCH!!!!” After that, it was as if the Exorcist entered her body. I hung up the phone horrified.

As the shock washed over me, I felt a ball of vomit in my stomach. I was now officially the other woman, the least liked person in the universe by pretty much everyone. The only people less redeeming were rapists, murderers, pedophiles, and New York City landlords. I sent Jake an angry text telling him he could go fuck his wife and then fuck himself. I was done.

The anger stayed with me mixed with the guilt. Time and time again, I had my heart broken. At this point in my life, I should have been used to men and their bullshit. To clear my head, I found myself at Hudson River Park. My social media lit up on my phone. Jake announced that he and his wife were “stronger than ever” which made me want to barf. Everyone had been correct, especially Hump. God I hated my life.

I sat on the bench and tears rolled down my cheeks. Just then I heard a voice, someone trying to sound like the Hunchback of Notre Dame whisper in my ear, “Why are you crying, Princess?”

I yelped in utter horror. Turning around, I saw Hump standing there laughing his head off. Now I was just plain annoyed. As my face grimaced in plain rage at having my self-pity interrupted, Hump continued to amuse himself at my expense by laughing even harder.

Finally, when the words came out I asked, “What the fuck?”

“You were crying and I didn’t want to see you cry.” Hump replied lighting a cigarette. “A crying woman is one of the most depressing sites in the world for a man.”

“Let me cry alone.” I commanded. “Besides, Desi needs your dick in her mouth.”

“Oh, so speaking of dicks it was the married dickhead you were dating?” Hump guessed. When I didn’t reply, he responded, “I knew it!”

“I’ll be fine. Desi’s waiting for you.”

“Just stop that now. Stop that shit now. She’s not here. I’m here with you as your friend. So you can’t be mean to me, okay?” Hump instructed.

Hump calmly stated, “You all went to college and might know some big words from books. I didn’t. The words you use go over my head and there are times you enjoy a laugh at my expense. Steve went to a thousand colleges, Benjy went to Manhattan School of Music and then you went to NYU. I barely graduated high school, install air conditioners, and put up dry wall for a living. So I must be stupid, right?”

“I never said that.” I snapped. Now I was even more agitated.

“No, but most of you wouldn’t know your way out of an alley. Steve never has enough supplies for his business. Benjy is my best friend, but sucks as far as a helper goes. I did a job for a guy and sent Benjy one day. He put the cabinet in backwards and then the dude demanded his keys and deposit back. As for you, men suck. Men suck. Maybe it’s because you have never had an actual man in your life. You have just had these idiots time and time again and that’s your bad decision. It’s not your shit generalization.” Hump eloquently stated, delivering a smile of victory.

I said nothing, but continued to sit there shocked as Hump lit a cigarette and took a long drag. “Doesn’t feel good to be judged so hard now does it?” Hump asked.

“I never meant to….”

“Say facetious things to him…..”

“Facetious is a good word. A big word but a good word. Where did you learn it?” I asked.

“Anyone can say big words, not just you. But you must remember, sweetheart, the tongue is the tool of all sin.” Hump cooed, delivering the final knock out punch. I never realized the man was so well spoken. He was also absolutely right about everything, from Jake Judy to the way I judged him.

 “What book is that from? That’s a good quote.” I asked.

“The Bible.” Hump informed me matter of fact. I sat there even more shocked as he added. “Yes, I know the Bible.”

“I’m sorry I…”

“Apology accepted.”

Just then I looked out on the water. I had remembered on one of our outings Jake mentioned one reason he didn’t last in the Air Force was he couldn’t stomach being on an air craft carrier. I mentioned this to Hump laughing. Hump didn’t laugh back. Instead he just shook his head and responded, “Your friend is full of shit. Air craft carrier boats don’t rock.”

“How would you know?” I asked.

Hump said nothing and lit a cigarette. In the next breath he changed the subject. He asked, “It’s late and I think we are both hungry. Would you like some dollar pizza, my treat?”

