1955 - 1958
“You won’t believe what just happened, Eddie,” Gwen says, stepping out of the bedroom of the new trailer. “This client who just left came in, pulled out his cock, said, ‘Suck this.’ And after I did, he turned around, bent forward, pointed to a spot between his asshole and his balls and said, ‘That’s my clit. Suck it.’ I did, and he quivered like he was having an orgasm, pulled up his pants and left.”
“How much did he pay you?”
“Oh, my god, I forgot to collect!”
“You were raped, my dear,” I laugh. “I was wondering why he’d left his car motor idling outside. He pulled a con on you. I thought you always collected the money in front.”
“Not any longer. Once the tricks know you’re experienced, they don’t try to pull any shit on you, like underpaying you in the dark or giving you bad checks. Most of them are real gentlemen, opening doors for me, offering me lights for my cigarettes. But I know that if I worked with them as an office girl, they’d be crude, trying to cop feels behind cabinets and shit like that. When I find a client who is really nice, he doesn’t have to pay me any longer.”
“Do you still see the one who holds his breath when he’s coming so he can come twice for the price of one?”
“No, he hasn’t come since I caught onto his game.”
“I met this girl, Marti, who’s a call girl and a sort of madam, and she told me about a motel where many girls take their Johns. Now, I won’t have to bring them here any longer and disturb you. Marti also advised me to sign up with an answering service, to avoid being bothered by clients calling here or by clients I never want to meet again.. She told me, too, that I really inspire her with my drive to get the money. The movie people I see also admire my hustle. They like me because they can relax with me. They know I’m not at all interested in getting into films or falling in love with them.”
“I got the scare of my life today. This trick I was with kept telling me that he was going to kill me. Finally, I worked up enough courage to ask him how he was going to do that. ‘I’m going to fuck you to death,’ he said. Wow, was I relieved. He had a penis that was no bigger than Vincent’s.
“Why are most men so concerned about the size of their cocks? If they have one as long as a garden hose, they hold it in their two hands and lament that it’s so small; while, if they have one that’s barely visible, they tell you they’re going to fuck you to death. Sometimes I wish I had a tape machine under my bed to record all the ridiculous things men say when they’re in bed with me.”
“I broke off with my black boyfriend today. Too bad, because he was such a good dancer.”
“Why’d you do that, Gwen?”
“Because he told me that now that I’d made it with him, no white man would ever satisfy me. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I had to admit that, yes, on the whole most black men were better fuckers than white men, but I added that I knew some white men who were as good as black men. When he scoffed at that I asked him if he’d ever been fucked by a black man or by a white man. Of course he hadn’t. ‘Well, I have,’ I said, ‘so I should know.’ Then he accused me of defending my own kind. ‘You think I’m lying to you?’ I asked, and he said that he was sure I was. Then I got angry and told him, ‘If you want to see me after this, you’re going to have to begin paying me again.’ ”
“Gwen’s not coming out tonight.”
“Who’s at the door, Eddie?” Gwen calls from the bedroom.
“That hipster you sometimes nod to around town and a guy in a leather jacket.”
“Tell them to come in.”
The two men enter the trailer and go into the bedroom to sit on the side of the bed. While they’re speaking with Gwen, I decide to give the hipster a treat. Reaching up to the air vent in the ceiling, I retrieve the joint hidden there and, with one downward motion of my arm, drop it into the hipster’s lap. He backs away from it as though it’s a bomb. The one in the leather jacket leans over and grabs the joint, and I back out of the room, certain that the hipster has brought the heat right into our trailer.
“You got any more of this stuff?” Leather Jacket says, coming up behind me. “I gotta have it. I’m hooked.”
The stupid bastard doesn’t even know that no one gets hooked on grass.
“No, that’s just a joint someone left here. I don’t smoke that shit.”
Leather Jacket returns to the bedroom to talk with Gwen.
I’m surprised to see her getting ready to go out with them. Hasn’t she seen what happened to that joint?
The hipster and Leather Jacket walk out first, and I take hold of Gwen’s wrist as she’s about to go out with them..
“Don’t go, Gwen. That’s a cop with the hipster.”
“Oh, you’re paranoid, Eddie.”
“No, I’m not. Didn’t you see what went down with that joint? The hipster jumped back from it like I’d thrown a viper in his lap, while the one in the leather jacket pounced on it like he’d found heaven.”
“I’ll see you later, Eddie.”
“Where, in jail? Please, don’t go, baby.”
She leaves and I sit back to wait for bad news.
When nothing has happened for a couple of hours I begin to hope that I’ve been mistaken.
There’s a loud knock on the door.
As soon as I open it, Leather Jacket and a man in a suit rush past me into the trailer.
“Okay, where’s the rest of the stuff?” Leather Jacket asks, while the Suit goes into the bedroom.
“I told you that was a joint someone had left here. I don’t use the stuff.”
“You’re high now; I can see it in your eyes.”
“I get high listening to music.” I nod toward the LPs on the shelf.
“Look at all these names in her phonebook,” the Suit remarks, looking through the Gwen’s book in the bedroom. “Movie stars and directors, all kinds of prominent people. She must’ve been making a bundle. How much did she make a week?”
“I never asked her.”
“You don’t have pockets in your pants,” observes Leather Jacket. “Where’d that stick come from?”
“From the vent up there.”
“Whose name is the trailer in?” asks the Suit.
Vincent, awakened, crawls out of his bed under the couch.
“Is that’s her child?” asks the Suit. “What a shame she’s doing what she’s doing when she’s got such a good looking kid.”
I don’t bother to tell him that the good looking kid had never eaten as well as he does since Gwen’s been doing what she’s doing.
“All right, get the kid dressed,” Leather Jacket tells me. “We’re taking you in.”
I’d always expected to be busted someday for doing something I really hadn’t wanted to do.
“Vincent! Eddie!” Gwen exclaims when we enter enter the police office. “Why’d you bring them in? They’re innocent.”
I give Gwen an I-told-you-so look, and she returns a you-were-right shrug.
“It’s the real stuff,” Leather Jacket announces, bustling in with a fragment of the joint in his hand. “The lab just confirmed it.”
What did he expect it would be, spinach?
“Look, whose name is in here,” Leather Jacket says, looking through Gwen’s phonebook. “DeLong. Do you know what he is? He’s a muffdiver.”
I’d better keep my mouth shut. I’d forgotten that there were still such Neanderthals roaminging about.
“We’re letting you go now,” Leather Jacket tells us. “But you, Gwen, have to appear in court in two days, and with you I want to have a little chat.”
Leather Jacket takes me into an adjoining room.
“You’re going to gather information for me. I want you to check out that bar next to your trailer park and find out if there’s any booking going on.”
Like fuck I am. The first thing I’m going to do is move the trailer out of Burbank. Lucky, they haven’t booked us for possession; probably because they don’t want to take care of Vincent.
“After we left here,” Gwen tells me, “we dropped off the hipster, then went to my motel. Leather Jacket gave me the money and I undressed. I knew there was something wrong when he didn’t take off his clothes. He showed me his badge and grabbed my purse with the marked money in it. Then we had to wait around for the witnessing cop to appear. The longer we waited, the more agitated Leather Jacket became.
“ ‘I’m going out of my mind looking at your body,’ he told me.
“Hearing that, I began to work on him. ‘Come on, man, take off your clothes and let’s get it on,’ I coaxed, knowing that if I could identify a mark on his body, the case against me would be thrown out. ‘What are you waiting for? Here you are, forcing yourself to sit like a dead man while you’re dying to make it with me.’
“ ‘I can’t,’ he said.
“ ‘Why can’t you?’ I asked, standing seductively before him.
“ ‘I’d lose my job.’
“ ‘You can find a better job than this,’ I told him. ‘Be true to yourself. Your body is craving to have me, but your frightened little mind is preventing it from reaching out for me.’
“ ‘Why don’t you lie down and let me watch you play with yourself?’ he asked, but I wasn’t about to do that and have him charge me with having exhibited myself.
“So, it was stalemate until the witnessing cop arrived and I was put in a squad car. On the way to the station, I told the cops it was crazy of them to arrest me when I was doing a service to the community by disposing of some of the excess male sexual energy that would otherwise be used to rape women and children.”
“Why’d you tell them that, Gwen? You were advised by an attorney not to say anything if you were arrested. Now those cops are going to present what you said to the judge, who’ll have no choice but to consider you an unrepentant criminal.”
“That’s just what I am.”
“Marti tells me I don’t need an attorney, Gwen tells me. “She says prostitution is only a misdemeanor and that I’ll probably only be fined.”
“That doesn’t sound right. You’d better consult an attorney.”
“Why should she tell me something that’s not true?”
“Because she has eyes for me.”
“But she wouldn’t want me in jail just so she could get to you. She knows that I don’t mind her making it with you.”
“Yes, but I mind.”
“Hi, Eddie, Marti here. What happened with Gwen’s trial?”
“She got a month.”
“That’s unbelievable. Usually, it’s just a fifty- dollar fine. How you taking it?”
“Not too well. I feel like there’s a heavy weight on my chest making it difficult for me to breathe. This bust had to happen just when she was doing so well. Now, she’s going to want to quit when she comes out.”
“Yeah, it’s a drag, man. Anyway, what’re you doing this afternoon? You wanna come out to the track with me?”
“I can’t. I have to pick up Vincent at four.”
“You don’t look so good, Gwen,” I say when I pick her up after her release from jail.
“I don’t feel so good, physically or mentally. The food there was terrible.”
“I came to see you, but they told me that you’d lost your right to have visitors. Why was that?”
“It happened because I tried to speak up for an inmate who’d been unfairly accused by one of the matrons. Wow, Eddie, to think that I’d once wanted to be a cop and be able to help the inmates. There’s no space in that system to help anyone. In a way, I’m grateful to have gone to jail because it opened my eyes to just how rotten the underbelly of society really is.
“The inmates were no angels, either. All my things were ripped off the very first day because I didn’t bother to lock them up. The girls couldn’t believe that I was in there for prostitution. ‘Baby, no one does time for that,’ they laughed. Most of them were in for junk and accustomed to being there. ‘Hi, babies, I’m home again,’ one girl said when she arrived. ‘Now, at least, I don’t have to worry about getting busted.’
“One of their favorite pastimes was cutting out cardboard syringes, then attaching a needle or pin to the end of it, cooking up some imaginary dope in a spoon, tieing up and giving themselves a fantasy fix.
“I made myself disliked during my first shower hour. ‘Who’s the dumb cunt flushed the toilet?’ I heard them shouting just after I’d done it. I didn’t know why they were so pissed off until I looked into one of the shower rooms later and saw a girl lying on the floor with her legs up on the wall, exposing her clit to the sharpest spray the shower spigot was capable of producing. And I understood that I’d weakened the force of the spray when I’d flushed the toilet.
“Some of the girls were professional entertainers, singers and dancers, and sometimes they’d put on shows. They’d tie a string around a tampon, throw it up and over the girders, and use it as a microphone. ‘Ladies and gentleman,’ a girl would announce, bowing to ‘him’. ‘He’ was the most popular one there. The girls would write ‘him’ love letters, give ‘him’ gifts and kneel by ‘his’ bed, hoping to be chosen as ‘his’ sleeping partner for the night. After you’d been there for a time, she really did become a ‘he’ for you.
“As soon as the lights would go out at night, I’d hear the girls scurrying to each others’ beds. I received a few love letters, but I was too depressed to get into anything
“The only sensitive and intelligent girl there was the one who’d been busted for having all those hundred dollar a night girls working for her. I spent much of my time talking with her about books and music. She wants me to help her by buying her phonebook from her boyfriend. She says the book has the names and numbers of dozens of her clients, how much they pay and their sexual predilections.”
“I guess if you bought that book, you could sell it many times.”
“Oh, Eddie, I don’t think I can go back to work. I feel so tired of the whole thing. Will you work?” Gwen asks, just as I’d expected she would.
“No,” I answer without hesitation. Why should I work to fulfill her dream of having her own home, an income for life and an education for Vincent?
“I told Marti that I was thinking of leaving you,” Gwen tells me. “ ‘If you’re staying in the business, you couldn’t ask to be with a better guy,’ she told me. ‘He doesn’t take your money; you even have to beg him to buy clothes for himself. He cooks, takes care of your kid, puts your money in your account. I never met a guy so down to earth. But if you don’t want him, send him over to me.’ ”
“She sounds like my public relations agent.”
“You know who’s been calling me, hoping to become a client? Leather Jacket.”
Gwen, emerging from the bedroom naked, suddenly retreats when Vincent’s friends open the door and try to rush in. I go to the door to stop them.
“Wait outside, you guys. Vince will be out in a minute,” I say, shutting the door and turning to Vincent. “Listen, Vincey, there’s nothing wrong with being naked.”
“Then, why did Mommy hide?”
“Because if your friends should tell their mothers that they’d seen your mother with no clothes on, their mothers would think that your mother is a very bad woman to allow herself to be seen naked by children.”
“But why do people think it’s bad?”
“I guess they don’t know any better.”
“Okay, Dad, I’m going out to play now.”
“Why were you looking so pissed off at Marti’s orgy, Eddie?”
“I didn’t like seeing you being used by her. I guess you didn’t notice what was happening?”
“No, I was too busy.”
“Marti invites all the working girls she knows and their boyfriends to a sex orgy. So, we go, but in a little while I begin to notice a number of straight guys present. Who are they? I wonder. And it comes to me that they’re probably her doctor, her dentist, her parole officer, her who knows who. So, Marti’s paying off her debts by conning you girls into turning free tricks with these Johns. That’s why I wanted to get out of there.”
“She’s sly, isn’t she?”
“Anyway, I’m getting tired of these sex orgies. Ever since we returned from Mexico, almost every party we’ve been to has developed into an orgy.”
“You don’t have to go to them, Eddie. Many tricks will be happy to pay me to take them.”
“Good. And I’m tired of exchanging partners, too. We’ve made it with almost every couple we know, even with the ones we hadn’t said anything to at first because we thought they’d be offended or shocked. But, baby, as soon as they learned of it, they wanted to get right into it. But from now on I’m not going to oblige them if I don’t feel like it.”
“You don’t have to?”
“When I come with women who don’t really turn me on there’s no thrill, only semen spurting out of me. So, I’m no longer going to do it just to be polite. ‘If you and Gwen want to get it on with each other, it doesn’t mean that I have to get it on with your woman,’ I’ll say, not caring whose feelings may get hurt. Why should I suffer?”
“Oh, how you suffer, Eddie.”
“I’ve noticed that you no longer ask to make it with me.” Gwen tells me. “Are you getting tired of me?”
“Not at all. I’ve found that it’s best if I wait until you’re horny.
Otherwise, it’s me asking you to get it on, and you saying, ‘Oh, how romantic.’ Or me being romantic, and you saying, ‘Oh, all that romance just to have sex.’ A no-no situation. That’s why it’s better I wait until . . ..”
“You hear the sound of my vibrator, you mean. That was certainly a strange gift you gave me on Valentine’s Day: a vibrator that doesn’t become hot in my hand and is silent.”
“This orgasm has been brought to you by your friendly local electric company. Better orgasms for better living, a splinter-free advance over the old broomstick. Here comes the bride; here comes the broom.”
“This one’s a fifty dollar trick.” Gwen indicates a man walking past our parked car on Hollywood Boulevard. “Here’s a twenty, and that one’s another twenty. Oh, see the one in the gray suit? He pays a hundred.”
“You can tell by just looking at them?”
“Of course, I’ve seen so many by now. You know, if you should gather all the Johns I’ve serviced this year, I wouldn’t remember most of them.”
“What if you saw me walking by?”
“Oh, I’d know that you’re not the type who’d pay for sex.”
“How can you sit there and type in this filthy mess?” asks Gwen petulantly. “The floor and walls need to be polished, the stove has to be cleaned. I’d have to do all that before I could do anything else.”
“That’s why you haven’t done anything else,” I say, rising and going to the calendar.
“What are you doing?”
“Checking to see if your period is due.”
“You’re a crazy one,” she laughs.
“The other day, I checked the calendar for an altogether different reason. While I was making it with you, I was overcome by what I call a true sexual feeling. I wanted to make you pregnant, to blow your body up like a balloon. All my caution and selfish fear of being burdened with the rearing of a child were gone. I felt free of my old worrying self.”
“Are you telling me that you want to have a child by me?”
“No, as soon as we finished making it, I became my usual cautious self. I went to the calendar, checking to see if it was one of your danger days.”
“You know I never do it on those days, Eddie.”
“I’ve had this true sexual feeling twice before. Once, while I was looking out our window and I saw a boy who looked to be about eighteen months old sitting on the ground with his legs straight out before him. He reminded me so much of Vincent when he was that age, and that feeling came over me. The other time it happened was when I was stopped behind a sports car at an intersection waiting for the light to change, and I saw a child in the front seat, standing between a young couple with his arms resting on their shoulders.”
“You know, most of my clients don’t come to me for sex as much as they do to have someone listen to them. They tell me things they’d never tell their wives, their best friends or their business partners. And they needn’t worry about meeting me socially because they know I don’t move in their circles. That’s why I have so many steadies, regularly coming to me to resume our talks. The sex is usually over in a few minutes, but most of them stay for the whole hour.
“I’ll tell you how I turn a trick. First, I offer him a drink and talk with him for awhile to make him relax. Then, I suggest that we go to bed. I may help to undress him. In bed, I begin by sucking him. But not for long, because most Johns come as soon as I touch them. And, if they come too soon, they expect me to do them again and, man, that is work. After sucking him, I get on top of him, again for just a few strokes. Telling him he’s wearing me out, I have him get on top of me. A few strokes and it’s over. Then, I don’t make the mistake of lying down beside him and encouraging thoughts of making it with me again spring to his mind. No, I get up right away, go into the bathroom, put on a robe and return with a warm towel to wipe his dick. The entire operation lasts only a few minutes, but it seems longer because I’ve put it through all those phases of sucking and getting on top and so on. I’m more an illusionist than anything else. Then, we’ll sit and talk the rest of the hour.
“The only one who doesn’t take the entire hour is Mr.Walker. He arrives, makes it and leaves. I’m expected to be wearing a garter-belt, dark hose, high heels and long black gloves when he arrives. As soon as he walks in, we both fall to the floor on all fours. He crawls behind me and sniffs my behind like a dog until he’s ready. Then he sits back and watches me masturbate him until he comes all over my black glove. And he goes.”
“I could kick my ass for breaking my promise never to do stag parties again,” Gwen says, throwing her purse onto the bed. “Men are at their very worst at those things. Someone who’s always been a gentleman when he’s been alone with me will become as offensive as he can be at a stag party, just so he can impress his buddies. But tonight’s party was the worst.
“This bar owner asked me to help him get together a party at his place, and like a fool I agreed to do it. After the two girls and I finished our little performance together, we went into separate rooms to turn tricks. I’d done about three or four and I was on my knees ready to French another when he pulls back his jacket and shows me his badge. Oh, shit, busted again, I thought, cold sweat running down my sides. ‘It’s all right, honey,’ he says. ‘We’re all cops here. This is a stag party for cops.’ I was so incensed that I got up immediately, put on my dress, picked up my purse and headed for the door. ‘Where you going, honey?’ he asked. ‘If I’d known this was a party for cops, I wouldn’t have come,’ I snapped back. ‘Take it easy, we’re only human like other guys,’ he said. ‘Yes, but other guys don’t make a living busting people for doing this,’ I said and walked out.”
