“I woke up nude, covered from my neck to my knees with an American flag. The room was dank, frigid, and smelt old. My body trembled from the cold air that had filled the apartment. With the flag draped over my shoulders and pulled tightly around my upper body, I made my way into the living room. The feint smells of burnt rubber and wet dog grew stronger as I got closer to the bathroom. A pile of burnt clothing was sitting in the bathtub, which was covered with scattered spots of wet ash.
As I took the usual morning piss, I began to realize that the charred articles of clothing were mine; my expensive peat coat, my favorite pair of pants, a t-shirt I had borrowed from a friend, along with my shoes, wallet, and cell phone, which was broken into various pieces.
What the hell happened here? I thought. I had no idea whose apartment I was in, no idea why or how, and worst of all, my clothes, wallet, and shoes were sitting in a burnt and soggy pile in a crusty bathtub. The American flag was at my feet as I stood there perplexed, mildly upset, but more confused than anything else. I decided to find the tenant who had been so kind to let some stranger stay the night.
When I returned to the bedroom, I noticed an open window leading to the fire escape. On the floor below the window was a puddle of water; the sill was covered with slush that gathered over night. I closed the window and when I turned back towards the bed, whoever was lying in it rolled towards me. My hands reached for the nearest thing, which was a raggedy old teddy bear. Holding it over my genitals, I saw that the person was an olive-skinned girl with dark hair.
She opened her eyes, which were a glorious cornflower blue. I stood paralyzed as I looked at her abnormally gorgeous face, holding a teddy bear against my nuts.
‘Hey you,’ she said, raising her arms and stretching her legs under the thin purple and white striped sheet.
‘Hi,’ I said trying to make sense of the situation, ‘you.’
Her tiny brown nipples were erect as the cold air brought goose bumps and a shiver over her body.
‘Why’s it so cold in here?’ she asked.
‘The window was open.’
‘Oh yeah,’ she paused to yawn, ‘we had to climb up the fire escape to get in last night.’
‘What’s with the teddy bear?’
‘Um, it was on the floor,’ I foolishly muttered, ‘Just thought I’d pick it up. You know? And, uh, use it to keep warm.’
The laugh she let out was one of the most pleasant sounds I’ve ever heard. Something about it caused me to become overrun with joy, bringing a feeling of comfort in an incredibly uncomfortable situation.
‘I’m real sorry about this, but I have no recollection of last night or anything. I guess the first order of business would be to get your name,’ I said as I awkwardly shivered near the window.
Again she gave a sweet chuckle, ‘My name’s Daliah. And I figured you wouldn’t remember much of last night; you were an absolute mess,’ she said, ‘but a fun mess.’
‘How’d I get up the fire escape?’ I asked.
‘How I’d imagine a drunk monkey would.’
‘Oh man,’ I glanced blankly at the cold wooden floor before asking the next important question, ‘So did we…’
‘Did we?’ she said fishing for a more specific question.
‘You know,’ I paused looking for the most polite way to describe it, ‘Do the pants off, dance off.’
She broke out in manic laughter as I stood there repeatedly saying fool over and over in my mind.
‘You’re too cute,’ she said as she flashed me a smile, ‘And yes to your question.’
‘Nice,’ I said as I got comfortable for the second time. ‘Hey, I’d hate to be that guy, but I remember coming into the city last night with my friend Mike, and I should probably go and find him, which will now be slightly more difficult since my cell phone is sitting in your bathtub in pieces and burnt to a crisp.’
Daliah’s mood seemed to pick up as she repositioned herself into a sitting position against the headboard, the sheet pulled over her breasts. ‘I’d have to say that was probably one of the most exciting moments of my life.’
‘Your whole crazy yet passionate speech about freeing yourself from what you called the oppressive hand of society, which you followed by burning all your possessions in order to return to your original self.’
‘Oh man, I really was a mess last night.’ I moved to the red velvet chair in the corner, falling back into it as I placed the teddy bear on the dresser.
‘Yup,’ she replied, ‘but like I said, you were a fun one. Also, you owe me a new bra since you decided to burn that as well. If I remember correctly, you saw it as the man’s way of holding women down.’
I bit my bottom lip and formed a subtle smile, asking yet another important question, ‘Do you have some clothes that you could possibly lend me; something loose fitting like sweats?’
‘Directly over your shoulder. There’s also some slippers near the closet.’
On the back of the chair was a pair of purple sweatpants and a gray hooded sweatshirt with Jasmine from Aladdin on the front. ‘What is it with you girls and Disney?’
‘We like to remain young at heart. That’s why we outlive you guys.’
The clothes were tight, and the sweatshirt stopped just above my belly button, but it was better than trying to escape from New York in a sundress or nude.
‘Aww, you look like a gay guy getting ready to go to the gym,’ said Daliah.
‘HA HA HA, you’re funny,’ I said giving a facetious roll of the eyes. ‘Oh man, that was such a gay comeback.’
‘Must be the clothes’ oppressive nature,’ she sarcastically replied.
I chuckled lightly and moved towards the bedroom door, stopping as I was about to walk through. ‘Hey, even though I don’t remember, I want to thank you for what was probably a fun night. Also, could I get your number? It would be nice to hang out again, you know, after I get the last 24 hours of my life straightened out.’
‘Certainly,’ she said, reaching over to grab a piece of paper and pen. After jotting down her number, she kissed the paper, which I thought was a bit odd, and handed it to me. ‘Take care and good luck.’