“Sure.” I said.

We ended up yacking it up about life and it turned out Hump was much more intelligent than I gave him credit for. He knew all about dogs and revealed that he was a pitbull owner at one point, but had to give up his dog when his new building wouldn’t let him have pets. As I chatted with Hump, I felt we connected which was nice. However, it also scared the living crap out of me. I told myself my senses were off because of all I had been going through.

Either way, I told myself he was just a friend like I always had. But in the back of my mind, I suspected this wasn’t all the universe had in mind for our story.  

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Bad Romance (Lady Gaga)

It was the summer of 2014, and my workload had reached a fever pitch. My puppet children and I filmed a pilot for ABC and did a photo shoot for Hearst. As well, I did puppet work for a short film that would later go on to be nominated for a major festival award. In there, I covered the World Cup for an Android app. I also managed to write for a highly trafficked blog while delivering singing telegrams online.
Did I mention I hosted a book signing, released a DVD, and even completed a graduate writing course with an “A+” grade?
Most of the time I was tired and bedraggled. There were no time for real men, just friends. That is when a man named Humphrey Bogart tumbled into my life.
No, that’s not his real name but in many ways is reminiscent of the film legend. Hump, as he was called, worked in my neighborhood doing various home improvement projects for rich people and was a project manager on a night club or two. Whenever he wasn’t working there, he ran an event space with my writer compatriot Stevenson, or Steve for short.
Steve was a Queens kid who spent some time in Pennsylvania, partially because of his father’s job, and also due to the fact Steve picked up a burglary charge as a teenager. Although charged as a juvenile, Steve’s parents felt a fresh start would be good for their son and perhaps avoid a future stint in jail. Plus the neighborhood they lived in, once a working class Irish section, was getting worse and worse. After experimenting with drugs and living as a hobo, Steve cleaned up his act and decided to focus on putting pen to paper.
An expressive writer and wonderful storyteller, Steve had a handlebar mustache and sometimes bleached his dark hair platinum blonde. His arms were covered with various forms of body ink, some detailing his travels and others as just another artistic outlet. While he had a handful of lasses admiring him, some who notoriously left their panties on his night stand, he wasn’t a player of the jerky kind. Rather, Steve was often up front with his conquests. Still, this didn’t mean one didn’t catch feelings and opine her struggles to the local bar owner, Friendly, who was also Steve’s uncle, and would be laughed off the street. And then there was Cassidy who chased him down 9th Avenue with a frying pan…..
Steve was amazingly educated, attending even some foreign institutions but somehow never maintaining a diploma. He was published in several student periodicals, and his selections were often solipsistic in nature. Still, I often enjoyed his style. When not writing or helping to run the event space up the street, Steve was seen in Union Square rolling cigarettes and playing Beatles tunes on his acoustic guitar.
Hump was the polar opposite of Steve in many ways. Unlike Steve who always had a new woman every week on his arm, Hump often flew solo. Upon our first meeting, Steve had been talkative and we had hit it right off. Hump, on the other hand, was a different story. He had remained quiet, almost brooding during our initial encounter. He had brown, almost black hair that was matted to his head. His eyes were dark, and he held a gaze akin to a vulture. The entire time he smoked a cigarette like a rebel without a cause that really just needed a hug. As Steve and I talked Edgar Allen Poe and other selections most of the world doesn’t care about, Hump stared off into space blowing cigarette smoke. He did crack a laugh once, but I had a feeling we really didn’t connect. I didn’t care and deep down had no idea why Steve was even friends with such a moody mess albeit an uneducated one.
I had no idea Hump had formed an opinion of me either way until I was walking down the street and heard, “YO!”