“Good for you, baby.”
“Marti really let me down last night, letting me take on all those young guys alone.”
“It was all your doing, Gwen. We bring Marti to Big Sur to take a break from turning tricks, and what do you do on our first night here? You suggest having a sex orgy at The Hot Springs Lodge to all those horny young studs here. Whatever induced you to do that?”
“Marti said she was for it, but she didn’t come down to the baths to help me. Where was she, anyhow?”
“In her bed at the far end of the dormitory, waiting for the gay cat to leave. And I was lying in bed, waiting for her to leave so I could tell the gay boy to go.”
“What was the he doing there?”
“Coming on to me, telling me that if you and I ever separated, he’d take care of me and jazz like that, while sandpapering my cheek with his stubble. It was so irritating that I made a vow to shave more often from now on to spare you from having to go through that ordeal.”
“You sound like you preferred to have him rather than Marti to make love to you.”
“I didn’t want to make it with either of them, but you’re right, I was using the gay cat as a buffer against Marti. But then things became interesting when he took out my joint, straddled me and directed the head of it to the area between his balls and his asshole. Then, he rubbed his bottom on my cock until he came on my belly. As soon as he left, I went into the bathroom to wash the semen off me. Man, I had to scrub and scrub before I got rid of the smell of his jizz.”
“what about the shit smell on your cock?”
“There wasn’t any. It didn’t feel like there was any penetration unless he had a very loose asshole.”
“And Marti watched this whole scene?”
“I think she may have fallen asleep.”
“Gwen, I don’t want you to see that fucking Jacques again.”
“Why, what happened?”
“He phoned three times this afternoon asking for you, without saying hello to me. ‘Tell Gwen Jacques called,’ was all he said. Then, he called a fourth time. ‘Hello, Eddie, this is Jacques, remember me?’ Of course, I remembered him. It was just two weeks ago that you brought him here to meet me before you went off to spend the weekend with him. ‘Gwen’s been trying to phone me all afternoon; what do you think about that?’
“ ‘I don’t think anything about it,’ I told him. What did he expect me to think about it, the asshole?
“ ‘Well, how do you feel?’ he asked.
“ ‘The usual great,” I told him. “I’m reading, writing, listening to music, doing all the things I like to do.’ That shitass, playing this one-up game on me.”
“He didn’t mean anything by what he said, Eddie.”
“Everyone else I’ve told this to heard what he said as I’d heard it. How else can you hear it but as a challenge from one who thinks of himself as a great fucker? Besides, he’s a liar. He’s never told you that he’s married, but I’m sure he is. Finally, I don’t trust anyone who likes bad poetry. So, tell him you can’t see him again.”
“I’ll tell him tonight.”
“Your other lovers have never tried to give me any shit. Some of them have remained my friends after their romance with you has ended. Just the other day, one of them phoned me and said, ‘I had a date with Gwen tonight, but she showed up with another guy. What should I do, Eddie?’ He was almost crying. All I could tell him was, ‘If you think she’s worth sharing with someone else, then do it.’ They’re jealous of each other but not of me.”
“Yes, because you’re like the mountain in the background that they know I’ll return to when their affair with me is over, saving them from having to endure tearful recriminatory scenes from me.”
“Who was that on the phone?”
“Marti, calling to inform me that you were no lady last night, shocking the two men who were present with your vulgarity. She even hinted that I should beat you.”
“She should know you’d never do that.”
“What did you do last night that was so outrageous?”
“Marti asked me if I’d like to meet an interesting, intelligent and witty guy. So, of course, I said I would and went to her place. There were these two men there and, after we had a drink, one of them nodded me toward the bedroom. ‘Wait a minute,’ I said. ‘Marti tells me you’re a far out guy, so do your stuff. Knock me over with your brilliant wit and intelligence.’ He looked at me dumbfounded and couldn’t come up with a single thing to say. So, I put on my own verbal show. I don’t remember what I came out with, but it was inspired stuff. And I left.”
“Marti told me those two guys were cops.”
“That figures, conning me into turning a trick to help get herself out of trouble with the law. She really confides in you, doesn’t she?”
“Why not? You always hand me the phone whenever she asks to borrow money.”
“You know how to say no better than I do. I can hear you now. ‘No, Marti, we can’t lend you money because you may be struck by lightning or fall into a crater created by a sudden earthquake or get hit by a bus before you’re able to repay us.’ I can’t think up excuses like that.”
“Hey, Dad, is there a God?”
“I don’t know, Vince.”
“What do you mean you don’t know? Billy’s dad knows everything.”
“Does he really?”
“Well, he says he does.”
“I guess, Vince, if you believe there’s a God, then there’s a God for you. And if you don’t believe there’s one, there’s no God for you.”
“Do you mind if I believe for awhile, Dad? The other kids all do.”
“Sure, Vince, you go ahead and believe.”
“Last night, I had dinner with this steady who always wants me to hold his cock under the table while we eat. I don’t know how he expects me to eat steak with one hand, and I don’t know what he gets from my holding his cock under the table, unless it’s the kick he gets from concealing something from the unsuspecting waiter. Anyway, last night he tells me that he wishes he had a wife like me.”
“ ‘No, you don’t,’ I tell him.
“ ‘Yes, I do,’ he insists.
“ ‘Then, why don’t you have a wife like me? You’re married.’
“ ‘Ah, but you don’t know my wife.’
“ ‘Teach her to be like me. How do you think I got to be the way I am? Someone had to teach me.’
“ ‘She’d never allow me to teach her.’
“ ‘Does your wife suck you off?’
“ ‘No, of course not.’
“ ‘Have you ever asked her to?’
“ ‘There’d be no point in asking; she would never do it.’
“ ‘Then, force her to do it.’
“ Oh, I couldn’t do that. She’d want me to have my head examined, divorce me, take me to the cleaners.’
“ ‘Let her. You don’t want a wife like her, anyway.’
“ ‘But she is the mother of my children, after all.’
“ ‘You see, you don’t want a wife like me. And, if you had a wife like me, where would you be tonight? Home, taking care of the children while she’d be out with someone else.’ He had nothing more to say.”
“Mommy, Daddy,” Vincent shouts, rushing into the trailer. “I saw it. I saw it. On the way home from school, I was walking by the church and the door was open, and I saw a man inside with blood all over him and with big nails stuck through his hands and feet. I have to go to church, I have to.”
“Okay, next Sunday, you go,” Gwen tells him.
Sunday morning, Vincent showers, combs his hair and dresses smartly.
“I’m going to church now, Dad.”
“Okay, see you when you get back.”
“So, give me the money.”
“The money to give to the church.”
“You don’t have to give any money.”
“But the other kids are giving money.”
“They’re giving money because they want to give money. You don’t have to give any.”
“But I want to give money, too.”
“Yeah, really, Dad.”
“Then give some of the money in your piggy bank.”
“Oh, I forgot all about that.”
He takes the piggy bank and shakes all the coins onto the couch.
“How much should I give, Dad?”
“That’s up to you. You can give all of it, one penny of it or anything in between.”
“Is a dime enough to give?”
“If that’s what you want to give, then it’s enough.”
Vincent returns all the coins, except the dime, to the piggy bank.
“You know something, Dad? I don’t think I’ll give anything.”
He drops the dime back into the piggy bank.
Lying in bed, I watch Gwen as she applies makeup.
“I’m sure glad I have the looks and the guts to do what I’m doing.” She smiles at her mirrored image.
“Is that true, Gwen?”
“Of course, it is. Look at all that hustling has done for me. It’s taught me how to apply makeup correctly, to dress properly for every time of day and for each season of the year, and it’s given me the confidence and the poise to meet anyone, no matter how important he may be. Remember how afraid I once was to meet anyone with authority? That’s all gone now. I have politicians, judges, bankers, businessmen as my clients.
“And I’m glad you’re here to look after Vincent. I don’t trust anyone else to look after him. So, why should you work, when I can make in one hour what it would take you all day to earn?”
“Dad, you’re always telling me not to fight, but you’re watching the fights on television all the time.”
“But those are professional fighters I’m watching.”
“What do you mean?”
“Those are men who fight for money.“
“Of course, you don’t think those two guys are smashing each other for fun, do you? They’re getting paid. And the winner usually gets more than the loser.”
“But where does the money come from?”
“You see all those people sitting and watching the fight? They have to pay for their seats, just like you have to pay for your seat when you go to the movies. And that razor blade company has to pay lots of money to show ads for its blades.”
“Old Montgomery just phoned to tell me that you’d been a bad girl and that I should beat you.”
“He thinks you do, anyway. He accuses you of having made every bruise he happens to see on my body.”
“But he forgot to tell me why I should beat you.”
“He offered me an Alfa Romeo last night, but told me that I mustn’t allow you to lay your three fingered hand on the steering wheel. So, I told him to drive that car up his ass.”
“He really has a thing about my hand, doesn’t he. In the manuscript of his unfinished novel, the hero is a sixty-nine year old manly sportsman who has sex with the tall young blonde whenever he chooses. While her boyfriend, doubly evil since he has three fingers on both hands, has to remain in the rain or the cold until the hero is ready to leave the blonde’s bed.”
“Does he write that this sixty-nine year old hero goes to a doctor during the day and pays for hormone shots to get an erection. And then goes to the tall blonde that night and pays her to do away with the erection, using her mouth only, because his body can no longer maintain a cock stiff enough to fuck?”
“No, somehow he seems to have overlooked that aspect of the hero’s life.”
Unable any longer to ignore the commotion outside, I lay down the book I’m reading and pull aside the drapes to look out the window. In the yard outside, one of Vincent’s friends is being belt-whipped on his bare back by his mother who commands him to fight the older boy waiting for him with cocked fists. A group of neighbors are watching the proceedings. Impelled forward by his mother’s lashes, the boy runs into a barrage of blows from the older boy, which drive him back to his mother and her belt. Vincent’s friend has been shuttled back and forth like this for almost an hour. It’s useless for me to intervene. These people are Oklahomans, and they wouldn’t listen to me.
“In Oklahoma,” a friend had once told me, “when a boy moves into a neighborhood he’s expected to fight the local toughs. It don’t matter if he wins or loses so long as he puts up a good fight. But, if he won’t fight, no one will ever speak to him again so long as he lives there. That’s a custom adopted from the Indians, but more cruel. If an Indian boy wouldn’t fight, he’d have to dress as a squaw from that time on, but people would still talk to him.”
I return to my book.
“Vincent! Vincent! Get him, Vincent!” I hear voices shouting.
Vincent, who hasn’t fought for weeks, must be fighting again.
The door opens and Vincent leans in excitedly.
“Daddy, Daddy, I just beat up a boy two years older than me, and I did it for money!” He holds out his hands full of coins.
“How’d you get all that money?”
“The people asked me to fight to save my friend, but I told them I didn’t fight unless I got money. So, they took up a collection and gave it to me.”
There’s a knock at the door.
“Must be some of your friends, Vince.”
Vincent opens the door to a number of neighborhood women.
“You’re a real man, Vincent. Yes, you are,” the women congratulate him.
He smiles at them, but looks at me with eyes that say, “They’re crazy, aren’t they, Dad.”
“You’ve written in two different names on your offer to buy this property,” the woman realtor says to Gwen.
This is a surprise. I didn’t expect Gwen to name me co-owner.
“If anything should happen to me, I know that Eddie will take good care of my son.”
.”A handsome couple like you, and you’re not married!” exclaims the woman. “Marry this lovely lady.”
I look at Gwen to smirk with her at the woman’s suggestion, but she’s not smirking. She’s looking into her lap pensively. After all these years of ridiculing marriage, does she actually want to be married? I can’t believe it.
“Do you think we should marry, Gwen?” I ask, after having pondered the matter for days and finally overcome my resolve never to marry.
“Why? Do you?”
“It might be a good idea. We’d have to pay less income tax, for one thing.”
“Let’s do it, then. Where and when?”
“I haven’t thought about that.”
“We can get it done quickly in Las Vegas.”
“Hey, Dad, why did that man with the gun make you kiss Mommy?” Vincent asks, after seeing Gwen and I married by a man wearing a police uniform and a holstered gun.
“I saw you and your wife on television last night.” the supermarket cashier tells me.
“My wife and I have never been on television.”
“It was you two, all right. You were reading poetry and your wife was dancing.”
“It couldn’t possibly have been us.”
“I know what it is: you don’t want to be hounded by autograph hunters.”
I had watched television last night, but I hadn’t seen what the cashier said she’d seen. Then, as I’m driving home, it comes to me: the program on Beatniks. A group of young people sitting on the floor in a loft to listen to a bearded man reading poetry while a tall blonde girl danced behind him. So, my beard makes people think that I’m a Beatnik. And I don’t want to be seen as belonging to any group. I’ll shave off my beard as soon as I get home.
“Let me off at the corner, Dad.”
“What for? It’ll only take half a minute to drive you to school.’
“No, I feel like walking a bit.”
“You can walk in the schoolyard.”
“Please let me off here, Dad.”
“Don’t be silly. The school’s just around the corner.”
As we near the school, Vincent crouches down in the front seat.
“See you later, Dad,” he says over his shoulder and, still crouching, he opens the door and slides out.
I laugh, seeing that Vincent is ashamed to be seen with me when I no longer have a beard.
“Did you check on the guy who just phoned, Gwen?”
“I didn’t have to. I don’t remember him, but he described perfectly the party we’d been to a year ago.”
“Who else was at that party?”
“Marti was and . . .”
“Hey, baby, don’t you think that Marti could be setting you up for a bust?”
“You’re being paranoid again, Eddie. Marti may be rank, but she’s not that rank.”
“Oh, no? She told me that if she were busted again, she wasn’t going to do her own time.”
“Don’t worry about it, Eddie.”
“Did you hear the great news, Eddie?” Gwen is exuberant when I bail her out of jail the following morning. “Stompanado finally got what was coming to him. I told him the day he threw me out of his house that someday someone was going to get him. ‘I’m not paying you; you dug it too much,’ that bastard said after making it with me. ‘You phoned to see me and I drove all the way to your place,’ I reminded him. ‘Get out of my house before I kick you out, you whore.’ But he’s the one who’s been kicked straight out of this life. Someone got him, as I predicted they would.”
“And Marti got you, Gwen.”
“You were right again. Why don’t I listen to you?”
“You’d rather rely on your famed woman’s intuition. If women have such great intuitions, why are so many of them in jail?”
Vincent runs in and sits beside me.
“How was the camping, Vince?”
“Pretty good.” He stops, then gives me a confiding look. “And Mommy kissed that guy.”
Gwen storms in.
“I’m never taking him camping with me again. He ruined my entire weekend with his sulking non-cooperation. He was a total bring down.”
“Why don’t you go out and see your friends, Vince?”
“Good idea, Dad. See you later.”
“What we have to realize, Gwen, is that Vincent, like most kids, is very straight. He doesn’t like seeing you or me being loving with other people.”
“He doesn’t even like to see me come close to you. Whenever I hug or kiss you in his presence he comes between us and pushes me away from you. He’s always trying to hug you, but you fend him off by raising your elbow to his face. If only once he’d do that to me I’d be so happy. Why does he like you so much, when you never buy him anything?”
“I spend time with him, and that’s more important to him than all the toys in the world.”
“Only a man can be a consummate cocksucker,” Alex, the painter, pontificates.
“Come upstairs with me, Alex, and let me show you what I can do,” Gwen says, surprising me with her display of vanity.
“Oh, no, my dear, we’ve known each other too long to engage in such whimsy.”
“Hey, Alex,” I say, “you and Lila are about the only couple we know whom we haven’t had sex with.”
“Let our relationship remain on that exalted level, my friend.”
Screaming girls streak out of the kitchen, pick up their belongings and dash from the party.
The girl who plays Vampira in a TV series leans over me, sitting in an armchair. “I’m so sorry you brought your wife to my house,” she says, then leaves.
I go into the kitchen to see what all the fuss is about. Gwen, totally naked, is sitting on a table and smoking a big cigar while entertaining a group of jovial men.
“Hey, Gwen, here’s the guy I said you have to meet.” One of the men points to me.
“Oh, I know him. He’s my man. Hey, Eddie, did you see how I got rid of all those straight bitches.”
“Last night I took this John to a sex orgy in a Beverly Hills mansion. We walk in and find everyone dressed formally, sipping drinks and listening to someone tinkling on a grand piano.
“ ‘I thought this was supposed to be a sex orgy,’ I said, and crawled under the piano, unzipped the pianist’s pants, took out his cock and got the party off.”
“Sometimes you flaunt your freedom before wives less free than you are. At one straight party, I saw you begin to undress a man before the eyes of his wife who didn’t know what to do. First, she glared at you, then at her helpless husband and, finally, she turned to look at me with beseeching eyes. I could only shrug and turned away from her.”
“You’re right. I have more freedom than most wives have. Oh, they’re free to go to orgies and to exchange partners, but only when their husbands are present. Hardly a one of them is free to go off with a lover for a week or two or more.”
“Did you think up a story for me to tell my phone trick, Eddie?”
“Okay, you’re sunbathing naked in your backyard, allowing the sun to penetrate deep into you. Your eyes shut, your arms flung wide, you’re surrendering totally to the warmth of the sun. Then you feel someone lapping your pussy. Oh, god, it’s so wonderful and so different. Your boyfriend must have discovered a new technique, you think. You raise your ass from the grass to have more of that delightful tongue. And suddenly he slides his cock into your wetness and begins to slobber on your neck and shoulder. You encircle him with your arms to draw him closer to you. But his body feels strange, much hairier than your boyfriend’s body. You open your eyes and see that it’s your Doberman fucking you. Finished. You can elaborate on that.”
“You think he’s going to like that story?”
“He’s going to lap it up.”
“You men, you’re all so weird, getting off on such dumb things.”
“Imagination is probably the principle component of sex. Without it, there’s no thrill. You know the story of the husband and wife fucking and fucking and fucking until he says to her, ‘Can’t you think of anyone else, either?’ ”
“You’re probably right about imagination being a part of sex. My masochist trick is always complaining that I’m not truly enjoying torturing him. But I’m a call girl and not an actress.”
“But you do fake orgasms, Gwen.”
“This afternoon, I made one of the easiest hundred dollars I’ve ever made.”
“How’d you do that, Gwen?”
“I went to this mansion in Pasadena where I was asked to come. I was instructed to wear high heels and to be ready to scream at the proper moment. A butler met me at the door and led me up a long bare staircase. Tic-tic, tic-tic, my high heels sounded all the way to the top. The butler opened a door and nodded to me to enter a dark room. There were two tall candles burning at the upper corners of a coffin containing the body of a man. As I watched, the body slowly began to rise to a sitting position. I screamed as loud as I could. The butler led me away, gave me the hundred dollars and that was all.
“When the man in the coffin hears the tic-tic of the high heels coming up the stairs he gets an erection, and when she screams he gets his nuts off.”
“I’m still in a state of shock, Eddie. I can still hear the crash of the door being broken in while I’m in the throes of a fuck. It was like being instantly transported from ecstasy into sheer terror.” Gwen tells me after I’ve bail her out. “Then, shadowy forms came gliding into the room, flashing light around and into our eyes. One of the invaders rushed up to Rodney as he was disengaging himself from me and directed his flashlight on his cock. ‘It’s wet, all right,’ he announced to the others. And they took us in. It was a completely illegal break-in. Rodney wasn’t even a trick, but a boyfriend. They will pay for this. I’m going to fight this case.”
