Friday, September 28, 2007

Out of It

August 2000.

The finality of it: Leila and Ollie weren’t coming home soon. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had enough methadone to keep me from melting, but I really had to quit dope this time. And I had to get the fuck out of the apartment, because Tanya was going out of her mind. Every second in that apartment was like being in a cage with howler monkeys. But the howling was in Russian. A mish-mash of guttural, Cyrillic agony.

I wasn’t really “fighting” with Michele, so I called her. The first week of the incarceration, I stayed with Michele a lot. I’d managed to steal some choice buds of pot from Tanya when she wasn’t looking, and spent time smoking that pot with Michele. One day, we sat on the rooftop of Michele’s apartment building, smoking from a pipe.

“I got my teeth whitened,” she bragged. She felt superior to me because she’d been off dope for a while. She liked to talk about the progress she’d made in her life.

“You did?” I asked. “Well, they look good. I wonder what my teeth look like.” I whipped out a mirror. Squatting in the sun, I saw my teeth were horribly stained by opium-goo brownness. Michele saw it too. Instead of commenting, I flicked my mirrored compact into my purse.

“So I haven’t talked to you since I worked at Centro Fly!” she gasped.

“You worked there?”

“As a cocktail waitress. When I took a break from dancing.”

“Oh, wow. Cool. How was it?”

“It was okay. But sometimes? Oh my God! This one time, this whole party – it was a record company – they rented out the whole club. It was so cool.”

I nodded my head.

“Well, this was a party for Jive records, or Arista, or someone. And everyone at the party was famous! There was Monique, Mary J Blige, Puff Daddy.. and they were all having so much fun! There was none of that uptight bullshit, you know-”

I laughed and did an impersonation of an overly uptight person –

She laughed “Yes! There was none of that! And they were all dripping with diamonds.” She rolled her eyes and used a hand motion and tone of voice to indicate that “dripping with diamonds” was an affliction a person possibly could die from.

I gasped. “Oh my God! So it was probably fun just to be there, even though you were waiting tables…”

“It was. But I go soooo drunk. So when I was in the bathroom – guess who came in!? Mary J Blige!”

“No way! Did you say anything to her?”

Michele got even more excited. “When she was in front of the mirror, I told her I loved her music.”


“So she asked me if I sang and I said yes.”


“Yes! She was like, ‘Can you sing something for me?’ and I did!”

I clapped my hands to my face. “What did you sing???”

Michele looked at me like I was crazy for asking. “I sang ‘The Greatest Love of All’ by Whitney Houston!” she squealed, eyebrows furrowed and neck cocked to the side.

“Oh,” I mumbled, like I should have known somehow. “So what did she say?”

“She said ‘Oooh, girl you sound good!’ It was so cool of her. I tell you, that woman is all class, I’m sure people sing crap to her all of the time.”

I was jealous.

I looked down into the little black film canister that held my pot. “Damn. You know, I stole this from Tanya. She’ll find out for sure. Fuck. I think I need to buy more weed so I can replace this before she knows it’s missing.”

“What? Fuck them! I can’t believe Ollie’s in jail!”

“I know.”

“When is he getting out?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t heard Tanya speak English for days, and I’m afraid to ask her anything.


I stayed with Michele in her Lower East Side apartment. She’d lived there for a while. Her new roommate was yet another domineering male, Jacob, an actor. He had long, shoulder-length sandy blonde hair and looked like Jesus. She hated him. Her room was the size of a postage stamp. I felt bad for her – all of her Manhattan rooms had been less than 12’ by 12’. Michele is a tall girl with a huge personality and presence. I couldn’t help thinking that she deserved the big bedroom I had for just $850 a month, but her rooms thus far were much smaller and much more expensive.

Her old roommate, Gino, was aggressive in his asshole personality, but Jacob was passive. Jacob’s situation was this: he was an actor who worked sporadically, and lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment. So apparently, he decided to rent that tiny bedroom to Michele, place his bed in the living room area, and put up a curtain to divide his bedroom from the common area. His choice of fabric for this “privacy” curtain? Sheer, sheer white. It was ridiculous.

“I’ve come in here at night while he was having sex with some girl in his bed. I could see everything.” Michele hissed to me one day, disgusted.

“Oh man! What did he say the next day? Anything? Did you ask him about it?”

“Hell yeah I asked him! And you know what he said? ‘I’m just a very open person. Feel free to leave your bedroom door open if you have any guys over.’”


“He’s gross,” she nodded.

When I was at her place, I saw him dressed in nothing but a towel, many times. I was familiar with his ass crack by week’s end. His ass was weirdly shaped.

In interesting piece of news from Jacob came: he’d just been cast in an episode of Sex In the City.

“He’s all excited, because this is a big role for him,” Michele said.

“What’s his role?”

“I don’t know, but they’re going to call him ‘Marathon Man.’”

“Marathon Man? They’re going to run a race or something? Fight for the cure?”

“No. He said it has something to do with…” she giggled. “The ass. Like anal sex or something.”

“Ha! No way! Because he has like the weirdest ass I’ve ever seen!”

“You think it’s weird?”

“God yes!”

We collapsed into laughter on her mattress.

“Each ass-cheek is bean-shaped! Bad beans, too,” I said. “Droopy beans.”

We laughed.

“I bet they chose him based on his ass. He doesn’t even know! They chose him because his ass is deformed, and he’s so full of himself he thinks they chose him because of his acting! Gawd!” I screeched. “They’re going to embarrass him on television and he doesn’t even know it.”

[People who watch Sex in the City have told me that ‘Marathon Man’ does not show his ass during the episode, but the episode is about eating Kim Cattrail’s ass. Lovely.]

Michele’s living situation seemed unbearable to me. Like most Lower East Side tenements, the front door entered into the kitchen. The kitchen had barely enough room for the sink, cabinets, and a tiny dinette. The “living room” was curtained off, like I said, and the only places to go were her little bedroom or the bathroom. No elbow room in general, and if Michele decided she wanted to do a cartwheel, she’d have to go out on the street to do one – that’s how little room there was in that apartment.

I only visited my own apartment for clothes or for toiletries I absolutely had to have – my topical acne medication or my really great eyebrow tweezers. Every time I returned, Tanya was in the middle of a tearful phone conversation, screeching in Russian. I wanted to help her, but I knew that when she got like this, she really just wanted to be left alone.

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