I turned around and there he was, goofy million dollar mega-watt grin on his face. Cigarette cradled in his fingers, he wore a wife beater exposing his ink. Every mother’s nightmare but probably was in fact fun before he destroyed your life, I waved back hoping to make it short and sweet. This was no judgment on Hump specifically, wait, yes it was in a way, but rather Steve’s company. Yes Steve, who’s other bestie Polo loved skanky women and dropped the term “baby mama” regularly. Steve didn’t prefer trash per se, but as a writer he craved experience. This meant friends like Polo who were mad shady, and nights at a gay bar that no ordinary straight man would ever cop up to.
“You’re Steve’s friend. Your name’s April, right?” Hump said, his voice deep and scratchy layered thick like cream cheese with a New Jersey accent.
“Yes, that would be correct.”
“Oh yeah, you write and do that puppet stuff. Steve showed me a video of yours. You’re funny.”
“A little heavy on the man hate, but funny.” Hump observed throwing his cigarette to the curb.
“Thank you. Do you live around here?” I asked, curious. Most of Steve’s friends lived in strange situations or experienced some form of homelessness on the regular.
“Oh, I work a lot at the club up the street, Steve’s space. I technically live in Clear Channel but sleep there most of the time. So yes and no.” Hump answered. We talked for about twenty more minutes before parting ways. Maybe he was nuts, but like many a Steve friend he was quirky and funny.
Over the next several months I saw more of Hump and got to know him better. I found out his astrological sign was Virgo. This meant romantically we would be a disaster based on my past experience with his people. In that span, I also discovered Hump was not only working as an event coordinator at the club in addition to running construction projects in the place, but also was sought out for private jobs by rich clientele. A whiz who was quick on his feet, Hump always made me laugh and also could fix just about anything. Oh, and he was good with animals.
Despite not being an inch over 5’7”, the exact height of Napoleon, Hump was not afraid of a fight. Once, a bigger guy was pushing around a homeless man. At the time, Hump was doing a job at the club. Seeing this outside his window, Hump ran down the stairs and informed the bigger man he would “beat the living shit out of him.” At first the big man was undaunted, but when Hump stepped forward he knew he meant business. After which the big man retreated, Hump gave the homeless man five bucks, and up the stairs he went. I gave him credit, he had balls.
One evening, Steve threw a function at the space. He begged me to go. I knew this was either going to be an epic hit or an epic disaster. Sure enough, it was somewhere in between. At about midnight I departed. As I walked down my street, I saw Hump on the other side. Quickly, I gave him the big hello and we talked for a minute. He informed me he had a private client who was letting him sleep in his high rise apartment down the street while he was away.
I offered to walk Hump home. However, Hump corrected, “It is usually the man who walks the woman home I believe.” Without missing a beat, Hump jounced across the street without even looking both ways. Faster than the speed of light, he landed in front of me on the sidewalk.
“Thank you, but it is the 21st century and I live only feet away.” I informed my well meaning but crazy friend.
“I insist.” Hump said, flashing a debonair grin.
“Alright.” I knew as one of Steve’s friends anything was possible. There was no way I was sleeping with Hump. While he seemed harmless, Polo was notorious for trying to get into girl’s panties after hello. This evening alone I had seen him get slapped and a bottled water was thrown at him. While I found Polo funny, I also understood why he had more near death experiences than anyone I knew.
We walked together for two more minutes before I arrived safely at my door. Instead of demanding sex a la Polo, Hump gave me a hug and told me to be safe and have a good night. As we departed, a smile crossed my face. I liked my new friend, I really did. Filing him under nice guy, aside from the fact astrologically we clashed, I knew dating in Steve’s circle would be a match made in hell.
Plus at the time, he was entangled in an arrangement with Desdemona Ambrose Honeywell. Desi, as she was known, was a former alcoholic party girl and trust fund kid who had also worked as a stripper. Formerly a Barnard girl, she had abandoned her education and ambition when she met a much older man. Parallel to this, she had been studying Anna Nicole Smith in her Women’s Studies class. At this point mind you she was an atheist.
