Untitled (Living in the Material World)

It’s all I can do to hold on, much less keep my heels from hitting the spokes, sending us hurtling toward an inglorious end. Potholes lurk, land mines ready to ruin. The shrapnel of unloved avenues sprays our legs. He grips the back edge of an uptown bus. I’m side-saddled behind him. He’s hot to the touch, quick on the brakes. Our high-speed tow on his ten-speed is helmetless. We are limitless. It is September 1987.

Last night, in a conference room crammed with Gordon Gekko’s hungry to make their mark on Wall Street, his bleached curtain of hair snickers, mocks us all. He pours shots into flutes. His Doc Martens, painted with symbols of anarchy and doom, have already had a storied life. I can’t make out if he’s server or guest at this gathering of incoming business school suits destined to lead lives of quiet desperation. Maybe he’s an anomaly like me, so obviously out of place, an art historian getting an MBA because it’s the ‘80’s and we’re climbing along the chasm of cash and art and have to do something sensible to survive. I tear at my cuticles, thinking how I can right this mistake; I don’t belong here.

When the music changes from Muzack to Sonic Youth, that’s his cue.

Meet me outside the library tonight at 10, he says.

He whispers something to the bouncer outside Nell’s and doors open to us. He’s charming and bold. He must have promised a job in that kingdom of clubs he plans to open, because I can’t imagine how else we get inside. Here, deepest black yields to pockets of subterranean glow. Wafts of weed, clove, tobacco. Endless strands of plastic pearls and kohl eyeliner. Lines snorted from glass tables, fists and cleavage. When I finally scrape my way out of the bathroom, I can’t find him. Security muscles through a ball of confusion at the core of the dancefloor.  In the darkness, Orion’s belt glows. He collects the votives from the perimeter of the room and tucks them under his shirt. Ignoring the commotion, he dances with eyes closed, head tilted to the ceiling. He is tossed out the side door. I follow. Outside, purple light slants to the street, like the flash of a falling blade.

On the way back from Nell’s through Washington Square, he pins me against a tree, his lips devouring mine. Ivy rustles at our feet. Fur brushes my ankles. Not here, I say.He says nothing. He unzips his jeans and pulls my Betsey Johnson up over my head. Tosses it on the ground. I try to cover my breasts. This is no Birth of Venus. Bark scratches my back. As he pushes into me, I grab his hair and kiss him.

In the morning we take that bike ride uptown. We climb the swirl of concrete to an exhibit at the Guggenheim to see the work of an artist who arranges stacks of hard candy in a corner to be taken and eaten, wrappers thrown away, like so many people in society, I say. He’s already lost interest. I ascend, discover him on an upper ring pulling things I can’t quite make out from inside his jacket and arranging them on the floor.  A closer look and I see a crumpled Camels pack and lighter, a dusting of loose tobacco excavated from a linty pocket lining. He steps back, hand to chin, admires his work. Two guards escort him out of the museum, while I remain, unsure whether he is genius or joker.

He leaves my building at 2 a.m. He and the taller cop laugh, share some private joke. I watch from my window while the fat one reeking of Drakkar Noir asks me what’s the problem. He says he seems like a nice guy, graduate student and all. Some women would kill for a guy like that. I wonder if he found the knife he pulled from his Doc Marten. I wonder if he heard Mrs. Stengel in 2B that she saw him climb the fire escape and into my apartment.  Fat cop says I left the window open which could be construed as an invitation and technically isn’t a break-in. I’m still shaking when he asks if he’s ever done anything like this before.

About Catherine Chiarella Domonkos

Catherine Chiarella Domonkos’ recent short fiction appears or is forthcoming in Flash Frontier, Heavy Feather Review, X-R-A-Y Lit Mag, The Citron Review and other literary places. It is anthologized in Best Small Fictions. She lives in Greenwich Village, NYC.

Catherine Chiarella Domonkos’ recent short fiction appears or is forthcoming in Flash Frontier, Heavy Feather Review, X-R-A-Y Lit Mag, The Citron Review and other literary places. It is anthologized in Best Small Fictions. She lives in Greenwich Village, NYC.

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