Monday, November 20, 2017


For so long a living symbol of evil
A darkness no one could comprehend
The pain you caused all too real
And yet no peace comes with your end
Death for you seems like a prize
Preferred you trapped and alive


Thursday, November 16, 2017

She's Nothing But Trouble -- Complete

Due to my own ineptness most of She's Nothing But Trouble has gone missing off the blog. So I'm reposting it here in its entirety. I'm still not very happy with the ending.

Usually around 2:30 or so I get the email or the phone call. That little girl voice attached to those dark eyes and sexy legs will ask ever so innocently if I want to get a coffee with her.

I say yes. I always say yes. I could be up to my eyeballs in work and have deadlines staring me in the face, but for a chance to stare into those eyes and envision throwing her down, forcing my hand between her legs while she thrusts against me I will shrug and go to Starbucks and buy her a honey latte. That's a true test of lust, when you'll order someone a drink so obnoxious as a honey latte. Of course, I want to pour that latte on her stockings and then suck the flavor out.

She knows I'm hooked. Knows I can't resist what I can't have. She dresses like she came out of central casting circa 1940. You know that underneath that cutesy act is a little dirty girl. I want to taste her so bad.

She was a bit of a drunk. Old me would have just taken to her bar, gotten some gin into her and gotten her panties off of her. But now I can't do that shit. I'm working with a handicap basically. She's hot, but she's not counting days hot.

So I've got to try to get inside her the old fashioned way. Wit and charm. My wit and charm is as good as any one's, in fact it's a little better. Still, I'm easier to swallow if the girl has a load on.

One day our flirty conversation suddenly shifted gears as we left the Starbucks and she started bitching about her ex-boyfriend, the one who had dumped her in the shower. I never got past the "in the shower" part to hear the rest of the story. She often about being torn between wanting him dead and wanting to get back together with him. I knew which side of that debate I was on.

I said five words to her that would start this spiral that brought me to this little room.

"How would you do it?"

She looked at me, looked down at her shoes and said, "do what?"

"Kill him, how would you do it?”

"I don't really want to do it."

"Oh I know, but I'm sure you have fantasies." See that's the trick. Get girls talking about their fantasies and you never know what will come out.

"I can't," she cooed.

"Come on," I said in that sort of mischievous way I have of coaxing good girls into bad things.


"Yeah?" Christ, I better slow this down or she'll here my heart beating through my chest. I'd seen and heard a lot in my day, but nothing prepared me for what came next.

"I'd like to snuff him out."

"Yeah, I know that, but how."

"No, that's what I mean. Like a snuff film. He loved getting head from me and if I could figure out how to do it, I'd blow his brains just before he came. That would be punishment enough for dumping me."

"Jeez, couldn't you just ring his doorbell and run?"

"You asked."

I suddenly realized that the whole time she was saying that the singsong little girl voice that had me so wrapped around her finger was gone. She was much colder now, and all that did was turn me on more. I imagined that head from her might just be worth dying for.

"OK, while I've got to get back to my office. Want to leave together?"

"Yeah, we can take the train after work." Even though she lived downtown and I lived uptown, I always came up with some reason why I was headed downtown every evening. Because of this, I'd been spending a lot more time at Perry Street. It's a great room, but it's crazy there, which considering where I was at right now made sense.

"OK, I'll see you later," she said, getting off on the twelfth floor.

"Yeah, definitely," I muttered as the door shut. I went back to my office, closed the doors, closed the blinds and started to envision seeing her later.

I didn't even bother making up a reason for my early exit. Just grabbed my jacket and told Martha, our assistant, that I'd see her tomorrow. She barely looked up. I wasn't the only one who hated this place.

Once I was on the street I pulled a smoke out of my jacket and fired one up. I should quit. It's been three years since my last drink so it's not like I still need the cigs as a crutch. I guess they were my last act of rebellion. I know. Some rebel. A guy with a cushy high paying job doesn't exactly conjure up images of Marlon Brando in "The Wild One."

But I still hung onto some fantasy that I was this tough-guy dark writer. That's what I've pretended to be my whole life. I've just taken the act out of the bar and into the rooms. I used to spend my nights drinking at the Dublin House until four in the morning while jotting down poems and stories thinking it would lure girls. Hardly ever worked. I gave off a vibe that said, "Stay away."

I looked at my watch. It was 4:15. I could head down to the village and catch the second half of the 4 p.m. meeting at Perry and race back up here to meet Audrey when she left and then go back downtown again. That seemed kind of dumb. I could grab a bite and walk over to Ninth Avenue for a while. My head was spinning with choices. We aren't used to choices. We're used to doing the same thing over and over again, expecting the results to be different. This is what's been beaten into my head and yet I was having a hard time with it today.

I walked up the street and sat down in front of Black Rock, home of CBS. The building was standing up to the test of time even if the network wasn't. Or at least it was on the outside. Last time I was inside it looked like it could've used some new carpets. Of course, it didn't help that I'd thrown up on them once when I had a few dozen too many at their holiday party. I was smart enough to hide behind a curtain when it happened and the next day offered my list of suspects to Dan McClinton, their public relations guy. Maybe one day I'd confess.

"No smoking here."

I looked up into the face of a security guard who seemed thrilled to finally have something to do.

"Sorry," I said. Then I took a long last drag and flicked the butt into the street and turned to walk off.

Just then I saw Audrey coming out of the building. She didn't have a jacket on so maybe she was just getting another coffee or something. For some reason, I decided to follow her. This clearly wasn't sober behavior but I didn't care. If my femme fatale was cheating on my imaginary relationship with her I needed to know.

Audrey walked briskly down the street, her four-inch heels not slowing her down at all. She was headed towards Fifth Avenue. I kept a good distance back. She turned the corner and walked up to 55th and then ducked into the Peninsula. This was getting interesting.

I waited a few minutes and then walked into the lobby. I tried to think of what lie I would use if she saw me. She was probably just meeting someone about a job. Audrey was only consulting at the Institute of Media after getting bounced out of a high-profile PR gig for sleeping with a reporter. It happens all the time, but not usually at an industry party in the bathroom. Like I said, she likes her drink. That happened a while ago, but that's a hard one to overcome especially since the reporter was married with kids. His marriage survived and he became a folk hero. She was the one who took the hit. Not fair, but that's life sometimes.

She sat down at the bar and ordered what looked like scotch. Of course she'd drink scotch. I found a spot out of her sight and pulled out a newspaper. A few minutes later a guy in jeans and leather jacket came in and sat down next to her. As they made small talk she took her purse off the back of her chair and started to go through it, or at least pretended to anyway. Once it was open the guy dropped a small envelope into it and took a big one out. You have to be kidding me. Only Audrey would do a drug deal at the Peninsula bar. Everyone always made things so complicated. The guy could've come up to the office and no one would have said a thing or she could've met him on the street. Instead she meets him at a posh bar where who knows how many undercover cops there are not to mention the occasional observant doorman or waitress to conduct her business. Whatever. It seemed to work. A few minutes later he leaned in and kissed her cheek and headed out the door. She sat back, looked around and took a big swig from her scotch and didn't notice me come up from behind her.

"You gonna share some of that with me?'

She turned quickly and spit out what scotch was left in her mouth onto my shirt.

"Gee, thanks. I'm more of a whisky guy but I appreciate your sharing.”

"You fucking followed me?" she asked.

"Actually yeah, but just because I was bored."

"Oh god. What do you want from me?"

"Relax, I don't want anything. Or at least anything that I haven't already made abundantly clear to you."

"What do you mean?"

"Never mind. How much did you get?"

She looked down and then smiled.

"Eight ball."

"All for you?"

"Maybe," she said in that little girly voice.

I knew this was a bad scene. Audrey didn't know I was straight. I looked down at her crossed legs and the heel dangling off her foot and then into her eyes. She winked at me. She was willing to sleep with me to keep her secrets. That's all this was. I begin to wonder if it would be worth it. I already knew the answer and I tried to play the tape out as to how this would end. It wasn't going to be pretty.

I picked up her drink, chugged it down, took her hand and led her out of the bar.

"Where are you taking me?" Audrey said as I led her out of the hotel and onto 55th Street.

I hadn't thought that far ahead. Where do you go when you’re about to blow up everything you've been trying to hold onto for three years? Then it hit me.

"My place," I said, squeezing her hand and flagging a cab before she had time to pull away.

I opened the cab door and shoved her inside and quickly jumped into next to her.

"Slow down cowboy, you're going to get it."

"I'm not taking any chances," I said before turning to the driver and telling him to take us to 100th and West End.

He swung up 55th and started to turn on Sixth.

"No, take this to 10th and take that all the way," I barked.