“That’s crazy, Gwen. You’re a two time loser; you can’t win.”
“I can’t let them get away with this injustice.”
“You’re not going to get any justice. The police will sit in court and perjure their asses off while they look at you with utter contempt. Just pay the fifty dollar fine and find another apartment to work in.”
“No, I’m going to photograph the door they broke in.”
“A photo won’t prove who broke the door in. Don’t waste your money on a case you can’t win.”
“Rodney’s a prominent film producer. With him testifying that we’re lovers, I have a good chance of winning.”
“Rodney’s settled his case out of court,” Gwen tells me.
“Well, you can’t expect him to jeopardize his career by being involved in a sex scandal.”
“I expect loyalty from a lover.”
“You’ve got love on the brain. One night, when I first knew you, a young priest walked by us on the street and, seeing him, you said, ‘I’d like to get my hands on him to teach him all about love and to make him give up those silly robes he’s wearing.’ Hearing that, I thought you were overvaluing the power of love. No, Rodney’s not going to sacrifice his hard-earned success for a temporary love affair.”
“Men, your careers mean more to you than love.”
“I have no career, Gwen.”
“But you’re very concerned about mine. You can see how shaken I am, but do you offer to help? No, you only give me pep talks to get me back to work.”
“You don’t have to work. You have enough money to live on.”
“A number of times I’ve been on the verge of retiring, but I’ve not been able to go through with it. It’s not easy for me to quit when I can still earn so much money each day.”
“So, I lost my court case as you said I would. But, to console myself, I’m going to shop for new clothes. Come with me.”
“Why do you want me to come? You know I usually try to talk you out of buying anything.”
“I need you to tell me what looks sexy on me. I have no idea of what men think is sexy.”
“One of the Johns I had this afternoon was a judge who he under the bed and into the closets as soon as he came in. He told me the police were slipping into a working girl’s apartment to hide before she arrived, then popping out when she’d be servicing a client. It’s good to have a judge as a client and learn the latest on what the police are up to. Lucky he didn’t find Conrad in a closet or I might have lost the judge as a client.”
“What would Conrad be doing in your closet?”
“Oh, I didn’t tell you. He conceals himself in it and when he hears I’ve finished with a John he dances out in drag, hoping to find a cock to suck or, if not, to slurp cum out of me.”
“And what do your clients think of his antics?”
“Most of them think he’s amusing.”
“Well, I don’t think so. I think it’s very uncool of you to allow Conrad to carry on like that in your apartment. He’s a renowned writer whose novels have been made into movies. If he should be busted in your apartment, it would be a sensational scandal that you don’t need. So, tell Conrad to stop performing his act in your apartment.”
“Business has been hectic recently, what with Trujillo’s yacht in the harbor and the Democratic Party Convention in town. All the hustling girls are making lots of money doing it with those big shot politicians and celebrities. Most of the girls want Kennedy to become president because he’s such a big trick, as if that would help them any.”
“Yeah, the last thing they should want is for prostitution to be legalized.”
“I forgot to tell you, Eddie, that I’m going to Hawaii for a convention being held by this company that I give advice to.”
“You give advice to a company?”
“Yes, I’ve made it with so many of the staff that I know better than the top brass who deserves to be raised to a better position.”
“Last night, I saw the Jacques you told me never to see.”
“Why’d you see do that?”
“I’m glad I did because I learned that you’d been right about him all along. After he’d finished making it with me, he looked down on me and said, ‘I guess that’ll take care of you for awhile.’ And that was goodbye for that arrogant bastard.”
“All you have to do, Eddie, is write a happy ending to your novel, and that director may be interested in making it into a movie.”
“It does have a happy ending; the main character achieves his ambition to kill himself.”
“So, you won’t compromise and write what he wants. Also, you pretended not to hear him when he hinted that he’d like you to get down on him.”
“I’m not into sucking cock.”
“But I’ve licked cunts at stag shows.”
“You chose to get into the sex business; I never did.”
“But you didn’t refuse to do a threesome with Marti and me that time for those two couples.”
“I was only helping you girls out when your regular stud couldn’t come.”
“You weren’t much of a stud that night, although the two young wives did enjoy your clowning around.”
“Whenever I was in you or Marti one of the husbands would shine his flashlight up between my legs and announce, ‘He’s only sixty per cent hard,’ or some shit like that, making me laugh and lose my hard-on. Also, I was wondering how those people could just sit and watch and not take off their clothes and join in the fun.”
“Now that you’re getting on so well with Roger, it may be a good time for me to go Europe to see if I can get my novel published.”
Gwen begins to cry.
“What’s the matter?”
“I’ve never thought of being without you.”
“Come on, you’ve thought of leaving me a number of times. Anyway, I won’t be gone long.”
“I know you. Once you’re away from me, you’ll keep postponing your return. You’re always trying to get away, always happy to see me leave the house. Some mornings, I call to go with you when I hear you about to leave the house, and you pretend you haven’t heard me and take off.”
“That’s because I’m primed to go and I don’t feel like waiting for you to get out of bed. Also, I’m giving you the time you complain you don’t have enough of to do the things you’d like to do.”
“What can I do in such a short period of time? You’re like all men, you don’t want to look at me if I’m not made up.”
“That’s a lot of shit and you know it. No other woman turns me on as much as you do.”
“But you never tell me you’ve missed me when I’ve been away.”
“I become so engrossed in what I’m doing that I have no time to miss anyone. But when you and Vincent are with me, I often remind myself to look intently at the scene around me because all that I see will someday be gone.”
1958 - 1963
“Go out with Eddie, Debbie. He’ll make you feel better,” Gwen says on the phone. “I know he’s my ole man. So what if he goes out with you? I’ve had plenty of boyfriends, haven’t I?
“Eddie, Debbie’s feeling depressed. Do you mind taking her out for the day?”
“No, but don’t you want to come along?”
“I want to stay home with Vincent for a change.”
“But Vincent likes to stay home alone and paint his fabulous abstracts.”
“I’d like to see how he does them. Without thinking, he simply chooses any color and adds it to his drawing. I wish I could do that.”
“Hi, Gwen,” Debbie phones while I’m looking through her record collection. “You were right, I had a great time with Eddie. After the beach, Eddie took me to meet Tom and Hazel at their wonderful house with the swimming pool and the lovely bar. We had a great time there, then went to check how the house you’re having built is coming along, and wound things up with a delicious Italian meal in Hollywood. Yes, Eddie’s here. Yeah, he’ll be there in a few minutes. Hey, Gwen, I have an idea. Why don’t the three of us live together?”
“I’ve decided not to have any more boyfriends,” Gwen tells me.
“I’m tired of having affairs.”
Is she dropping her boyfriends because she would like me to stop seeing Debbie? I like Gwen far better than I do Debbie, but I’ll continue to go with Debbie to see just how free I am. In all my years with Gwen, I’ve had only sexual escapades with other women and never an affair.
“Where’s Debbie?” Gwen asks when I come home.
“At her place. Why?”
“I thought I heard her car drive up, and I didn’t hear it go away.”
“She told me take it because she said she was too tired to drive me here. She’ll probably phone tomorrow and ask for her car. That’s her way of getting me to spend the day with her.”
Gwen goes to the oven and returns with a plateful of chocolate chip cookies and other goodies to place before me.
“I baked these while you were out, Eddie.”
What is this? She can’t actually be trying to get to my heart through my stomach, can she? I can’t believe she’s on that level.
“Why did you keep Vincent up so late tonight?” I ask, coming home.
“I didn’t keep him up. He said he wasn’t sleepy, so I let him draw.”
She hands me a sheet of paper.
“A letter I wrote to you.”
She writes that she is the luckiest woman in the world to be living with the finest man she has ever known - and more in that vein.
While I read, Gwen seats herself on the floor before me and, drawing up her knees, offers me a view of her pussy. That old bribe again, the proffered honey pot to draw me to her.
“This is a very flattering letter, Gwen. But I’m not all that wonderful, you know. While you were writing this letter, did you recall the day you came out of jail and asked me to work, and I refused?”
“Why do you always have to remind me of that time.”
“Because that was me, too.“
She doesn’t seem to realize that if I had not refused to work, she would not have what she has now.
“Why did you refuse to go to work?”
I think of the most self-deprecating reason I can give: “Because I had you where I wanted you, and you had no choice but to go back to work.”
“I wish you hadn’t said that,” she says gravely and leaves the room.
She’s accepted what I’ve said at face value. I’ve forgotten how literal-minded she is, often taking seriously the most obviously ironic remarks. If she’d only stop to think, she’d see that she had other choices at that time. She could have gone to live in Mexico or in Europe with or without me; she could have taken some other kind of work; she could have found a new lover. Perhaps, I should remind her of all that. No, let her discover that for herself.
“I’ve rented a little love nest in Laurel Canyon for Roger and me,” Gwen informs me by telephone. “So, from now on, I’ll only be spending every other day with Vincey and you.”
I step out of the bedroom just as Vincent throws a ball at a pyramid of blocks he’s built on the table before the seated Debbie. The ball and the dislodged blocks hurtle into her.
“What do you think you’re doing, Vince?”
“Just playing, Dad.”
“If you want to play like that, do it outside.”
“Okay, Dad. See you.”
“Boy, that kid really dislikes me,” says Debbie.
“Now that he sees you as much as he does Gwen, he may be blaming you for keeping her away.”
“He’s so possessive of you. If he sees my arm around you, he’s sure to pull it down.”
“He does that to Gwen, too.”
“Eddie, I’ve a copy of Roger’s grandfatheris will here, but I can’t understand it,” Gwen tells me on the phone. “Can I read it to you to see if you can tell me if Roger will get the money when his grandfather dies or when his father does.”
I can’t believe this is Gwen speaking to me. When has she become so avaricious?
“I’m not qualified to tell you, Gwen. You’d better have an attorney look at it.”
“Roger’s willing to work for me, are you?” Gwen asks on the phone.
“No. Why do you need two men to work for you?”
Why should I work when we already have enough to live on?
“Now you have to work, Eddie,” Gwen phones. “I’ve moved all the money in our joint account to an account in my name only, and you’ll have to pay all our bills.”
Which means I’ll have to work as a draftsman again and won’t have time for Debbie.
“I’ve decided to stay with you and Vincent from now on,” Gwen says some days after I’ve been working as a draftsman.
“What happened to Roger? You told me he was willing to work for you.”
“Roger’s just a lot of talk.”
“I want you to know that I’m putting the money I earn into our joint account.”
“You can do as you like.”
“I wonder how long I’ll have to work before I can collect unemployment insurance,” I say.
“Why do you always have to spoil everything? You should be proud to work for Vincent and me.”
“I should be proud to work when there’s no real need for me to do so.”
“There’s always a need for more money.”
I come home from work to find Gwen crying.
“My father has died. I just received a letter from my mother.”
“I always thought you’d be dancing with joy when your father died. You’ve been wishing him dead ever since I’ve known you. He was the one who had beaten you every day of your childhood, the one who wouldn’t allow you to smoke or to use makeup, the one who destroyed your chances of becoming a great dancer. But now that he’s dead, you’re crying.”
“I’m not crying for him; I’m crying for my mother.”
“There’s no need to cry for her. Old couples are prepared for the death of their partners.”
“I saw him today,” Gwen tells me.
“You saw who?”
“My father. He was sitting on the living room couch and watching me as I put on my makeup in the bedroom.”
“Did you offer him coffee and biscuits?”
“This is not a laughing matter.”
“Right, I forgot for a moment that you’re from Mississippi, where they believe in ghosts and poltergeists and such phenomenon. You told me once that you’d seen an angel sitting in a tree when you were a little girl.” “Just shut up, Eddie.”
“Oh, my God, look out the window at the foot of the bed,” Gwen gasps, as she lies next to me. “What do you see? Don’t be afraid to look.”
“I only see the shadows of leaves and branches.”
“Look closer. Don’t you see him?”
“My father. He’s looking in here and frowning because he doesn’t like what he sees.”
Gwen’s losing her hold on reality.
“He’s able to see through opaque glass, Gwen?”
“He’s the one!” Gwen points at me at a gathering of friends. “He’s the one who made me into a balling chick, the one who turned me into a call girl. He’s the Devil who convinced us all to have sex with one another. Don’t laugh. He’s the Devil, I tell you.”
“Come on, Gwen,” Tom says. “We’d been having orgies long before we’d met Eddie and you.”
“For years you’ve been praising Eddie up to the skies,” Hazel says.
“Yes, you’ve been putting Eddie up on a pedestal and now you want to topple him,” Tom adds.
I see what Gwen is doing. She’s putting on a performance for her dead father. Now that he’s dead, she believes he can see what’s become of her. So, she’s pointing her finger at me and blaming me for bringing about her degradation. While her father was alive, she blamed him for being the cause of her shortcomings. It seems she has a need to blame someone other than herself.
“My analyst tells me I should leave you,” Gwen tells me.
“And you’re going to take the advice of this straight guy who’s never been through what we’ve been through together?”
“He sees my situation far better than I do.”
“Bullshit. He can’t conceive of your situation. He comes from the world of your tricks.”
“I showed him the letter you wrote suggesting that, now that you have as much money as I have in my private account, we could put the money we each have into the joint account and go on from there. He said it was obvious that you are more interested in the money than you are in me.”
“You know that’s not true. How much of your money have I diverted into my own pocket?”
“That doesn’t matter. I think we should divorce.”
“If that’s what you want, we can do that after the first of the year.”
“That’s more than seven months away. Why should we wait until then?”
“It’ll be better for our income tax.”
“You married me for income tax reasons, and now you want to divorce me for income tax reasons.”
“I don’t want to divorce you. Divorcing is your idea. Anyway, in seven months you should be more stable mentally.”
“You intend to stay here until then?”
“Why not? We’re not having sex, anyhow.”
“I want to know when you’re going to move out.”
“As soon as we’re divorced, I’ll go to Europe.”
“You’ll go to Europe, you bastard. I worked seven years for you and now you should work seven years for me.”
“Yes, when you worked seven years for me we were living together. Now, you’re expecting me to work seven years for you while we’ll not be living together.”
“You’ve never done anything for me. You weren’t even as useful to me as a pimp would have been. You never brought me one client.”
I don’t bother to remind her of all that I do. Let her find out for herself after I’m gone.
Gwen snatches my eyeglasses, lays them on the table and shatters each lens with the heel of her shoe.
“What the fuck did you do that for, Gwen? Now, I’ll have to work without glasses for a few days.”
Actually, she would like to punch in my eyes.
“Tell her you love her, Eddie. Tell her you love her,” Hazel pleads, but I remain silent. “Eddie, please tell her that you love her.”
“How can I, after what she’s done?”
“I know what I’m going to do,” Gwen tells me, lying beside me in bed. “I’m going to kill myself.”
“Why do you want to do that?”
“Because no one cares.”
“But I’ve been telling you that for years, Gwen. We care for ourselves primarily.”
“If that’s the way it is, then I want to die.”
“You see, you don’t care enough for Vincent to go on living for him.”
“He likes you more than me, anyhow. I know you’ll take care of him.”
“But he doesn’t want you to die. I don’t want you to die.”
“But I want to die.”
“You’re going to die soon enough. Why can’t you wait?”
“Don’t try to talk me out of it.”
“Come on, Gwen, you’ll get over this. You have lots of good times ahead of you.”
“Shut up, Eddie. I’ve told you that I’ve decided.”
“Will you do one thing before you kill yourself?”
“Will you go to the bank and return all the money in your account to our joint account?”
“How can you talk about money at a time like this?”
“Look, Gwen, nothing’s going to change just because you’re dead. The milkman and the bread man are still going to want money. So, why shouldn’t Vincent and I have the use of the money in your account?”
Actually, Gwen wants to kill me. Short of that, she wants to kill herself so I’ll suffer for the rest of my life. By telling her that nothing is going to change if she kills herself, I’ve deprived her of that motive.
“You’re always giving me things that you want for yourself,” Gwen complains.
“This is a recording of Schoenberg’s ‘Moses and Aron’, a masterpiece. Don’t you like it?”
“No, I don’t.”
“You told me you loved atonal music when I first met you. But, now that you dislike me, you dislike the music. That’s a bit dishonest, don’t you think?”
“That’s how women are.”
“Not all women. Many of them have likes and dislikes independent from those of the man they happen to be with.”
“Maybe it would have been better for me to have married a jealous man who took care of me,” Gwen tells me.
“And would you have more today if you’d been turning tricks for that man alone? Anyway, you still have time to marry a jealous man after I’m gone.”
“My wife wants me to divorce her,” I tell the attorney.
“Why doesn’t she want to divorce you?“
“I guess she doesn’t want to appear in court.”
“Okay, that don’t matter. Let’s hear what you got.”
“I want her to have the new house, the car, the money in her bank account and her half of the income property.”
“All this been accumulated since you’ve been married?”
“Don’t give her nothin’. This is California, and you’re entitled to half of everything you’ve accumulated since your marriage.”
“But she earned it all.”
“It don’t matter who earned it, you split it all down the middle.”
“But I’m willing to give her what I’ve told you.”
“Don’t be a sap. Take what’s comin’ to you.”
“No, do it the way I want it done.”
“Is this all I get?” Gwen asks, after reading the divorce settlement.
“What more do you want?”
“I want the down payment I made in your name when I bought the income property.”
“But you made half that down payment in my name. I didn’t ask you to do it.” “And now I want it back.”
“It was in your power to give me half the down payment, but it’s not in your power to have it back. It’s in my power, and I don’t care what you do - shout, stamp your feet, bang your head against the wall - I’m not giving it to you.”
“I can have you put in jail for having lived with a call girl. I have all your love letters to prove it.”
“That’s great, Gwen. When we’re living together we live outside the law; but now that we’re not going to be together, you want to throw me into the jaws of that law.”
“That’s not very nice, is it?”
“Look, I’ll tell you what I’m willing to do. While I’m in Europe, you’ll be taking care of the income property here. So, send me only half of my share of the income every month. We can do that as long as we have income property in common. I don’t mind repaying you ten times what you think I owe you. Is that all right with you?”
“Yes, it sounds fair enough.”
“Eddie, you went to court to divorce me two days ago, didn’t you? And you didn’t even tell me.”
“What does the date of the divorce matter compared to the fact that we are divorced?”
“And you’ll be leaving soon?”
“Right, it’s already arranged: Greyhound bus to New York, Danish freighter to Copenhagen.”
A few days before I’m to leave, Gwen steps out of the bedroom, wearing only garter-belt, hose and high heels. Placing a mirror on the kitchen sink, she bends forward to apply the final touches to her makeup. She knows that this is how I like to see her. Can this display be meant for me after all those months of verbal abuse? Let me see.
I go to her, turn her about and, holding her close, kiss her. Her lips part and her body melts in complete surrender. My cock hardens against her body, and I look over her shoulder at the bed in the other room.
“If you do that, you’re not a man,” cautions a tiny voice within me.
I release Gwen and step back from her.
“You don’t have to go, Eddie,” Gwen says as she drives me to the bus stand.
“Yeah, Dad, don’t go,” Vincent seconds, leaning over the back of my seat. “Mommy, let’s not let Daddy go.”
“I’d like to stay and play games with you, Vince, but I already have the tickets to go.”
“You can cancel them and get some refund,” Gwen says.
“No, it’s best I go. We may have a clearer view of our situation if we look at it from a distance.”
