Thursday, March 3, 2022

“Bachelors of the Bowery”

The snow had not stopped, and so Gerry managed to find them a cab. He had gone way over his budget this night, but what did it matter? He had not had an evening like this since – since when? Since never. He had never had an evening like this. It was as if his whole life had been leading up to this evening…

When the cab pulled up to their building Araminta was asleep, her head on his shoulder.

Gerry paid the driver, and then he pulled Araminta out of the car. The snow fell all around them, and he held her around the waist with one arm, holding his umbrella and Araminta’s purse in his free hand.

“Gerry,” said Araminta, looking up at him, “mon cher Gérard!

And then she laid her forehead on his chest, and he felt her body slump.

It took Gerry three minutes to get her up the steps, another two minutes to get the front door open while trying to keep Araminta upright, another two minutes to drag her to the foot of the stairway.

Now came the hard part. Araminta’s flat was only on the second floor, but the question was, could Gerry get her up there without incurring a heart attack?

He didn’t try to carry her, but he pulled her and lifted her, step by step, taking frequent rests, and at last, some fifteen minutes later, he dragged her to her door. He tried the doorknob, and, yes, the door was locked. He allowed her body to slide down the wall, then he opened her purse, and, amidst a profusion of strange objects, he found a rabbit’s foot with a couple of keys attached to it. One of the keys fit the door lock, and he opened it.

He put the keys back into her purse, hooked the strap of the purse and the handle of his umbrella over his arm, then lifted Araminta by her shoulders and dragged her into her flat. Fortunately she had left the lights on. He got her to her bed, unbuttoned her coat and pulled it off her, and her beret. He hung the coat and beret up on her clothes tree, then went back and pulled her legs up onto the bed.

He didn’t dare undress her. He covered her with a sheet and a blanket, and then he stood there, sweating, and breathing heavily. Yes, it would be very embarrassing to have a heart attack right now.

Araminta lay on her side, with her hands under her cheek.

Gerry left her purse on her night table. He got his umbrella, went to the door and turned the little switch on the lock so that the door would lock behind him. He was about to leave when he remembered the lights, so he went back and switched them all off, then he went out into the hall and closed the door behind him, turning the knob to make sure the door was locked. 

And now what? Up to his own tiny apartment on the sixth floor?

He looked at his old Hamilton wristwatch, Great-Aunt Edna’s Andover graduation present: good God, was it really this early? How had so much happened in such a short span of time? He felt he had lived more in the past half-dozen hours than he had lived his entire previous life. Was this proof of Einstein’s theory of relativity? At any rate, Gerry might not be young, but, yes, the night was still young, or at least it was by his standards. He wasn’t the least bit sleepy, and he still had a few bucks in his wallet, ergo, he felt the call of Bob’s Bowery Bar, just around the corner. Why not go around and have a bock or two, have a bit of a chat with whoever was there, or maybe just sit quietly and ponder the strange and wonderful events of these past hours?

Gerry went down the stairs and out the door. The snow still fell, unrelentingly, and it was beautiful, turning this impoverished quarter of the city into something beautiful, something even magical, something – dare he say it? Something holy.

He opened his umbrella and went down the steps, and then he heard a voice, muffled by the falling snow.

“Gerry! I say, Gerry, old man!”

Gerry turned to his right. Could it be? Of course it could, and it was.

Addison called again, approaching through the snow under his own umbrella.

“I say, Gerry, old boy, wait up!”

Gerry waited up, as Addison drew closer. Normally Gerry would sigh whenever he encountered Addison, but now, strangely, he didn’t mind. He didn’t even mind that undoubtedly Addison would have no money, and Gerry would have to stand him to drinks.

And then Addison was there, his umbrella white with snow.

“Hey, old chap, quo vadis?” he said, as if he didn’t know.

“Just thought I’d pop round to Bob’s for a bock,” said Gerry. “Would you like to come?”

“I’m afraid I spent all my filthy lucre at that San Remo Café place,” said Addison.

“Then please allow me to treat you,” said Gerry.

“Gee, thanks, Gerry,” said Addison.

“Don’t mention it,” said Gerry.

And off the two gentlemen headed through the falling snow. Each of them, in his own way, had just spent the richest evening of his life, and the night was not yet over.

{Kindly go here to read the “adult comix” version in A Flophouse Is Not a Home, profusely illustrated by the illustrious rhoda penmarq…}

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