Authors: Abraham Rodriguez,Jr.
Tags: #Fiction, #Literary, #Mystery & Detective, #Hard-Boiled, #Urban, #Hispanic & Latino
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to real events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Published by Akashic Books
Â©2008 Abraham Rodriguez
Library of Congress Control Number: 2007939594
Grateful acknowledgment is given to Scherl/SÃ¼ddeutsche Zeitung Photo, for permission to reprint the photograph of
Leni Riefenstahl and Adolf Hitler
. The photograph of
by Scotty Welbourne from the 1941 film
was provided by Deutsche Kinemathek, Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin.
This book is dedicated to US
Table of Contents
All of the true things I am about to tell you
are shameless lies.
That night, she ran. Rain-splattered, cars honking. Headlights blurred wetly. She crept along tenement brick, back alleys. Side streets. Avoiding cop cars.
A bodega man stepped out for a smoke. Offered her a cigarette as they stood under bodega awning. The rain dropped in mad, thin streams. He lit her with a long, thin flame. She sucked in that first nicotine hit. His eyes, looking at her. She couldn't blink them off.
“There's blood on your cheek,” he said.
She wiped at it with the palm of her cigarette hand. It was blood, it was her blood. She hoped it was her blood.
The cigarette taste flattened everything. She kept busy sucking in that smoke, contemplating that glowing tip like it was good company. The words the
spoke, drowned out by rain patter.
She left before the cigarette ran out. If it did, she would have had to ask for another and that much involvement she didn't want.
There was no point in walking wet streets, rain slapping her up like that. She wouldn't get anywhere in this town knocking on doors. There were those cop cars, flashing silent, like fireflies.
The way off the street, was to climb.
The building was a big gray job. It towered over this block of small shuttered stores. The fire escapes were easy to reach from the stoop after a hop and a pull. On that 4 a.m. street there was nobody to wonder about the crazy white girl climbing the access ladder. Barefoot, in a clingy wet minidress. A second skin, flowered print. Up there, respite from rain. Not blinking from wet, better to breathe. To think a moment and see the down below.
She slid past half-open windows, so close she could hear the calm slow sleep breath. Some radio chatter. The buzzy hum of an air conditioner.
Through the open window on the third floor she spotted a couple, dancing. Luis Vargas playing soft on the stereo. The one candle flickered unreliably. The woman was in a red dress, fringe splashing her thighs like water. The guy was bare-chested. Black dress pants, like a matador. She watched them dance slow and close. Took a moment before she realized the guy was wearing an eye patch.
The candle went out. The rain pattered a drum beat against fire escape steel. Creak of springs like child giggles.
She kept climbing. To the very top.
The window she chose was wide open, as if the person living there wanted no impediments for whoever arrived. She sat on the edge of the window. The room slowly took shape, a charcoal sketch coming to life under a gray moon.
It was a corner room. The windows along the far wall showed sky and moon like paintings. There were no curtains, no clutter, no mass of things. No bureau or dresser, no big mirror. (It must not be a woman who lives here.) A cluster of milk crates. A chair with some clothes on it.
The bed was placed right in the center of the room. There was no headboard, no frame, no connection to the walls. It floated in the middle of the room like an island.
The man looked like he had fallen. Facedown on the bed. Legs and arms splayed as if he had taken a couple of shells in the back. The sheets did not hide his body from her.
She sat there by the window a long time, shivering from wet, from the pinpricks Alan had given her to make her tell the truth. The skies brightened. The rain stopped. The first hit of light added color with slow brush strokes. A blue room. Bare walls. A bottle of something lying on the bed, as if it had slipped from his hand and rolled a little.
She invaded slowly. Inhaled the room. Liquor, sweat, and sleep breath. Varnish, old socks, cigarettes. A bare foot protruding from the side of the bed. It was the softest foot she had ever seen on a man. No calluses no hard ridges or bumps. She almost touched it.
Peeled off, the wet sticky minidress. She was soaked, down to bra and G-string. It all came off, made a bundle on the slick floor. The guy must have worked on it himself to make it look so waxy fresh. A museum floor.
She rubbed herself dry with a shirt that was on the chair.
The slow, steady. Rise and fall of his breath.
On the very edge of the bed. She sat, slowly in. Set off no ripples of movement from him. She lay down in one quick move.
Waited. Nothing. No break in the rhythm.
She slipped under the sheet.
The trembling, deep shudders. Flashing lights. She was running down a long hallway. He murmured, he turned, he put his arm around her. So snagged, hitched, she waited for words but he slept on. The trembling would not stop. He was good to strain against, to hold onto. Clutching, arms and legs. Wasted into tiredness. The sense of falling down a dark shaft.
Those seagulls flew by with cries that couldn't wake anybody.
Waking from dream. Or still dreaming.
Or not. Barely memory of dream, just black after drinking. Sharp jumpcut from then to now. No sense of sleep. He could have been dreaming if not for that pasty sick taste in his mouth. The need to piss, bad. That was what woke him.
The woman in his bed did not wake him.
He had been snuggled into her, forked and spooned. His knees into the back of her knees. Secure around like a seat belt, almost as if it had always been like this. Bodies linked, instinctive. Like it happened without him.