At Barnard, she discovered alcohol and cocaine and decided to embark on a career in the skin industry. Mind you this was after her country club parents, Buffy and Claude, stopped payment on her trust fund. Thus she got herself involved in a check forging scam with an associate United States Attorney General. He ended up getting 10 years in White Collar Prison, and Desi walked away unscathed with 30 days in jail. Rich family works wonders.
In jail, she heard the message of sobriety and Alcoholics Anonymous. While this was good for her well-being, Desi began to make it her mission to spread the word of God and sobriety but to rob everyone else of their joy. Determined to “carry the message” as they say, she left The Big Book aka The AA Bible in local bars like John Calvin used to do with Bibles in Switzerland. When she saw this was a lost cause, instead of changing her failosophy, she added further to it by self-publishing her own recovery literature.
Her poorly written, spelling and grammar error riddled selections were entitled Can’t Keep A Former Stripper From Strutting to God and of course one selection to especially make one jump out a window, From the Pole to My Soul: A Sober Girl’s Tale of Redemption. As if this wasn’t bad enough, she made youtube videos talking about her drunk-a-logs and other tawdry escapades in a monotone voice. With pitch black hair and a hellish amount of eyeliner, you knew despite her claims that she had changed her life, when push came to shove she could still chain a man to a radiator.
Hump had encountered this disaster through Steve. Yes, Steve had met Desi at a writer’s conference. After a bad date where Desi tried to get Steve to stop smoking because “his body was a temple” he pawned his mistake off on Hump. Who needs enemies when you have friends like that?
In any event, Hump and Desi actually were happy for a minute. As a matter of fact, I even saw them supping at the Pluto Deli and Eatery. While I didn’t know Desi personally, her fervor and the fact she personally let everyone know “God was her employer” gave me the chills. She was reminiscent of the religious fanatics from my hometown that had the “do as I say but don’t say as I do” attitude. But Hump was my friend and I wanted to see him happy. So I wrote off any possible romance.
However, the Desi and Hump were soon to crash and burn worse than the onlookers of the Holy Grail. I found this out when I saw Steve, Polo, Hump and Friendly. While Friendly’s joint did not open until noon, he had the lights on at around 8 AM. This meant either a film shoot or an emergency.
I looked in the window. There sat four men looking like they had been beaten by a demon force. The place had more smoke than a speakeasy. I waved. Steve, looking like he had seen ghosts, motioned me to come in.
“What is going on?” I asked, sweaty from my morning run and only a few paces away from my house and the relief of a shower.
“Would you like some coffee, Doll?” Friendly inquired. He looked like he hadn’t been to sleep either. Rather, this was just dumped on his lap.
“That would be great. Now why are four of my favorite boys looking like they escaped from Army of Darkness?” Now I was curious.
“How apt you mention that Bruce Campbell classic. ‘Die hell bitch’ should be the phrase of the day.” Steve said, his face twisted in a grin that was absolutely priceless.
“What the fuck is she talking about?” Hump demanded. His hair was messed up and he looked like he had a rough night. Then I realized he was merely clad in boxers.
“And where the fuck are your clothes?” I fired back.
“Relax man, you forget April’s our friend. And she’s not the one who tried to capture you and keep you prisoner.” Polo reminded him. “I knew it from the first time I met her that she would try to do this, man. She had crazy eyes.”
“I’m lost.” I told the group.
Steve just started laughing. Agitated, annoyed, tired, and now embarrassed Hump bellowed, “This is all your fault!”
“Woman troubles.” Friendly informed me. His tall lanky frame approaching with a cup of coffee. As usual, his Harley was parked out front and his signature do rag was perched on his head, blood red in color. If I didn’t know Friendly so well, I would assume he was a member of a biker gang. A thin scar lined his left cheek as evidence of a knife fight gone wrong as a rowdy teen.
Then the story unfolded.
