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.”
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.
For more on me please go to www.aprilbrucker.com