If he took Sixth it would take us ten minutes just to get to Central Park West at this time of day and another seven or so to get up to Broadway. All the lights were in sync on 10th Avenue and we'd be at 99th Street in no time.

As he kept going up 55th I turned towards Audrey.

"Why would you do that in the hotel?," I asked. "Don't you know how easy it would be to get busted there?"

"I've done it there before. I'm careful."

"Next time just have the guy come to work, no one would even notice."

"Yeah, well I'm not looking to make a habit of it."

"Looks like you already have."

We turned right on tenth and she reached into her purse and pulled out a bottle of ginger ale.

"Here, you'll all sweaty, take a sip and relax," she said handing me the bottle.

I took a big swig, which was a big mistake. It was ginger ale and whisky. I hadn't had a real drink in a long time. It burned going down and my head started to spin.

"What's wrong, it's not that strong," she said.

"No, just caught me off guard," I lied. There was a lot more to Audrey then I realized. She was one hot mess.

They say that every day you don't drink, your disease is doing push-ups and that when you pick up again it's like you never stopped in the first place. The progression continues even if the abuse doesn't.

They weren't kidding.

I took another big swig and then reached into her purse.

"What are you doing, just wait?" she said trying to grab my hand while motioning towards the driver.

I scanned the dashboard and looked at it his Hack license. Our driver, Esat Ajij, was on his cell phone babbling away in Arabic and could not give a shit about what was happening in the back of his cab.

"Hey driver," I said, "mind if I do a bump?"

Esat kept right on talking without missing a beat.

Audrey grabbed my ear and twisted hard. I turned my head towards hers and she pulled my mouth into hers.

It wasn't exactly how I'd practiced our first kiss in my head but it would have to do.

It didn't take long to get to my place. Once the cab got past the old Needle Park on 72nd where Broadway and Amsterdam converge it was smooth sailing.

Around 90th I called Americana Deli and ordered 16 bottles of Corona and two packs of Marlboros and then asked Audrey if she wanted anything.

"Uh, you mean that's just for you?"

"Well ... if you want some then of course but I just assumed you weren't a beer and blow girl."

"A beer and a what girl? My we're feeling cocky."

"Not what I meant but anyway ... yeah they'll be some cocky feeling too I'm sure."

"Do you have any whisky at your place?"

I didn't have any anything at my place. The guy at Americana was actually surprised to hear me ordering beer after such a long layoff. When I first got clean it took about six months for him to stop asking if I wanted Corona when I would call in an order.

We got out at 100th and Broadway and walked towards 101st. I sent Audrey into the liquor store to get what she needed while I crossed the street to the little Korean deli to get limes. It was one of those annoying little inconveniences of living in the city. One deli had the beer and the other one had the limes. All I know is we had about ten minutes to get our shit and get to my place before the delivery guy from Americana would be showing up.

I brought a couple of limes to the register and spotted some old-fashioned razor blades across the counter and asked for pack. I liked my blow real fine and got a kick out of chopping it up all nice and neat. I handed the cashier a $10 and waited for my change while listening to the classical music that the Koreans who ran this deli always had playing.

After I got my two dollars back I glanced across the street to see Audrey coming out of liquor store and looking up and down the street. I was about to cross when I heard my name.

"Hey man, what's up?"

Shit. It was Jason Hogue, an AA pal. The nightmare of every recovering addict was happening to me, I was going to get caught red-handed in the middle of a slip.

"Hey Jason, where you headed?"

"Down to 96th Street, you coming?”

That would be the 6 p.m. meeting at the little room on 96th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam. It was part of the church there and they had about five meetings a day. Unlike the other Upper Westside AA meetings, which were full of beautiful upper class white drunks, 96th Street attracted a more urban crowd of crackheads and old time ghetto boozers. It was definitely good for a change of pace. If I were smart I would've dropped everything, figured God put Jason in front of me for a reason and gone with him.

But God also put Audrey and her heels and black hair in front of me as well and since she was the first hand that was dealt I figured I better play that one now and worry about the next hand after this one was done.

"Uh, yeah, no not headed there. Maybe I'll catch you tomorrow at 70th," I said looking at Audrey and then back to Jason.

"You ok?"

"Yeah, why?

"I don't know, seem kind of anxious."

"I'm always anxious," I said looking away for a second to see Audrey coming across the street towards me. Shit, I hope she wasn't thinking threesome. At least her booze was in the bag. Of course, at that exact moment I also saw the Americana deliveryman walking out with my order but he also had a few other deliveries with him so hopefully I wouldn't be the first stop.

"Hey, did you get what you need," Audrey said as she approached the two of us.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm good to go.”

"Hi, I'm Audrey," Audrey said holding out her hand to Jason's, who shook it hit while smiling to himself. Good, he just thinks I'm getting laid.

"Oh, I'm sorry this is my friend Jason."

"Nice to meet you, Jason"

"You too, Audrey."

I turned to Jason and smiled. He nodded although he then glanced down to the bag Audrey was carrying which clearly had bottles in it. Oh well, just because she was drinking didn't mean I was.

"Hey, I'll give you a call tomorrow and we'll do something," I said to Jason.

"Yeah, that would be good. Lets meet tomorrow," he said, putting the emphasis on "meet."

"Sure, sounds good," I said grabbing Audrey's hand and walking off.

"He was cute. Who is he?" she asked.

"Just a friend," I said, adding, "don't get any ideas."

"What ideas? I don't know who you think I am but, I think your fantasy version of me is a lot more fun than the real one."

"We'll find out soon enough," I said as we started down 100th Street towards Riverside Drive.

As we walked down 100th and approached West End Avenue I saw a kid get into a car and take off down the street. The car stopped about half-a-block later and the kid got out and started walking back towards 100th Street.

"See Audrey, that's how you do a drug deal."

"What are you talking about, I didn't see anything."

"Exactly," I said.

"You're weird."

As we crossed the street I saw the Americana delivery guy peddling up from Riverside.

"There's my beer," I said letting go of her hand and walking faster.

"Wow. Hold my hand or run to meet the Dominican delivery boy with beer. That was a real tough choice for you, huh?"

"He's Ecuadorian but anyway."

It wasn't the first time I'd heard that one although the last time I had heard it I had vowed it would be the last time I'd heard it. Oh well, so much for vows.

I caught up just as he was locking his bike to the fence in front of the brownstone next to my building, which once had been a brownstone but had long been converted into something uglier

"Hey I'll save you the trip upstairs," I said pulling out a twenty from my wallet.

"It's twenty eight," he said.

"You're kidding me."

"No. The cerveza was twenty and the smokes are eight."

"Jeez, the cost of excess has gone up."

I was met with a blank stare as I looked into my wallet and saw I only had a five left. The cab had cost thirteen dollars.

"Hey sweetie, you got ten dollars I can borrow?," I asked as Audrey walked up.

She fumbled through her purse and pulled out her wallet, fished out a $10 and punched me in the arm.

"You're some kind of catch," she sighed. "Leave me on the corner to run after your booze and then borrow money from me to pay for it. Can't believe you're not taken yet."

"Hey sweetie, I just can't be tamed." I couldn't believe I just used such a lame line but for some reason it seemed to work because then she ran her hand through my hair as she handed the delivery guy her money.

"Keep it," I said, picking up the bag of beer and cigs off of the sidewalk with one hand while I put my other arm around Audrey's waist and headed to my door.

"It's four flights up," I said.

"You're kidding. How poor are you?"

"What, because I don't live in some elevator doorman building I'm not worthy."

"I didn't say that, I just asked how poor you were?'

"Oh, well I'm pretty poor."

I actually wasn't. I'd manage to sock away a lot of money over the past three years. As much as I hated the job, it paid well. And since I'd stop blowing all my money on substances and women to do them with I'd replenished my savings account. My apartment was kind of dumpy but a good deal for this part of the city. I was thinking though that maybe I'd be able to buy something soon if the economy kept tanking.

But none of that was on my mind right now. I need to get upstairs and get this over with fast. As we walked up the first few steps, Audrey stopped, lifted up her leg and took off a heel and then did the same with the other. I grabbed her shoes and said they were going back on her as soon as we got back in the apartment.

"That's fine freak but I'm not walking up these rickety old stairs in my Gucci heels."

"Gucci? I thought they were CFMS."

"Not for you they aren't."

We got to my door and I put the bag down and then put her shoes in the bag and turned around to face her. She looked at me confused and I leaned in and kissed her. She kissed back shoving me hard against the door and biting my lip while I slipped my hand under her dress and up her thigh only to discover she wasn't wearing anything and was already a little moist.

"Wow, wasn't expecting that," I said.

"Just open the fucking door," she said grinding against me.