He breathed into her back. Blond hair, streaked reddish. Warmly damp from rain. White skin speckled with freckles. It made him think of cherry vanilla. His dick stirred against her ass.
He tried to get a better look at her face. Her curly hair blocked the view. It wasn't long, but thick, waved and coily like a '30s cut. Covering her closed eyes. The straight nose and pouty lips could have come from an old silent movie. He pressed into her closer, or she pressed into him with a murmur. Into his hard dick.
He quickly scrolled through last night's scenes with Robert. The party had lasted until 2:00. Then, a bar on Second Avenue. Lights, noise, two women in spandex taking a break from performing their lesbian circus act. A colored prism of images faces and drinks but no sign of this woman in any of the footage. She wasn't sitting at the bar. She wasn't at a table where a candle danced in red glass like a stripper in a cage. Not outside as they rushed into cabs to escape the sudden downpour. A storm of rain that clouded all the windows. There was a ride up to 113th Street with Robert. There was a Puerto Rican woman named Lourdes and a black woman named Sharon.
After that, blank. A bottle, a cab going somewhere. A woman's legs in a shaft of streetlight flashing the rear window like a strobe. (Seamed stockings always made it hard to tell real from dream.) The solid curves of that tall slim vodka bottle.
Slowly, he tried to free his hand from hers.
It was Benny who first told him about blackouts. Horror stories about people who woke up with a bloody knife in hand and all their loved ones, gutted. Benny had done time at virtually every organization in the books devoted to helping people kick whatever obsessive compulsion there is. His rap was peppered with beneficent altruisms and cautionary parables gleaned from Alcoholics Anonymous, Pot Smokers Anonymous, Cigarette Smokers Anonymous. There was even a Sexaholics Anonymous that Benny insisted he should look into, reasoning that women and liquor were his two biggest obsessionsâbut he wasn't like Benny. Blackouts didn't scare him. Those deep cuts in the narrative kept things swift and curt. He found himself in a subway station in Brooklyn. He came to in the stairwell of some strange building. He woke up in bed with a strange woman. These things happened and he was starting to believe it wasn't just because of the drinking the drinking always the drinking. Blackouts came at certain times, with certain combinations. They were a safety valve. He was somehow making them happen without being conscious. He wanted to be conscious. He spent some time reconstructing, refitting parts. Sometimes he did this with Monk, who believed blackouts were a kind of time travel. Some things come back. Others, maybe you invent them. It made perfect sense to forget, to rid the mind of all that clutter.
(She held him, even in sleep, not letting go.)
It was a process, waking up in strange terrain. Fragments of memory dribbling over the rim. Piece by piece to make the puzzle fit: this time, to wake up in his own house, but no clues. No snapshot of her talking, laughing, wiping hair from her face. No sense of him stepping out of a cab with her, rain slapping. Her glittery stockinged foot losing its high heel. Laughing, and he fell. The hard sidewalk and how she slipped and fell too. Still laughing as her eyes â¦ her eyes. What color? No sense of looking into them.
“Did I kiss you?”
She didn't say.
“Did we fuck?”
It never happened that he had forgotten a fuck. This was generally a field of great clarity. She stirred, turning toward him. He freed his hand, moved his legs. The sheet slid down. Her breasts soft feathery, no memory of touching them kissing them sucking them. His hand floated over her naked tummy. Close, but not quite feel. Rising and falling with her every breath, the way a seagull hovers over a wave. Fingertips have memories. Skin talks to skin. That was how he knew that this was as close as his hand had ever been to that tummy, that white skin, that clustered galaxy of pinpoint freckles that led around her hip.
Slowly. Rose from the bed. His moves did not wake her.
In the bathroom. Relief drained from limbs and loins. He flushed the toilet, splashed sleep from his face, rinsed the metallic taste from his mouth. There was only one thing for that buzz of irritation, that sick trembly feel. He searched the kitchen cabinets, but there were only empties. That bottle he took to bed had been the last. (Had he taken it to bed?) No splash of eye-opening clarity. Nothing but empties.
Back in the bedroom, he saw her gathering up a pillow to snuggle into. He put on a pair of running pants, stepped into his old loafers that doubled as
. He grabbed a T-shirt, and saw her eyes open. She did not look surprised to see him, not startled nor uncertain. She stared expectantly, a vague glimmer of shyness.
“Hey,” she said.
“Hey,” he said back.
She stretched her legs a little. The sheet slid further down. Followed the curve from her tummy to the triangle of pussy bush. Her bulby tits rubbed together as she burrowed into the pillow. She gathered up sheet slow.
“So where you going?” she said, her eyes slitted from sunlight, from sleep.
Her voice did not register a memory. It was new, a little raspy with morning.
“There's no drinking stuff,” he said.
The slow movements of her hands over her breasts and tummy seemed caused by dreams. She would burrow deeper into bed, into the pillow, out of sight. A woman who loves her sleep. Her large eyes staring at him from behind a rim of sheet.
“Will it take long?”
The words muffled by sheet.
“No,” he said.
Her eyes fluttered shut. Curled around his pillow, she sleep-grinned like she would soon dream of him.