As the bus passes through towns where Gwen and I have had such good times with friends, I’m overcome with nostalgia. I’m leaving behind those good times, the comfortable new house, my books and records - and Vincent.
He’s really going to miss me. I’m the only father he’s known. I begin to sob, recalling the fun he and I had together during the past ten years. I don’t try to stop sobbing, the tears running down my cheeks.
Every impulse within me urges me to go back, back to Vincent, back to Gwen, back to the comfort. But that one little voice within me says, “Keep on going, man. There’s nothing left for you back there, and there’s no way you can forget all the harsh words she spat at you.”
I always listen to that one little voice, and it never lets me down.
1963 - 1964
Walking through the early evening street in downtown Copenhagen, I see a group of Danish sailors coming toward me. My body becomes tense and I ready myself to ignore the expected taunts and the challenges to fight. But the sailors, as they pass, innocently look at the items on display in the shop windows, not one of them even glancing at me. What a welcome contrast to what I’ve been conditioned to expect in a similar situation back in the States
“You made your bed, now lie in it,” Gwen writes in reply to my letter to her, admitting that I often think of Vincent and of her. “I’m so happy to be free of your Super Ego, always judging everything I did.”
She thinks super ego means a big ego.
“I’m going to print your wonderfully fanciful story in my photo book of labyrinths,” Jacueline tells me.
“Even though I’m not a Situationist?”
“You may be one and not know it.”
“Any success with your novel?” asks Gordon, the action painter.
“I went to one publisher and said that if there was censorship in Denmark, I didn’t wish to waist his time and mine by showing him my manuscript. He said there was no censorship, and I left my manuscript with him. It’s just been returned to me with a note stating that they don’t dare publish my manuscript. There’s no censorship in Denmark, but they don’t dare publish. Also, a small publisher told me he’d love to publish it if he had the money to lose. He said that not even established writers such as Camus or Genet sell in Denmark. I guess I’ll have to wait until I see Olympia Press in Paris.”
“So. let’s drown your sorrow at the opening of an art exhibit.”
“There seems to be an opening every other day, Gordon.”
“Have you seen any good work by promising young painters, Gordon?” Jacqueline asks.
“Eddie and me never look at the paintings. We just hover around the food and drinks tables.”
“How do you expect me to do all this by myself?” writes Gwen.
When I was with her she accused me of doing nothing, but now that she has to do that “nothing”, it has become too much for her.
“I took my analyst to Big Sur recently, and he liked being there very much. But whenever I tried to draw close to him he shrank back from me. I’m sure he’s a faggot.”
“Who do you think you are that you have the right to drag me by the arm into the car?” little Linde asks me in her flat before her four young friends.
“You were a quite drunk, and I was trying to help you get into the car, that’s all.”
“Me a bit drunk. You were so drunk you almost tore off my arm.”
“Cigar?” One of the boys holds out a small thin cigarillo to me.
“No thanks, I don’t smoke.”
“Try one. They’re quite mild, you know.” He hands me the cigarillo and offers me a light.
“Look, Linde, you were keeping us all waiting in the car while you performed your antics on the sidewalk. Your friends here were too nice to ask you to stop.”
“So, you admit you’re not nice.”
“Not as nice as your friends.”
Oh-oh, I have to vomit. I get to my feet and dash for the kitchen, but too late. I vomit onto the floor before I get there. I rise quickly to look for a washcloth.
“Ho, big man, can’t even hold your liquor. Clean up that mess you made.”
“I’m looking for a washcloth.”
“In the kitchen.”
I find the cloth and begin to wipe the floor.
“Look at big man on his knees before his own vomit.”
As soon as Linde’s friends leave, I pack my belongings.
“What are you doing, Eddie?”
“You’re leaving, just like that?”
“I’m leaving, just like that.”
“But what about love, Eddie?”
“Yes, Linde, what about love?”
I’m no longer willing to accept abuse from any woman. I don’t offer them any, so why should I accept it from them? One harsh word and I’m out the door.
“You hear anything from your ex-wife?” asks Gordon.
“A couple of letters. In one she writes that she almost backed her car off a cliff, and in the other that she’s burned her legs badly while lighting a hibachi. She’s in terrible pain and is unable to walk She’ll have to have skin grafting. Vincent’s staying with his grandmother. She adds that I don’t have to come.”
“You’re not going there?”
“I don’t feel like it. When I saw the Statue of Liberty dwindling in the distance I felt that I’d never see it again.”
“So, where you going this winter?”
“Someone told me that Marrakech in Morocco is a great place.”
“Is anyone going with you?”
“No, I prefer to travel alone.”
“Olympia Press is in the process of moving to the States,” the man in charge of the Paris office tells me. “Censorship is easing there, while it’s on the increase here.”
“It looks like I made my move to Europe at precisely the wrong moment.”
“You can always go back there.”
“I know, but I don’t want to.”
“Ah, how inspiring it is to be in Marrakech, music and dancing in the streets every day,” says Charles, the young painter from New York. “Looking down from the roof of the hotel at all the activity in the square is like seeing a Breughel painting in motion.”
“I’ll tell you something, Charles. The first few days here, I stayed in French town. I might still be there if this Moroccan hustler hadn’t hipped me to moving to the souk.”
“French town! That’s where we sometimes go to snicker at the pretentious young Moroccan snobs, aping the latest in European chic and gesture. What induced you to stay in French town?”
“I never imagined that whites stayed in casbahs. American movies had conditioned me to believe that casbahs were murky alleyways teaming with sinister figures with daggers under their cloaks, ready to leap upon any foreigner unfortunate enough to wander into one. Now, I walk through the souk almost every day just to look at the colors and smell the fragrance.”
“When we learned that your President Kennedy had been assassinated we Europeans were shocked and dismayed,” the Dutch linguist tells me. “But when this Oswald person was shot and killed before a television audience the very next day we considered the entire affair to be a ludicrous farce.”
“It’s quite violent in the America, isn’t it,” I say. “Living there, I was taught that all countries in the world were more violent, but I’ve yet to be anywhere that’s as violent as there.”
Gwen forwards a letter to me from a Realtor in L.A. who has a client offering us $50,000 cash for our income property. She writes that she wants to sell. I don’t want to sell.
From my vermin infested room in Marrakech, I write to the Realtor that I’m vacationing in Morocco and do not wish to be bothered with offers of less than $60,000 cash. I write what I’ve done to Gwen and ask her to contact the parcel deliverers across the street from our property to see if they’ll come up with $65,000. And if they will, to ask those who made the original offer for $70,000 and so on.
“Eddie, you’re shaking,” observes Didier.
“You just noticing that? He’s been trembling for days,” says Charles. “Looks like he’s got Parkinson’s disease.”
“You’re giggling, Eddie,” Didier says. “Does it feel ticklish?”
“Yeah, in a way. It’s like I have a double heartbeat: mine, followed a fraction of a second later by the heartbeat of what could be a tapeworm.”
“Perhaps it’s caused by all the kif you’ve been smoking.” Didier says.
“I don’t know what’s causing it. It’s never happened before.”
Gwen sends a contract that she’s signed, agreeing to sell for $60,000 cash. She asks that I sign the contract before a notary public and return it to her.
I write back that she hasn’t done what I’d asked her to do and that I’m unwilling to sell.
The Moroccan street musician begins to play his bass-toned string instrument before a number of guests in Didier’s house. A deep note seems to be directed at me. I look up at the musician. He nods and signals to me with his eyes to stop brooding and pay attention to the music. Smiling, I settle back to listen to him play.
Gwen writes that we’ll be sued if we refuse to sell. That I’ve set a price of $60,OOO and the buyer has met my asking price.
I have little choice but to sign the contract.
I’m being chased, but I don’t look back to see who is chasing me. My legs become heavier with each step I take. My thighs seem to be turning into metal. I can’t run any further. I can’t breathe. My head feels like it’s being crushed. I’ve been like this before, and I know that I must struggle to awaken so I can breathe again. I’ve always reached consciousness at the very last moment. But it doesn’t seem as though I’m going to be able to do so this time.
My body is jolted explosively, and there’s a bright flash of light in my head.
I’m sitting in bed in complete calm. I’m not shaking, and I have no double heartbeat. Not a sound reaches me from early morning Marrakech. The plain white wall at the foot of my bed is embedded with beautiful dots of twinkling light.
I am dead, and I don’t care.
“I can’t find anything wrong with your heart,” a doctor tells me in the morning. “There’s no sign that you’ve had an heart attack.”
“That’s good to know. What happened to my body last night was so powerful that I thought it might have damaged my heart.”
Gwen writes that her house on the outskirts of Los Angeles will appreciate greatly in value when that city expands beyond her land. She wishes to buy land just beyond the confines of that city, build a number of houses on it and sell it at a profit when it has been absorbed by the city. That’s what she plans to do after the sale of the property with our money.
OUR MONEY! Never! Does she expect me to trust her after she once removed the money from our joint account? She’s crazy if she does.
I write to the bank handling the sale of our property to instruct them that not one penny of my half of the proceeds from the sale are to be diverted to my wife’s half. Then, I write to Gwen to inform her of what I’ve done, adding that I’m still willing to invest in income property with her.
“I want my money, Jack,” Gwen writes back, sending along a contract for me to sign, agreeing to pay her the sum of money she claims I owe her. I throw away the contract.
I notice that the date of the sale of the property falls within the span of time I will use to return to Copenhagen. A check should be waiting for me by the time I arrive there.
There is no check waiting for me in Copenhagen, only a letter from Gwen to inform me that the date for the sale of the property has been put back sixty days to give us time to reach an agreement. She’s willing now to accept two-thirds of the money I owe her. I drop papers into the trash bin.
“How do you like it, Eddie?” asks Jacqueline. “Your story printed under an aerial photograph of Vester Faengsel, a jail in Copenhagen.”
“At last, I’m in print.”
“I’ll give you some copies to give to your friends. And I’ve already begun my next project: a picture book on chains. I hope you’ll write a tale on that subject.”
“I’ll try to come up with something.”
“I hope to have it published by Christmas.”
“You are indefatigable, Jacqueline.”
Gwen writes that I’d better come to an agreement with her or she’ll refuse to sell, which will constitute a breach of contract and make it certain that we’ll be sued. She adds that she’s willing to lose everything.
Lose everything! She’s just crazy enough to do it, to throw away all we’ve worked for and saved all those years. I panic. I’ll be left penniless and have to start up with nothing again. Do I have the will or the energy for that? To become a wage earner again is a most depressing prospect.
I must get in touch with Gwen and try to persuade her to be sensible. But how can I contact her? A letter will take too long to reach her; I can’t say all I have to say in a telegram, and I don’t have her unlisted phone number. Must I fly to California? I dread having to do that. I probably don’t have enough money to fly, anyway. I feel powerless.
I can’t eat, I can’t read, I can’t listen to music. I can only pace up and down my room endlessly, my mind in turmoil. How quickly time vanishes when I’m troubled. Should I agree to her terms and at least salvage some money? Or should I try to gather enough money to go to California? I’m going out of my mind with worry.
Suddenly, what I should do strikes me. It’s so simple. A total calm suffuses my being. Gwen’s willing to lose everything; so am I. Now, let’s see if she’s bluffing. Me, I’m not backing down. I’ll be left with nothing if she goes ahead and loses everything, but so what? I’m no stranger to poverty. I’ll survive somehow. I was born with nothing, wasn’t I?
I’m free! Free of my fear of being destitute! I feel weightless; my being soars.
I have nothing to do but to wait calmly to see what Gwen is going to do..
Why don’t you write? Gwen asks. We’re all waiting here to hear from you.
So, I write, asking her if she’s read any good books, heard any great music or seen any memorable movies.
How can you send such a letter? Gwen writes. I’m warning you, this is your last chance. Sign and return the enclosed agreement immediately.
But I have nothing more to say to her.
The check arrives. Gwen’s bluff has been called.
Keep the money, you faggot, she writes in a separate letter. You need it more than I do.
If she knew I needed it more than she did, why did she fight so long to deprive me of it?
Some weeks after the arrival of the check, I receive what seems to be a conciliatory letter from Gwen, almost an invitation. In the upper margin of the letter, Vincent has made drawings of his pets, a baseball glove and bat.
I write that I’m willing to come to California to look for income property we could invest in together, and ask if it would be possible for me to sleep in her van while I’m there.
Sleep in my van? When are you going to grow up and get your own car and your own house to sleep in?
Good, now, I don’t have to go all the way back to California. I’m free to go wherever I wish.
“Don’t leave, Eddie,” Mona pleads. “Stay here with me.”
“There are two things in life I wish to avoid: work and cold weather.”
“You can move into my flat and sit before the electric heater all winter long. You’ll never have to go out; I’ll do all the shopping.”
“There are more interesting things in the world than can be seen inside your flat, Mona.”
“What will I do without you?”
“Come on, Mona, don’t you remember what you said before we made it together?”
“What did I say?”
“When you wondered what it would be like to make it with me I told you it would be all right as long as you didn’t get hung up on me. And you said there was no danger of that happening because you were in love with the man whose child you were carrying. Do you remember all that?”
“Yes, but it didn’t prevent me from falling in love with you.”
“I’m sorry it happened to you, but I have to leave. I should be back in the spring. You should have your baby by then.”
I don’t tell Mona that I won’t be spending time with her when I return. I’ve already lived with a woman and child and, though it was a rewarding experience, I have no need to repeat it.
With so many eager young girls in Copenhagen, why had I allowed Mona to get so close to me? Because after having worked on my novel all day, I had found it convenient when Mona came in the evening and saved me the trouble of having to go out to look for a lover.
“What’re you doing in Athens, Eddie?” asks Peter, a young American living in a large house with a number of freaks who’ve been to India.
“I’m on my way to Egypt for the winter. I spent last winter in Morocco and now I want to go somewhere I haven’t been to.”
“I have a house and a servant in Cairo where you can stay if you like. But, you know, for twenty dollars more you could go to India.”
“Is India better than Egypt?”
“Then I’ll go to India. How do I get there?”
“Overland through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan or by boat from Kuwait to Bombay.”
“Man, you’re going to love India, Eddie,” says Ron, another American living in the house. “So many great places to visit, and most of them accessible by train. But be sure to have a second class sleeper reservation. And if you like Indian classical music, take a transistor radio with you. Lots of great music broadcast every day. And do you go for spicy food?”
“My girl and I spent six months in Mexico once, and the food tasted so bland when we returned to the States that we had to liven it up with hot sauce.”
“Look at this you guys,” exclaims a tall freak coming into the room wearing cowboy gear and holding an open magazine. “Pictures of Allen Ginsberg at the Gunga in Benares.”
He lays the open magazine onto a table, allowing us to see photos of Ginsberg immersed in, and emerging from, the river.
“Wow, these are great photos, Michael,” Peter says.
“Yeah, Ginsberg’s sure on a good trip,” says Michael.
I think he’s on a terrible fucking religious trip,.
1964 - 1965
Sitting on the upper deck of a Bombay bus with a joint in my hand, I look down at the mass of people on the street. So many people without jobs, so many sitting on doorsteps, remind me of my childhood during the Depression in America, and I’m becoming rapidly fond of India. . How is the driver ever going to get this bus through that throng in the street? Why should I care? That’s his problem; not mine. I sit back and take another hit on my joint.
As I look out at the passing landscape on the train to Trivanderam, I become aware that some of the passengers sitting opposite me are waiting to catch my attention.
“What happened to your hand?” asks a man, as soon as I glance at the interior of the car.
“I was born with it,” I answer. “See, there are no cuts.”
“Oh, you are a very lucky man, sir.”
“Yes, because if you had been born with five fingers, you would have been a very evil man. But being born with only three fingers has made you very humble.”
“Excuse me, sir, what are you doing in India?” asks a second man.
“Have you been to many places?”
“Bombay, Badami, Mysore City, Belur, Halebid, Bangalore and Cochin are the places I’ve been to so far.”
“How did you come to Bombay?”
“By boat from Kuwait.”
“And are you enjoying your travels?”
“Yes, very much so. The local people I’ve met have been breaking my heart daily with the kindness they’ve shown me.”
A man in a western suit and accompanied by a woman leans toward me from his seat on the bus to Cape Comorin.
“Excuse me, sir. You are from?”
“The United States.”
“You are in service here?”
“No, only touring.”
“How much money does your government give you to cover your traveling expenses?”
“Not one penny.” How many times I’ve answered this question since I’ve been in India.
“Such a wealthy country, and it’s not giving you money?”
“That’s why it’s such a wealthy country.”
“How are you providing for your food and shelter?”
“From interest on my savings.”
“A capitalist,” he says to the woman beside him. “Your travels must be costing you much money.”
“Not at all. I’m usually traveling by ticket-less third class train, and I’m eating and sleeping in railway stations. The thought of becoming a poor old man sleeping in railway stations used to terrify me. Now, it doesn’t bother me at all to sleep in railway stations.”
A group of beggars, who stand alongside the railroad tracks at a stop before Madurai, hold up their stumps to me.
I hold up my hand for the beggars to see. They look puzzled, then gradually begin to smile and to nudge each other as though to convey, “Look, a beggar who’s made it.”
“You’re traveling alone?” asks a woman who is with a group of middle class Indians visiting the temple in Tiruchi. “Where is your family?”
“In America I have four brothers, two sisters and a mother.”
“You have no wife and children?”
“I’m divorced and I have a twelve year old son.”
“You’re going to see them after you leave India?”
“No, I’m going my own way.”
“Tch, tch, I can’t imagine living without my family. Who will take care of you in your old age?”
“I never ask myself that.”
“I am so sorry for you.”
And I feel so sad for her, imprisoned in her family.
“How are you finding India?” asks a man on the beach at Mahabilapuram.
“I’m liking it more each day. I like the people, the classical music, the food, the warm winter weather in the south, and so much else. I’m feeling truly ecstatic.”
“Something has touched your mind, sir.”
“India has. I can live here on my small income and never have to work again.”
Three young men come my way in Bhubanswar railway station.
“Hey, mate, you goin’ to Madras?” one of them asks me.
“No, I’m coming from there.”
“We’re catching the cheap boat from Madras to the Andamans and then skipping over to Malaysia. Where you headed?”
“Calcutta, Bodh Gaya, then Benares, where I think I’ll spend a few weeks to do some writing.”
“Man, much better to spend time in Kathmandu than in Benares.”
“Kathmandu? Where’s that?”
“In Nepal, north of India. Get a visa at the Nepalese consulate in Calcutta.”
“If your government doesn’t give you money, how do you meet your expenses?” asks a man on the train to Bodh Gaya.
“My wife sends me money to stay away.”
“Why does she do that?”
“She says that my squeamishness is bad for her business.”
“What is your wife’s business?”
“She has slaves.”
“I thought slavery was abolished in your country.”
“My wife has sex slaves.”
“May I offer you a cup of tea?”
I finally find The Globe Restaurant in Kathmandu.
“Eddie!” someone calls as I step in. It’s Susie, a young Dane I knew in Copenhagen. “Man, when did you get in?”
“A couple of days ago. It took me some time to find this place. I kept asking young Nepalis if they knew where the foreign traveler’s ate, and they kept sending me to their favorite restaurants.”
“Where you staying?”
“As soon as I got off the bus a Nepalese boy struck up a conversation with me and then offered me his room until he returns from his home village.”
“Eddie, this is Dahl, the guy I’m traveling with.”
“Hey, Dahl, how are you?”
“Fine. How long you gonna be around, Eddie?”
