Thursday, October 12, 2023

"True Love"

 “Look at those two,” said Bubbles, swiveled around on her bar stool and pointing across the crowded café. “True love.”

“Oh, yes, so it would seem,” said Addison. “If one can speak of the concept of ‘true love’, without first defining what one actually means by the term ‘love’, not to mention that oh so slippery adjective ‘true’ –”

“What’s up with this Gilford pal of yours? He on the level or what?”

“I think it’s Milford, actually.”

“You what?”

“His name, our youthful friend, it’s Milford actually –”

“I knew it was something swishy like that. Like your name, Atcheson.”


“Oh, right. Why can’t I remember that?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea. Although, as I think I’ve mentioned to you once or twice, Addison is not my real name either, but, rather, a nickname or sobriquet given to me by the wags at my local, Bob’s Bowery Bar, which you really must visit with me sometime, I’m sure they’ll all love you there, but, one night these poets who habituate the pub started calling me Addison after the character played by George Sanders in the film All About Eve, and I admit that at first I was ever so slightly abashed, but now I have come to look on the name not as an insult, but rather as a nom de guerre if you will –”

“Hey, whatever your name is, you know what you’re doing, don’t you?”

“Talking at too great length?”

“Yeah, Jesus Christ, Hatcherman, I told you once, I told you a million times, stick a sock in it once in a while, will ya?”

“Yes, of course. I’m so sorry, Bubbles. You see, the last thing I should want to do, the absolute last thing, would be to displease you in any way, or –”



“Shut the fuck up.”


“Is that clear enough for you?”

“Yes, I think so –”

“When I’m in the mood to hear some of your bullshit, I’ll give you the high sign. But until then do me a favor and just keep a lid on it.”


“Look at them,” she said.

“I’m sorry, who?”

“Your buddy Gayford, and that little frail from the automat.”

“Yes, Polly, a quite intelligent and well-read girl in point of fact. She simply adores the work of George Eliot. Also George Sand –”

“I don’t get it.”

“George Sand? Or George Eliot.”

“I don’t get your pal, Gaylord.”

“In what sense, dear Bubbles? Because I confess I do find him a somewhat trying young fellow –”

“When you and that mouse were jabbering he told me he wanted to have a date with me tonight, but now he’s like dime store perfume all over her.”

“Oh. Well, you see, I believe they are in point of fact here tonight on a ‘date’ themselves.”

“Then why’d he try to make a date with me?”

“I can only speculate, but I daresay he was stricken by your ineffable beauty, your air of haughty insouciance, your what the French call je ne sais quoi –”

“What’s je ne sais quoi?”

“It means I don’t know what.”

“Then why didn’t you just say that instead of dragging the French language into it?”

“Heh heh.”

Suddenly Addison remembered the twenty-dollar bill in his old Cub Scout wallet. The twenty dollars Milford himself had given him earlier this evening, with the express admonition that he should use ten dollars of it to divest himself finally of his virginity.

Did he dare ask Bubbles? What if she said no. She might be tired from her day’s exertions. Or, indeed, she might find the prospect of making one-half the beast with two backs with him to be abhorrent. And, really, Addison could not blame her if she did, in truth he found himself abhorrent, and only put up with himself because he was sentenced for life to this particular corporeal host and the personality that inhabited it.   
Another consideration was that ten dollars was a lot of money. Think of all the beers, shots, cocktails he could buy with ten dollars!

What a quandary: on the one side the loss of his virginity, on the other the loss of ten dollars. A quandary for the ages!

Across the room, Milford and Polly stood up from their table.

“Oh, do you want to say goodnight to your friends?” said Polly.

“My what?”

As far as Milford knew he had never had any friends.

“Your friend Addison,” said Polly. “And that stunningly beautiful creature Bubbles!”

“Oh,” said Milford. “Them. No, I think it might be better if we just slip away quietly.”

“But they’re looking directly at us!”


“We must bid them good night.”

“Yes, well –”

And Polly forged forth through the drinking and laughing people, through the noise and the jukebox music and the thick swirling smoke, while Milford paused for a second, a second in which he thought a thousand thoughts, including one in which he ran desperately for the door to escape into the snowy night, and then he followed her.

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

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