I turned around and got my keys out of my front pocket, which was trickier than it would've been a few minutes earlier. But soon enough I had the door opened and we walked in. My cats were eagerly waiting as always but as soon as they saw Audrey they disappeared under the bed.

Poor cats. After three years of tranquility it was back to the craziness.

"What are their names?'

"`Annoying' and `More Annoying,'" I said.

"Don't be a jerk, they look sweet."

"Their names are Leopold and Loeb."

"Oh you're kidding."


"What are we going to do with you?"

"We're going to sit on the couch, have a drink, get out your treats and hang out for awhile."

I led her to the couch. She sat down, crossed her legs and didn't seem to mind the way her skirt rode up her thigh.

I pulled the beer out of the bag, took out a bottle, a lime, and the smokes and put the rest in the fridge. Then I grabbed her bag and took out the whiskey and filled a glass with ice and poured her one. I opened my beer, cut off a big slice of lime and jammed it into the Corona. Then I took the drinks to the table, went back to the kitchen -- a move that took all of three seconds -- and went into the cabinet above the stove and brought down a small picture frame that would serve as my chopping block. Then I grabbed a straw and an old ashtray from the silverware drawer.

I went back to the couch and sat next to Audrey. She motioned to the little white bag on the table and I opened it and dumped a bunch on the picture frame then went back to the kitchen to fish out the razors. This was a really tedious process but I was a man of ritual. I sat back down and started chopping up the coke.

"It's already cut," she said.

"Not enough," I replied.

"Sorry Tony Montana."

What can I say? It had been three years since I'd had blow and I wanted it just right. There was something about chopping that I enjoyed. Making the lumpy product finer and finer until it looked like flour rather than salt. I chopped, used a farecard to make piles and then I chopped again. I then made some little lines.

"Uh, they can be bigger you know" Audrey said.

"And they will be bigger, but I want to start a little slow. It's been awhile for me," I said.

"What's a while," she asked.

"I don't know, a few months." Like I said, I didn't want her knowing about my clean living.

"What about you," I asked.

"Uh, this morning and it's going to take more than that little trail to get me going so spill some more on there cowboy. It's not like you're paying for it."

"I'll be paying for it in ways you'll never know," I muttered.


I’ll help pay," I said.

She grabbed the frame put the straw to her nostril and did all four of the lines, sniffed hard and put the frame back down. Then she took a swig of her whiskey, grabbed a Marlboro and lit up. She inhaled deeply and then blew the smoke out of her nose, which for some reason always turned me on.

"What are you waiting for?" she asked.

I was wondering that myself. I took a swig of my beer and it hit me hard. I fired up my own smoke and immediately my head was spinning. I sat back waiting for my head to settle. Audrey took that moment to lean back and stretch her legs across my lap. She felt my appreciation for that move and ground her barefoot into me slowly.

Well, it was now or never. I rubbed her leg for a second and then grabbed the frame. I looked at it and looked at her and then back at it. Then I grabbed the straw and stuck it into the pile and then dumped it onto her leg. I grabbed the farecard and made a long line between her knee and ankle. I then grabbed the straw and did the blow and followed that by licking the residue off her leg.

It hit me, but not as hard as I thought it would although the drip was already there. I took a drag of my smoke and the cigarette mixed with the coke and it was like doing another line.

"That was actually kind of hot," she said.

"Well, I'll be doing it again," I promised, putting the smoke back in the ashtray.

"Cool," she said, lifting one leg up for me to kiss again, which I did. And then I kept kissing, traveling north until I was between her thighs and she was pushing my face down into her.

Somewhere after her third orgasm and my first we rested for a few minutes. The sex wore down the coke and while my heart was still racing, my eyes were at peace and even my usually grinding jaw was keeping quiet. Audrey's head rested on chest. She rubbed her hands slowly up and down my now sweaty legs and stomach, dragging her nails lightly across the inside of my thighs. If she were hoping for an encore she'd have to wait awhile.

"Really? You need more," I said.

"Oh honey, I always need more."

Those are words one usually likes to hear, but I was actually hoping to just pass out and wake up in a few hours alone realizing that it had all been a dream. Already my usual case of buyer's regret was settling in even as Audrey's sexy nails started stroking me lightly. I couldn't tell if this was my standard post-orgasm guilt or if the magnitude of the years I'd just tossed away was starting to hit me. The only thing I knew for sure was I wasn't going to figure it out right now.

I delicately moved her hand off of me and started to slide out from under her.

"Where are you going sweetie?"

"Just need to use the facilities, I'll be right back."

"You better, I'm not done yet."

This was the problem with being good at it. A luxury problem it's true but still.

I went to the bathroom, shut the door and sat down for a second. I turned on the water to shut out the voices in my head. I rubbed my nose, which was hurting big time and then sniffed loudly. Nothing was coming out of me so I flushed and went to the kitchen for a beer. For a second I thought lets stop now. It wasn't the worst slip in the world and you got laid a voice inside me said.

I was just about to put the beer back on the shelf when I heard another voice.

"I'll take one of those too."

I was so lost in my head I hadn't even heard Audrey coming out of the bedroom. She cozied up to me and wrapped her arms around me. I handed her the beer in my hand and bent down to grab another one for myself while she bent a little to grab me.

"Baby, I am not from Havana," I said, quoting "Blazing Saddles."


"Never mind, will you open these?"

"Sure honey," she said, grabbing them from me and putting them on the counter. "Go rest on the couch, I didn't mean to wear you down so much."

I turned, grabbed her hair and pushed her against the wall. I started to kiss her neck while grinding against her. She started to push back a little and I put my arm around her waist and worked my hand between her thighs. I found the spot and rubbed. She started to moan as I worked a finger inside while my thumb worked her. Her breathing quickened and she let out a soft sign of approval.

I kept it up for about another minute and could feel her getting ready to finish. Just when she was about to I pulled my hand from between her legs, smacked her ass, grabbed the beers and headed to the couch.


"Just letting you know who's in control," I said plopping down on the couch and grabbing a Marlboro. I fired one up, took a deep drag and blew the smoke out of my nose and winked at her.

"That was the worst wink in the world."

"Yeah, I know. I never really knew how to do it."

It wasn't even really a wink; it was more like someone just squeezed a lemon in your eye. Real sexy."

"Sorry, I'll work on it."

"Oh honey, if you haven't mastered it by now..."

I took a swig of Corona and another drag off the smoke. Audrey came over and stood over me for a second while taking a sip of her beer. Then she leaned down a little and let the beer dribble out of her mouth and onto my chest.

"That could've been your cum but after that last stunt that'll just have to stay a fantasy."

"What makes you think that's my fantasy?"

"It's every guy's fantasy."

"And how many times have you fulfilled it."

"Ha, keep digging reporter boy."

I took another drag and remembered another plus to sobriety -- not having to put up with drunk and high chicks. It was one thing to endure it to get laid, but after it was cruel and inhuman so I did what I used to do under those circumstances. Get more wasted.

I grabbed the powder, cut myself two pretty big lines and snorted them up. The drip was almost instantaneous. I took a swig of beer and a drag off my smoke and could already feel the coughing and puking fits that I thought I'd left behind start. I exhaled quickly and took another sip in the hopes that if I kept everything moving I wouldn't dry heave right in front of her. I'm pretty sure that wasn't her fantasy.

She took a swig of her beer, walked around the table and sat next to me on the couch. She put her beer down, grabbed one of my cigarettes and a pack of matches. She lit her cigarette, leaned back on the couch and stretched her legs across the table and accidentally kicked the bottle, which then tipped over and spilled out all over the blow.

"Shit, shit shit," she screamed, grabbing the bottle.

It was too late. What was on the picture frame was now soaked. I didn't know whether to be grateful I'd just done those lines or pissed because I was sure to want more soon.

"Was that all of it," I asked.

"Fuck," came back at me.

"Guess that answers that question."

She grabbed the matches and scooped up what little dry powder was left. I handed her a CD cover to dump it on.

"Thanks," she muttered. Then she grabbed her purse, fished around for a minute and came up with a little bag that still had some life in it and dumped it on the CD case as well.

At this point we were both thinking the same thing. Who was going to get more of this? Technically it was hers and I already had just bumped up. But this isn't how addicts think. There wasn't enough there for both of us to get through what was left of the night and we suddenly went from coconspirators to mortal enemies.

She chopped herself up a couple of small lines and did them. Then her bag started to vibrate.

"Shit, whose that," she said reaching in for her phone.

"If it's for me, I'm not here," I said.

"Yeah, your cuteness is really starting to wear off. First you don't let me cum and now I'm out of coke. Way to pick them Audrey."

