By JESSICA KANE, written in 1996
Eddie said he had something for me. Good, I thought. Hopefully not whole grain bread or millet which is what he usually pulls out of his alarmingly bright red knapsack.
Moments later, he shuffled back into his windowless soundproof teeny tiny room with no carbohydrates, thank god, but with some strange looking ‘culotte suit’. I guess that’s what you’d call it. A cotton ‘jumper’ with short-like appendages. It was white with navy blue polka dots. Something I never intended to receive, ever.
Ed has given me some very strange clothing, though, now that I am forced to think about it. One day he came over and presented to me an off-white long sleeveless prairie-type dress. Another day he arrived and pulled out a purple, rather homely knee length version of a cheerleading skirt. I usually laugh after the silent pauses. See, I mostly wear my pajamas or tight whore-type clothes. Ed never cares, though, if I like them or not. But when I tried on this latest costume, which was, I learned, purchased at a flea market in Berlin in order to make monetary change, I fell in love with it. Granted, it hugs my crotch, almost causing premature ejaculation, but with my thigh high black leather boots, it makes a most original and stunning combination.
I straddled Ed while he sat on some sort of chair in his dark room and felt aroused in my new costume. His room always makes me feel contented. Even when all other things are going wrong. Like now, for instance. But in that little room, nothing can go wrong... Unless you’re trying to sleep on a piece of four-inch foam when it’s freezing... but that only happened once.
I’ve had two near out of body experiences in that room. One occurred on the first night I ever slept there. And the other time was more recent, while he was downstairs having a rehearsal with some of the people in his band. Both times I felt myself leaving my body, and both times I was so frightened I made myself focus on some door knob or the chair in order to come back to the land of bridges and burgers in one piece.
You know, I hate it when I’m in the middle of an activity like writing and I go to push in my chair and something like a basket on the floor is blocking my way. I get hot at these moments. And violent. Sometimes I kick the basket, even though it really hasn’t done anything wrong. I get mean sometimes. Eddie doesn’t. He’s always really calm. He judges a lot. People and stuff. He’ll be the first to admit it. He’s right most of the time though, as far as judgments go. But me, well, I know better than to judge whole-heartedly. I only do it on spurts... Like kicking stuff out of my way, calling Peter my roommate a fatter and more stupid version of one of those old tiny dog toys on wheels, or placing ant poison out when the sight of a zillion ants running around the foot of my bed makes my entire life feel ruined. At moments like these, I feel no remorse. At these moments, everything deserves what they get. And if the ants decide in a revolutionary modus operandi to climb into my bed and all get in my mouth to suffocate me, well I wouldn’t blame them.
Little ants. Little teeny tiny ants. Speeding around my floor. I watch them sometimes. Once, I sliced an overly large crumb in threes so one of the little guys could shove it down the crack leading to his home. He politely waited until I finished and carried on. I wonder if he thought I was god or something. I don’t know if I really did it to help him though. I think I was just looking for entertainment to mask my pickled boredom. But every time I decide to have a rampage with the little ants, I have bad luck the next day. Of course, the man on the bus told me that I don’t have bad luck, that people make their own luck. And I agree with him, I guess. Maybe I just like the feeling of things seemingly bad happening, cause it makes me feel detached. Like when I cut my finger with the knife just before, or when my story got rejected from Playboy Magazine, or… when I got my car towed for the second time in two weeks. But the bus driver was in a verbal mood. I guess it was my penance for riding for free. And he mentioned that in a subtle way, meaning he said it in the most painfully blatant way possible. “You’re riding the bus for free, aren’t you?” “I guess I am,” I said. And I guess that’s luck. I rode em free all damn day. Only got denied by one mean white lady. “You may not get on this bus,” she said. Didn’t even look at me. I was glad, though, not to have made eye contact. She was angry. I didn’t mind. She must have been justified. All anger is to somebody. But I had to ride the bus so much, because I needed to get my damn car back. That they towed. Again.
In the last three months, I have served more hours at the Parking Violations Bureau and the Department of Motor Vehicles than I have spent making money. But this time, I decided to switch it up a bit and head over to the Brooklyn Navy Yard first. Get that initial headache over with right off the bat. But after I got off the bus, said good-bye to the nice black man who let me on free, headed closer and closer to that big ugly blue sign which so many people have looked at with bad feelings, addressed the security guard, and was directed over to window one, I was told I needed a picture ID. “But I called and spoke with a woman on the phone who told me that I didn’t need to have my drivers license.” (I lost my drivers license. (And my coat and my hat.)) So the man took my birth certificate, credit cards, checkbook, etc, all those things to make sure that some other asshole wasn’t trying to pay the 250$ to retrieve an impounded car with stale Hawaiian rolls in the trunk and spilled fruit punch on the passenger seat with pennies stuck to it, and went into the rear of the office.
