by Tom Lombardi
in the kitchen, chopping shallots. Cooking dinner for a
girl. About time, damnit. About four in the morning, actually.
Hemore hiccups. Maybe five. For the amount of absinth he
consumed at the party, though, he's feeling inordinately
lucid. The kind of lucidity it requires one to descend a
three-story building via a rickety firescape ladder in order
to retrieve a fallen jacket belonging to a Texan girl whose
name he can't remember, alcoholics cheering above but you
know they secretly want to see the fall, the splat, the
blood. The bastards. Man, there's something different about
this girl. He should call his parents.
Bling Bling's in the living room, cutting up lines. From
his position at the mobile kitchen cart, he watches her
dark hair hang before her face as she inhales a line off
the table on which a candle burns happily. Probably the
fact that she's visiting from Texas has something to do
with her undeniable likeability. Hemore says, "Enough
sexiness in that accent to round up a troop of hard-ons."
She says, in an overly-exaggerated accent, "You tryin'
to tawk Texan, bawh?"
"Nah," Hemore says, practically pureeing the shallots
as a means of staying away from the coke. "It's all
just speed these days, isn't that true, Bling?"
Evidently she's too busy re-rolling the dollar bill to respond.
Known her for half a night and already he's truncating her
nickname. On her t-shirt, short enough to reveal a portion
of her belly, it says Bling Bling over a picture of a diamond
ring off of which yellow smears dart outward so as to indicate
the marvelous glimmer of the stone. What's her real name
again? Her husband would know. As would her boyfriend. For
the record, though, she recently moved out of her husband's
house, the divorce pending. Like Hemore, she was married
for eight years. So she's got a boyfriend. Pretty girls
don't last long without boyfriends. If Hemore were a girl,
he'd do the same thing.
Barefoot, she approaches the kitchen. "I'd kill to
live in this place."
God damn she's wife material! "But it's small,"
Hemore says. "I mean, look at the bathroom. It's like
an airplane bathroom with a tub."
"Awe you shouldn't be so ashamed of yourself."
Utterly bemused, he watches her enter his bathroom. Ashamed?
He begins to speak to the closed door: "Can you imagine
if they actually designed this place? Some architect coming
in and screaming, 'No, you've got it all wrong. I want an
airplane bathroom! A commercial jet feel!'"
He hears her peeing.
"Awe why you have herpes cream in your medicine chest?"
Herpes. Hemore's chest flutters. Does he have it? Wait,
no. "Oh," he says, opening the bathroom door,
"ha! Good joke."
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" With
her jeans wrapped around her ankles, she's sitting on the
seat, her big eyes suddenly looking vulnerable.
"I want to watch you pee."
"Nah don't tell me you're into that. Please don't."
"I'm not into golden showers if that what you're implying."
Hunched over on the toilet, Bling Bling shrugs.
"I'm not, you know."
"Whatever floats your boat, boy."
"No it's just, it turns me on to see a woman using
the bathroom with, you know . . . a certain, like, sense
"Awe you miss being in a relationship, that's what
"No I don't."
She wipes, pulls up her pants, flushes, and exits.
Maybe he misses having someone over, interacting the old-fashioned
way before big cities erupted and people began meeting in
restaurants. Wasn't he cooking? Bling Bling is washing her
hands at the kitchen sink, and Hemore decides to stand behind
her the way a loving husband would. He decides to embrace
her. It is a loving moment. Before he knows it, though,
he's using his open palm to sand the circumference of her
butt and saying, "I was like, good gracious ass is
"Lyrics. From a song. They were playing it tonight,
don't you remember? I think we danced to it, Dog. That's
what the hip hoppers call each other. Dog. Wait, did we
"You're asking the wrong gal."
"So you ever, like, look in the mirror and say, 'God
dayam I have a nice ass'?"
Bling Bling looking back over her shoulder. "You want
to be alone with my butt?"
"Look, I'm sorry, it's just" -- Hemore kisses
her earlobe, embracing her husbandly again -- "I really
like you. I really like everything about you."
Bling Bling turns around and smiles. Contrary to Hollywood
standards, her two front teeth are much larger than they
should be, like miniature piano keys. And her nose is bigger
than, say, the average nose you see on the cover of a magazine,
but so --
Then her jeans are wrapped around her ankles again, her
bare ass plopped atop the kitchen cart, the shallots haven
fallen to the floor. Hemore tonguing her inner thigh (hairless
and muscular and beach-deprived) briefly while taking a
quick sniff of her cunt. It smells exactly as it should.
