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The rain came, the rain went, the purplegray nozzle in the sky thundering on and off as some sicko up there like totally got off on swinging pressure systems back and forth, back and forth— two or three lightening winks twisting Manhattan with giggles of green light, the tropical downpour now easing itself into a haunted hush-hush, each spalike street mischievously quiet, mischievously pleasant and worry-free . . . But a few weather twerks later and that same naughty sprinkler overhead was rumbling its way back up to a concentrated cascade cannon—fracturing forearms, setting off car alarms, restoring anxiety levels—and mercilessly pounding the pavement until a second flood had like totally swept away all the skanky department store manikins, cancelled all credit card transactions . . .
The rain came, the rain went, and holding my breath I pranced across Union Square in my see-through raincoat, in my plastic poncho, sidestepping oblong puddles, sidestepping backbreaking cracks, and trying my very best not to drop or spill the gourmet gift I was cradling closer than closer to my teeter-tottering chest.
Like a wet wraith I hovered up to the 14th Street-Union Square subway station.
“So guess what?” shuffling underneath the awning and handing my favorite preacher a cup of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe—which obviously his demon-black tongue immediately slurped up without even pretending to savor all the delicate flavors or wasting any time to say, “Hi, Zoe, thank you so very much! How have you been? You know, I’ve really missed you!” But I guess I couldn’t really blame him. Not really. Not when he was sitting and growling all by himself on his collapsible step stool, with five bloody fingernails picking at his seaweed dreadlocks, at the vomit crabs on his extra-large jean jacket, and with like nobody around to hear him preach or shriek or sing or nothing . . . Yea, I definitely couldn’t help but feel sorry for the poor bastard. Because I mean I’d like definitely be grumpy too if no one came to my outdoor recital. If like everybody canceled because of the stupid weather and nobody even cared enough to RSVP or text or call or nothing. Oh I’d definitely be grumpy too . . .
Burping, groaning, burping Giacomo crushed the empty cup under his black combat boots and growled up at me. “What, are you fucking ready to focus on the salvation of your immortal fucking soul? Ey?”
I sighed. “Uh, no, definitely not.” I wiped my scratched windshields. “But I met with one of my old professors and he said we totally might have a box-office hit on our hands. He said it’s a really promising start. And you literally have no idea how big of a deal this guy is. He’s huge. He’s massive. Plus he’s got like a ton of Hollywood connections and he told me he was totally willing to help us find a—”
“I don’t give a flying fuck!” Giacomo croaked and coughed. “Can’t you fucking see I’m busy here? Ey? Can’t you fucking see what I’m doing here? Ey! Go find another motherfucker to help you with your meaningless shit!”
“Ugh, whatever,” rolling my hamster eyes. “You know you really sound like my dad sometimes . . . Anyway, why don’t we take a walk or something? It looks like the rain’s letting up and I really need to stretch my legs. My quads are like seriously killing me from all the lifting I’ve been doing at the gallery. Plus I—”
“Jesus fucking Christ! Is this a fucking joke! Are you trying to fuck with me? How many times do I have to tell you to leave me the fuck—”
“I’ll buy you another cup of coffee,” I quickly added with my very best suburban smile and curtsy, fluttering my eyelashes and waving a five-dollar bill across my lovable lips . . .
The rain came, the rain went, and the next cloudy change in atmospheric texture found us trudging across the square together, the blue and white stripes on my favorite sweater flashing up through my plastic poncho as we trekked through the spongy fog, laughing and holding each other by our happily married hands (well, no, not exactly, for some reason Giacomo didn’t wanna hold my hand, even though I definitely wanted him to, oh I definitely did!). We walked east. Or I guess I walked and Giacomo just crawled along the curb beside me. Crawled and stuffed his bushy brown snout down in every gutter and bubbling drain he could possibly find—his really hairy nostrils trawling through the city trash, greenbrown canines sifting through garbage cans and recycling bins, through the 14th Street sarcophagi washed ashore by this sneakier than sneaky tempest—Giacomo suddenly letting out a half Caliban, half Prospero bellow of Vive la Résistance! when we turned a puddle and splashed into a pair of NYPD officers. AH!
Bulletproof arms folded in front of an unmarked van, the chunky ogres looked up from their handcuffed meal. Giacomo hid under his jean jacket, sprinted ahead. I blushed and tried my very best to ignore the grinning bastards giving me and my really long legs an X-rated ogle, their creepy sunglasses cutting through the postdiluvian haze . . . four aviator mirrors following us . . . four reflected, refracted cities following us . . . all the pretty buildings swaying like windmills above this grimy swamp of dollar-dollar aspiration . . . Blushing, frowning, blushing I tried my very best to keep up with my favorite preacher . . .
Neither of us talked much. I think we were both just feeling down and out. Blue and bruised. At least I know I definitely was. Because even though I’d taken five ibuprofens and four aspirin, I like still had this headache which just wouldn’t quit. This throbbing tremor behind my left eye socket. This pecking. This squeezing . . . I sighed and leapt over the intersection-sized landfill on the corner of 14th and 3rd Avenue. Because I mean I probably definitely shouldn’t have stayed out so late. And I definitely shouldn’t have had that last tequila shot. Ugh, definitely not. Thank God they were fumigating the Comfort Station today. Thank God I didn’t have to go in and see bitchy blonde Lola today. Thank God . . . I left my favorite gutter wolf waiting outside in the toxic muck, chained tight to a fire hydrant and scratching his bloated gut, an ambulance howling behind him, howling down 2nd Avenue . . . The red and blue lights, the sirens. Ugh, it was all just making my headache like infinitely worse . . .
