Tag Archives: self-serving

“There Is a Girl in New York City Who Calls Herself: ‘The Human Trampoline’.”

She was sitting on the edge of her barstool, with her bright red hair cascading over a tea-light candle, on the bar:  Dangerous.  

How many poets, I wondered, had lost their minds to a red-haired woman before?

Never a barfly — always a butterfly — she knew how to balance her glorious womanly behind on the edge of the shiny, brown leather-bound seat.  No way she’d fall off — from her dignity!  Her back had learned the perfect arching, the angles of which made it irresistible to the gaze.  Or to the camera.

It’s a fascinating skill that came with the habit of being looked at.  I knew that:  Beauty and sex were prone to that habit the most.  

Perhaps, most civilians couldn’t even pinpoint the hair-thin boundary between the real girl and the red-haired fantasy.  Most civilians just found themselves dumbfounded, with her.

But I knew:  I knew the game.  I used to play it all the time myself, before I got way too tired to keep up with the nuances.  Beauty was insatiable:  It demanded constant maintenance.  And for a while, I began relying mostly on sex.

But then, I got tired of that too, and I settled for truth.  Truth — all the time.  

Besides, sex was always much easier, for a woman.  And in my bedroom, I would keep all the lights blazing:

Fuck it:  Truth — all the time!

And if you don’t like it — LEAVE!

We had entered the bar together, that night.  Earlier, she had taken me all over the City:  Her New York.  She hailed all the cabs herself with the flip of that magnificent red-haired cascade.  And the green vintage coat off the rack of Marilyn Monroe or Betty Davis was flung unbuttoned, at all times.

“Boo.  Put yo’ hat on!  It’s fuckin’ freezing, out here!” I scolded her, always a few steps behind.

I was entering my own age of self-awareness:  and my most self-aware self, as I discovered, would be maternal.  And true. 

True — all the time.   

But she would just clap her fluffy cashmere mittens in response, and redistribute her lipgloss by smacking her lips.  The hair would be flipped again; and as soon as she baited some unknowing cabbie and we’d slide inside, onto the shiny, black-leather bound seats — the mane would be tamed into a low bun:  Show over, buddy!  

Her New York was very different from mine.  She lived on the island, I — right over the bridge.  She cabbed her way all over the place.  I braved the subways, studying rats playing house in the garbage on its tracks.  And when it would get unbearable, I’d come up for some air, in Harlem, and unbutton my jacket:  Ay, mami!

She made her living by mixology behind the bar, similar to the one we were now flocking:  with her low-cut blouses and perfect lighting hitting the hemispheres of her breasts.  Businessmen, cheating spouses conferencing in New York and horny boys from NYU would claim to be her regulars alike; and they would study their fantasy, while playing with the labels of their beer bottles and the hot wax of tea-lights on the bar.  From behind the rims of their rock glasses, they would gather their courage to start up a conversation.  And their drool would backwash onto the ice inside — if ever she paid any attention to them.

She didn’t have to, though.  That’s the thing about bartenders:  They aren’t at the mercy of our egos, for their income.  It was all up to her:  When to lean in, while arching her back.  When to cascade the hair, when to pull it back into a bun.  And when to tell them — TO LEAVE!

While I settled for bargains, she knew the importance of well-made things.  But for the first time in my most self-aware self, I was willing to learn.  I was open — to changing my mind. 

It was about dignity, I was beginning to suspect, despite my artistic premonition about some artsy suffering in deprivation.

“It’s crucial, for an artist, to be proud,” she said earlier.

Street lights were about to take over from the sun, as she strutted in her high-heeled boots through the shadows of concrete high-rises in Chelsea and red brick oldies in the Village.  I followed her, in jeans and flats, with the rest of my life packed inside a mighty Mary Poppins’ shoulder bag.

We were both competent, in our own way.  But she could survive on her credit card alone (although a girl like that never paid for her own drinks).  And I was spending my youth in a perpetual state of readiness for a take-off.

Our bartender that night would be a model by day.  Or an actor.  (I wasn’t really paying attention.)  To me, he was bitchy right off the bat.  With my girl — he was debonair.  We hadn’t been at the bar for half an hour, yet he had refilled my girl’s glass at least three times.  The petals of her lipgloss had circumvented the thin rim entirely by then, but the only sign of her tipsiness was in the pout of her lower lip.

Despite being seasoned by New York already, he could not have foreseen his purpose that night:  He was supposed to comp our drinks.

Which he did — in exchange for her number written on a bev nap and held in place by a tea-light candle.  He would even hail us a cab.

Inside, on a shiny, black leather-bound seat, she shook off the snowflakes from her red hair and smacked her lips.

“That number is fake, right?” I asked.

“No,” she answered.  “I would never do that, to a man.”

She gave the cabbie her intersection.  We were silent.

“But he’ll have one hell of a time — chatting up my shrink at Bellevue,” she smacked her lips again and pulled her hair into a low bun.

Show over, buddy!  

Back to truth.

“Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On!”

the best of you

I like more than you think.

the others don’t count

Charles Bukowski, One for the Shoeshine Man

“Do you know which word you say the most?” he said.

“Oh here we go,” I thought.  “Another one, trying so hard.  SO hard!  Why can’t he just let me be?”

But he didn’t wait for my answer:  “Grateful!” he said.

I hummed, surprised: I guess I’ve never learned how to receive a compliment.  

I’ve always had the skill to listen, you bet cha; and to admire them, pro bono.  And over the years, after enough cynicism (which I camouflage with my wit), I’ve even learned to rebut their self-serving inquiries, with unexpected grace.

So, when they say:  “So, what do you do for a living?”  

I read:  “I need a shortcut to your character.”

They hear my accent and too quickly spit out:  “Do you like it better here or over there?”  (Some even dare to over-enunciate.)

This one, I’ve learned to back-up with a comedic routine because no one wants to sit through my nostalgia or watch the ruins of an immigrant’s life.  They want me to be “grateful”.

“How old are you?” they say; then startle themselves, linger to recover and quickly add, “…if I may ask?”

For years, I’ve watched other women get coquettish or cutely offended by that question, some acting more sincerely than others.  And I would often lose my own hard-on, on behalf of the poor suckers who still had to shag them, eventually.  And I’ve tried that coquettish act myself:  It reminded me of waiting for my motha in Soviet hair salons while trying on lice-infected wigs.  Contagious — but what a fucking act!  And how boring!  

So, I always tell them my age instead — straight out, hard! — because whether it’s enough or not enough, it has most likely already been determined.  Or, it’s in the works.

No matter how habitual, how well-practiced their routine, when they look at me for the first time, there is a glimmer of curiosity.  Perhaps, they are relieved that they don’t have to hide their gazes any more (or their hard-ons):  They’ve already spoken, so they’ve gone beyond creepy.  So, they soak me up, scanning my modest endowments.  Some lick their lips.  Others just smile like 7-year-olds in love with their preschool teachers.  (Oh, you darling darlings:  How I adore you!)

And before they begin comparing me to others — for I know no man who hasn’t been changed by “that one woman” — I let them look.  I revel in it.  

Oh, how I wish there were a way to have this electricity of the initial attraction last!  To last past the mundane habit of hearing them pee with open bathroom doors; and past their own disappointments in my inabilities to live up to “that one woman”.

And when they look, men tend to need more time.  They don’t have the lightening-speed askance of a woman who scans a suitor while simultaneously going over her own list of prerequisites.

“Check, check, check,” a girl is always thinking.  (Trust me, I know:  I do it all the time.)

But men are not like that.  They either go with their gut or they go with their habit.  Those who are gutsier, will ask you an unusual question:

“Those earrings:  Where are they from?”

Or:  “You aren’t from around here, huh?”

(I prefer for them to be surprising.  Always.  It gives me a hard-on.  Or for me, to be surprisingly interesting — to them.)

The simpler types — God bless ‘em!  Really! — they always speak in quotations; and I often wonder how many back-up choices they’ve already earned on their speed dial that night, with that same routine.  What chaos, I think; but somehow I don’t mind it.  Most likely, they’ll soon get distracted anyway — and let me be.

“If beauty were a minute — you’d be an hour.”  (Oh, c’mon:  Why don’t you mind my laughing at you?)

“I like perfection,” another threatened me recently, while whipping out his phone; because his arrogance must work like a charm on other women.

“Is that why you’re talking to me?” I responded.  (What did I tell ya?  I’ve learned to rebut, you bet cha.  But still, I prefer to be surprised.)

“Are you gonna make me chase you?” another one commented on my impressive stunts in heels; and even though I’d outrun him, sooner or later, he decided to follow me for a long enough to get my number.

“Yep.”  (Don’t you know you aren’t supposed to waste your breath in marathons, buddy?)

But those who stick around for the first date usually tend to take their time figuring me out.  They study me, like an ancient spiritual text, of no particular religion.  They shuffle through universal concepts and bigger theories.

Like that adorable one, catching me off-guard with my own speech tick of “grateful”.  The entire night, he’s been wanting to play the tug-o-war of “You, Me, You, Me.  Me, Again.”  He was young and ambitious, quite contagious and still altruistic.  He was so beautiful to look at, in the way that only the young can be.  And in those moments of his trying so hard to like me — or to be like me; to get the gist of it all, to figure it all out; to stand on his own, but then dive into his empathy head first; to equate me, please me, surprise me; to make me laugh, to make me vulnerable; to get me; to earn me:  I found myself grateful, indeed.

Because I knew better than to hold onto him:  No one lasts.  Or they haven’t lasted so far, and I can’t expect them to.  But I can expect them — to be.  I can let them be, just as they are.  

And because, for a change, someone was letting me be as well, I suddenly felt surprised — at my own magnificence — and I wanted so much to return the favor!  

And yes, I already knew that the electricity of the initial encounter wouldn’t last, but I reveled in it, if only for that night.  But secretly, I began harboring a glimmer of hope that maybe it was my turn — to be “that one woman”.