Dealer’s Choice (?)

Posted on May 2, 2010

Full House (?)

Full House (?)

I am sitting Indian-style on the floor of my living room digging through tattered shopping bags overflowing with books.

My roommate placed them in this spot sometime last year.

They are allegedly destined for a charity or a dumpster or something, but they haven’t made it yet.

The situation doesn’t look promising.

I have plucked several titles that feel relevant and interesting from the dusty abyss, and they are now strewn about the floor surrounding me.

My roommate enters from stage right.

I watch as he directs a perfunctory glance toward my picks and I study his face as he takes them in.

“A Glimpse of Heaven.” “Jesus.” “The Book of Enoch the Prophet.” “The Reformation.”

I am a duck. Sitting.

“Look, I can save you a bunch of time and just tell you all about the God racket. Trust me, you’ll have that holy-roller screaming “Hallelujah” in no time,” he says.

He says this with no verbal inflection at all. It’s hard to tell if he’s kidding.

I’ve long suspected that my roommate spies on me and the statement he’s just made does little to pacify my paranoia on the topic.

He just knows too much. Especially because I haven’t really divulged anything yet.

After all, we just met six weeks ago.

I laugh then because I think he wants me to and also because I am uncomfortable.

And then I pause attempting to foreshadow a vibe switch, which is imminent.

I am hoping to warn him that the forthcoming moment will be a sober one. A serious one.

He should try exceedingly hard not to say anything dumb or irritating.

And when I feel the moment settle, I quietly tell him that I believe that I actually may have felt something last night…standing there amongst all those believers, I mean…

This feeling, while not completely foreign, had felt excruciatingly distant and buried; and then it fled. It vanished as quickly as it had appeared, and now I know that I must find it again.

It will necessitate thorough examination and honest appraisal.

I think I want to read these books, I tell him. For me.

I allow my words to trail off and he turns and walks away as if I hadn’t spoken. As he retreats, he mutters aloud about a time when he was 19 and had almost joined the priesthood.

My roommate used to be a banker but he got laid off, and now he runs an online porn business from his bedroom while collecting unemployment.

The man knows how to work his way around a lemon.

My phone rings.

Do I have a moment for a brief survey?

There’s a real-live human on the phone. This isn’t one of those automated surveys. I find it hard to hang up on another human. Especially one with a really shitty job.

He’s not selling anything, he is saying. Please, can he just ask me two quick questions?

I’m feeling benevolent. I’m also feeling sad that he is doing a job that could be done far more efficiently by an automated system. I agree to answer his two quick questions. He is grateful. He prefaces the first question by stating that I was selected for this survey because I live in the greater Los Angeles area and have a car… I interrupt him. I’m in New York. I don’t know how to drive. I’ve had my cell number for many years now.

Oh, wow, I love New York, he is saying.

I tell him there are t-shirts for people like him.

He misses the joke.

I should be careful. I should be aware over there, he is saying. It is important to stay safe.

God bless you, he says.

And then he is gone. The line goes dead and I sit for a long moment staring as the screen of my phone fades to black. I am trying to remember the last time someone blessed me just for the hell of it.

I know that Hugo thinks I’m a whore.

Hugo is the overnight concierge in my building.

I don’t blame him for thinking his thoughts; no matter how flattering or offensive I may or may not find them… I mean, it’s actually a very logical conclusion.

I’ve lived in this complex for nearly two years and I’ve only seen Hugo a handful of times; usually when he is covering a day shift.

But recently Hugo has become a featured player in my world. A constant…

He provides the necessary punctuation when my nights and days blend and the world feels senseless as I amble through his office bleary-eyed and wanton, but trying very hard to appear normal.

Hugo probably thinks I’m on drugs the way I carry on.

The asinine hours I’ve been keeping do nothing to dispel this notion. Besides, whores and drugs go together. It makes sense.

Hugo is wrong though. I’m not on drugs. And I’m not having sex with even one person, let alone the multitudes of people that real whores are required to muck about with.

Still. Hugo has no way of knowing that the people keeping me up all night are good, solid Christians.

They don’t do drugs.

They don’t arbitrarily fornicate to satiate the demands of the feral beast within.

They fight temptation.

They hope they will be rewarded with deliverance from evil.

Maybe I should divulge these details to Hugo. He’s Spanish. The Spaniards dig Jesus.

Maybe he’ll understand me.

Maybe we’ll bond and bless one another for no particular reason.

I consider this only briefly before I decide to let Hugo think what he wants to. I don’t actually care.

Besides, I somewhat enjoy the cloak of shadowy mystery that has been cast upon me thanks to Hugo’s visions of me turning tricks while hopped up on crank.

Further, I know that Hugo spends the majority of his shift sleeping in his chair, all sloppy and slumped over and drooling on the front desk and shit.