The first two dates with Desi had been a swimming success, and like two crossed-love struck teens forced apart by an adult chaperone, they were determined to be together. Sexting and talking dirty, Hump and Desi plotted a third date. The first had been to a movie, and the second to a speaker jam followed by a walk by the water. Desi, saying she was demanding respect, informed Hump who was growing ever so horny that she was not putting out until the third date.
The third date was where the nightmare began.
Hump was forced to go to Desi’s AA meeting, a Park Avenue group that was akin to a mega-church that in some ways had broken away from the fellowship altogether and in a lot of facets resembled a cult. They had come under fire years before when a member, a troubled young woman, was coaxed by a sponsor to forgo her psych meds and to “Go to God to relieve your alcoholism and depression.”
The girl went to God alright…..that is, by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.
In any event, Hump was forced to wear a name tag and was “weirded out” by the wide eyed, vacant stares of the adherents. Nonetheless, Desi was a much respected member of the group. Desi’s sponsor and sponsor family knew almost too much information about Hump, and they had all Googled him. This weirded him out, but he said in his defense, “I thought I was gonna get laid. I really liked her!”
The group laughed as Hump’s face fell. Then the tale of woe unfolded further. Hump admitted that sex did occur. It was wild, passionate, and the scratches on his back, still visible, looked like they had been given to him by a werewolf. The two love birds had sex for at least 4 hours. One round, according to Hump, was even anal. By all accounts, this sounded like every man’s dream girl.
Alas, all that glitters is not gold. Hump woke up the next morning with no sign of Desi in site. He saw the clock read 7 AM. He figured by the site of the closed door perhaps she had gone to the bathroom or run a quick errand. As he sat up, it occurred to Hump he had to pee.
Approaching the door, Hump went to open it. However, it was locked. Panicked, he tried again. And then a third time. Figuring there was a mistake he called for Desi. No answer. He then tried her on his phone. To his relief she picked up. However, his joy was short lived when she said, “Glad you are still there. I will not return until nightfall. Stay put.”
When Hump demanded to be released, Desi cooed, “It’s my abandonment issues. My sponsor and I are working through these. I will make amends to you later. And by the way, I did the sober thing of leaving your wallet but took your clothes. That way you can’t leave me!”
With that she hung up. Thinking on his feet, Hump had opened the window and was climbing the fire escape to freedom. However, new to the city he did not know the area. Desperate and in the streets clad in boxers, Hump desperately called Steve. At the time Steve was fast asleep in the arms of a tartlette called Jenny, a conquest that he really didn’t want to stay over but alas, he was too tired to fight. Steve wanted a cheap lay, but she worshipped the ground he walked on.
Steve picked up the phone, realizing that while he was in a woman jam so was Hump. By the addresses, Steve surmised Hump was blocks away from Friendly’s bar. Steve directed the half-asleep but rather shocked Hump. And Friendly, who had not yet gone to sleep, heard about the disaster and opened his door to a friend. Of course, Polo was doing the walk of shame from the home of a woman he could not even remember. But in typical Polo fashion, he wanted to slip out undetected. That is when he saw the gathering and they invited him in. And now here I was.
“Shit, you almost died.” I said laughing.
“Dude, you leave after you fuck her.” Polo instructed. “Hey, unlike that crazy slut I do as I say and say as I do.” I burst out laughing. God I liked Polo. He came correct even if he was incorrect.
 “Alright, the three of you really need to clean up your act. How are you supposed to get a decent girl like April here to talk to you?” Friendly quizzed.
Polo, a third generation Cuban American scratched his head. Despite his Latino heritage he was red headed with pale skin. Short and stout, Polo, between cigarette puffs, observed, “Who says April’s decent?”
“Decent at beating your ass.” I said flicking Polo. The group laughed as Polo threw a napkin at me in faux retaliation.
“Get a room you two!” Steve heckled.