‘Same to you,’ I said as I turned towards the door only to stop again, ‘Also, one more thing. Was I good?’
‘Most fun I’ve ever had doing the ‘pants off, dance off’,’ she said.
‘Well that’s what counts.’
With that I left Daliah’s apartment and entered the musty maroon hallway that was in dire need of a new paint job. Each door I passed was home to a different sound and smell. D2, The Clash and skunked beer; D5, Fox and Friends coupled with eggs and bacon; D8, Indian music and cumin; D13, indeterminate reggae and weed. The apartment building hallway is a long, rectangular mix of all cultures, ideologies, and tastes. And even the freaks are represented as I’m sure D1—Daliah’s apartment—would provide a wiff of burnt clothes and wet hair for any passerby.
It wasn’t until I found my way to the cold, New York City sidewalk that I snapped out of my sentimental pondering. With no money, getting back home would be difficult. I decided to hail a cab and steal a ride to Lyndhurst, where my cousin Vince lived.
No cabs stopped for what seemed like thirty minutes, which isn’t surprising considering that I looked like a crazy homeless person who managed to get some Disney swag from the Salvation Army. It took awhile, but a beat up cab stopped and allowed me to escape the biting weather.
‘Where to?’ said the cabby in an effeminate Arab accent.
‘Ridge Road in Lyndhurst, New Jersey.’
‘Ah, so you’re crossing the border I see.’
It was then that I realized the cab driver was looking at me in a flirtatious manner. My get-up was clearly sending the wrong message. The ride become more awkward, more unnerving as it continued. He kept hinting to me that he wanted more than just a tip when the cab ride ended.
‘I hope you have the money to pay for such a long ride,’ he said.
‘Sure do, but could you hurry, I really need to get to Lyndhurst.’
‘Ah anxious, I see. No problem, my friend.’
After we made it to the Lincoln Tunnel and then to Route 3, I was able to relax and prepare myself to run.
‘So where are we going?’ he asked in an implicative manner.
As we pulled onto Ridge Road, I told him to park on the corner next to a street lined with houses. Before the cab came to a complete stop, I was already running like a methhead on COPS: jumping over fences and sprinting across backyards until I finally reached my cousin’s house.
My cousin Vince was a stereotypical guido: blowout, overpowering cologne collection, more clothes than his Barbie doll girlfriend, a moderately priced foreign made car with expensive rims and a shoddy tint job. Always ready to fight, for whatever imbecilic reason, but he was my cousin and enjoyable to be around. Even when he was at his Guidoist, it was entertaining.
I rang the doorbell frantically, about five to six times, until the door opened. Vince was in a tight white tanktop and a pair of gray Armani sweatpants, scratching his balls with one hand and rubbing the other over his still gelled blowout.
‘Hey Tommy!’ he said as he moved in to give me a meathead embrace. ‘What are you do…What the fuck are you wearing, bro?’
‘Long story, man,’ I said as I entered the house, ‘I need a change of clothes and a ride to my house.’
‘Sure, I’ll hook you up proper, kid.’
‘Thanks.’ I sat on the edge of his bed as he rummaged through his closet for something I could wear. ‘Yo man, I just need something that isn’t purple and girly.’
‘Chill bro, you’re my cousin I don’t want you looking like some bum.’
After twenty minutes or so, Vince finally pulled out what he felt was an appropriate outfit: a black button up shirt and a pair of intentionally bleached and torn Diesel jeans, which barely fit. As I was buttoning the shirt up, I was hit in the face by a mist of awful cologne.
‘Yo! Cut the shit.’
‘Chill bro, that’s some expensive, high quality stuff.’
‘Yeah, but I don’t want to smell like Jupe or whatever shit cologne you sprayed me with. I need to get home; I had a rough night.’
‘What happened? You still haven’t told me.’
‘I don’t know; that’s the problem. I woke up naked next to some girl, which was a good thing, but I found my clothes burnt in the bathtub along with my phone and wallet. I have no clue how I got there or where I came from.’
‘That sounds like a great night if you ask me. Was the bitch hot?’
‘Amazingly,’ I replied.
‘She didn’t have a dick or anything?’
‘No, you sick freak.’
‘Just making sure you didn’t bag yo’self a tranny. That once happened to m…Hey, you want some breakfast?’
We headed back downstairs where Vince made a quick breakfast, consisting of slightly burnt eggs and extra crispy bacon. He dropped me off about fifteen minutes ago, but you have to tell me what happened last night. Where did you go after I left you? And when and where did that happen?”
Mike repositioned himself on the couch, “Well, I went home; but before I continue, why can’t you ever tell a story without speaking like a douche? Get to the fucking point already, Jesus Christ. No need for all that dialogue and detail, man. Anyway you got a public urination ticket, which you probably burned along with your clothes. But for the most part nothing happened. We went to the bar, drank a lot, but nothing really. You could barely walk or speak coherently, yet you somehow managed to pick up that hot Middle Eastern looking chick and got her to take your goofy ass back to her place. Props on that, but seriously don’t drink gin anymore. It brings out a bad and strange side of you. Also, I’d get tested because any girl who would bring a mess like you home has to have a lab’s worth of diseases or is severely fucked in the head.”
“So that’s it?” asked Tom.
“Yea, man,” replied Mike. “That’s it.”
written: Winter 2007