Vaguely vaginal, with just a hint of human scent. The ones
that do not smell scare him, as do the ones that smell overly
human. Probably better to have one smell than not, because
what can an odorless one possibly say about its bearer?
Pondering, Hemore takes an introductory jab at it with his
tongue. It flowers open slightly in response. At which point
the pondering begins to fade into a soft drone as the pleasure
occupies his veins with the force of something foreign that
is capable of wreaking permanent damage to various organs.
On the bed, Bling Bling saying, "Yeah, just like that.
But I want to feel you up against my back when you do it."
"Like that?" Hemore inquires, screwing confidently.
"Oh yeah I think that's just fine by me."
"Now put your cock in my mouth."
Traditionally, Hemore knows, that sort of command should
turn him on. Presently, however, it scares him. Nonetheless,
"You sure you don't want some?"
"Just thought I'd ask is all."
"How is it?"
"It's speedy, though, right?"
"It ain't decaf."
"Maybe a little taste."
"Famous last words?"
"That's a small one. Actually, that's good, though."
"Your place is cozy."
"Hey yeah you're right, it's not bad. Maybe a little
"It's all gone, Dawg. Oops. No it's not."
"I like it when you call me Dog. So you like my place?"
"Say would you ever hang out with me if I lived up
"You mean, would I ever date you?"
Bling Bling nodding.
"Yeah. And you, I mean, would you ever, like, you know,
"Yeah," Bling Bling says in her Texan accent,
They should just get married. Good things come to those
who wait. Good things wait to those who come. Hemore is,
he realizes, feeling lucid again. He inhales one more line.
Good gracious ass is bo dacious! Then picks up the phone
to dial his mother.
Chances are she's up praying for the world, as she has an
addiction to do. No answer. Something gone wrong, something
concerning his father? The voice mail picks up and beeps.
"Hi Mom, it's me. Listen, I know it's real early, but
there's someone here I want you to meet. Well, not meet,
you know, but talk to. Someone special. Okay? Call me back,
okay? Bye. Love you."
"Hi MOM!" Bling Bling shouts before Hemore hangs
The sunlight is coating everything in the room yellow.
Chemicals are collect in Hemore's throat. His teeth are
Novocain-numb. What's this shit cut with, Ajax? Did he just
call his mother? Bling Bling is standing next to the little
round table, her favorite spot in his bed/living room. She
is fully clothed again. How'd that happen so fast?
"I thought," she says, sniffling, "you were
cooking up some grub."
"Oh, right." Hemore makes a b-line for the kitchen
to open the bottle of white wine that's been sitting in
his refrigerator for so long he's surprised people in lab
coats haven't shown up to take fossil samples. Man, he's
opening it. Because he's sick of not having a dining partner
with whom to exchange let's-face-it, you're-ecstatic-you-met-me
glances while, say, peppering the salad. Sick of that chilled,
undrunk bottle of wine transforming into a stark reminder
that you can't get a girl over for a romantic evening. So
open it, mother fucker. But drinking it by yourself is anything
but celebratory. Never says on the back of the bottle that
it's "a fruity and full-bodied delight for those nights
when you wish you had someone over."
Chicken breasts sit in a pot of water, the contents of which
look as though someone has mistakenly ejaculated into it.
Hemore says, "We'll just have a salad, okay? Wow, I'm
like one of those chefs on coke . . . hello?"
Apparently she's too busy re-rolling the dollar bill to
Efficiently, Hemore slices cucumbers and tomatoes and then
dumps them into two separate bowls, squirts on some balsamic
vinegar, some olive oil, shakes some parmesan onto it, salt
and pepper, and that's it. "Salads should be simple,"
he says, carrying the two bowls into the living/bed room.
She's cut up the last of the coke on the little round marble
table he got from his Grandmother after she died. His and
Her lines. It's like something out of a Pottery Barn catalogue
gone wrong. Holding a salad bowl in each hand, Hemore leans
down to snort his designated line, Bling Bling holding the
dollar bill for him.
And the candle on the table no longer affects the room since
the sunlight has apparently taken over lighting responsibilities.
And why is she looking over his shoulder as if a waiter
is standing there? "Wait," he says, sipping wine,
"what are you looking at?"
"You were just looking over my shoulder like there
was someone there."
"I have a ghost following me around."
"Awe forget what I said. This salad is good . . . Dawg."
"I wish we could forget what you just said, but it's
too late for that. Now, let met get this straight. Did you
just say you have a ghost following you around?"