"Hey, you knocked over the beer, not me. Don't pull that shit of blaming everyone other than yourself for what happens."

The phone continued to vibrate.

"Text," she said with a sigh of relief. "It's my Dad's birthday tomorrow. I thought it might be my mom calling to remind me."

"Uh, I thought your Dad was dead."

"He is," she said, "but that doesn't mean I don't have to deal with my Mom about it. Why do you think I'm blowing off all this steam tonight?"

She found the phone and opened up and smiled.

"What," I asked.

"It's my friend. He's just come into some good stuff and wants to know if I want dibs. What perfect timing."

"The guy you just saw at the hotel?"


"Does he do that often?"

"Do what often?"

"Call you on his own? Most dealers I know don't call their customers, they wait to be called, and especially ones they just sold to a few hours ago."

"I don't know about that. I'm sure he's called me before. Anyway, who cares we need him now."

I couldn't argue with that logic. She started dialing and then waiting. I grabbed the straw and the CD. She gave me a look.

"What? We're getting more," I said as I scooped a little into a straw and gave myself a bump.

"Hey Tino, it's me," she said on the phone. "Good timing. I was just thinking I should stock up." She paused for a minute and then turned to me and mouthed, "what's the address?"

I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote it down and handed it to her.

"Can you bring it to 323 W. 100th Street," she asked. There was silence and then she said, "oh, well how long then?" More silence. Audrey started shaking her head. "Well, where are you, maybe that'll be easier?"

Then I started shaking my head.

She gave me a shut up look. Then she grabbed the pen and paper and started writing.

"OK. I'll be up there in an hour or so. Thanks, baby."

There was something about the way she said baby that had me wondering whether Audrey always paid with cash but anyway.

"Looks like a road trip," she said while throwing her phone back in the bag.

"Where's he at?"

"116th and First."

"Lovely. Why can't he come here?"

"He can't get away for a little awhile. He's waiting for someone else to come by for their package."

"How long have you been using, what's his name, Tino?

"About three years, he's totally safe."

"Oh yeah, these guys always are."

"So don't come then," she said getting up and going into the bedroom.

"Where you going?"

"I thought I'd put my panties on for the trip across town."

"Good, I was worried about that."

"Fuck you."

I finished my beer while she got dressed. Then I chopped up what we had left and headed to the bedroom as well to get dressed.

She already had a dress back on and was sliding into her heels. I wouldn't have minded a shower.

"After we get it, maybe we can go down to my place," she said.


I put on my pants, grabbed a black t-shirt and leather jacket and hoped I looked at least a little intimidating. I went into the kitchen and into the silverware drawer where I had a butterfly knife my brother had given me years ago. I'd never used it or even fully mastered how to open it. I had no idea what I was thinking but I jammed it in my pocket.

Audrey came out, walked over to the table and noticed the nicely cut presentation I left.

"Oh how nice," she said before snorting up six of the eight lines.

"Thanks for leaving me some," I said before finishing it off and licking the case.

She grabbed her jacket while I grabbed some bottles of beer out of the fridge and threw them in her purse. Then we headed out the door.

It had been dark for a while when we hit the street. My gut told me this was a bad idea. I knew I should just bail. Call a pal and forget this night. Whatever was ahead was not going to be as fun as what was behind me.

At the same time, I was too wired to just sit around. The beast was awake.

"How much you have on you," she asked.

"I need to hit a machine."

"Me too."

"There's one at the Americana. Then we'll grab a cab."

"What's wrong?"

"What do you mean?"

"You sound ... I don't know, not happy."

"I'm not happy."

"Why? You just got high and fucked and now you're about to do it again. What's the problem?

"I'm afraid I'll only get fucked this time."

"Would that be so bad?"

"Not what I meant."

"What then."

"Forget it."

I resisted the urge to tell her my story. Somehow telling someone you just had sex with that you tossed away your sobriety on them didn't seem like such a bright idea. But inside I was beating myself up. As soon as we got in the cab I was popping open one of those Coronas. I needed it bad.

At the deli I headed to the cooler and grabbed two of those big bottles of Corona while Audrey hit the cash machine. I watched her dig into her purse and pull out her card. Her dress was wrinkled and she definitely looked a little fucked up but still hot. I tried to will an erection. Anything to stop the rage that was racing through me making me want to run out in front of Broadway and get run over or go for some cop's gun and hope he'd shoot me.

I walked over to the money machine and took out $300. Actually it was $302.50 with the bullshit service charge but anyway. Audrey was at the register buying smokes.

"Get me two packs of reds, sweetie."

"OK honey," she said in a voice dripping with sarcasm.

I joined her at the register, plopped my beers down and bought a little bottle opener and threw it all in the bag. The guy behind the counter who had been making my cheeses steaks, fries and coffee for the past few years smiled at me.

"So, big night?" he asked.


"It's been a long time since you've bought any beer or smokes. Thought you'd turned over a new leaf."

I could feel Audrey's eyes on me as I waited for my change for the beers and the opener.

"Well," I said looking at her and then him, "sometimes a strong breeze comes in and blows the leaf right back."

"I hear that," he said, giving Audrey the once over.

I put the beers in Audrey's bag and headed out the door.

"What was that about?" she asked.

"What was what?

"What he said about turning over a new leaf."

"I don't know. Go to a different deli for awhile and someone looks for deep philosophical reasons for it."

"Uh huh," she said. "You're a bit of mystery mister, but I'll solve it."

"Tie me up and burn me and see if I talk."

"OK, but after we run our errand."

"We could skip it and just head to your place," I said hoping to change her mind about our little cross-town jaunt.

"If you want me to tie you up then I need fuel to make it worth your while."

I gave up. Frankly I didn't even want to be tied up. I was now officially going through the motions. Audrey was no different than everything else in my life. I always looked for someone or something to fill what was missing in me and never realizing that didn't work. Now that the chase was over there seemed to be little need to keep her around. For a split second I even thought of bailing. But this was like some bad movie that I was determined to see through to the end since I'd already thrown my money away.

We walked down Broadway towards 100th when a cab went by. I handed her the bag from the deli, hustled ahead and hit the trunk and he pulled over. Then I opened the door and Audrey climbed in, slid over put her bag down and crossed her legs causing her dress to ride up a little which was enough to remind me that things could be worse. I got in next to her, shut the door and told the driver to take us to First Avenue and 116th. Then I grabbed a beer from the bag, popped it open and took a swig and kissed her neck.

"Nice, but I'd rather have a sip," she said reaching for my beer.

"You want one?"

"No, I'll just share yours."

"What about you?" I said to the driver who, of course, was babbling in some Middle Eastern dialect on his cell phone. If Subway sandwich shops were Al-Qaeda sleeper cells, than the cabbies were the couriers spreading the word.

As we headed east and into Central Park I grabbed the beer from Audrey and kissed her while sliding my hand up her dress. I was half-expecting to feel flesh but she had indeed put her panties back on. I worked by hand under and started to tease her a little. Before I could progress the cab went into skid and nearly clipped a bus as came out the other side of the park.

"Sorry, sorry," the driver mumbled.

"I got an idea. Why don't you hang up the phone and focus on the driving," I said.

"Shhh," Audrey said punching me.

"Sorry, sorry," he said again.

"Are you even talking to me," I asked.

No response and soon we were heading down 96th Street towards First Avenue. Traffic was light and it wasn't long until we were cruising up First and the neighborhood got uglier with each block. Lots of noise on the street and people hanging on stoops. This doesn't look like the Upper West Side anymore, Toto.

It's not like I'd never been here before. My past had included many visits to assorted projects and slums and in the grand scheme of things the outskirts of East Harlem wasn't the worst I'd seen.

But I knew now just how lucky I'd been. I put myself in some very stupid situations in pursuit of blow and broads. I was supposed to be smarter than that now.

I looked over at Audrey and she was putting on lipstick.

"Making yourself pretty for Tino," I said sarcastically.

"You've worn out my lips honey, I just want to make them pretty again."

The cab pulled up at 116th and First.

"What's the address," I asked.

"I have it in my bag," she said.

"Well, find it now. I don't want to be walking down the street looking like we don't know where we're going."

"OK, OK, jeez, you'd think this was your first time buying drugs."

"That's the whole point. I don't want us to look like it's the first time we're doing this. They smell that."

"Who is they," she said.

"Don't go there," I said while handing the driver a twenty.

"OK, I got it. 110 116th, apartment 5R,"

I looked around and saw the even numbers were on the other side of the street. I spotted the building. The front was covered in graffiti and there was a welcome wagon hanging outside on the stoop drinking and smoking. Up and down the street were what looked like lookouts but maybe I was being paranoid. I had just watched Serpico the other night and this building could've passed for the one he got shot in.

