Posted on: March 24, 2015
When I got back, Blue Louis had gotten jam everywhere, and I went and stared at it awhile because it was raspberry, full of little woody pips, and I had never in my life realized that jam was such a fine and interesting thing to look at up close. In my hand was the oil we were hoping would freak out the spiders colonizing our rooms, orange-legged little vent dwellers. Looked them up in a chart that said they were venomous so Louis was on to me like, ‘I found one of them in my bed sheets, they’ve got to fucking die.’ So I had a plastic tub full of lemon and lavender ready to spray the floor, 'cause spiders taste through their feet and they hate citrus and lavender most of all.
Toast was round later for some modeling with Lyndon, the skinny artist downstairs. Said he was going to transform her into Daphne; that chaste Laurel woman twisting and tree-faced in the clutches of lusty Apollo.
She wrinkled her nose. ‘Smells like a ponce in here.’
Louis had cleaned up the jam, was licking something off a knife. Peanut butter, I think. ‘You know, originally that meant someone who lives off the earnings of a loose woman.’
‘Like a pimp?’
He shrugged, lounging in his Harlem suit. ‘I guess.’
Louis was the lynchpin, like a black hole dragging us all in around him. Would have flown off in all directions otherwise, scooped up in the palm of God and flung into bleak space. He was a fine-boned dark man, chilli seeds and raw cacao and most definitely an Inca or Creole or something. Sometimes he’d go off on one of his expansive and ungraspable trips and stand out on the roof shouting crazy like ‘I’m the Sultan of Araby!’ until Toast and Lyndon and I grabbed at his jumper and pulled him backwards into the bare bulb light that we all lived by in St. Anthony’s.
The spiders didn’t die. Even when Toast put down black pepper over the thresholds, ‘cause they hate that too apparently. It was from her I learned that spiders have taste buds on the ends of their legs. From her I also learned how to correctly make love to a woman with my tongue, and I will always be thankful to her for both of these extraordinarily useful teachings. She was tight-hipped and sharp-jawed, like a whip ready to crack someone up. Lousy man magnet, more like a bullfighter caught up in her own red flag. Had a string of dumb cock wavers in her life, a steady assault of fat, shit-dragging bluebottles wiping their insect filth on her body.
I remember during the Jam Times, as I came to think of that collection of strange days, ‘cause during my long trip that morning I remember thinking - are those pips even real or is it actually someone’s job to make fake fruit pips for jam? – with a real intensity that completely coloured all of my thinking for a while afterward, when Louis and I were drinking coffee with Lyndon. Watching him sketch out classical atelier tits; and he suddenly chucks down his paper and charcoal and runs off back to the doss, yelling away. And that boy could have flights of fancy himself so we traipsed after him to make sure he wasn’t going to take a leap off the building or anything when he comes out of our rooms tugging on my only clean jeans, and I say, ‘You slum fuck! Those are my pants!’
And he says to me, ‘Yeah but I just remembered I got a job interview!’
‘What’s wrong with your own clothes?’
‘They got vomit on them.’
And he gestures through the hall door down to his. I don’t know why, but I head down there because I’ve got a sense of dread like lava rising up through the underground, and there is vomit crusting a lot of things; the sink, the carpet, the kitchen sides. It’s all purplish and I guess it’s red wine. Toast is face down on the futon with a slim bare ankle sticking out from under the green wool blanket, and I shake her a little to see if she’s okay.
Her breath is foul with spew and cigarettes and Lyndon. She struggles to sit up and I fetch her water and sugar like she is a sick bee, and we talk awhile about the time she was in Ireland and saved a deaf girl from being hit by a tram.
‘How do deaf people go into rooms?’
‘What in fuck’s name are you talking about now, Natty?’ Toast is concentrating on the floor as I drip-feed her Smarties.
‘Well, you know, if a deaf person knocks on a door, they can’t hear someone say, ‘Come in,’ so how do they know when to come in?’
We ponder this in silence for a while. ‘Maybe they don’t knock, maybe they just walk in,’ she says.
‘But then they might walk in on someone having a wank, or killing themselves or Spanish dancing in just socks or something like that. I don’t reckon they do that.’
She stops mainlining chocolate and stares hard at me. ‘Actually, how do deaf people enter rooms?’
‘I know, man. It’s a proper puzzler.’
‘It actually is.’
Louis is waiting for me in the hall, his hat spinning round in his hands.
‘My Grandmother said you gotta want to help yourself or The Good Lord can only stand by and watch, you gotta want to be lifted up.’
‘My Grandmother always said I wasn’t eating enough.’
‘Yeah but she was a Jew.’
‘No, the other one.’
‘Well I don’t know about that, then.’
I put out a hand to a dark spot on the wall. ‘Lou, the fucking walls are wet.’
‘It’s been raining.’
And that was that. There were long, loud nights and graves dug out of living bodies and when it rained the inside of the house got wet.
Written by: Natty Mancini
Photograph by: Jennifer Stevens
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
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