"That's what I said."
Peppering his salad, Hemore contemplates kicking her out.
But what if the ghost stays? "Fine," he says,
"but you can't just blurt out something like that and
not explain it."
"Awe right. This guy I dated for a bit when my husband
and I decided to take a breather, it was just a little breather,
you know how that works?"
"I'm very familiar with the breather."
"Anyhow his mother hated my guts. She had no reason
in the world to. I think she was just a jealous ho, pardon
my French. Cause he was a mama's boys in the worst way,
you know? Mama make your din din. Mama do your laundry.
Mama jerk your pee-pee under the table."
"Nah but you know what I mean. Okay. To make a long
story short, she died. It was all very sad. He was real
broken up. In fact, I've never seen some one so broken up.
I'm talkin' arms over there, legs over there, torso on the
bus, you know what I'm saying?"'
"Then, a few days later, after the funeral and all,
I saw her in my bedroom."
"Jesus Christ, Bling Bling."
"Yep. And I saw her in my car once. I saw her a few
other times, I guess . . ." Bling Bling shoves her
hands under her thighs and gives one of her rare smiles,
her tiny piano keys gleaming in the morning light: "Like
I told you, she follows me round."
Hemore turns, surveying the kitchen. No one there. His heart
starts to beat in crack-head mode. That from the coke or
some evil presence in the room? Ghosts! He can't even watch
scary movies. They scare him, that's why. With all the fear
in the world, why are people paying to be scared? That's
what terrorists are for. Bitch! Hemore says, "Why'd
you tell me this?"
"You think I would've if I knew how much it'd bother
"Are you fucking insane?"
"Don't you cuss at me. I'm just telling you something
about me is all."
"Fair enough. But I don't think I want to hear this
particular fact. I think you can agree that's a pretty uh
. . . decent request. I think you can agree that's a pretty
decent thing to ask of you. Christ almighty." Hemore
wipes his nose. "I mean shit, what if this woman decides
to stay after you leave? You can't ask a ghost to leave,
can you? You going to hold the door for her and wait --"
"I'm sorry I met you."
"Damn right you're sorry."
"Excuse me but I'm trying to apologize. Don't you chastise
me, buddy. I won't stand for a chastising."
"Okay, I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry too."
"It's just that, it's going to be really hard to sleep
after you leave. I just don't do well with the idea of ghosts
lingering. Didn't sleep too well when I was a kid. In fact
"I'm sorry and there's nothing else more to say about
They resume eating. In silence. Their first fight? Good.
Bling Bling takes a few bites of the salad, chews indifferently,
as if she's had so many better salads in her life but will
continue to consume this one as an apathetic attempt to
appease the chef, the coked-up chef, in this case, but really
her pathetic attempt to eat it only hurts the coked-up chef,
and he'd rather she just not bother. She puts her fork down,
only to stare out the window, the sunlight firing up the
loose strands of her dark hair. Damn, it's all of a sudden
one of those moments in coupledom when it's clear both parties
would rather be anywhere so long as the other party wasn't
Unlike Bling Bling, Hemore appreciates the salad, and he's
chewing a tomato chunk -- goddamn how the hell is he going
to sleep with a potential ghost hanging out? -- when he
sees a drop of blood drip out Bling Bling's nostril and
land dead-center onto a slice of cucumber.
"Hey your nose is bleeding."
Her big eyes staring back at him, looking watery and terrified.
"Let me get you something," he says, getting up.
"God you're right. I'm so sorry, darling. This has
never happened to me before. Awe I ruined your dinner."
"Please. If it weren't for you, I wouldn't have cooked."
"I want you to visit me in Tejas."
"I'd love to."
"Then it's settled."
"Hey I don't have any tissues. Housekeeper's been out
sick all week, you know how it is. Anyway, toilet paper
will have to do."
"Story of my life."
"Now, hold your head back a little. Like that."
"You are what they call a sweetie pie, you know that?"
Cunnilinging Bling Bling, his back warming up from the sunlight,
Hemore surreptitiously toys with his soft penis, hoping
she won't notice. Shouldn't have done the coke. Get up.
Dirty drug. Get up! It does. That is to say it begins to
rise. He puts on a condom and slips it inside.
"What's the matter?"
"Nothing," Hemore says, humping self-consciously,
"why do you ask?"
"No! I can feel it, it's not working. Stop."
He gets out and sits up, his dick practically sleeping.
"You gay or something?"