But I was definitely feeling a whole lot better by the time I splashed back outside. Like so much better! Happily caffeinated, happily nibbling on a Twix bar I wanted to talk, to gossip and chat about my movie—about our movie. I wanted to carefully plan out what we were going to do once we got ridiculously famous, ridiculously rich!
“So what do you think of Peter and Sophie?” tossing Giacomo a dirty chai latte. “Do you like them? I mean I know what you’re probably thinking. And yea, I agree, Sophie does seem like your typical SoCal tease. But I definitely think she’s good enough for what we need. Even though, yea, I agree, she’s totally—”
“Shut the fuck up!” Giacomo frothing at the mouth and spewing coffee all over my plastic poncho then backflipping off the sidewalk and zigzagging through traffic, through pothole moats. Giacomo fleeing into Stuy Town without even thanking me or looking both ways or saying goodbye or like nothing at all!
“Jeez. Fine.” I stepped up to the empty curb, my bubbly smile like totally washed away. “I guess we won’t talk about her . . .” I picked at my cotton candy nails, brushed the coffee tears off my see-through raincoat and rocked my really long legs from side to side, side to side while I waited oh-so-patiently for the pedestrian figurine to light on up. And when it did I looked both ways then quickly splashed across—my button nose lunging after Giacomo’s stench. My button nose dragging me under a parked MTA bus, the florescent billboard on its metal side advertising some new reality TV show or something. My button nose dragging me all the way under the Stuy Town apartment complex, under its red walls and brick bluffs . . . under . . . under . . .
Desperately coming up for air halfway down a graffiti-smeared alley tunnel I spotted one of Giacomo’s greasy paws digging through an overflowing dumpster. I watched him scoop up a soggy pizza slice—the mozzarella definitely had a greenblack tint to it, and the Italian sausage seriously looked and smelled like decomposing tuna salad. Like undercooked rat liver. I gagged on my coffee lid when Giacomo turned and smiled his sinister smile at me then shoved the floppy slice of fungus through his dingleberry beard, tomato sauce squirt-a-squirting all over his extra-large jean jacket, a web of greenblack cheesy pubes clinging to his Mario mustache. Gross. Totally gross. I closed my guinea pig eyes and tried my very best not to puke or feint . . .
We were walking along the waterfront now. The wind had definitely kicked up. It swooshed up off the East River and whirled the black mulch and brown leaves round and round into a seriously unsafe halo of litter and liquor bottles. Plus all this windy trash was making it like even harder for the caravan of twentysomething unicyclists wobbling past us to stay in their stipulated lanes. They like just wouldn’t stop wobbling back and forth, back forth. The bastards like just wouldn’t stop wobbling and bumping into my see-through raincoat without even saying excuse me or pardon me or nothing! Ugh, I wanted to punch them. To bend their spokes in. But then again I guess I couldn’t really blame them. Definitely not. I sighed and put away my extra-small dukes. Because I mean they were just trying their very best to get some exercise in on their wobbly way from A to B. Like all of us . . .
Totally done with my coffee I gave small talk another shot.
“So like where do you sleep at night?” I asked my homeless sidekick, now leaning over the guardrails, his camo cargo pants turned away from me, his Medusa-head bent and focused. I could hear groans and spurt-spurts. I could smell nasty smells. But it definitely took me a few suburban gasps to adequately process and accept the fact that Giacomo was like actually pissing into the wind—in public! (For some reason I didn’t think people like actually did that in real life. I thought it was all just some sketch comedy kind of thing.) I swiveled my scratched glasses from side to side, panicking. But luckily there weren’t any gun-slinging trolls around to ruin our duet. Sighing with relief, gagging in disgust, I took a safer than safe step to the left—upwind.
“Under the fucking bridge,” Giacomo eventually growled, a staggered string of urine spurt-spurting into the foamy void.
“Um, okay . . . And like which bridge would that be?”
Giacomo cocked his muzzle up and to the left. I followed his nod up the murky, the choppy and wild East River. I followed his nod and for the first time in my twentysomething life lookedoutat the world from this side of the Island Kingdom—from the inside out. I looked out at the Queensboro Bridge, and I totally thought it might just as easily have been a burnt-out rainbow I was looking at, with all the colors stressed away to gray from all those vactionless years of arching its cantilever arms out of Manhattan and into Queens. Or maybe I was looking at a snoozing skeleton. Roosevelt Island hanging like a really dead promise under its double-decker ribcage . . . But since there was obviously no easy way to tell I backed away from the wind and the waves.
I shouted through the restarting rain. “So do you have any friends down there—under the bridge?”
Giacomo shook his head and spit. “Not anymore,” turning away from the edge, zipping up his camo cargo pants. “They’re all fucking gone. They’ve all moved the fuck on from the Warehouse.”
“That’s right. The fucking Warehouse . . .”
I licked my lips. A delicious shiver tickled up and down my spine. Because the Warehouse sounded like something I could totally use. Because the Warehouse sounded epic, and epic meant Hollywood, meant guaranteed ticket sales. My ten toes curled back, my tiny teeth chattered, and I shuffled in as close as possible to my future happiness. I brushed my bangs out of my chinchilla eyes. I tugged on Daddy’s jean jacket. And after quickly swiveling my scratched glasses round and round to make sure there weren’t any pervy cops behind us, no wobbly twentysomethings on no wobbly unicycles, I whispered deep into Giacomo’s marinara-tipped whiskers. I said, “Tell me about the Warehouse, Giacomo. Tell me all about it please. Pretty please. Just tell me and I’ll definitely make it worth your while. Oh I definitely will. Just tell me tell me!”