“About five or six weeks.”
“Hi, folks,” greets a young man entering with a girl.
“Eddie, this is Mick, an American, and his German girlfriend Ushie,” Susie introduces. “This is the entire freak scene in Kathmandu. Usually, we spend most of the whole day in The Globe, eating good food and smoking Nepalese hash and grass.”
“How you finding Kathmandu, Eddie?” asks Dahl.
“Mornings are so cold it takes me a long time to get myself out of bed. After having a breakfast in a small chi shop, I hustle over to the American Library because it’s heated. There, I read until noon, then have lunch and spend the afternoon wandering around. But I think I’ll be spending most of my time in this place from now on.”
Dahl is eating from a large plate of food when I enter The Globe.
“What’s happening, Eddie?”
“Nothing but good things.”
“Hi, Eddie,” Susie greets, joining us at the table. “Dahl, I’m very hungry, man.”
“Baby, we’ve got to go easy on the spending. We’re runnin’ very low on money”
“I’ll bet you’ve eaten?”
“I had a bite.”
“Sure, you did. But I want more than a bite. I want to eat a huge plate of food.”
“What can we do, Susie?”
Susie hesitates. “I think I’ll join those two cute Nepali boys sitting at that table over there.”
Dahl pauses, chews on the end of his chin whiskers and, hands trembling, he opens his purse and studies its contents.
“Well, I think we have enough for you to order something to eat, Susie.” Susie gives me a meaningful look.
“Are you two as impressed by India as I am?” I ask Mick and Ushi.
“Yes, but our guru Meyer Baba has told us to never return there.”
“And you’re not going to?”
“He’s our guru, so he should know what’s best for us.”
This, I cannot understand. I’d never allow anyone to tell me where to go and what to do.
Dahl and Susie rush excitedly into The Globe.
“We just met a couple of photographers from Stern Magazine,” Dahl says. “And they want to photograph the five of us smoking before various temples and other places of interest in Kathmandu. We’ll be able to order all the most expensive dishes here at The Globe, and they’ll give us twenty dollars. Doesn’t that sound cool?”
“Twenty dollars each?” I ask.
“No, twenty dollars in all.”
“That’s crazy. Twenty dollars divided by five is next to nothing. Tell them we won’t do it unless they give us twenty dollars each.”
“What if they won’t go for it?”
“Then we won’t do it. But, don’t worry, they’ll come up with the money. It’s peanuts to them.”
“Those assholes from Stern were so straight,” Ushi tells me. “You should have seen them wrinkle their noses when Mick and I told them that we’re not married.”
“What are you people doing, sitting at that table all day long?” asks the very large American girl who has told us that she is a shot-putter on the U.S. Olympic team and that she’s returning home from the games in Japan.
“We’re getting high,” Dahl answers. “You wanna try?”
“Sure, why not?” she says, evidently game to try almost anything once.
“So, sit down then,” Dahl tells her. “Hey, Eddie, what shall we make her, a hash joint or a grass joint?”
“Make a hash and grass joint.”
What’s your name?” I ask the girl.
“Listen, Linda, I’ve never made it with a shot-putter called Linda. You want to get it on with me.”
“I don’t think we’ve known each other long enough for that.”
Dahl lights the joint he’s made, takes a big hit and passes it to Linda.
“How long do you have to know a girl before you can have sex with her?” asks Dahl.
“In an arranged marriage, you may not even have met your wife before you go to bed with her,” I say.
“I wouldn’t let anyone tell me who to marry,” says Ushi.
“Not even Meyer Baba?” I ask.
“You’re ridiculing our beliefs,” Mick says.
“All beliefs are ridiculous,” I say.
“Hey, whatever happened to that joint?” asks Dahl.
The shot-putter has her head on the table, the remains of the burning joint between her fingers.
“She’s smoked the whole thing herself,” Dahl says. “She didn’t know that she was supposed to pass it on.”
“Hey, Linda,” I say, leaning over her and nudging her arm. “How are you?”
She turns her head toward me, opens her eyes and says, “How long does this last?”
“For a few hours.”
“Oh, my God.”
“We meet again,” I say, surprising Linda near the burning ghats in Benares. “Are you fascinated by the scene?”
“Better than being buried alive, don’t you think? Anyway, seeing that life comes to an end, don’t you think we should get it on immediately?”
“I think we’ve known each other too long for that.”
“India is the most beautiful, the most spiritual and the most powerful country in the world,” a villager tells me on the bus leaving Khajurao.
“India may be the most beautiful and the most spiritual country in the world, but it’s certainly not the most powerful,” I say. “The United States or The Soviet Union could obliterate India with a few hydrogen bombs.”
“I will not reveal at this time the secret weapons that India has at its disposal.”
“Even China was able to bloody India’s nose and then withdraw.”
“China is immoral. In India, we regard all women to be our mothers or our sisters. What is the situation in your country?”
“In my country, we don’t usually go to bed with our mothers and sisters.”
Some of the passengers on the bus snicker.
“If you should say that in my village, we would put you against the wall and shoot you.”
In Delhi, I grab the railing inside a bus that is just beginning to move, but I can’t seem to pull myself up onto the bus as it picks up speed. Still holding onto the railing, I am pulled forward alongside the bus at a quickening pace. Realizing at last that I must release my hold of the railing, I let go and find myself being carried forward by momentum alone. I make myself fall onto the gravel to stop myself from going further. I rise to my feet and check my body for serious injury. Except for a few scratches, I’m not hurt. Man, if there had been a wagon or vendor’s cart in my path, I could have been killed.
“Open your bag,” orders the Pakistani customs official at the border
“I’m American,” I tell him, holding up my passport.
“Oh, sorry,” he apologizes and marks my bag with a large white cross.
I hope it’s going to be like this at all the borders waiting for me.
As the bus approaches Khandahar, the young Afghan soldier sitting beside me becomes gay.
“I’m happy because I will see my wife in Khandahar,” he tells me.
“But when we left Kabul you were crying because you were leaving your wife behind,” I remind him.
“Yes, that was my Kabul wife; now I will see my Khandahar wife.”
The bus is arriving in Khandahar late at night. That would have been a cause of concern when I first began to travel. I would have worried about finding a room for the night. But after having slept in railway stations, in public parks and on sidewalks, I no longer have such cares.
“That’s the tourist hotel,” the soldier tells me, pointing out the window toward a passing building.
Whatever I need to know always seems to be presented to me in time.
Finally understanding that I want charas, the proprietor of the chi shop steps out from behind his samovar and motions to me to follow him. Bending low, he leads me through a small opening in the back wall of his shop and into a room which contains a large water pipe and some mats on the floor.
He breaks a large chunk of charas into the bole on top of the water pipe, places some burning charcoal upon it, takes a big hit and passes the nozzle to me. I take a hit, another, and pass it back to him. I’m already feeling the effects of the charas by the time I take my second round of hits. After the third round, I signal that I’ve had enough. I follow the proprietor back into the teashop. He resumes his seat behind the samovar. I look down into his stoned eyes; he looks up into mine, and it’s evident that neither of us is sober enough to talk business. “Tomorrow,” I say, and he nods in agreement.
I leave the shop and, giggling and almost falling forward onto my face, I stagger across the street toward the lights of a restaurant. I stumble in and plop myself down onto a seat. Feeling giddy, I laugh loud at a radio band playing the most listless cha-cha-cha I’ve ever heard.
I make notes on the protagonist of the novel I’ve not worked on since I’ve left Copenhagen. That protagonist is modeled on me, so I’m actually examining my own character. Why have I always liked people? Because I was so skinny as a boy that I had to like my peers, or was it because I wanted to be liked by them in return?
“Eddie, what’s up, man?”
I turn to see the Michael I met in Athens standing in the doorway of a hotel on the main street of Herat.
“Too much, Michael. I never expected to see anyone I knew in this place. Which way you going?”
“Back to India. And you?”
“Coming from there.”
“You must have smoke on you.”
“Some Afghani, Pakistani, Kashmiri and Nepali.”
“Come up to my room and let’s turn on.“
“I’ll see you guys later,” I tell the three young Australians who are with me, then follow Michael up to his room.
“Who were those boys?” asks Michael.
“Three Australians who happen to be taking the same buses as me. I’ve been trying to distance myself from them because of the racist way they’ve been coming on to the Afghans, ridiculing them when they stop to pray or saying things like, ‘Who’re you lookin’ at, monkey?’ ”
“Eddie, this is my fiend, Peter. He’s going to India with me.”
“Great.” I shake hands with Peter.
“So, Eddie, are we going to smoke?” Michael hands me a pipe with a long stem and a large bole.
“How about Nepalese hash and grass?”
“Sounds excellent, Eddie.”
After we’ve smoked a number of boles, I say, “That’s it for me, Michael.”
“No, let’s have another one”, he says, and I begin to doubt the strength of my stuff and to doubt, too, my standing as a true smoker.
“I’ll make a bole for you, then go to the restaurant downstairs. I’m starving.”
“I’ll go with you,” Peter says. “I’m also starving. You coming, Michael?”
“No, you guys go. And, Eddie, do right by those Australians.” He means I should turn them on.
“Yeah, Michael,” I say, not intending to do so.
In the restaurant, Peter and I, giggling, dig into the food before us.
Suddenly, Michael, looking very pale, leans over our table.
“I’m dying,” he says, his hand on his breast. “I’m having a heart attack.”
Hearing this, I am elated. My dope is good after all, and I’m a true smoker.
“You’re not dying,” Peter laughs. “You just smoked too much, that’s all.”
“No, I’m dying, I tell you.”
“Sit down and eat something to bring you down.”
“How can I eat when I’m dying?” Michael asks, leaving.
“Hey, Eddie, what’re we gonna do all night long?” one of the Australians asks, as the four of us sit on the carpeted floor of the back room in a grocery store in Jusef Abad, Iran.
“I don’t know about you guys, but I know what I’m going to do.” I take out my hash, grass and rolling papers.
“Is that maryawany or whatever it’s called?” asks a second Australian.
“Yeah, you guessed it.”
“What happens when you smoke it?” asks the first Australian.
“You may feel very relaxed and content. Then things may become may seem to become different. Time, for instance, will be passing quicker or slower than usual, sounds will have depths you’ve never noticed, and everything will be so ridiculous that you won’t be able to stop laughing. Then, you’ll probably become very hungry and thirsty and run out to buy goodies and drink.”
“Ah, that is all bullshit,” says a bespectacled German who is also spending the night in this shop. “I have smoked that stuff many times and nothing happens.”
He’s the catalyst I’ll use to turn on the Australians. Lighting the joint I’ve made, I hand it to the German. He takes a hit and hands it to the first Australian.
“No thanks, I don’t smoke.”
“I don’t smoke tobacco, either,” I say. “This stuff is milder than tobacco.”
“It is?” he says and takes a cautious toke before passing it to the second Australian.
“How is it?”
While the joint goes around, I prepare a second one.
“Hey, Eddie, I don’t feel anything,” the third Australian says.
“Be patient. The effect can be very subtle. You may be high and not notice it for some time.”
I light the second joint and hand it to the . . . Hey, what happened to the German? I go into the next room and find him lying in bed, his face pale.
“I thought this stuff did nothing to you,” I say, leaning over him.
“Get out, bastard!”
“Hey, Eddie, I’m feeling different now,” the third Australian announces.
The second Australian has his head buried in his arms, and the first one is lying on his back with his eyes shut.
“You’re all feeling different,” I laugh.
“Hey, Eddie, is my voice sounding strange or am I hearing strange?” asks the third Australian.
“I don’t know. You sound the same to me.”
“Everything seems so unusual. Will I come back to normal?”
“I’m feeling very hungry.”
“Go out and get something to eat.”
The three Australians go out, while I sit back contentedly. I’ve done right by them, after all.
The Australians return, their hands laden with sandwiches, cokes and other goodies.
“Guess what, Eddie. After I bought this egg sandwich, I was standing in front of the shop when my mate came along and asked me what I was doing. And, you know something, Eddie? I wasn’t doing anything. I’d probably still be standing there if he hadn’t come along.”
I roll onto the carpet, laughing.
“Hey, Eddie, you don’t act like no forty year old man. Our fathers are your age, and they’re nothing like you.”
“They don’t smoke this stuff.”
They all laugh.
“Hey, Eddie, how’re we gonna get up at five in the morning to catch that bus to Mashed?”
“Don’t worry, I can wake up any time I need to.”
Unrolling their sleeping bags and sliding into them, they’re off to sleep.
Pleased with myself, I lay my head down and - BANG - my body is jolted, and there’s a flash of bright light in my head.
And I recall the first time that my brother and I had gone to the movies without our mother. The film was already on when we arrived on the balcony to look for seats in the theater packed with laughing children. Their laughter suddenly made me feel self-conscious. I hoped that the children were looking at the movie and not at me with my Dutch clip haircut, my three fingered hand and my skinny body.
So, that girl with the remarkable hair and hands and no body I’d dreamt of on the night after I’d first read Freud had been the younger me of the Dutch clip, the three-fingered hand and the thin body on the balcony of the crowded theater. And in that dream, I had been doing what I had wished the children in the theater to be doing: watching the screen and not noticing me.
“Man, I didn’t realize how stoned I was yesterday until I found I couldn’t get myself to walk over the bridge to town,” says one of the young Danes who had smoked my stuff at Mona’s the day before.
“That used to happen to me sometimes,” I say. “I was so afraid of feeling an irresistible urge to jump if I looked at the water below, that I’d turn away from the railing and watch the traffic on the bridge road.”
“Me, when I left here last night I went into a hardware store,” a second Dane says. “I was there for some time before I realized that there was no reason at all for me to be in that store.”
I’m gratified to hear you say this. Yesterday, when all you smokers left Mona’s without saying a word about my stuff I began to doubt its potency.”
“Eddie, you gotta sell us some of that stuff.”
“I don’t have any to sell. I’ll give you a piece.”
“No, man, listen, I’ve got a jazz trio, and we’re doing a gig on Danish radio tomorrow, and you’re dope will keep us flying through it.”
“If I sell my stuff, I’ll soon run out of it and . . .”
“All right, tell me the going price.”
“I’ve never known anyone who sleeps as much as you do,” Mona tells me. “You don’t go out. You don’t do anything.”
“I guess that overland trip from India has taken a lot out of me.”
“You go all the way to India and you don’t bring back a single chillum,” Mona complains..
“I never thought of bringing one because I don’t smoke tobacco.”
“That’s right, you think only of yourself, never of anyone else.”
She’s uptight because I’m sleeping with her but not touching her. I haven’t told her that I’m only staying with her until I find my own place.
“That bag of yours is stinking up my room,” she says.
“You don’t seem to mind smoking the stinking stuff inside it, Mona.”
“I’m going to the bath house, Mona.”
Sobbing hysterically, she rushes up to me, grabs my arms and begins to shake me.
I look down at her, wondering why she’s acting like this to someone who’s never spoken a harsh word to her.
“Pull yourself together, Mona.” Putting my hands on her shoulders, I push her back onto the bed.
She looks up at me like an admonished child.
“I’ll see you later, Mona.”
The following day is my second Sunday at Mona’s, and the smokers have returned.
“Mik.” I approach one of them when he’s preparing to leave. “Do you know of a room I can rent?”
“You’re welcome to stay with my wife and me. We have a room with a bed in it which we only use to store things in.”
“No, I don’t want to be a bother to you.”
“It’s no bother at all. When would you like to move in?”
“Tonight, when you leave.”
“We’re going now.”
“I’ll get my bag.”
“Where are you going, Eddie?” Mona asks.
“Mik and his wife have offered me a room. Thanks for putting up with me all this week.”
As I get settled in my new room, I hear Joan, Mik’s wife, whistling. She seems to be too happy. I’ll have to be on my guard against her. I need the room more than I need her. There are more girls than rooms available in Copenhagen.
“Come, Eddie, and have some coffee and cake,” Joan calls.
Mik and Joan gone to work, I eat breakfast on their cluttered table. They’ve told me to help myself to whatever there is. This is wonderful, having a flat all to myself five days a week. I’ll have a quiet place to write.
What’s this? A large photo lying on the table. It’s of Joan, sitting naked on the floor with her arms resting on drawn up knees, a position that reveals the contours of an admirable breast. She‘s obviously left the photo on the table for me to see.
“You’re very attractive with your lovely body and your very blonde hair,” I say to Joan’s smiling likeness. “But you’re not going to get me.”
How can she get to me? She works.
That evening, Mona stands before me when I answer the door.
“Pia wants me to bring you to her place.”
“Come in. Mik and Joan are here.”
While the three of them talk in Danish, I’m glad that Mona has come to remove me from Joan’s presence.
“Hey, Eddie, I know how you get people to like you,” Mona says, turning to me. “You hypnotize them.”
“Come on, Mona, I’ve never studied hypnotism.”
“You do it naturally, then.”
“I like his eyes,” Joan says.
“Let’s go, Eddie. Pia’s waiting.”
“Gordon is an interesting painter, isn’t he?” I say the following evening after having taken Mik and Joan to Gordon’s studio.
“He has imagination, but I suspect that he’s not all that technically proficient,” Mik says.
“That may be so. You’re a graphic artist, and Gordon may not have the technique that you have.”
“I’m glad you took us to see his paintings,” Joan says, yawning.
“Okay, you’re tired. I’ll see you people tomorrow.”
I go to my room, undress and slip into bed.
Mik comes in. “My wife would like to speak with you.”
“Yes, she’s in the front room.”
I get out of bed and get dressed, wondering what Joan wants of me. Surely, with Mik here, it can’t be sex. But what else can it be?
Finished dressing, I go into the front room. On the bright turquoise bedcover lies Joan’s white body, the legs outstretched
“Did you wish to speak to me, Joan?”
“I want you to fuck me.” She says, hands under her head and smiling up at me
So, this is it: the beginning of the end. If I don’t fuck her, I lose the room; and if I fuck her, I lose the room.
“What about him?” I say, nodding toward Mik walking in.
“Oh, it’s quite all right with me,” he says, going to the armchair.
I guess it would be ungrateful of me to refuse to fuck her.
Mik and I, having taken turns coupling with Joan, all three of us lie side by side on the bed, Joan in the middle.
“This is the happiest day of my life,” she says, turning her head to me.
“The second happiest day,” I whisper. “Don’t forget the day of your marriage.”
“I’m so glad you’re staying with us.” Joan tells me. “I like hearing the stories you tell. Mik, too, likes that you’re here. You help take his mind off himself. He can be very morbid at times.”
“He sure likes to smoke.”
“He has a permit from the government to smoke. His mother kept him on pills so he’d be dependent on her and never leave her. But I came into the picture and whisked him away. I’m saving his life, you know.”
“And is that enough to make you happy?”
“Mik allows me to do what I want.”
“So I’ve noticed.”
I wake up to hear that I’m not alone in the apartment.
“Is today a holiday, Joan?”
“No, I decided to stay home to clean the house.”
Fuck, with Joan here, I won’t be able to do any writing.
“Do you know what I like about you, Eddie? Whenever I show you the paintings or drawings I’ve made you always look at them and encourage me to make more. I know they’re not very good, but I like making them. Mik just tells me I’m wasting my time.”
“Mik’s a commercial artist, so he’s not impressed by what you do. Also, I’ve noticed that many Danes are reluctant to admit that they like anything for fear of being ridiculed. ‘You like Bach? Bah. You like your wife? Ha.’ Isn’t that so, Joan?”