“Oh, I think that’s what got everyone here into the jams they are currently in, so for the sake of all things living most of our fun for today shall be out of bed for now. What do you say fellas?” Friendly suggested. “Do like April, jog instead of murdering your lungs. Shit, what am I talking about? You need some clothes. You escaped one crazy bitch, lets not have you arrested and see a second crazy bitch in jail.” Friendly suggested and off to the back he went to get Hump the outfit he kept in the back in case he was too tired to get home.
Minutes later, Friendly returned with a wife beater and a pair of cargo shorts. While they were slightly large on Hump, the belt made them work. That is, enough to get to the high rise where he was squatting for another week to the majority of his clothes in a bag.
As our gathering dispersed, Hump called to me. “Can I walk you home?” He asked.
“There are no spooks. I am fine. But by the way your life is unfolding I think this time I should definitely walk you home.” I said verbally slapping Hump.
“I am still a gentlemen.” Hump told me.
“The way you were carrying on, one would have thought you were frequenting a brothel.” I told Hump, “And if your boxers werent so conservative, I would have gotten a full peak at Junior.”
“It was a bad night and she tried to capture me. Let’s be fair. Look, I would love to walk you home if you would let me. Daylight or night light, good night or bad night, I am still a gentlemen. But I’m a gentlemen  out of cigarettes. How about this. If you come with me to get cigarettes, I’ll get you more coffee.” Hump offered.
After a stop to the corner store, Hump lit a cigarette. “You got lucky, Pal. She could have had a pet bunny.” I said laughing.
Instead of laughing, Hump sucked down his cancer stick and was deathly quiet. Maybe it was because he had endured a near death experience, or maybe it was because he was tired. Either way, he was back to his moody self, the one that I had met upon our first encounter.
“You’re lucky you got out alive. Sounds like you escaped Iraq.” I said with a loud half laugh. It wasn’t to be dickish but rather just to open up an individual who clearly was not as ready to laugh about this as the rest of his circle of friends was.
Instead of laughing, Hump got even more deathly quiet, and a scowl came over his face. He said nothing and threw his cigarette on the sidewalk. Then my phone pinged. It was Jake Judy, yes the married former classmate things were getting complicated with. He wanted to know if I wanted to hang out because he was coming to town. A smile lit over my face. Sure, I was technically the other woman, but at least he wasn’t unpredictable like Hump.
“Who’s that?” Hump inquired now curious.
“No one.” I replied as we neared my door.
“It was someone.”
“A guy.”
Half-laughing I told Hump the story. Maybe this would cheer him up. Instead his expression remained serious as if he were either attending to a hanging, an electrocution, or maybe even going to the gas chamber himself.
“Sounds like a real asshole.” Hump snapped.
“He’s not a bad guy. Sometimes, things are just complicated.”
“He’s married to someone else and you are dating him. Not that complicated, Sweetie.”
“It’s complicated. And you of all people should understand sometimes things just happen.” I informed my friend who felt the need to judge me and somehow forgot his most recent misadventure.
 “He sounds like a real dickface, fucking around on his wife behind her back with you. You come down awfully hard on guys sometimes, but you pick some real assholes.” Hump seethed, annoyed.
Hump took my inventory, and I was stunned at the double standard of the whole situation. But Hump wasn’t done. “He’s a douchebag. Plain and simple.” Hump confidently stated. “Not all men are cheaters as you say in your videos and blogs. Some of us want to treat a woman decently and have morals.”
“Look, until Friendly gave you wardrobe you were near naked and I saw Junior poking out and love wounds on your back from a syphilis filled slut bag who thinks she can write when in fact she can’t. William Shakespeare would be rolling in his grave if he read the structure of her prose. You have no business using the word decently let alone morals in a sentence for the next 48 hours. Have a nice life.” I said and closed the door behind me.
Good bye and good riddance.

Just then, Jake pinged me back but now I wasn’t looking forward to seeing him. Oh what tangled webs we weave.

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