Soon, a lady with a bright red, like Ed’s bag except patent leather, and it was a hat and not a bag, entered my peripherals. She was like a truck and in no mood for pedestrians. Big, richly black, with fierce pinkk make-up. “I was the lady you spoke with and I said you didn’t need your drivers license, that you could use another form of picture ID.”
“But I didn’t hear you say anything about a picture ID.”
“No picture ID, no car.”
“But I don’t want my car, I just want the summons so that I can go to court and get this whole mess cleared up.”
“No Picture ID, No summons. Sorry.”
I couldn’t believe how badly I wanted to stroll the muddy shit caked walkways of The Brooklyn Navy Yard. I could see in my mind in slo-mo all those cute boys gathered for the weekly auction bartering over all those rusted unclaimed beauties sitting there glistening in over-ripe excitement. “Ma’am, you cannot get your summons.”
At that moment, I ceased being calm. My inner princess was exposed, the guards off duty. I let each foot hit the ground in whatever way they chose. Palsy, rage, it didn’t matter. Inhibitions were replaced by such gloom that I now don’t know how I even managed to make it out the door. And when I finally did reach the outdoors, I leaned against a blue walkway banister and shed tears for approximately 1 minute and 37 seconds. I almost felt at one with my body. And for a moment my phlegm-ridden cough ceased. But I soon regained my faculties and my hack and let my mind once again take control of my body while I rested, and was inwardly greeted by my most favorite state of nothingness.
Two tows in two weeks. Am I stupid? Trying to beat a Guinness Record? Showing off to my peers? Committing a kind of belabored suicide? To ponder further seemed senseless, so I walkked to Jay Street and contemplated instead my last 100 dollars in the bank, the rent that I have not yet paid, the bills that I threw in the garbage during a fit of unharnessed laughter, and how I was counting, for my survival, on having that short story published in Playboy Magazine.
Now I am angry again. Because the K key on my computer is broken, making it either unresponsive to my touch or more often, going haywire at my pointer finger’s mere presence. But I don’t slam it. I breath deep and let the happy stuff rise to my head. I now feel like no matter what happens, nothing can really affect me. Could that be possible? Well, I sure have a lot of opportunities to test the theory. Like when I get to spend eight hours a day dealing with bureaucracy. As a matter of fact, since I always adapt so well to everything, this is the first time I’ve realized that’s what I’ve been up against.
So I walked to the Jay Street/Tech College stop and the buses were on their 6 minute pause and I asked the first driver if I could ride for free. But he said no. Said he was concerned his superior was spying on him. So I said fine. Oh yeah, I guess that makes two rejections. But that one didn’t really count because I went right next door, or rather marched right next door to bus number two and didn’t even ask for a free ride. I just started talking about misfortune and hit the jackpot. That started him jawing. He’s the one who told me each person makes their own luck. And I agreed. I guess I did. So, we got to Jerolemon, my most favorite place for foot and ground to meet, said good-bye, and headed towards that pillared wonderland where misery alone has probably weakened the foundation, the PVB, and I got on the over-crowded elevator to floor 9.
So much of the time I’m not part of the world. I’m thinking about why I’m scared to leave my body and if there is somehow a connection between that and the fact that I am always making my life complicated simply to avoid total freedom. I seem to like spending endless time getting myself out of mischief and talking misery with the folks. So the elevator opened and I walkked the familiar hallway and realized it wasn’t familiar, that I had gotten off on the wrong floor. I decided to take the stairs but when I realized I couldn’t enter the next floor via the stairwell, I ran down and pressed the ‘up’ button, fiercely. A man lookked at me the way people look at angry people. With curiosity. Then the elevator came and I got off on the right floor.
Wait a minute. The phone is ringing.... Sorry. It was Eddie. The reason I interject this information is because, believe it or not, it’s relevant. See, last night, after Eddie and I had sex and I put my underwear back on (or actually, a different dirty pair that I grabbed from the floor, under one of Eddie’s boots) along with my new polka dotted culotte-suit and black leather vest (I still was wearing my thigh high boots) and after he said, “I’ve never seen anything like it” (I just almost kicked my basket again) I put on Eddie’s jacket and we left for my place. And as we came up my block, I had this sudden urge to check for my car. And I started walking faster and faster as I got closer to where I’d parked. And soon the whole block was visible and yet I was still searching for the beginnings of my little black bumper to enter the frame. But it was now in vain. “Eddie, I cannot believe this.” Eddie was silent. Or maybe he said, “They towed it again?” and I probably held my head and said, “But I just had my car towed two weeks ago!”