"Oh give me a break."
"How do I know?"
"You never heard of a guy not getting it up because
of coke? Trust me, it happens."
"I don't really have sex on coke."
Somehow he finds this hard to believe. She lies there, staring
out the window through which the sunlight, for a winter
morning, is awfully bright and warm. What an ignorant thing
to say, you gay or something? He should kick her ass out.
He glances at her diamond ring, to see if it, like her shirt,
begins to emit tremendously yellow rays of light. Ghosts.
Hemore says, "Yeah well I ain't superman."
"You think Superman was well hung?"
"Come on, Dawg, don't mope on me."
"He was so big he fucked subway tunnels."
"In a single bound?"
"Yep, he'd leap a building. Land on the ground, and
if he had time, he'd grease up his cock and head for the
The sun is penetrating the room as if they'd paid it to
do so and they're giggling away as if they were going to
spend a few years together, which, of course, they won't.
"Subway tunnels," she says, her laughing subsiding.
"Boy you crack me up."
"Apparently not far up enough." One thing good
about the coke, makes you on.
She slaps him playfully on his butt and says, "Awe
why would the idiot leap a building when he can just fly
over one? I never understood that."
"I didn't make the damn movie."
"That's what my father always said when we asked him
a question about a movie we were watching."
"Holy shit! He used to say that a lot too. Like if
you said something to him that wasn't that interesting to
him, like, 'Hey Dad, my teacher said I'm emotionally intuitive.'
He'd say, 'That's nice.'"
That's a problem with the coke, end up revealing too much.
She's unwilling, it seems, to play the game in revealing
something about her father. Or maybe her husband. She's
definitely thinking of some man that more than likely betrayed
"And where," she says, "is Superman going
to be when the buildings fall down on top of people."
"I don't know, maybe using the subway tunnel to relieve
his sexual aggression, cause you know, when the buildings
fall down, they usually shut down the subways and --"
"You think he fancies the tube in London?"
"Bling Bling if y'all are nasty."
Hemore's kissing her neck when she says, "I dream of
mushroom clouds, you know."
"You got ghosts following you around, girl. You don't
need to be dreaming of mushroom clouds."
"Awe I know but I do. And that's just the way it is."
In at attempt to cheer her up, Hemore says, "Did you
know my penis can talk?"
"You have a conniption when I tell you about a ghost,
and you got yourself a talking wiener?"
"Yeah. But it can only say one word. Go ahead, ask
Bling Bling runs her hand through the hair on his chest,
uninterested, it seems, in his game. He wishes she wasn't
so sad. "Ask it," he says again, suddenly feeling
stupid he started this. "Give me sec," she says.
Ready to answer ventriloquistly in a voice both deep and
eager, he waits for the question. She wriggles her way down
the bed. Then she's staring his dick right in its eye, at
which point she flops her hair back and smirks, as if she
just thought of something funny but is ashamed to say it.
Blood rushes to his groin.
She says, "Ever contract any diseases I should know
"Whoa wait a second!"
"Thought you said it only knew one word."
"You can't ask it that. Man, that's like asking a Vietnam
vet if he ever killed anyone. You know what I mean?"
"Awe right awe right." She biffs its tip. It wobbles
playfully in response. "You like being inside me?"
Bling Bling giggling, her breasts vibrating atop Hemore's
"Want to come back to Texas with me, darling?"
"I'll stuff you in my purse. You can keep me company
on the plane."
"So how many more years until you hit full growth."
"Ha ha ha that's funny."
"Maybe we should make some tea or something."
She stands up and crosses her arms.
Hemore says, "Hey, what's the matter, Bling Bling ignoring
"Oh," Hemore says, "so humble is he."
Bling Bling bends down and takes him into his mouth.
"Really!?!" says his prick in a voice at once
titillated and drowning.
"If you don't mind," Bling Bling said when they
were putting their coats on, "I'm going to hold your
Through the bare trees in McCarron park, they see the Chrysler
standing erect against a gray sky. They cross the runner's
track, on which an old man in shorts is jogging. Bling Bling
says, "I think this warm weather is a blessing. For
winter, I mean."
Hemore feels as if his soul is back in his bed, sleeping.
But he can't picture it. "Holy shit!"
"What's wrong, darling?"
"We took those pictures last night."
"Awe my GOD!"
"In the booth, remember?"