He should be eagle eyed and alert, vigilantly guarding the entry gate and protecting the residents from ill-intended interlopers. I also know that Hugo is far more intimately acquainted with Dolores, the Dominican cleaning lady with the sunny-disposition, than a man who is married to a woman who is not Dolores, should be.

I may be riff-raff but I have sources too.

And any secret worth keeping is also, for someone, worth telling.

Hugo is lucky that I’m not that someone. For me, his secret isn’t worth telling.

Besides, I only come out at night these days, and anyone who might care about Hugo and Dolores is definitely asleep then.

If I bothered to form an opinion on Hugo, I would not speak of it. I would take care and hold my tongue, thus ensuring that defamatory untruths should never tumble from my lips.

I doubt that Hugo is equally prudent.

He swathes his conjecture-laden opinions of me in fabric that bears a striking resemblance to the fabric donned by men who uttereth facts. Things become convoluted. And then, with reality and fiction inextricably intertwined, Hugo is free to disseminate his open-ended fairytales to the masses.

I imagine that he speaks in haughty tones while perched on a make-shift podium spreading his falsified notions of me and my whore-ish nature while they listen eagerly and blindly accept his gospel without question.

Which is sad because, like I’ve said, Hugo’s version of me is mostly completely inaccurate

I wonder what the other residents of my condo complex think of me. The complex has three hundred and sixty some-odd apartments in it. They are spread out among three buildings.

It’s reasonable to think that the other residents may not think anything of me at all…

Perhaps they’ve never noticed me…

I allow the idea to tumble around the soft tissue of my brain. It grazes through billions of neurons. It plays tag with my synapses. It chats with the axons and then expresses a few frustrated feelings to the suprachiasmatic nucleus before it is suddenly washed away altogether by a flash flood of endorphins.

I should like to believe that I have gone unnoticed in these parts…

But I know better…

At one time this complex was a tin-can factory.

During the war, the factory stopped producing tin and it produced arms for the military instead.

I don’t really know which war all that happened during, but I assume it was sometime after The Civil and before Operation Desert Storm.

During the 90’s, the factory was converted into pricey condos with 25 ft. ceilings and lofts.

The location of the factory is far more suitable for fancy housing than mass production of tin anyway. The buildings are perched on a cliff overlooking the Hudson River which provides a very unique and exclusive vista of the entire New York City skyline. You could even see The World Trade Center. Back before it was destroyed by the evildoers, obviously….

This is the sort of place that people aspire to live in.

This is the sort of place that pits the condo owners who still reside here against the condo owners who bought cheap back in the day, and now charge vagrants like me astronomical sums of money to rent their units, so they can chill and drink white wine spritzers from the safety of the veranda in their Long Island McMansions.

Don’t get me wrong; the people who live here are nice. I mean that.

And I’m not being snide just because I consider “nice” to be the most useless adjective around.

But just below the surface, these are people who possess an innate distrust of the vagabonds who camp here for short while.  They rest with one eye up.

They aspired to live here and now they do, and as such, they will protect their quality of life by any means necessary.

It’s hard to find fault in that.

As such, they keep careful track of we ‘transients.’ I’m sure they have files on each of us. After all, they have a community to keep safe.

My roommate probably helps them. After all, he owns his condo…but he also rents his space.

He is a double agent… the problem and the solution.

No wonder he knows so much about me.

I ponder the facts in my file…

These people know that when I moved here in August of 2008, “I” was half of a “we”. “We” lived in the C building. They know that the other half of my former “we,” is a musician. They know that we sublet our place to some strange characters last year and we moved to Maui for a while. They know that we keep odd hours. They know that we used to fight sometimes. They know that, on occasion, we would fight loudly. They know that we smoke. They know that a month ago I moved to the A building. They know that I smoke far less now. They know that I spent the week prior to the move painting my new room a snazzy shade of green. They think that it’s strange that “we” are still friends and that I only moved across the corridor. We know what they think.

We don’t care.

But now, thanks to Hugo and probably my roommate, they know that I gallivant like a hooligan far into the wee hours of the night or the morning or whatever, doing God knows what, with God knows whom, as I flagrantly shun all that is righteous and holy.

If only they knew, I think.

But they know only what they know, and they know only what Hugo hath told them.

And Hugo only knows half of the story, obviously.

No harm, no foul, I guess.

While I do wish that we might avert our collective gaze, and somehow implicitly agree that no one saw or heard anything; I can’t say that I blame poor Hugo for his part in this.

He is merely honoring the other agreement that he’s made: he will barter vital intel about the drifters and the gypsies and the ruffians such as myself, in exchange for absolution and faux-ignorance of the fact that he sleeps when he is being paid to work and fucks his girlfriend while she is being paid to clean.

Means. End. Justification. Survival. Understanding.

I get it.

We all have our thing.

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