Two weeks ago it was easy. I just made up a brilliant story, got a dismissal and picked up my car with not a dime in my pocket... But again? Alright, I thought. I can handle this. I still have that comfy place inside of me.
So we entered my apartment building, which was illuminated by the flashing of red and white lights from the fire truck and ambulance that I forgot to mention were right outside. A couple girls had been sitting on the stoop but I guess they would have been there regardless cause when I asked them what was going on they said, “What?” like they hadn’t noticed. And I took out my key and opened the door in record time. (I always have races with the mundane.) And we were greeted by a wafting hot sweaty sweet and sour stench. Like dough. And I got angry. What’s more, Peter was on the phone, probably pretending to be a funny guy, and I wanted to call the tow yard. I picked up another phone and told the tubbelard to get off. I was fierce and it gave me warm fuzzies. Peter took his extra sweaty sour time and I’m sure was able to stick in a couple of real winners, but finally got off. And I called the tow yard.
They told me my car had been towed three days ago. Which I had already speculated, though not on an action-oriented level of consciousness. I just had had that feeling that something was missing. But it was just as well. If I had known yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that, it surely would have ruined important plans. And I talked about this with Edward who wanted some toast. Not during my talk of course. He had mentioned the toast beforehand. Way beforehand.
So Ed had to leave that night, last night, to work the late shift at the hospital in Jersey. He does that three times a week. And he wondered if it was cold out and I said it was. And I then convinced him to wear his jacket, the one I’d been wearing. And maybe you see my stupidity at having insisted Ed wear the jacket... BECAUSE MY DAMN KKEYS WERE IN THE POCKET!!!! And even though I locked them in my car not a month ago, parked illegally no less, and had several helpful gentlemen from Bangladesh jimmy the passenger door so fiercely that it now doesn’t even open except from the inside, I haven’t yet gotten a duplicate made.
But, later that evening, last evening, at 2 am, I received a call from Ed. “I have your keys.” “Oh Christ.” No problem though. I can handle it. Because it doesn’t matter. Some people use stuff like, “Laugh in the face of adversity.” Not me. I think about airplanes and bowel movements. So we discussed whether or not he should take the train in from Philly tomorrow to return them. We never reached a conclusion.
In the DMV, there were many people. Many people who looked unhealthy and unhappy under the work-horse florescent lighting. The guard didn’t know the answers to any of my questions. And I was getting angry. But then I was OK again. It fluttered, like a pecker passing a nudie movie theater from inside a paddy wagon. Intense but temporary. And I waited in the info line, got my number which estimated 77 minutes of free time before the 5 minutes of fee time, and I thought, what to do, what to do.... Instantly, I had a most severely brilliant idea. In a nutshell, I trucked it on over to the Arches and got myself a Vegetarian Big Mac, Coke, and large fry. While I forced it down, feeling connected to many fat lumpy skinned individuals, an adorable male child played peek-a-boo with me. I was ravaging too relentlessly to play for long but I think he felt happy instead of feeling ignored.
So I got my temporary driver’s license and wailed with debatable joy over to the bus where I got another free ride back to the Navy Yard. In the rear of the office, Señora Truck shuffled papers. I waved, Bonjour! and had no problem exchanging the proper certificates. Then I hopped in a dirty old pick-up, maneuvered by a charming lad. I said, “Nice truck, man.” And he said, “Yesterday, they blocked me in an I couldn’t take no body no where.” “Stupid fucking assholes.” And we finally arrived to the sight of my confused vehicle where I retrieved my summons, thanked everyone for for everything. Thank you, thankk you. Thank you. And I left.
Back at the DMV, my friends recognized me at once. “You again?” “You ought to get a job here, Darlin’!” And I laughed whole heartedly and walked to get my number and waited for the voice to bark it back out. In no time flat, my number was called and consciousness took a minute or two for action to resume. “You know what to do, Baby,” my friends cheered me on. The lady at the tow desk took one lookk at my ticket and guttered, “You’ll never get it dismissed or even discussed until you get a copy of it from microfiche which will take at least 30 days.” I knew better than to trust such negativity. The problem was minuscule. It was just that the ticket had been wet causing it to be completely illegible. But I knew the rules in that place more than she did. And with confidence I walked into room 4 where one woman judge reigned.