She sits down beside me.
“I’m going to dream about you again tonight, Eddie.”
“How do you know?”
“Before I fall asleep, I decide what I’m going to dream,” she says, coming closer to me
“Look out the window, Joan. What a lovely sunny day it is. It’s a shame to stay indoors and waste such a rare day. You want to go for a walk with me when you’ve finished cleaning the house?”
“I’d like that, Eddie.”
A sudden thump on my bed awakens me.
“I’ve got you.” Joan pins me down and kisses me.
“You’re not going to work again today?”
“No, I’m going. But Mik always leaves for work before I do, and so when the cat’s away . . .”
And I find that our bodies are so attuned to one another that we have four orgasms in quick succession.
“So, Eddie, we have found a new time to play.”
“Now that we’ve had our morning sexercise, I’m ready to go to work,” Joan says, rising from my side and stretching. “I really enjoy going to work these days. I do like you do: I’m friendly with everyone I meet, and they all smile back at me. You know, I didn’t see them before as having thoughts and feelings in them like I do. I saw them as things that happened to be there. Now that I see them as they are, my life has become brighter. And it’s all because of you.”
“No, it’s all because of you, Joan. You saw that change was possible and you made that change.”
“I think it’s time we leave this place,” Mik says, rising from our table in the crowded afternoon bar.
I feel a light tap on my foot. Looking across the table at Joan, I see her signaling to me with her eyes to stay with her. I hesitate for a moment, but then decide not to side with her against Mik.
“See you later, Joan.” I say and walk out with Mik.
“You didn’t even ask Joan to come with us, Mik.”
“She could see we were leaving and could have come with us if she wished.”
“But Joan’s an attractive girl. Aren’t you afraid that someone will pick her up?”
“I know that Joan will never leave me.”
I look at him in complete astonishment
“Mik, I’ve never been able to be that certain of any woman.”
“But, you see, Joan and I have had some special experiences that bind us firmly together.”
“I saw Mona in the street today, wandering about like a mad woman,” Mik informs Joan and me. “She’s suffering because she’s missing you, Eddie.”
I feel he’s saying this for Joan’s benefit. “Do you see the kind of man Eddie is?” he’s implying. “He’ll just get up and leave a woman whenever it suits him, unconcerned about what happens to her. He’s totally disloyal to a woman, whereas I will always stay with you.”
“Is Mik becoming worried about my being staying with you, Joan?”
“Why do you ask that?”
“Yesterday, he took me to meet a number of girls who live alone, and I had the feeling that he was hoping that I’d find one I liked.”
“And did you?”
“And when his mother visited us last Sunday evening and was so hostile toward me that it seemed she’d been warned that a scandal was about to erupt here and had come to put an it.”
“Danes are very afraid of scandal.”
“His mother was probably asking Mik why I was here.”
“Then, she should have asked me too. This is also my house.”
“Joan, you’re down to your panties,” exclaims Lone, the girl Mik has invited to play strip poker with us. “You’re going to be the first one naked.”
Mik deals the another hand, and Joan loses again.
“Take it off. Take it off.” Lone gleefully claps her hands.
Joan, smiling, takes my hand.
“Let’s go to your room,” she says, pulling me away.
“Do you think Mik invited that girl for me?” I ask Joan in my room.
“I don’t know. Are you angry with me for taking you away from her?”
“If I wished to be with her, you wouldn’t be able to take me away.”
“Let Mik have her. He’s the one who invited her. Meanwhile, we can have each other.”
Joan and I bring our bodies together.
“Oh,” Joan says, interrupting our play, “Mik doesn’t want you to come in me.”
“I see. He probably doesn’t want you to become pregnant by me. I guess we should obey him. Do you think we should?”
Just as I’m about to fall asleep, Joan rushes naked into my room. Panting like a crazed horse, she tries to pull me out of bed.
“Come, Eddie. Come to our room.”
“Oh, pardon me,” Mik says, coming in naked.
“Eddie, come, come!” Joan pulls on my arm frenziedly.
She can no longer bear to have sex with Mik unless I’m also involved.
“You come into my bed, Joan,” I say, no longer willing to help them save their marriage.
“No, you come!” she cries.
Mik, seeing that I don’t intend to leave my bed, takes the sobbing Joan away.
“I’m sure Mik’s going to ask me to leave, Joan.”
“I won’t let him.”
“How are you gong to stop him?”
“It’s my flat as well as his.”
“I’m very sorry to have to do this, Eddie,” Mik tells me, “but I’m afraid I have to ask you to leave.”
“Where’s Joan, Mik?”
“She won’t be coming until later.”
The little coward, hiding while I’m being put out.
“Can you give me a day or two to find another place?”
“That won’t be necessary. My brother is on his honeymoon, and you may use his flat for the next three weeks. I’ll take you there now.”
“I’m sorry this situation developed as it did, Mik. It was not my intention to make love to Joan when I accepted your offer to stay with you.”
“I’m well aware of that. I’m not blaming you at all.”
“I thank you for all you’ve done for me, and I assure you that I won’t bother you and Joan by coming to see you.”
“I was hoping that you would.”
Of course he was; he loves to smoke Afghani.
“I won’t be coming to you, but I won’t prevent Joan from coming to me. If I know anything at all about women, Mik, Joan’s so in love with me at the moment that I can’t conceive of her being able to stay away.”
“That may very well be.”
Three days later, sitting on the canal wharf where the freaks hang out in downtown Copenhagen, I spot a very blonde head bobbing along on the walkway above, and I rise and rush up to Joan.
“I knew you’d come, Joan.”
“Hurry, let’s go to your place.”
“Some Afghani’s arrived, Eddie,” Danish Stuff tells me. “Two guys and a girl brought it here in a van.”
“That’s too much. The very day my dope runs out, new dope arrives. How do I get to meet these people?”
“We’ll tell you. But my friends would like to see you before you go there. We want to add our money to your money and have you score for us.”
“Why don’t you score for yourselves?”
“Eddie, man, we Danes get two years if we’re busted while you only get put out of the country. Two years inside is a very long time when you’re young. Besides, by putting all the money together you should be able to make a better deal. We’re trusting you, Eddie.”
“When can we get together?”
“In an hour in my place.”
“Mik made me fuck a black man so I’d forget you,” Joan tells me the next time she comes to me.
“That’s so sad.”
How did Mik make Joan fuck a black man? Did he hold her down while she was being mounted? Did he drug her into insensibility? Did he beat her until she agreed to do it? But I see no bruises on her body.
“I wish I could know you, Eddie, but your brown eyes prevent me from looking into you. Blue eyes, I can look into easily.”
“How’d you like India?” a young man asks me as I’m about to leave the restaurant.
“I liked it so much I’m going back to live there.”
“Did you go to Goa?”
“No, I wanted more to see Indian India.”
“Go to Colva Beach when you’re back in India. You can’t help being impressed by it. Get off the train in Margao, then take a bus to the beach.”
“How’d you know I’d been to India?”
“You’re wearing Indian chappals, man.”
“Mik came to see me Saturday morning, Joan.”
“Did he ask if I’d come to see you?”
“We didn’t talk about you. I think he came here to smoke.”
“He likes you, Eddie. He misses having you with us.”
“I couldn’t believe it when he got up to leave. I wondered how he, stoned as he was, was going to make it through the noisy noonday streets. He said goodbye and casually walked out, while I sat back, glad that I didn’t have to go out. A moment later, the door opened and Mik stuck his head in and asked if I minded if he stayed a little longer. I laughed and told him to stay as long as he wished.”
“How do you manage to always be so cheerful, Eddie? I wish I could be like that.”
“I don’t do anything; it just happens. Although I often imagine that an ideal woman is watching all that I do, and inspiring me to be as noble as I can be so that she will be pleased with me. These days that woman could be you, Joan.”
“But I’m not ideal, Eddie.”
“I can imagine that you are her. Look, joan, my life is composed of one scene after another. I’m in each one of these scenes, and it’s up to me to make them as harmonious as possible.”
“I have an idea, Eddie. Why don’t we have lunch together on weekdays. There’s a quiet little woods across the street from my workplace where we can eat in peace. I’ll bring the lunch.”
“Can you eat the rest of my sandwich, Eddie?”
“Why? Aren’t you feeling well, Joan?”
“I’m so unhappy. I can’t go on living the way I am. It’s as though I’m being suffocated by a heavy weight that is lying on my breast.”
“So, what do you want to do, Joan?”
“What can I do?”
She could get out of the miserable marriage that she’s in, but she’s too insecure to be on her own, too attached to her job and her cosy little flat. She could never make the overland trip to India. But maybe I should offer to help her to extricate herself from the situation she’s in?
“If I find a flat, do you want to move in with me?”
“Are you sure, Joan? Don’t let me go through the trouble of searching for a place for nothing.”
“I’m sure, Eddie. Find a place.”
Junkie Ullie is sitting alone on the canal wharf when I return to the city.
“What’s up, Ullie?”
“I’m depressed. I want to go to Morocco, but I have no money. If I could find someone to rent my flat for two or three months, I could go.”
I can’t believe this. Things are presented to me whenever I need them. I need a flat, one pops up; I need hash, Afghani arrives.
“How big is your flat, Ullie?”
“Two rooms, a kitchen and toilet.”
“I’m looking for a flat. Take me there. If I like it, I’ll give you three month’s rent. How soon can you leave if I decide to take it?”
“Today’s Friday. I can buy train tickets tomorrow and leave by Sunday.”
“That’s perfect, Ullie. I’ll go with you to buy the tickets, then stay with you until you leave.”
“Now that I’m all set to go, I feel like staying here and listening to you tell stories,” Ullie says, alarming me.
“Ullie, Morocco’s waiting for you, man. Once you’re there, you’ll never want to come back here. The pharmacies are stocked with everything you could want, majoon and kief are not illegal and the living is easy.”
Early Monday morning, I phone Joan at her workplace.
“Joan. This is Eddie. I’ve been dying to tell you all weekend. I got the flat.”
“I can’t talk just now, Eddie,” she says dully. “We’re very busy today.”
“Okay, I’ll call you later.”
What is this? I expect she’ll be truly elated when I tell her the news, but she comes on like I’m telling her she has terminal cancer.
I phone her an hour later.
“As I said before, Joan, I got the flat. Do you hear me?”
“Yes, Eddie, I hear you.”
“Good, I’ll tell you about it at lunch.”
“I can’t come out today, Eddie. The office is swamped with work.”
“I WANT TO SEE YOU, JOAN. BE THERE.”
The fucking bitch, trying to back out on her word.
Emerging from her workplace and walking toward me, Joan looks like a dog who’s shit on the best rug in the house. Without speaking, we go to our eating place.
“So, Joan, I have the apartment.”
“I can’t come, Eddie.”
“What do you mean you can’t come? Three days ago you could and now you can’t. Why can’t you come?”
“I just can’t.”
“You don’t want to come, you mean.”
“I’m sorry, Eddie.”
“Sorry for what? That you can’t remember your word for three days?”
Silence, while I eat.
“Do you like the new way I’ve done my eyebrows, Eddie?”
I’m so disgusted by this remark that I can’t bear to look at her.
“I’m not going to waste any more of your time, Joan. This is our last lunch together.”
Silence again as I continue to eat.
Joan’s tremulous hands hold out an address book and a pen to me.
“What’s that for?”
“For your address.”
“I don’t want you to have it.”
“No. It’s time for you to return to your office that’s swamped with work.”
“Why do you want my address? So you can come for a surreptitious fuck when you feel like it? Well, I’m not interested in that any longer.”
“Okay, I’ll give it to you. But don’t come unless you’re moving in.”
Just as I’m about to step into The Montmartre, I come face to face with Joan. She gasps, turns pale and raises a hand to her breast.
“You still haven’t gotten over me, huh, Joan. It’s been more than a month since we last saw each other.”
“I don’t think I ever will.”
“Shall we resume having lunch together?”
“I’d like that.”
“I’ll phone you tomorrow.”
“Go in and sit with Mik. I’ll be right back.”
Mik and Joan pay me an unexpected visit. Joan immediately proceeds to inspect the flat. Is she thinking of moving in? Meanwhile, Mik looks out the fourth floor window at the street below. Is he contemplating jumping out?
“Come to us tomorrow evening,” Joan says before they leave.
Has she finally decided to leave Mik?
Joan isn’t at their flat when I arrive the following evening. Mik and I sit and talk, a hammer lying on the table between our two armchairs. Why is it there? Is he trying to freak me? Does he intend to bop me on the head? The hammer remains on the table even after Joan arrives. She and Mik begin to speak in Danish. Is he reminding her of all the good times they’ve had together, of how reliable he is, and of how insecure a life with a dope dealing India lover would be?
I wait for Joan to make her move. Finally, tired of waiting, I make mine.
“I’m going. Are you coming, Joan?”
“Coming? Why, no!”
“Okay, then, if it’s all right with you two, the next time I come here I’ll bring a very sweet and bright young girl I’ve met recently.”
Joan sits up straight, her eyes ablaze like those of an aroused cat.
“At a party last night, Mik and I took this wonderful new drug,” Joan tells me on the phone. “It was such a moving experience. It made us feel so close and so completely open to one another. I’m certain now that we were meant for each other.”
“Good. I’m happy for you.”
Meant for one another. So close, so completely open, to each other. Just how open, I’d like to know. It’s Saturday morning and Mik’s at home while Joan’s at work. I’ll go to see him.
“Joan was telling me on the phone that you both took some drug last night that had a profound effect on you. She said that it made you feel completely open to each other. I was glad to hear that, because I think couples should be able to reveal their innermost thoughts to one another.”
“Last night, we did feel that way.”
“While Joan was being open with you, did she tell you that she’d come to me on a number of occasions after I left your flat?”
“No, she didn’t mention that?”
“I didn’t think so. Look, Mik, I haven’t come here to make trouble between you and Joan. I’d like to see you happy together. I have to say, though, that I think you’re more honest with her than she is with you. Is she protecting you from the truth, afraid that you might harm yourself if you discovered something that was not to your liking? Or is she just fond of intrigue for the sake of intrigue?”
“I really can’t say.”
“I didn’t like carrying on a clandestine affair with Joan, but I’d told you when you moved me out that I wouldn’t prevent her from coming to see me.”
“Would you like a cup of coffee, Eddie?”
“Yeah, that sounds good.”
While Mik is in the kitchen, Joan walks in.
“Eddie! What are you doing here?”
“I came to tell Mik everything.”
“Oh, why did you do that?” she says, collapsing back onto the bed.
“For the sake of openness.”
“I called to say goodbye, Joan. I have to leave the country. I was out walking last evening when I saw three or four bruisers, excited as rhinos in heat, rush out of an apartment building. A moment later, two dealers of Afghani came out, escorted by more police.”
“Where will you go?”
“To mainland Europe or to Gordon’s studio in southern Sweden.”
“Go to Sweden, Eddie.”
“Eddie, Gordon here. Listen, man, you’ve got to leave my place. Your name is headlined in every newspaper in Copenhagen. You’re wanted to answer to some dope charges. Interpol may be called in.” Gordon sounds more worried than I am. “Leave Scandinavia. Go to Stockholm, take a train to Helsinki and fly out.”
“I don’t think the police know my name. What name are they using?”
“Eight Finger Eddie, in bold black letters.”
“That’s not much for the police to go on, but it might be good enough in Scandinavia where the first thing people do is put out their hands for you to shake. I can see me standing before an extended hand and pretending not to notice it. So, okay, thanks, Gordon, for having let me use your place. Take care, man.”
“You take care, Eddie.”
Wanted! Me! Just like a character in a movie. But this is no movie; this is my life. Anonymous only yesterday, I’m notorious today. And where had the police come by the name I’m known by? Had my Afghani connection given me up?
Can I leave Scandinavia while my hundred thousand kroner sit in a Danish bank? Should I risk trying to withdraw it? I can’t run far without money. Perhaps I should I go to the police to see what all the fuss is about? Why not, I’m clean as can be. The worst that can happen to me is I’ll be expelled from Denmark.
“ Three Danish musicians have accused you of having sold hashish to them,” the Inspector tells me. (The three motherfuckers who had begged me to sell to them in Mona’s flat.) “And your name appears a number of times in this sales booklet we found in the apartment of the dealers we arrested a short time ago.”
“It could be some other Eddie.”
“Some other Eight Finger Eddie? In Denmark, if three persons accuse you of committing a crime, you’re guilty until you prove yourself innocent.”
Why didn’t I check on all this before I came here?
“So, why am I in jail?” I ask the narcotics police. “I’ve had a physical examination, and they found nothing wrong with my body. And you can see, by my attitude toward you, that my mind is undamaged. Using cannabis doesn’t seem to have harmed me.”
“But it may lead to the use of harder drugs.”
“A specious argument. Before I smoked grass I drank beer. So, why isn’t beer illegal for having lead me to grass?”
“So, why is cannabis illegal?” The Inspector is asking me!
“It may be because it grows wild and is difficult to tax. Or it may be that liquor companies and other big concerns want to keep it illegal. Or it could be that cannabis opens the minds of those who use it and they’re not so easily taken in by government propaganda. Someone with such a mind might not wish to go into the army, for instance.”
“Were you in the army?”
“Ah!” they exclaim, thinking they’ve discovered a universal truth.
“Years ago, before I had this job,” the American Vice Consul tells me,” I smuggled some Mexican marijuana into the States.”
This is what I’ve been waiting to hear since I entered this office and found him sitting with his shoes on the table, attempting to give me the impression that he’s a cool stud. I’ve been putting him off by speaking of the tragedies of Shakespeare, the novels of Joyce, the music of Anton Webern and of Ornette Coleman, the thinking of Heidegger, of how to invest in real estate or to sell short on the stock market.
“I didn’t smoke grass before I went to Morocco, and I haven’t been to the States since then.”
“Well, Eddie, if you need me, don’t hesitate to ask for me.”
He follows me out of the office.
Walking away, I turn to look at him and see him watching me and nodding his head. Does his nod mean that he thinks it’s a shame for me, with all my knowledge, to be into dealing drugs? Or does it indicate that he thinks I’m crazy?
“Yah!” The Inspector tosses a cellophane packet onto the table. “What are these, Eddie?”
“They’re only hemp seeds.”
“Can they be smoked?”
“Yes, but you’ll only get a headache. They’re for planting, not for smoking.”
It’s surprising that the Danish narcs don’t even know the difference between grass and hash.
“We need your help, Eddie,” the Inspector says. “Just look at these photos and tell us if you’ve smoked with any of these people.”
I look at each photo long and carefully. “Oh, she’s nice.” I kiss a photo. “And this one’s also nice.” Finally, I hand the photos back to the Inspector. “You should know by now that, even if I smoked with any of them, I wouldn’t tell you.”
“Why won’t you help us?”
“You wouldn’t respect me if I did.”
“Your Australian friend Steve has told us you sold him hashish on at least one occasion,” the Inspector informs me.
“Steve is busted?”
“I don’t believe Steve told you that.”
“Yes, he told us that in his flat one night you showed him how to pour hash powder into the cellophane wrapper of a cigarette pack, lay a damp towel over it, and press it with a hot iron to make a piece of hashish.”
How could Steve have told them that?
“If Steve said that, it must be true.”
The police rush out like excited bulls.