"Boy we're going straight to hell in a basket made
Last night, at the party where they met, Bling Bling had
suggested they take pictures of their genitalia in the booth
in which pictures of people's genitals were taken. The girl,
an artist, took the pictures all night -- no faces, nothing
above the belt -- and eventually sketched them as part of
some project. Once inside the booth, as instructed, they
pulled their pants down. She snapped. Then Bling Bling sat
on Hemore. He remembers seeing the Polaroid: her vagina,
dark-haired and elegantly trimmed, with Hemore's penis eagerly
poking its head out under it. "Really!?!?"
And then Bling Bling going down on him. And then the girl
kicking them out.
"Oh man," Hemore says, "what if they make
it on the internet?"
Bling Bling is laughing. "It'll be like one of them
"Yeah. Buying absinth shots all night for a sexy gal
from Texas. Twenty dollars."
"Picture of yourself giving a blowjob to some guy whose
name you don't yet know . . . priceless."
The old jogger runs past, disrupting their laughter, and
suddenly Hemore longs to be him, longs to have gotten eight
hours of sleep and then jogged this morning. Then again,
he and Bling Bling made a little history together. "I
think it'll be fine," Hemore says, though he's not
so sure what he's talking about. "I mean, the girl's
an artist, right? Artists aren't interested in the exploitation
"You better beg that Mama of yours to ask Heyzeus to
pray for us."
"I can't believe I called her this morning."
"That's child's play. I'm supposed to meet my mother
this afternoon. She's in New York this weekend, you believe
that? Look at my eyes, I look like a ghost."
"Yeah well --"
"Don't you start."
"Awe I don't even know if I believe in marriage anymore."
"Where'd that come from?"
"I can't keep track where things come from, silly."
"Me neither. I mean, I think one way and feel another,
you know? And never know which is which. It's like my thoughts
cover up my feelings. Like in those movies when the burglars
put up a picture of the room in front of the security camera,
so the security guard sees a perfectly empty room, everything
in order and whatnot, and meanwhile the guys are just robbing
the place blind or . . . I don't know, I'm babbling. Man,
"I think my thoughts are Indians and my feelings are
cowboys. Or maybe the other way round. And I'm caught in
the middle somewhere, sweatin' like a whore in church. Awe.
Life be so crazy."
"So long as your genitalia ain't on the internet."
"With my mouth wrapped around it?"
Bling Bling lets go of his hand and hooks it through his
arm, the end of which he happily slips into his jeans pocket
with the assuredness only a boyfriend possesses. She has
to get back to her friend's place or else she'll turn into
a pumpkin, or maybe a gigantic rolled-up dollar bill.
"I feel," Bling Bling says, "like my veins
have been hooked up to an electric socket."
Hemore wonders if the jogger, if he bothered to think about
it, would guess this couple, walking arm-in-arm on a warm
Sunday morning in February, only met about nine hours ago?
Sleep deprived and bug-eyed, Hemore and Bling Bling take
the subway all the way to Astoria. Once inside, her friend
hands them glasses of water, which they sip like dogs. Then
Hemore melts into the leather recliner, every molecule in
his body marinated in absinth. There is a bronze statue
of a Buddha sitting atop a Martha Stewart magazine on the
coffee table. He wants to stay here forever, watching the
two women talk Texan.
"Girl, I'm like, ready to die, you know what I'm saying?"
"It'll be fine, girl. Just relax and try not to think
about it. You'll be okay."
"Look at my hands."
"Girl, they're barely shaking."
"I'm supposed to visit my Mom. I can't go like this.
She'll see right through my druggy ass. I swear, I'll never
do this stuff again."
"Girl, we'll think of some excuse. Maybe you should
just go right to the airport."
"Girl, I'm really shaking. I'm like one of those wind-up
"It's going to be okay, sweetie. I just know it is.
I do. I do."
Hemore's pocket vibrates. He pulls out his cell phone. On
the little screen it says, MOM. He turns off the power and
places it back in the pocket.
So Bling Bling is going through a hard time, and without
saying so, Hemore agrees with her friend that she'll be
okay. Too bad they couldn't have met when she was going
through a good time. Too bad it practically hurts to think
right now, or maybe that's a good thing. It's time to go.
He says goodbye to her friend, and Bling Bling escorts him
out to the hallway, where, under its fluorescent lights,
they hug, Hemore playfully squeezing her butt as if it's
the last time he'll squeeze it, which, of course, it is,
and he somehow knows she knows it too but doesn't want to
believe it either. "Tejas," Hemore says, "I'm
Bling Bling tilts her head and smirks. "Really!?!"