We got out of the cab and started to cross the street. Audrey reached for my hand and I pushed it away.

"Nice. You'll make a great boyfriend," she said.

"Holding hands in strange terrain makes you look vulnerable," I said.

"No, it makes you look like a jerk."

"Fine," I said, grabbing her hand.

"Much better, hope for you yet."

I had a feeling at this point there wasn't much hope for us at all.

We made our way passed the guardians of the stoop to the buzzer. They were too busy trying catch a peak up Audrey's dress to bother with me too much.

"It's busted," a voice behind us said.

"How do we get in," I asked.

"You don't," he said with a laugh. "You wait for someone to come out."

"You don't want to just open the door," I said as Audrey tightened her grip on my hand.

"I don't know you, for all I know you're the man."

I resisted the urge to say that I was the man, just not that man.

"Who you here to see," he asked.

"Tino," Audrey chimed in.

"Shit, that figures," he said. "Drop into our little world to buy your poison and then forget you were ever here."

Was this guy a punk or an activist? One minute he thinks were cops and the next he's moralizing.

Just then someone came out of the building and I held the door open as he walked past and Audrey and I went in.

"Yeah, go get your high on yuppies," our philosophical homie shouted after us.

He didn't really say yuppies did he? I resisted the urge to yell back, "true dat" and headed up the stairs. This whole scene was turning into a cliché, but then again my life was a cliché so why should this night be any different?

We begin to climb the stairs, which were not as dirty as I thought. In fact the building looked about as clean as mine and I'm guessing the rents were one-third what I was paying. Hmmm, couldn't wait to see what the inside of Tino's place looked like. Even on a drug deal in East Harlem New Yorkers are still obsessed with real estate and who might be getting a better deal. Plus, if I was going back out, didn't it make sense to actually have a dealer in the building? You can't usually get those sorts of amenities below 96th Street.

Still I'd be lying if I didn't say a part of me was a little disappointed. I was hoping Harvey Keitel would be kicking down a door. Visions of Lou Reed passed out in a doorway had filled my mind. Yes, I was a little bit obsessed with the bad old days. I missed that New York. I caught the tale end of the 70s here, albeit from the comfort of Montclair, New Jersey. Still, I'd come into the city to visit my father and he'd take me down to Greenwich Village. Someone back then used to draw chalk outlines of bodies like the ones you see in crime scenes. Everything felt dangerous then. Now most of the city felt like a strip mall. Thank you Mike Bloomberg.

We got up to the fifth floor and knocked on the door. There was music from the other side but it wasn't Kanye West or Jay-Z. It was, I strained my ears, yes, it was The Stones. I could hear "Miss You" coming through the wall. Who knows, maybe I'd get my seventies night after all.

There was some shuffling and then a voice.

"Who dat?"

Well, it wasn't "true dat," but it was close enough.

"Tino? It's Audrey."

The door opened a little and the kid from the hotel stuck his face out.

"Who's he," Tino said looking at me.

"He's my friend."

"You look familiar," he said.

I shrugged.

"I know you?," he asked.

"I don't think so," I said, hoping he didn't really see me at the hotel earlier that afternoon. He might assume that I was stalking him instead of her.

"OK, well we were only expecting her but come on in."


He swung open the door and we walked into a railroad apartment. Tino led us down a long hall past three bedrooms, all with the doors shut, and a bathroom. At the end of the hall was a living room and the kitchen was next to it. In the kitchen around a little table were three kids filling baggies.

"Great, I get to see the sausage get made," I muttered to myself. Audrey dug her nails into my hand.

"Hey, grab a seat," Tino said pointing to a ratty looking couch against the wall of the living room next to a window that opened onto a fire escape.

"You want something to drink," he asked.

"Got any beer?," I asked.

"Cerveza," he barked to one of the kids at the table who got up went to the fridge and grabbed some bottles and brought them to me and Audrey. It was Bud. Might as well have asked for water. Even after three years clean and dry, this would still be weak.

"Thanks, " I said to the kid who just turned around went back to the table and picked up where he left off making little baggies.

"So," Tino said, "how much you want? As you can see I've got a sale going on."

I looked at Audrey and shrugged. Audrey held up five fingers.

"You got it sweetie, be right back."

Tino walked down the hall and went into the middle door. I heard some voices and a few minutes later he was back out. I wondered how many people were in this place right now.

He handed Audrey five bags and she handed him a wad of bills.

"You mind if I smoke," I asked.

"Well, can you go out on the fire escape?"

Great, a dealer with kids working for him selling crack was worried about second-hand smoke. The tobacco lobby really needs to kick it up a notch.

I got up and opened the window and started to climb onto the escape.

"Shit, it's alright man. Just smoke in here," he said.

"Thanks for the change of heart," I said.

I sat back on the couch.

"If you guys want to party a little here that's cool," he said.

"Well, we don't want to be in the way," Audrey said looking at the kids.

"You're not in the way, we're wrapping up for the evening anyway," he said before barking something in Spanish to the kids that sounded suspiciously like clean the shit up and get out. Well, better that than you hold the guy down while I fuck the shit out of the bitch. The kids begin to grab the baggies and throw them into a box.

A few minutes and a few bills later the kids were out of there. Now it was just down to me, Audrey, Tino and whoever was behind door number two. I almost wanted to ask but also realized it's probably best not to inquire.

Tino walked to the kitchen, came back out with a tray and straws and put it down on the table in front of us. I got the feeling that leaving without dipping in was not an option. I don't think Tino was quite yet sold on me.

Audrey started to open one of her bags but Tino waved his hands.

"Keep yours honey, this is on me."

"Thanks, that's sweet," she said.

Sweet seemed a weird thing to say but with Audrey everything was always sweet. I reached for my beer and another smoke while Tino put some powder on the tray for us and started to make some lines.

Just then, door number three opened up and a girl with nothing but a long t-shirt on came walking down the hall.

"Yo, what's with all the noise mother fucker, I need my beauty sleep."

She looked at Tino, then us, then the drugs.. She bent down, dipped her finger into one of the lines and lifted it to her nose and inhaled it.

"Fuck it. I'm up now."

She sat down on the chair across from us and stretched her legs on the table, the shirt came down to about mid-thigh.

"I'm Lucia, who are you?," she asked.

Audrey introduced us while Tino went to the kitchen.

"You two together?," she asked us.

"Uh, yeah, at least right now," I said.

"You fine," she said.

"Uh, thanks," I said.

"Not you, her."

Maybe I wasn't going to be shot after all. Maybe I'd finally have the threesome that I was too cheap to pay for and that would never happen in AA. Sober girls tended to have gotten all that out of their system. Of course, I had a knack for finding girls who had already gotten their threesome out of their system.

"Those are some nice shoes," Lucia said.

"Thanks," Audrey said.

I noticed just the slightest bit of tension in Audrey's voice. Funny. Coming over here to score, not a big deal. Sitting here with Tino while the munchkins made baggies. Whatever. Some chick eye fucks her and she freaks out.

I looked back at Lucia who had shifted her legs to a most un-lady like position. I was drawn to the tattoo on her inner thigh.

"Nice ink," I said, regretting the words as soon as they left my mouth.

Lucia looked down at her thigh and lifted it up to give a better view.

"Thanks," she said.

"Did it hurt?," I asked.

"Felt good," she said.

I could feel Audrey's eyes burning into me but fuck it, a hot girl with a t-shirt on was flashing and I wasn't going to look away.

"Yo, Tino what the fuck you doing in there? Bring me a drink bitch."

"What about you two, are you together," I asked. Suddenly I was mister chatterbox.

"Fuck no," she said.

"Oh then ..." I started to say when Audrey jumped in.

"Hey Tino, can I have a beer too?"

"Beast of Burden" started to play as I grabbed my cigarette and took a deep drag.

"You got one of those for me baby?," Lucia said.

I reached into my pack and handed her a cigarette. She grabbed it and put it in her mouth and stared at me. I stared back and after a few seconds she looked down at the matches and back at me.

"This cigarette isn't going to light itself," she said.

"My bad," I said not believing I really just said "my bad."

I grabbed the matches stood over her and lit one and held it up to her cigarette. While I was doing that she shifted her legs and gently brushed her foot against my calf while she inhaled. I stepped back and sat down hoping my response to her little tease wasn't noticeable either in my pants or to Audrey. The former seemed fine, but the latter gave Lucia a look. While that look might have worked on some upper east side girl flirting with your boyfriend, to a girl like Lucia it didn't even register.

I'm delusional, but I didn't think for a second that Lucia had any interest in me. This was about everyone else in the room.

Tino came back out of the kitchen with a beer for Audrey, what looked like a margarita for Lucia and another beer for me.