In my cell, I recall that the night I’d been at Steve’s there had been a couple visiting him: a black American we knew and a Danish girl we’d not met before. That girl must have been a cop! And the black cat must have been keeping himself out of jail by escorting her to drug scenes around town. She, not Steve, had told the narcs what had happened that night at his flat. Like an idiot, I’ve allowed the police to trick me. I should have denied being at Steve’s that night? When will I learn to be hip?
“Look out the window, Eddie,” the Inspector says. “A fine sunny day. How would you like to go for a ride around Copenhagen in a squad car? You’ll be able to buy yourself beer and cigarettes, and all you’ll have to do is point out the houses in which you smoked hashish.”
“I’ve already told you that I’m not talking about anyone else.”
“This is the kind of unfriendly attitude that prevent you from having visitors.”
“These three accuse me of selling hashish to them, but I don’t accuse them of buying hashish from me; and these other two have written in their sales records that I bought hashish from them, but I don’t accuse them of selling hashish to me,” I say in court.
“How much of this hashish did you smoke?” asks the judge.
“As much as I could,” I answer, evoking laughter from the freaks in attendance.
The verdict is three months in jail.
A prison guard enters my cell and drops a brown paper bag on the desk. I look into the bag and see an apple, some biscuits and other goodies left by a recently released prisoner. The guard places a finger before his lips.
“You were at my trial. You know I don’t talk.”
The guard smiles and leaves.
After my trial books and goodies began to arrive, sent to me by freaks gratified to learn that I hadn’t fingered anyone.
The police, unhappy that I’ve been sentenced to serve only three months, have brought me up before a higher court. Steve is also in the dock.
“Hey, Steve, how you doin’?”
“No talking,” the guards order.
There are three judges presiding. The one in the center, seated higher than the other two, reminds me of a bear. The pale expressionless one on his left looks like a church organist, while the small nervous one on his right is a fluttery bird.
As the alcoholic attorney assigned to defend us speaks, I look up at the judges and see that the main judge is asleep with his mouth open.
“Hey, Steve,” I whisper in the dock. “Dig the main judge.”
“No talking,” a guard reminds me.
The birdlike judge, looking up at us, follows our amused gazes up to the sleeping judge. Alarmed, he somehow awakens the bear who, opening his eyes, signals that everything is under control.
The high court decides against awarding longer sentences to Steve and me. . A cheer rises from the onlookers.
“Tomorrow you fly to your own country,” a police official tells me.
“No, I don’t.”
“No, I mustn’t. You can put me out of Denmark, but you can’t send me to the States. Just put me on a train to Germany.”
“You have money, so you must fly.”
“But not to the States.”
“Buy a ticket to the States and get off in London.”
“Why should I do that when I’m not going to the States?”
“All right. Go back to your cell.”
I envisage a struggle at the airport, the police trying to hustle me onto a plane bound for the States.
“You can fly to Zurich or to London,” I’m informed by a police officer the following day.
“I’ll go to London,” I say, intending to pick up Steve when he arrives in England without money three days after me.
“You are expelled from Denmark for a period of ten years, but we are not going to stamp that into your passport. You will be given the passport as you board the plane. Before taking you to the airport, two officers will accompany you around Copenhagen to pick up whatever belongings you may have.”
I hand my passport to the immigration officer at the airport in London. He lays it on the table before him and opens it. There’s a piece of paper folded in it! Immediately, I snatch it up and put it in my pocket. I’m given one month’s stay in England. When I’m outside I take the paper out of my pocket. It’s from the Danish police! The fuckers have tried to have the English extradite me to the States.
I hate to think of what would have happened to me if I hadn’t seen that paper. Sent to the States to face trial and to totally fuck up my plans. Clever of the Danish police to tell me they weren’t going to stamp my expulsion from Denmark into my passport so I wouldn’t be inclined to look into it.
But lucky, lucky me, I continue to live in ecstasy. This day ranks as one of the greatest of my life.
“Thanks for picking me up,” Steve tells me on the train from Dover to London.
“I knew you’d be arriving without money, and I know what a drag that is.”
“Where you going for the winter, Eddie?”
“It’s too cold to go overland to India now, so I’ll go to Marrakech again for the season.”
“Miriam and I may come down, too. Hey, you know who’s dying to get out of Denmark? Gisella. You know her?”
“I’ve seen her around but never spoken to her.”
“She’s great, man. She likes jazz and blues and is one of the girls on the scene in Copenhagen. She’s just broken up with her boyfriend and wants very much to leave town. If you write to her and invite her, she’ll come right away. I’ve got her address.”
“She’ll think I’m crazy to write to her when I barely know her.”
“She’ll love you for helping her to get out of Copenhagen.”
“You’re leaving London on Christmas day?” asks Steve.
“Yeah, the train will be almost empty. Man, I’m happy to leave London. It seems like a madhouse after the relative sanity of my jail cell. First, we stay with your gallery- owner friend and his wife and three kids, and the next morning she’s so knocked out by the stories we’ve told about our travels that she’s ready to leave her husband and kids and go to Morocco with you. Next, we stay with this Danish woman and her teenage daughter who sits calmly and watches television while her mother kneels beside her to skin-pop her. The daughter tells us she’ll meet us in Morocco. I can’t blame anyone for wanting to get out of London. Why do so many people stay here in all this noise and dirt when they could be in India or Morocco?”
“They need their jobs and their security, Eddie.”
“Good. Let them work. Someone has to grow the food and bake the bread and deliver the mail to us to us.”
“Thank you so very much for inviting me to Marrakech,” Gisella writes. “I’m coming as soon as I sell the things I have no use for. Write and tell me how to get there and where to meet you. Should I bring my blues and jazz records? Please, please, don’t change your mind.”
“Forget about Gisella,” writes Steve. “She’s suicidal.”
But it’s too late for that; she’s already on her way. Suicidal? I guess I’ll have to make the best of it from one day to the next.
“What a terrible time I had getting here from Copenhagen. I couldn’t sleep at all the whole way and started to hallucinate,” Gisella tells me.
“You’ll get lots of sleep now that you’re here.”
“You know, you’d make a nice boyfriend for my mother,” she says, pinching my arm.
“Hey, Gisella, I’m not into pain” I say, ribbing my arm. “So, how old are you?”
“I’m more than twice your age, but probably not more experienced than you. I’d heard that you were going to be married, then Steve told me you wanted desperately to leave Copenhagen. Do you want to tell me what happened?”
“Can I talk freely with you, or are you one of these guys who can’t bear to hear about a girl’s past loves?”
“Well, I made a stupid mistake. After putting him off for a long time, I agreed to pose in the nude for this guy who was constantly begging me to do it. But after the photos were developed, he told me he would show them to my boyfriend if I didn’t have sex with him. I thought he was joking, so I refused him. When my boyfriend saw the photos he became so shaken up he couldn’t forgive me.”
“Your boyfriend seems very straight for a Dane.”
“There are many like him.”
“Before leaving Copenhagen, I saw a movie that really scared me. It was called ‘Repulsion’. Have you seen it, Eddie?”
“No, I don’t get to see many movies living the way I do.”
“It was about a girl alone in her sister’s apartment, and I couldn’t tell whether the girl was actually seeing or only imagining, what was going on in the apartment. I became more and more terrified as the film went on.
“But I’ve been more frightened than that. When I was about ten or eleven my mother had a boyfriend who used to do things to me in bed while she was out working. ‘Now, we have a secret from Mommy,’ he’d tell me. He never hurt me. What he really liked to do was scare me. He’d have me sit beside him in his car at night as he drove to the little side street in Copenhagen that goes right onto the docks. He’d switch off the headlights, zoom down that street and onto the dock, and somehow he always managed stop the car on the very edge of the dock.
“But even more scary than that was when he’d take me up the steps that circle the spire of that well-known church in Copenhagen. It was scary just being up there because the wind made that spire sway like mad. Then he’d pick me up and hold me out over the railing with one hand, with nothing between me and the ground so far below.”
“It makes me shiver just to hear you tell me of it, Gisella”
“You and Miriam can stay in this room which Gisella and I don’t use, Steve.”
“That’s cool, Eddie.”
“But there won’t be food, because we eat out.”
“We have sort of a standing invitation from a couple of Moroccan families, each of them happy t see us whenever we stop by,” Gisella says. “It’s like they’ve adopted us.”
“Sometimes a few young Moroccans come here to jam with us, Steve.”
“And once they made tea for us from some white flowers,” Gisella says.
“They call it stakis mil or something like that,” I say.
“How was that?” asks Steve.
“We didn’t like it. I drank liters of water the next day and still couldn’t satisfy my thirst, and Gisella had trouble trying to read..”
“Yes, all the letters seemed to have a red border around them.”
“How’s the kif, weak?” asks Steve.
“Right, not as potent as Eastern shit. The majoon biscuits are stronger, but you quickly build up a tolerance for them, eating almost twice as many as the day before.”
“And you’ve had no problems?” asks Miriam.
“Not really,” I say. “One young Moroccan shopkeeper invited us to his house to have dinner and to meet his wife. But when we got there it didn’t take us long to see that the house wasn’t his and that the woman was not his wife bu a prostitute.”
“Yes, he had provided a huge mound of majoon and many bottles of wine,” Gisella says. “He obviously intended to get us stoned and jump me, but by the time we skipped out of there he was the one who was so out of it that he couldn’t stand.”
“And there was the guy who invited us to a hotel bar in French Town and was suddenly not there when it came time for the bill to be paid. The bartender insisted that we pay, but we refused and a police detective was invited. We told him our story and gave him a description of the man who’d invited us. And the detective told us to leave because he had a good idea of who the scoundrel was that had left us stranded with the bar bill and assured us that he’d pick him up in the morning.”
“Then the detective began popping up wherever we happened to be and eventually got around to inviting me out,” Gisella says. “I went with him a few times, during daylight hours only.”
“He told Gisella that he was in love with her and wanted to marry her.”
“But when he started putting Eddie down, I stopped seeing him.”
“I was glad you did because I suspected that he was using you to get information on me.”
“You miss Copenhagen at all, Gisella?” asks Miriam.
“No. But you just reminded me: I got a letter from friends there who write that some people think Eddie has me working in a whore house here. Where do people get such strange ideas?”
“Hey, Gisella, what are you doing?”
“I’m making a packet to send to Copenhagen.”
“Baby, please don’t mail those majoon biscuits.”
“It’s all right, Eddie. I’ve got all this incense and other things packed in with them. Why are you so worried?”
“I’m not altogether unknown, you know. It’s even possible that we’re being watched. I’ve received letters from both my mother and my wife telling me to write to alternate addresses because the FBI have come to their houses. If your friends in Copenhagen want to get high, let them come here.”
“You want some, Miriam?” asks Steve, holding up his works.
“Not tonight, Steve.”
“I know Eddie doesn’t like speed. How about you, Gisella?”
“I’m always ready.”
“It looks like Gisella and Steve will be up all night making speed drawings,” I say. “Miriam and I may as well go to bed.”
Gisella looks at me in alarm.
“Hey, Gisella, I didn’t mean that Miriam and I should go to bed together. She has a bed in the other room, while mine is here.”
“Have you heard Bob Dylan, Eddie,” Gisella asks.
“One number, ‘Masters of War,’ while I was in jail. I liked it.”
“He composes such great songs, and he’s such a great guitarist.”
“You mean he improvises like a jazz guitarist?”
“No, he plays his own kind of music.”
“So, how can he be a great guitarist?”
“You don’t think Segovia is a great guitarist because he doesn’t play jazz? Why are you constantly trying to impose your opinions of what is great in music on me? Just because you like something doesn’t mean that I have to like it. Don’t play the mental tyrant with me, Eddie.”
“Thanks for making me aware of what I’m doing.”
“I’ve got a super treat for you guys,” American Bill tells us. “Sandoz acid. Have you ever had any?”
“Once,” Gisella says. “I really liked it.”
“I’ve been hearing a lot about it, but I’ve never come across any,” I say.
“Great, you’re going to love it,” Bill says. “Read this before you take it. It’ll help you a lot.”
“ ‘The Psychedelic Experience’, by Timothy Leary.”
“The main thing is to simply watch what happens in your mind and not to fight it. ‘Turn off your mind, relax and flow downstream’, is how Leary puts it. How can what’s happening in your mind possibly hurt you?”
“Thanks, Bill. I’ll read the book before I take the acid.”
“What I like to do on LSD is to lie down with my eyes shut and try to see the white light.”
“You’re not going to lie there like Bill and try to see the white light, are you?” Gisella asks, after we’ve dropped the acid.
“No, I guess not. We may as well spend the day as we usually do.”
The light in the room flickers. Gisella seems to be walking in small jerky movements, like she’s in an old sepia-toned movie shot in an insane asylum.
I hold out my arm. It looks like a stick with flesh hanging from it. My legs, too, are only sticks. Can these sticks actually support me? I rise laboriously to my feet.
“Hey, Gisella, look, I’m standing.”
“That’s good, Eddie.”
“Let’s listen to some jazz.”
As the records play, I tell Gisella stories about some of the jazz masters.
“Eddie, you speak about them as if they were ordinary people.”
“That’s all they were, baby. What do you think they were?”
“Bigger than life, like mythical beings.”
“They may seem like that to you because many of them died before you could see them in person.”
“Look at this letter from my mother. Written on company paper, like orders from above.”
“You could look at it in another way, Gisella. Here’s a woman who lived through some harrowing experiences during the war. Later, she landed a job with the company she’s with now. She worked hard, saved money and now owns one third of that company. Yet she writes to you on company paper because she still thinks herself to be the poor woman she’d once been.”
“My poor mother,” Gisella sobs, “I want to see her.”
“Look at the cat. It’s acting as if it senses that we’re on acid.”
“I’d better feed it.”
I watch Gisella slice meat, then drop almost transparent pieces of it into the cat’s mouth. How does something so insubstantial sustain life?
“What are you doing, Eddie?”
“I can’t seem to wash away my underarm smell.”
“Come here, Eddie.”
I lie on my side behind Gisella.
“Look at this room, baby. It’s like a concentration camp cell, and we’ve been happy here.”
“But, Eddie, look. It’s beautiful.”
Waves of light flow in and make it seem like we’re in a palace.
Gisella’s shoulder just before me is so thin. The poor girl is emaciated. She rises, leaves the room. Returning, she appears to be as sturdy as a naked Aztec warrior.
She pulls me to her. I kiss her lips, her body, her clitoris. She’s a juvenile delinquent, an Indian goddess, a movie star; she becomes whatever I imagine her to be.
Colored lights swirl behind my eyes, gather together, rush upward, hit the bell at the top. Clang! Orgasm!
I sit on the floor and cut an orange in half. It seems to be blue inside. I study the knife in my hand. Do I want to kill anyone? What an absurd question; of course I don’t. I pick up a Moroccan banknote. It’s only a piece of paper. Should I throw away all my money? No, they believe in this paper out there, so I may as well pretend I believe and play the game with them.
“Let’s go out, Eddie.”
“Right. I’d forgotten that there’s a world out there.”
Outside, most children have happy faces, while most adults look sad.
“Let’s have an ice cream, Eddie.”
The vendor lifts the lid of his box, and I act that I’m diving in.
“Hey, Eddie, I was looking for you in there,” Gisella says, looking up.
Ice cream stick in hand, I prance along beside Gisella. Teenage boys, having come up behind us, deliberately bump me. What a sad world it is, where the sight of joy invites violence. I’ll just have to hide my feelings.
We go into a park.
“Did you bring the kif and pipe, Eddie?”
An argument flares up in the back of the park.
“Let’s leave, baby, before they get closer.”
The musicians in the Jmal Fna, taking their midday break, call to us to return when they see us prance by. They begin to play, and I dance. A crowd gathers, cheering me on. Thinking that I’m doing harm to myself by dancing in the hot sun, I stop and begin to skip away. One of the musicians runs after me, holding out a hat. “Gisella, he wants money from me, when it was my dancing that brought the crowd around.”
We go to the kiosk of our kief connection. Smiling up at us, he nods that he has nothing, which is a surprise. But then I see two pairs of nicely polished shoes near the back of his kiosk and realize that the police must have picked up on me when I was dancing.
“The kif man’s great, Gisella. We bring the police to his shop and he still smiles at us.”
“Let’s go home, Eddie.”
“Why? We’ve already been there. I feel like seeing everyone we know while I’m on acid. Shall we go see Bill?”
Gisella hesitates, then says, “I don’t want to see him.”
“How about visiting Steve and Miriam in their new place?”
Gisella takes so long to respond to my questions that I feel there’s a gulf between us, her mind working much slower than mine.
I’m doing a Charlie Chaplin walk on the balcony of a restaurant when Steve and Miriam arrive.
“Eddie, sit down,” Gisella calls. “The waiters don’t like what you’re doing. They may ask us to leave.”
“Waiters are usually unhappy.”
“We’re on acid,” Gisella explains to Steve and Miriam.
I play invisible piano on the tabletop, scat-singing to the movement of my fingers.
“Don’t mind Eddie,” Gisella tells Steve and Miriam.
“But he’s beautiful,” says Miriam.
“The music out there is so slow. Everything in life seems so slow. Why don’t they speed things up?”
“Eddie, look at the sky,” Gisella says.
“What’s wrong with the sky?”
“Baby, it’s not beautiful; it’s not ugly, it’s just the sky.”
Steve hands me a burning subsi.
“Oh, smoke, I forgot all about that.” I take a big hit and blow out the smoke. “So, that’s what smoking is.”
Bill is sitting on the parapet with his back turned to me, showing he doesn’t approve of the trip I’m on.”
“Hey, Bill, I want to report that I haven’t had a single generous impulse while on acid.”
“You have such a gigantic ego, man. I’m going to have to give you a triple dose next time.”
“I want to have a baby by you,” Gisella tells me the next day.
Is she serious? Hasn’t she noticed how much our minds differ?
“Why do I always want to hurt whatever I love?” Gisella asks on the bus to Rabat, where we will apply for a free studio in Fez for artists.
“Eddie, don’t you think we’re having sex too often?”
“We’re doing it only when we feet the urge, right? If you’ll stop looking sexy, I’ll probably feel the urge less often.”
“I’m sorry I’m so late, Eddie.” Gisella looks apprehensively at me. “Are you angry with me?”
“Of course I’m not. It must have been a very long movie.”
“Why don’t you like to come to the movies with our friends? They like you so much. And they’ve been so nice to us since we’ve been in Fez, inviting us often to eat with them, introducing us to some of their talented friends, that makes me think you should spend more time with them. ”
“In a movie house? How much communicating can we do in such an ambience? No, I like to be with Hussain and the boys, but the movies they like to watch bore me.”
“Eddie.” Hussain holds me back, as his friends and Gisella continue to walk ahead. “I think of you as my brother, Eddie. So, it is very sad for me that this thing has happened between Gisella and me. Believe me, I never intended that it should.”
“I’m sure you didn’t, Hussain. It’s just nature doing as nature does. No one can prevent oneself from falling in love. Gisella and I understand that, and we try to be open to anything that could happen.”
“Gisella, I’ve just received a check from my bank which I won’t be able to cash for American dollars in Morocco. I’ll have to go to Gibralter. Do you want to stay here with Hussain and the boys while I’m gone?”
“You’d leave me here alone?” she asks, her face becoming pale
“You’d feel alone being here with Hussain? I thought that, since you and he have a thing for each other, you’d like to be with him.”
“I wouldn’t think of staying here without you.”
“Okay, we’ll go to Asila and rent a house in which to leave our things while we’re in Gibralter. Then, we’ll return to Asila and stay there until the weather becomes cool enough to go overland to India. How does that sound to you?”