She had beautiful eyes, deep breathing control, and organization skills extraordinaire. A beautiful black woman with straight darkk hair and a nice striped suit. Looked almost Egyptian. I didn’t even look at the clock sitting there listening to her, that’s how mesmorizing she was. “This ticket is dismissed.” “You are guilty.” Ahhh, it was beautiful. My turn arrived shortly, but of course as soon as she began speaking to me, as soon as that mouth opened, ready to amaze me with another veritable vocal symphony, this other judge, this loud nasal creature, entered and sat down not three feet away. It sounded like he may have been swearing someone in, but we both paused to look his way, making sure some pissed off animal from the zoo hadn’t somehow escaped and gotten lost behind the other judge’s desk.
My case wound up being legitimate, thankks to my quick and even wit. I told her that the Tow Zone Sign had been defaced, making it completely illegible. She raised her gavel and smacked it down on formica and announced: Adjourned! And told me to come back with some more evidence. So, I ran down and out of the building, to Duane Reed to purchase Polaroid film and then hopped on the 2 for a dollar. Earlier, I had gotten 20 bucks from an ATM at the DMV. That’s how I paid for McDonald’s. Which I only mention so you wouldn’t think I had ridden free all day with money in me pants. So, I rode the 2 for a buck cause I spent the rest on film and ran home. It was raining hard, yet I took photos in the rain, fighting away an unruly umbrella that I wound up stamping on. A police car tried to drive by but I stopped it, thinking they could accompany me to PVB as my representatives. I told them my case but I forgot why they said no. I thought maybe it would have been Will Rodriguez, the cop who pulled me over the other week for a blown headlight but gave me his number as a citation substitute and said I owed him pizza. Never did call him.
Anyhow, as I finished taking my photos which, due to rain, could have been seen as either a street or a close up of eczema, I decided to resort to Plan B and write a statement about damn bureaucracy and the god damn government and how they ruin lives and have the neighbors sign it. It was written strategically in its unintimidating brilliance. But by this time it was heading towards 3 PM and Parking Palace closed at 4.30. So I grabbed some folks, told em this and that, and the signatures went a’ flying. Even had one of the Downs Syndrome guys who live in my building sign it. That took about 5 or 6 minutes alone, but was worth it. I even had the fat guy next door who pretends like he doesn’t have a dog, but really does, sign it. (His massive head and gut were hanging out his window and I couldn’t pass it up, like a Ferris wheel at the amusement park.) His poor dog. I haven’t been giving it biscuits lately... tomorrow I will.
At 3:30 I was back on the 2. For free this time. I just jumped the turnstile. Entered the building, caught the vator, held it for a lady and her strollered pal, and we were off. Right into Room Four I went and there sat Madame Judge. Calm and movin’ like a snake doin’ the butterfly. I waited my turn, but when the big hand meandered towards the 5, I began to panic. Luckily, the Madame took me next, explaining to the others my earlier adjournment and that she had to leave as soon as possible. I got up to the desk and my heart was beating hard, but I opened my mouth and out unfurled this long sateen ribbon of the most sincere truth I have uttered to another individual in a long long time. She looked at me kind of baffled at which point I handed her my petition and photographs. Well, she looked at them for a good short while and then she started laughing and said: “Now, this is a first.” And she started shaking her head, smiling, and I had no idea what was gonna happen next but she pulled out that stamp, the one with my favorite words: Dismissed. And smacked it down on my summons. Hallelujah!
I walked out of that room holding my accomplishment high but my friends in the lobby were not as excited as they had been, when I was more of a stranger. They still said, “Whoo hoo, go and get your car, baby.” But I knew it was forced. Which made it seem less than an accomplishment. But I tried not to think their thoughts. Maybe they were just tired. It was late in the day. And at least I didn’t have to pay. At least I got 2 dismissals in 2 weeks. At least I beat the damn system.
But… I couldn’t get my car because Eddie had my damn keys! Fine with me, I said. So I went to the bank, got my second to last 20, and rewarded my success with a little Chinese food. Which I didn’t like. But I ate it anyhow. Felt sick and liked that feeling. Left the place. Paid for the train. Rode the train. Got off the train. Came inside, got a drinkk, thought about my novel that’s three years behind schedule. Watched the news about some terrorist bombing, thought about what it would be like to struggle for my survival and got really hot cause my room’s right above the boiler room, decided to make some toast, cut three pieces and my finger, left two in the toaster, ate one, talked to my father about all the wonderful things I plan to do, and then I was going to do nothing, but remembered that the only way things happen is if I make them happen. Then I thought maybe happenings are overrated. But then I thought thinkking might be over rated. And now? Wow. It’s much later than it used to be. But I’ve decided to start a shuttle service, escorting people who have had their cars towed back and forth to DMV, PVB, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Give ‘em the red carpet treatment... for a reasonable fee, of course.