"You not having anything," I asked.

"I don't drink," said Tino.

"Never?," I asked.

"It stopped working for me," he said.

Great, I found the only sober drug dealer in the city.

So here we all sat in East Harlem. Me, the 40-ish event planner on night one of his relapse. My hot co-worker who I finally had sex with and now wishes I hadn't. Her drug dealer who may actually be sober and his hot friend or boss or partner who definitely wasn't.

Oh, and the mystery behind door number two. Yes, it was turning into quite the Friday night.

You ever have one of those nights where you feel like you are watching a movie of yourself? You know this is not going to turn out well and yet you can't stop. You have to see how it ends rather than walk out now in once piece. That's how I felt. This was not going to turn out well. REPEATS FROM EARLIER, REDO OR CUT.

Tino sat back down and watched us drink. I suddenly had to get off that couch, at least for a second.

"I have to go to the bathroom, is that all right?," I asked in my best Michael Corleone.

Tino pointed down the hall and said, "sure." I was kind of disappointed that he didn't say, "you gotta go, you gotta go."

I got up from the couch and walked down the hall. The bathroom was in between door number three and door number two. I walked quietly down the hall, went into the bathroom and shut the door as quietly as I could. There was no lock on the door. I put my ear next to the wall but couldn't really hear anything from door number two. I heard a lot of clicking. A video game? Maybe. At least one person in there though. I unzipped my pants and started to take a loud piss. I even grabbed a cup, filled it with water and poured that down the toilet. Then I opened the window, which was too small to climb out of and there was no escape there anyway. There was a tiny ledge.

Then I looked in the medicine cabinet. I saw a bottle of pills. It said Xanax. I grabbed three and put them in my pocket. I'd need them for the come down later. I flushed and jiggled the handle and then, for some reason unbeknownst to me, I opened up the top of the toilet. I don't know what I was expecting to find. I was probably hoping for a gun or a big bag of blow. Every few months you'd read a story in The Post about some homeless guy finding a kilo in an abandoned couch. This was better. Sealed up in plastic bags were stacks of bills. I'm not crazy. As tempting as it was it would take them about seven seconds to figure out where their money went.

I washed up and came back to the living room. Lucia was now sitting next to Audrey looking at her jewelry and Tino was on the other side of Audrey. Great, I was being squeezed out. I took Lucia's chair, picked up the tray and did a line. Then I took a swig and lit a cigarette. I did all this too fast and started to dry heave a little. I was starting to remember why I gave this shit up. The self-loathing. The coughing and puking. The finding yourself in scary apartments with drug dealers. Yeah, good times.

"You OK, sweetie?" Audrey asked.

"Yeah," I said gasping a little. "Just went down the wrong way," I added before taking a swig of beer.

"Really?," Lucia said. "You know how to go down the right way, because I haven't found a boy yet who does."

I swallowed my beer, laughed and said, "I don't get too many complaints."

Lucia turned to Audrey and started stroking her hair.

"What about that honey, does he do you right?"

Audrey's body tensed to Lucia's touch.

"Damn girl, chill. I'm not going to bite you, as much as I want to."

"Sorry," Audrey said, "that's not my thing."

"Don't be sorry," Lucia said. "Night's still early."

Audrey looked at me and grabbed her purse.

"Bathroom's down the hall right?" she asked. Tino nodded. Audrey got up and headed to the bathroom.

"Why you gotta fuck with everyone like that," Tino asked Lucia as Audrey shut the bathroom door.

"Fuck you, that bitch is too uptight," she said, before turning to me, "no offense."

I finished my cigarette and smiled. Lucia grabbed the tray and fueled up and handed it to me. I knew I didn't need anymore but does anyone ever turn it down when it's right in front of you? I did a tiny bit, not wanting a repeat of the heaves.

Then the toilet flushed and a few seconds later Audrey came back into the room.

"Well, we should probably be going," she said, putting her arm on my shoulder and squeezing hard.

I started to get up and grab my jacket.

"Do we have everything," I asked.

"Yes, we're good, " Audrey said.

She walked over to Tino and hugged him good bye then she extended her hand to Lucia, who shook it and then put her other hand on top of Audrey's hand.

"I'm sorry if I freaked you out honey," Lucia said.

"You didn't, but thank you," Audrey said.

"Good," Lucia said before leaning close and whispering something in Audrey's ear before gently biting and kissing it. Then she let her hand go.

"Well, on that note...," I said.

We started to walk down the hall, past door number two and the front door.

"Come back later, if you get bored, Lucia said.

"Sure thing," I said.

"I didn't mean you," she said.

Audrey gave me a slight shove to the door and we exited and made our way back down the stairs and into the street.

"What now," I said.

"I think I want to go to home," Audrey said.

The way she said it made it clear that she meant by herself. I didn't press. I should be grateful. We got out of there in one piece. Audrey did have the baggies though and if we were splitting up then I'd need to get my consolation prize.

"You want company?"

"I want a drink."

We walked up to Second Avenue and flagged a cab.

"85th Street please," Audrey said.

"Hey do you still have those beers in your bag," I asked.

"Yes," she said, reaching in to grab one for me.

I opened it up and took a swig and handed it to her.

"No, I need a whiskey."

The cab pulled up to 85th. We got out. I finished the beer and tossed the bottle into a can and we into a little bar.

"Get me a Jack and Coke," I'll be right back, she said as we entered. The place was packed with preps and Bon Jovi was blasting out of the jukebox. Nothing like hearing frat boys singing "Living on a Prayer."

Audrey walked to the back to the bathroom and I ordered her drink and a beer for myself. A few minutes later she appeared with a definite bounce in her step.

"Feeling better," I said.

"I am now," she said, sniffling a little.

"Well," I said, handing her drink to her, "here's to adventure."

We clinked our glasses together and I took a swig of my beer but Audrey just kept staring at her glass.

"Mother fucker," she said staring at the glass in her hand.


"That fucking cunt."


"My ring. That fucking cunt lifted my ring.”

Audrey took a big gulp of her drink and slammed it on the bar.

"That mother fucking cunt." Then she grabbed my hand.

"Let's go."

"Go where?"

"We're going back."


"No," she said not letting me finish. "My father gave me that ring and I'm not going to let some skank dyke rip me off."

Never bang a daddy's girl.

"Can we at least finish our drinks first," I pleaded with Audrey.

She grabbed hers and chugged it and slammed it back down on the bar so loud that even the bartender looked up.

"Done. Let's go."

"Look, we need a plan. We can't just go barging back in there."

"You're right. I'll call, tell him that bitch stole my ring and I need it back and he'll come right down here with it."

"Sounds good, lets do that."

"Look, I'm going up there, you coming or you going to let me go up there by myself."

I love when women whip out that one. She's about to do something stupid and if I don't go along I'm a pussy who won't fight for her honor. I've been there before and when a girl thinks you won't go to the mat for her you're done. Once years ago this guy kept grabbing my date's ass. We were all sitting together and he was drunk. She could've moved her seat but didn't. I, of course, offered to say something and she said no. The point was that I shouldn't have offered, I should've gotten up and punched the guy out.

And she was right. I should've and that was among the five moments in my life I'd like to do over again. I'll tell you the four other ones later although I have a feeling that one of them is about to be replaced.

"Why can't you call Tino and see if he can get the ring back," I asked.

"Hello? Did you not figure it out? She runs the show. He's afraid of her."

"So am I," I said only half-kidding.

"Anyway, I don't think she took it to keep it, she's going to sell it so we need to move."

"What, is it worth that much?"

"It's not worth a ton but she doesn't know that."

"See, I don't think she took it to sell. I think she took it to get at you," I said.

"Fine, I don't really a give a shit why she took it or what her deep psychological reason for it was. I just want my mother-fucking ring back. I told you, my dad gave that to me before he died."

That sealed it. Yes, we were going back to 116th Street.

"OK, fine. Let me get one more beer and give me some fuel. If I'm going to get killed I don't want to feel it."

"Fine," Audrey said, reaching into her purse and handing me a pack of a cigarettes. "It's in there."

"Just like I used to do," I said grabbing the pack and heading off to the bathroom.

I walked to the back of the bar and stopped by the jukebox.

Well some say life will beat you down
Break your heart, steal your crown
So I started out for God knows where
But I guess I’ll know when I get there

I listened to Petty until the end of the song and when it was followed up with Journey I went into the bathroom. Fuck. There was no lock on the door. I'd have to hit the stall and be quiet. Oh well, I was a pro. I went into the stall just as someone else came into to use the urinal. I waited until I heard a flush and then used the noise as a cover to do a couple of bumps. I got that nice quick jolt and an almost instant drip. I flushed my toilet and walked out of the stall. The other guy was at the sink washing up as I walked up, still sniffing slightly.