“Why can’t we stay in Fez?”
“Because Asila is closer to Gibralter.”
“It’s a telegram from my mother.” Gisella holds up the message. “She wants me to meet her in Torremolinos, Spain.”
“And you’re going?”
“I think I should.”
“Then, I’ll wait for you here.”
“Yes, I’ll leave most of my things with you.”
“Excuse me.” A middle-aged man hurries up to me as I’m returning to the house in Asila after I’ve accompanied Gisella to the boat in Tangiers. “You’re staying in my house, you know.”
“No, I don’t know. A guy called Hamid rented it to me.”
“Hamid had no right to rent that house to you. It belongs to my wife and me, and we need it.”
“Okay, I’ll move out when the rent’s up.”
“No, we want the house tomorrow.”
“That’s very short notice, don’t you think?”
“It can’t be helped. Hamid will put you up in the bar he’s building.”
Stepping out of Hamid’s, I see a man in a dark suit standing nearby on the sidewalk. What’s he doing there? It’s not a bus stop, and he can’t be waiting for a girlfriend. He must be a cop. I’m being watched. Is Hamid holding me captive? Is the middle-aged man also a cop?
“Well, it’s been quite interesting listening to you,” the middle-aged man says, he and his wife having come to see me in Hamid’s.
“Yes, you’ve set my head spinning with your verbal pyrotechnics,” she says, taking her supposed husband’s arm. “It’s nice meeting someone who’s able to speak on such a variety of unusual topics.”
But not on the topic this cop couple wanted to hear.
“You asked to see me?” I say to the Asila chief of police.
“Where is your girlfriend?”
“Where in Spain?”
“In which hotel in Madrid?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why did she go to Madrid?”
“To meet her mother.”
“Why did not her mother come to Morocco?”
“I don’t know. Why are you asking me all these questions?”
“That is none of your business.”
I think it is very much my business. I must go to Torremolinos to warn Gisella not to return to Morocco. And I must leave Asila without being seen. I’ll leave all our belongings in Hamid’s and slip into a taxi for Tangiers.
I feel safe at last when I’m on the boat moving toward Algerceras. I’ve left my typewriter and unfinished manuscript, my dictionary and thesaurus and, most important of all, my ambition to become a great writer in Asila. And I‘m feeling relieved for having done so. What was it that lay beyond my ambition to be a great novelist? To be free some day to do nothing at all. Why not begin to do nothing at all today without bothering to become a great writer? Yes, I’m traveling light, and I’m liking it.
“Eddie, what are you doing here?” Gisella gasps, coming face to face with me in the lobby of the hotel in Torremolinos where her mother is staying.
“I came to warn you not to return to Morocco. The chief of police in Asila was asking me where you were.”
“Come, let’s go to the disco and find Roger. We can probably stay with him in his abandoned house.” Gisella says, seeming not to be surprised by what I’ve told her.
“Where are our things?”
“I had to leave them in Asila to get away without being seen.”
“What! You left the jazz records and all my things there! ”
“What’s more important, Gisella, to have your things or to be free?”
“Why did you insist that I come with you?” Gisella asks on the rapid boat from Algerceras to Gibralter.
“So you could choose which records and record player you’d like to have after I’ve cashed my check.”
“Do you think we’ll be able to find any good jazz records in Gibralter?”
“Oh, see that fat guy with the beard, sitting across from us next to that man in the blue pin striped suit? He makes it with lots of boys in Torremolinos.”
Why is she telling me this? Has she been told that I may be gay?
“Not tonight,” Gisella tells me in our hotel room in Algerceras.
“Are you angry because we have to go to Gibralter again tomorrow?
“No, it’s not your fault that there was an error in the numbers on your check.”
She doesn’t want me to touch her because she’s fond of someone else and it’s over between us.
On board the morning boat to Gibralter stands the man in the blue pinstriped suit. There are boats leaving every few minutes, so his presence seems more than coincidental. Is he another cop watching me?
“What a strange name for a bank,” Gisella says, studying my check on the counter of the bank.
Is she trying to memorize the name of my bank to relay that information to the police? I no longer trust her.
Standing before us on the boat returning to Algerceras is the man in the blue pinstriped suit. I say nothing to Gisella.
“Eddie doesn’t want me to work,” I overhear Gisella say to Roger on the beach, while I search the short wave band on our new radio-record player.
“Hey, Eddie, how you like Torremolinos?” Roger asks.
“Not much. It’s not my kind of place. Too glitzy. I prefer more earthy places like Imdia or Morocco.”
“I’ve just been released from the navy, and I’m taking fifty kilos of hash which won’t be checked to Boston,” I hear someone say behind me at a disco bar. I don’t turn to look at this loudmouth. I can see in the bar mirror before me that he looks like Mickey Rooney.
Fifty kilos to Boston my old home grounds. Is this another cop, trying to suck me into a setup?
“Roger and I are going to take five tabs of speed every morning,” Gisella tells me.
“You want to take with us?” asks Roger.
“Eddie doesn’t like speed,” she says. “He wouldn’t take Maxitone with Steve and me in Marrakech.”
“There’s not much smoke around at the moment, Eddie, so why not have some fun with speed?” Roger suggests.
“Okay, I’ll take it with you.”
“Great, here’s your five tabs.” Roger drops the tablets in my hand. “Oh, by the way, Eddie, did you get into Eastern religions while you were in India?”
“No, I saw plenty of poor illiterate people taken in by that superstitious bullshit.”
“The superstitious bullshit is for the masses, Eddie. There’s a deeper teaching meant for the those in the inner circle.”
“The inner circle! The in-crowd! I don’t want to be a member of any circle or crowd.”
“What do you want to be, Eddie?”
“I don’t want to be anything.”
“You’re satisfied with the way you are?”
“I’m not satisfied; I’m not dissatisfied. I don’t think about the way I am.”
“That’s good, Eddie. So, you realize that nothing you see is ultimately real. This table and these walls are nothing but molecules in motion. Everything is impermanent, changing, dying.”
“If these walls aren’t real, why do you walk through the door when you come into the room?”
“The walls are relatively real, Eddie.”
“That’s real enough for me.”
“When I die the whole world will die,” Gisella says.
“Yes, when you’re dead the world will be dead for you,” I say.
“No, the world will be destroyed when I die.”
“You mean that New York, London, Paris, Moscow will no longer exist after you die?”
“Yes, the whole world will die.”
“Along with any children you may have, Gisella?”
She falls silent
“Hey, man,” Fifty Kilos waves me over to his table in the disco bar. “Sit down and have a drink. I wanna talk to you. Whadaya wanna drink?”
“Rum and cola.”
“Good. You’re from Boston, right?”
“Where’d you hear that?”
“I guess I heard it blowin’ in the wind. Look, I got these fifty kilos of dope I’m taking with me to Boston. I’m wondering if you can help me. Can you give me the names of any contacts you have there?”
“I haven’t been to Boston for more than fifteen years.”
“Um. Well, maybe you can help me out with my present problem. I got no place to stash my fifty keys. Can I stash them in your room until I leave?”
He thinks I’m a complete imbecile. Good, it’s better they think that about me. It’ll make them less cautious and more careless.
“I don’t have a room.”
“Where you staying, then?”
“Here, there and everywhere.”
. .Gisella and I listen to a recording of Bob Dylan’s ‘Masters of War’ at the house of the Trinidadian steel drum band. As the song comes to its close Gisella leans forward to glower at me and say along with Dylan, “And I hope you die.”
She thinks I’m a master of war! Steve was wrong about her. She’s not suicidal; she’s homicidal.
“I’m so happy tonight I could die,” she says.
During a break in the filming of a movie that he, Gisella and a number of others are working on as extras Roger drums on a box he sits on while I scatsing.
“You better watch out, Eddie, or you’re gonna land a starring role,” Roger says, nodding toward the doorway of the diner.
A thin Spanish man stands there, looking at me as though he’s mesmerized. His unblinking eyes move slowly down the length of me and slowly up again, like police eyes registering each detail of my appearance.
“Eddie, reach over and hand me that guitar leaning against the wall,” Roger says. “I’ve always wanted a guitar.”
“That’s someone’s horn, man. I wouldn’t think of touching it.”
“Eddie doesn’t steal,” Gisella says.
“So, what’s wrong with that?” I ask.
“Well, I stole.”
“But that was from a department store and not from an individual.”
“You make a distinction, Eddie?” asks Roger.
“Not really. But anyway, Gisella, you weren’t stealing, but just taking books and magazines home for the night and returning them in the morning.”
“This kid, Jack Pointer, didn’t show today,” Roger tells me when the filming is over. “If you sign his name, you can collect his money.”
Not at all a cool thing to do. Something more I can be charged with if I’m busted. But, since I’m staying with Roger and Gisella, I should pehaps live up to their world.
I sign Pointer’s name with my left hand and collect the money. As we leave, I offer it to Roger; he doesn’t take it. I offer it to Gisella; she takes it.
“How do you like what Dylan’s layin’ down, Eddie?” Roger asks, when we’re back at the abandoned house.
“It’s all right. But he’s not playing jazz.”
“But he’s singin’ the truth.”
“Can words express the truth?”
“Oh, Eddie,” Roger moans. Now he begins to wail, loud and long. Is he flipping it? Still wailing, he crawls across the floor to Gisella. Putting her arms around him, she draws his head to her breast.
“So, Eddie, what are you going to do about this?” asks Roger.
“What is there to do about it. I guess it’s time for me to leave Torremolinos.”
“Oooh!” Roger and Gisella wail in unison.
“We don’t want you to go, Eddie,” Gisella says. “We want you to stay, so we can teach you how to love.”
I don’t think I have anything to learn about love from these two.
“Okay, if you want me to stay, I’ll stay.”
“Great, Eddie.” Roger rises to his feet. “Now, let’s go to the disco, and then to the party.”
“You guys go. I just want to stay here and listen to the jazz records we bought..”
“You don’t have to stay here alone just because you’re sad.” Gisella says.
“I’m not sad. I just want to stay here..”
“Oh, come on, it’ll do you good to come dancing with us.”
“Don’t beg him,” Roger tells her.
“Okay, I’ll come to the disco, but I’m not going to any party.”
“How come you don’t dance, Eddie?” Roger asks at the disco. “There’s no right way or wrong way these days. You just move any way you feel.”
“I know, but I’m feeling very tired now.”
Roger gets up to dance with Gisella.
Four young blacks in dark suits sit down at my table.
“You’re bringing the girls to the party tonight, right?” one of them says to me.
“I’m not even going to any party.”
“We were told that you were supplying the girls.”
“That’s strange, nobody told me anything like that.”
“You’re just playing cool with us.”
They think I’m a pimp. Who the fuck are these guys? Four black cops who’ve been updated on my past life with Gwen?
“Okay, how many girls you want?” I ask, just to get rid of them.
“We don’t know. How many can you bring?”
“Any amount. Ten, twenty, a hundred.”
“Twenty’s plenty enough.”
“Good, I’ll go round them up.”
I leave and, luckily, meet someone with a car who drives me to the abandoned house.
In the morning, Roger and Gisella wake up just after me. I rise, stand in the aisle separating their bed from mine and, clapping my hands, say, “Hey, babies, looks like we’re going to have a great summer together.”
A toweled head lowers itself just outside the window before me.
“Hey, Roger, there’s someone out there tuning in on us.”
Roger swings out of bed and runs for the front door.
“Whoever it was got away,” he says, returning. “Hey Eddie, how’d you get here last night?”
“Someone gave me a ride.”
“Some head who knows you.”
“Man, I told you not to tell anyone I’m staying here.”
“Well, he already knew you were. Besides, you’ve brought lots of girls here, right?”
“Come in the other room, Eddie. I got something to tell you. Yeah, sit where you usually sit. There was once an Eddie, not you, Eddie, but an Eddie Carpenter. And one day Eddie Carpenter heard a voice and that voice said, ‘Don’t walk through that door, Eddie.’ “
Why is he telling me this?
Roger’s eyeballs roll about eerily in their sockets.
What’s this now, some good old black magic?
“You know, Eddie, you have to pay for all the misdeeds you’ve committed in your life. There’s a man in this town who can look at you with love in his eyes while he beats you to within an inch of your life. Now, you might not meet that man today. And you might not meet him tomorrow. But someday, Eddie, you’re going to come face to face with him.”
I envisage a distant palm treed beach where no such man will find me.
“You don’t fool me with those innocent eyes, Eddie. Inside, you’re quaking with fear.”
I don’t say anything.
“Come on, Eddie, let’s go to the Cafe Centrale and get some breakfast.”
I make sure I have my passport with me when we go out. There’s no reason for me to remain in Torremolinos.
“You’re so lucky, Roger. She’s so beautiful.” Not believing what I say, I lean over Roger at the bar of the Cafe Centrale.
“Don’t forget, Eddie, it’s only a girl.”
Some of the people sitting before me are staring at me. My eyes must look strange after all the speed I’ve had.
“Here’s Gisella. Go sit at a table and talk with her. I have to go out for a little while.”
Gisella and I go to an unoccupied table. Three young men with close-cropped hair, sitting at another table, look at us with what seems like utter contempt.
“Gisella, look at those three guys in sports-clothes digging us from that table over there. Don’t they scare you?”
“Why do you ask that?”
“Because they look like American cops to me.”
“You’re seeing cops everywhere, Eddie.”
“But that’s where they are, baby.”
“The steel drum band guys told me they’ve invited you to their house for dinner tonight.”
“Yes, it was so nice to hear some friendly voices for a change.”
The three young men who look like cops are leaving. Does one of them nod to Gisella as they walk out?
“I think I’ll start out for the steel drum band house, Gisella.”
“But the dinner isn’t until tonight, Eddie.”
“I know, but I feel like taking a good long walk.”
“Before you go, Eddie, let’s go to the photo booth outside and take some photos of us together.”
Even this she wants: the latest photos of Eight Finger Eddie to present to the police. But I say nothing to her while we sit before the camera. The photos done, Gisella keeps them all.
“Okay, Gisella, I’m off. But, wow, I’m feeling very shaky.”
“You’ll feel worse tomorrow.”
I turn and begin to walk away. After I’ve taken a few steps, her last words suddenly register in my mind. “You’ll feel worse tomorrow.” What does she mean by that? That I’ll be beaten to within an inch of my life? That I’ll find myself in jail?
It was great of the steel drum band to invite me to dinner. I need to be with friendly people. ‘Don’t walk through that door, Eddie,’ I hear Roger’s voice in my head. Oh no, I can’t distrust the steel drummers. They’ve been kind to me every time I’ve been with them. “You made it, man,” they’ll cheer me when I walk into their house. “You’ll feel worse tomorrow.” Am I walking into a trap? Is the man who’s going to beat me to within an inch of my life with love in his eyes waiting for me in that house? No, this is pure paranoia. How can I think such things about people who’ve never been hostile to me? But perhaps, as Roger and Gisella seem to be, they’re in trouble with the law and are working with the police. The crewcut Americans nodding toward Gisella, the four blacks in suits asking for girls, Mickey Rooney and his fifty kilos, the man in the blue pin-striped suit, Gisella wanting the latest photo of me, can all that be paranoia? Speed intensifies paranoia. I may be paranoid, but why not be on my guard? Why should I make it easy for them to get me?
The steel drum band house comes into view. It looks innocent enough from the outside on this sunny afternoon. But who knows what may be waiting for me inside. Fuck it, I’ll just go in. No, I’d better go partway down this last road leading down to the beach and smoke a cigarette while I decide what to do.
Before I know it, I’ve smoked the whole pack of cigarettes and still haven’t decided whether or not I should enter that house. It’s sunset and soon it’ll be dark Fuck it, I’ll play it safe and leave Torremolinos. I’ll go down to the beach to see if there’s a bar where I can get a drink and ask how to get to Malaga.
How gray the sea is after sunset. They say that drowning is not a painful way to die. If I allow myself to drown, it’ll be much less painful than if I should fall into the hands of my pursuers. What am I thinking of? I’ve never once thought of killing myself, and I’m going to stifle that thought instantly. No, as long as I am breathing, I’ll go on from one breath to the next.
In Malaga, waiting for a second bus to take me to the railway station, I have to fight to keep myself from curling up on the pavement and falling asleep. I’m coming down hard from the speed. If only I had a tab to keep me awake until I board the train to Madrid.
In Madrid, I have my goatee shaved off and my hair cut shorter, and I move to a different pension every night until I can think of a safe way to leave Spain.
Every day could be my last day. What do I do on my last day? Go to a movie, read a novel? No, my own life is more vital to me than the lives of characters in books and movies. There’s nothing to do but to look at life: at people, dogs, birds, trees, flowers. I look at women and I see them simply as creatures, like myself, destined to die.
What a desperate situation Roger and Gisella have put me in. Wouldn’t they be surprised if I should turn up in Torremolinos to confront them with a gun in my hand. What am I thinking? I’ve never wished to kill anyone, and I don’t wish it now. Better I concentrate on getting out of Spain.
Tours; the word catches my eye as I walk past a travel agency. That’s it! To take a tour may be the safest way to slip out of Spain. Why didn’t I think of that before? The shortest tour listed is to Lourdes, but it’s not for three weeks. I don’t care to wait that long. The earliest one is to Portugal. It’s in the opposite direction to where I want to go, but at least it’s out of Spain. I’ll go there.
My hope plummets when I see waiting for me, not a bus with many tourists aboard, but a limousine with a single lady tourist within it. There’s the woman guide and the driver, but they won’t be able to take me across the border. So, I have three days of freedom before reaching that border, and I may as well make the best of them.
A bus with many tourists on board is waiting for us at the border. A smiling young hostess asks the lady tourist and me for our passports and goes off with them to the kiosk of the Spanish border guards. I stare at that building, expecting to see the tri-cornered hats to emerge from it and come for me. The hostess comes out alone, returning with our passports! I could kiss her.
Yipee, I’m out of Spain! One more day of freedom for me!
“Is there boat service from Portugal to northern, or to southern, Europe?” I ask the woman waiting on me in a travel agency in Lisbon.
“Where do you wish to go, to the north or to the south?” she asks impatiently.
“That all depends on which boats are available and when.”
“One moment,” she says and moves to a desk behind her.
I flick through a travel brochure lying on the counter.
“ . . . mustache . . .”
Hearing that word makes me look up. The woman’s on the phone, looking at me as she speaks. She’s giving a description of me to the police!
I hurry out, deciding to fly out of Lisbon as soon as possible.
My first day of freedom in Portugal, and I almost fuck up.
I write to the London bank to forward all my money to a bank in Zurich, then take a train to Trieste to wait for the money to arrive in Switzerland.
“Tell him he’s in big trouble. Police. Narcotics.” I hear a man’s voice outside the door of my hotel room in Trieste.
Are his words intended for my ears? Are they on to me here? Is there no escape from them? Or am I going mad and hearing voices that exist only in my head? I am down as low as I’ve ever been. If only I could undo all the stupid things I’ve done that have brought me to my sorry state.
In Zurich, I collect in cash all the money sent to me from London, thereby eliminating any trace of it. Then I take a train to The Hague to stay with Sypko, a painter I’d met in Marrakech.
“How old do you think this man is, Eddie?” Sypko asks, nodding toward a man in a smart suit who is joking with friends on the sidewalk.
“He’s over ninety. And he still dances at parties.”
“Sypko man, I’m going to be like him when I’m ninety.”