"You carrying?," he asked.

"Huh?," I said pretending not to understand what he was saying.

"You got any you can spare. Just say yes or no, but don't pretend man, I could hear your teeth grinding from outside the can. I just need a little hit."

He didn't look like a cop and I had to think that a cop would have something better to do then hangout in some wannabe Irish bar busting Upper East Side douche bags. On the other hand, if I were a cop that's what I'd want to do. Plus if I did get busted it would get me out of going back to East Harlem.

"Sure man, help yourself," I said, handing him the smokes.

"Wow, thanks man, appreciate it. I'm Jake," he said holding out his hand.

I shook it and introduced myself. He went into the stall and got a fix and came back out.

"Thanks again, good shit."

"Yeah, it's fresh. Not cut up with crap," I said.

"You got any you want to sell?"

"I don't, but I know someone who does if you want to take a little trip."

"Where?," he asked.

"116th Street?"

"Uh ..."

"Hey, I know, but it's for real. I'm not trying to rip you off. You found me. My girlfriend's at the bar and we were just going up there on a run so if you want to come feel free. It's safe," I said.

He thought about it for a few minutes and then said, "fuck it, let’s do it."

The two of us headed out of the bathroom and I led us over to Audrey who was already by the door.

"Audrey, this is Jake."

Audrey looked at Jake and me and Jake again.

"Uh, hi. You two know each other?"

"Not exactly, but Jake wanted to go with us on our little errand. Seems he needs some supplies. Tino won't mind us coming with some new business, right?" I asked with what for me passes for a wink.

"No, that should be just fine," Audrey said giving Jake a once over.

"Who knows, maybe we'll get a discount for the referral," I said getting a laugh out of her and Jake.

The three of us headed out into the street and started to look for a cab. Jake looked just a tad apprehensive.

"You good?," I asked.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm cool," he said nervously as the cab Audrey flagged pulled up..

"I told you, it's fine. You want a beer? She has some in her bag."

"Sure," he said.

The three of us piled in with Audrey in the middle and I asked her to hand me a beer.

I opened it, took a swig and handed it to Jake. Then I grabbed the magic pack of smokes and tried to make myself feel more indestructible. Audrey grabbed the pack and did some and handed it to Jake who poured some on his hand and snorted it up. Audrey then took his hand and licked the residue off. Maybe she was practicing getting her ring back.

"Sorry, I just didn't want it to go to waste," Audrey said with a wink.

"Uh, yeah OK," Jake said.

I wasn't sure if that move was her being fucked up, a flirt, mad at me or just crazy. But whatever it was, it kind of turned me on.

I grabbed Jake's beer and took a swig as the cab started to race back up First Avenue.

"What I'd tell you man," I said taking out a Marlboro lighting it and rolling down the window.

"Nothing but fun here."

"So Jake, what's your story," I asked our guest.

"Uh, what do you mean," he said.

"I mean, what do you do in our fair city?"

"Oh, I'm an actor and a personal trainer."


Damn. I thought for sure he was some Wall Street douche bag or lawyer. I felt a little guilty about dragging some struggling actor into our little drama to be a backup in a fight he doesn't know he's about to walk into. Oh well. When you're on the way down, you take hostages.

Our cab moved pretty fast. We were already at 105th Street.

"You been in anything I would've seen?" I asked. I don't know why I was so chatty. I hated people.

"I don't know. I've done some commercials and theatre, nothing big."

"Holy shit, I know where I've seen you," Audrey suddenly chimed in.

"Where?," Jake said.

"You were in that commercial for Tratorria's. You're the `try the gnocchi' guy."

Tratorria's was this cheesy restaurant chain that made Olive Garden look like Rao's.

"Yeah, that was me," Jake said excitedly.

"That ad's been on for like, what, three years?," she asked.

"Something like that. I still get a check every now and then."

I finished Jake's beer and handed Audrey the empty.

"What am I supposed to do with this?," she said.

"I don't know, put it in your bag."

"Fuck you," she said, tossing it on my lap. I grabbed it and stuck it inside my pocket.

"Hey, you got any more beers," Jake said. "I barely got any of that one."

"Sure gnocchi guy," Audrey said handing him one.

"What about me?" I asked.

"Suck on the empty," she said.

"I do something wrong," I asked.

"You know what you did," came the response.

"No, I know what I'm doing and I know what I didn't do so I don't see the problem."

"The problem is that it shouldn't have even been an issue in the first place."

Great, I failed the man test without even failing it.

The cab pulled was stopped at 112th. I looked down the street and saw a group of people hanging outside a church having a smoke and drinking coffee. Audrey and Jake watched me watching them.

"What, is it bingo night there or something?" Jake asked.

"Yeah, something like that," I said. Although this was out of my neighborhood, I thought I actually recognized a dude there from my lunch meeting. A crackhead named Edwin who kept going in and out. Looked like he was in tonight.

The light turned and the church disappeared from view. About a minute later we were at 116th. The cab stopped. Audrey paid and we all got out.

"Hey can I get a swig," I said to Jake when we were on the street.

"Sure," he handed me his beer.

I took a sip and handed it back and lit a cigarette and looked up the street at Tino's building. There were still people hanging on the street but the stoop itself was clear.

"We going to call first?," I asked.

"We don't need to," Audrey said. "You know Tino. We can just pop in."

"Great, I'm sure drug dealers love the pop-in as much as us regular folks."

Jake laughed a nervous laugh.

"Don't worry, Jake. He's just being a jerk and anyway, you're a big guy."

"Yeah, Jake you'll be fine. I'm going to get a pack of smokes.."

I turned and walked to the corner bodega and bought some Marlboros. I don't know why. I had a pack-and-a-half in my jacket and she had at least a pack.

While I was pulling out my wallet I looked in the mirror above the register and saw four guys in the back just hanging out. They caught my glance and I looked away and when the cashier handed me my change I hustled out of there. I'd made the fatal New York mistake and made eye contact with strangers and I don't know why but those guys gave me a bad vibe. Actually, I did know why. They looked like bad guys. The last thing I needed to be was an appetizer for whatever their big meal was.

"OK, boy and girl ready to roll?," I said when I hit the street..

We crossed the street and headed to Tino's building. Audrey tried the door and it was locked. She started to hit the buzzer.

"I thought the buzzer was broke," I said.

"Maybe you should call," Jake said.

Audrey kept pushing the button when all of a sudden the door buzzed and I grabbed it.

"Well, I guess it got fixed," she said.

We started the climb up the stairs. It was quieter now. I was in the lead with Audrey next to me and Jake behind. It was not the order I would have chosen.

We reached the top of the stairs and I knocked on the door, which was slightly ajar.

"Come on in," a new voice said.

I looked at Audrey and raised my eyebrows a little. Her eyes said "what?" back at me.

I rolled my eyes and pushed the door open and walked in with Audrey and Jake behind me. The long hall was dark as was the living room but there was light coming from the kitchen.

"We're in the kitchen," the voice said again as we proceeded into the hallway. The door had just shut behind us and I was getting ready to say something when I felt a breeze as door number two suddenly swung open I turned quick enough to see the gun, but not quick enough to get out of the way.

The butt of the gun clipped me on the side of the head. It hurt. At least it wasn't a bullet. Small favors.

If that wasn't bad enough, the impact of the hit sent me flying into the wall and then I hit the ground and landed right on the empty bottle in my jacket, which promptly shattered sending glass fragments into my chest and stomach. Audrey screamed and Jake turned around and ran back to the door. The guy who hit me went after Jake, got him by the back of his jacket and threw him to the ground. Another guy came out of door two with a gun drawn. Audrey's ring was definitely not worth all this.

"Where do you think you're going?," he barked.

"Uh, I was .... "

I rolled over on my back and said, "He was going to put another quarter in the meter."

That got me a swift kick in the ribs, which had the dual effect of reminding me about restraint of pen and tongue and driving a few more glass fragments into me.

"You think you're funny?," our host asked. "Who the fuck are you anyway."

Audrey, the public relations expert decided this would be a good time to explain our presence and try out her skills.

"Hi, I'm Audrey. We were here earlier and left something here and came back to get it," she said in her calm voice.

"Oh yeah, what'd you leave?," psycho number one asked.

"I left a ring here," Audrey said. "I'm Audrey, by the way, what's your name."

I was still on the ground and in pain or I would've rolled my eyes..

"I heard you the first time bitch." Then he looked down at me and Jake, who was also still on the ground.

"And who the fuck are these two?"

Audrey introduced us. Shouldn't someone say what a lovely evening and would we like some tea?

"Get up," psycho number one said to me and Jake.

Jake hopped up. Me? I took a little longer. Too long I guess because the next thing I knew psycho number two was grabbing me and pulling me up. Then we were escorted down the hall and into the living room.

Once in there we were greeted by the sight of Lucia and Tino bound and gag to their chairs in the little kitchen and a third psycho standing by them. Lucia and Tino looked at us and each other.

"Who are they?," psycho number one asked Lucia and Tino.

Psycho number three took off Tino's gag.

"They're nobody man. Just customers," Then to us, "Audrey, what the fuck are you doing back here?"

"I came back for my ring," she said.


"Yeah, that one stole my ring."

Tino looked at Lucia who rolled her eyes.

"That's it, they're customers?," said psycho number one.

"Yeah Victor, that's it they don't have anything to do with this shit so let them go."

I resisted the urge to say that sounded like a good plan.

Victor looked us all over and then looked at Audrey.

"Where's this ring you came for?," he asked.

Audrey looked at Lucia and pointed.

"It's on her hand," she said.

Victor looked at the psycho number three.

"Ricky, get this bitch her ring back from that bitch."

Ricky walked over to Lucia and without hesitating pulled out a knife and cutoff her ring finger and tossed it, ring attached at Audrey.

"There's your ring bitch, " Ricky said while blood spurted out of the base of where Lucia's ring finger used to be and she bit through her gag and screamed. Ricky grabbed a beer from the table and poured it onto Lucia's wound.

"That'll keep it clean babe."

"Aren't you going to take your ring Audrey?," Victor asked.

Audrey looked at Lucia's finger on the floor and threw up.

"Whoa, you better not puke on me bitch," Victor said. Then he bent over and picked up the finger and put it in Audrey's face.

"Now take your ring back. You came all this way for it."

Audrey reached out and took the ring off the finger and then started to run down the hall when psycho number three grabbed her.

"Let me go, I'm going to throw up again."

"Let her go Hector, it's OK."

Hector let Audrey go and she ran in the bathroom and we all got to hear her barf into the toilet.

I looked over at Lucia whose eyes were moist and her skin was pale. She was still bleeding profusely and looked like she was going into shock.

I looked at Victor, who was still holding Lucia's finger.

"Can we at least put the finger on ice," I said.

"What?," Victor said..

"It could still be reattached."

"You care about her?," Victor asked me. Then he threw the finger at me, took out his gun, walked over to Lucia and pointed it her head.

I caught the finger and staggered to the kitchen. My head still hurt but I wasn't bleeding. My chest was cut up from the bottle and blood had soaked through my shirt, but I was OK. I opened the freezer and put Lucia's finger on ice.

"Victor, don't," Tino pleaded.

"What? You think you have any say in what happens to her, Tino. You're next you don't give me what I'm after."

"I told you, I don't have it."

The toilet flushed. Audrey came out and walked back towards us.

"You feel better honey?," Victor asked.

Audrey kept silent.

"Hope you at least brushed your teeth. I don't want to be tasting puke later."

Audrey started to back down the hall but Hector grabbed her arms.

"Just stay there," Hector said.

I opened the fridge and grabbed a beer and twisted the cap off.

"What the fuck are you doing?," Victor asked. "You just open up someone's fridge and take what you want? Who the fuck raised you?"

"Sorry, I'm thirsty."

"Put the fucking beer down and get over there and sit down. Hector, put the other two over there."

I sat in a chair at the table by the kitchen while Audrey and Jake were shoved on the couch.

"You're awfully quiet big boy," Hector said to Jake.

Jake sat there. His eyes were tearing up.

"Don't kill me," he said.

"Yeah, it's a little late for that," Victor answered. "You're all dead."

They say you can control when you go out. You can't control when you come back.

Now I know what they meant. I had often wondered how I'd go. To be honest, I always figured I'd have coke-induced heart attack after a night with whores, porn, phone sex and loneliness. Then I'd rot for at least three days before someone would come looking for me. Hopefully there'd be enough food in the cat dishes so they wouldn't start chewing on me. And until the toxicology came back, my mom would think I just had some undetected heart defect. I was usually pretty good at cleaning up the scene of the crime after my binges.

Then I got sober and the grim reality that I might actually live a long time started to sink in. We all keep living longer and I'm not so sure it's such a good idea. We're not built to take care of all these 80 year-olds. I'd rather go out while I was still in control of my shit.

And now I wasn't in control of anything. I was the wrong place at the wrong time guy you always read about in the New York Post. There would be a page one story in The New York Times when this was all over about how the lives of two New Yorks converged in one bloody night in East Harlem. Some 25 year-old chump would write the story I dreamed of writing that would win the Pulitzer. He'd feast off of our wrong turn. Hell, it would probably become a book and then a movie.

On the plus side, everyone who thought they knew me would be blown away at how I went out. Every girl I'd ever been with would suddenly reevaluate every minute we were together to see what signs they had missed. They'd count their blessings and instead of some sarcastic asshole who couldn't be faithful that they'd wasted a few years with, I'd become their cautionary tale and their brush with danger.

"Did you know he was into all that?" Their friends would ask.

"Well, he definitely had an edge to him." The girls would all say back.

Yes, I was about to die and this was the kind of shit running through my head. Audrey was on the couch with her head resting on her knees. Jake's eyes were closed and he was talking to himself and holding Audrey's hand. I was still in the kitchen looking at a half-empty beer calling my name. Fuck it, if I was going out I must well have some more beer. I reached out and grabbed the bottle and chugged it down. Victor turned and looked at me and didn't say anything. In fact no one was saying anything. Lucia was passed out or in shock. Tino had wrapped her hand and at least stopped the bleeding. I don't think that finger is getting back on her hand. When Victor looked away from me I slipped the bottle into my pocket.

"Can I have a cigarette," I asked Victor.

"Fuck, I don't care, have your last cigarette," he said.

I reached into my pocket and grabbed a fresh pack and opened it up and lit a smoke. Audrey looked up at me. I shrugged and tossed her the pack. She took one, lit it and handed the pack to Jake. Pretty soon the whole room was smoky. Victor opened up the window, the one I had almost climbed out of earlier for a smoke, the one with the fire escape.

I didn't know what my plan was, but getting that window open was definitely part one. Part two somehow involved the bottle and the knife that I was still carrying and part three would have something to do with that stash of money.

While I was busy fantasizing, Ricky walked over to Hector and whispered in his ear.

"Shit man, I don't care. Do what you want," Hector said.

Ricky then walked over to the couch and grabbed Audrey.

"Get off of me."

"Come on honey, time to have some fun."

"Don't do this," she pleaded.

"Don't fight it," he said.

He pulled her from the couch and dragged her to the bedroom. Audrey grabbed her purse. Jake and I sat there like pussies. To be fair, there wasn't much we could do and honestly, it was now two against two.

I looked over at Jake and tried to make eye contact but he was still in another world.

"Jake, you OK?"

"No, I'm not OK. I'm not OK at all. I don't even know what I'm doing here. I don't even know you. An hour ago I'm sitting in a bar minding my own business and now I'm about to die. I mean, what the fuck?"

"Yeah, it's messed up."

Just then there was noise from down the hall. Audrey was screaming and then there was a loud crash.

"Now shut up already bitch," Ricky said.

I could hear him tearing at her dress. I looked out the window and in the building across the way but no one looked back.

The bed in the other room begun to squeak. Audrey was crying. Ricky was breathing heavy. The bed begin to really crash into the wall. All of a sudden the noise stopped. I looked at Jake and then at Victor and Hector. Then the bed started to move again.
I grabbed another cigarette and had just lit it when Audrey screamed again.

"No, don't please."

There was another crash and Audrey screamed again.

Victor nodded at Hector who went down the hall to see what was going on.

Hector knocked on the door.

"Ricky, what the fuck?," Hector said.

There was no answer.

I could hear Hector start to open the door. Victor also moved towards the hallway. I reached into my pocket and got the bottle out. Tino watched me and nodded his head and grabbed another bottle.

Hector opened the door.

"Ricky? Girl what the fuck did you do. Fuck"

Now it was time for Hector to scream. It was more of a gurgle. He came staggering out of the hall clutching his throat as blood spurted out on the floor and collapsed into the living room

Not wanting to waste a moment and having no idea what the fuck was going on I threw my bottle as hard as I could at Victor and got him in the back. Tino then smashed him in the head with his bottle and shoved him to the ground, grabbed his gun and pumped two bullets into him.

Audrey came out of the bedroom covered in blood.

"Are you OK."

"No, I'm not OK, I'm pretty fucked up. But that mother fucker's dead."

"I think everyone's dead," I said.

"Except us."