AMANTHA PLAYED VIOLA IN THE SUBWAY and on the streets, her case open for tips. I heard her. I’d been walking the Times Square area one evening very high, heard something, some marvelous sound in the uptown lung. I found her, dropped my last $5 in her case, then listened on. When she packed up she said thanks.
“I’m finished,” I said.
It was a squat in Hell’s Kitchen, just off 10th Ave. Crack house on first floor and shooting gallery on second.
I thought I saw ghosts coming through the walls the next night. Not just a few, an army of ghosts; some with lanterns, some with medieval weapons, one riding a golf cart, one pushing my father in a wheelbarrow. Dope-sick and sleepless.
“Oh, it’s you,” she said the next time I found her. She was just packing up. “You must come with me,” she said.
It was a squat in Hell’s Kitchen, just off 10th Ave. Crack house on first floor and shooting gallery on second. I was wearing leather pants, the bowling shoes, and had been to the Chinese laundromat, so had a fresh tee shirt. My sunglasses were so dark you could barely see out of them in daylight, especially with dope-pinned eyes. Now at evening I was virtually blind. I did not take off the sunglasses.
She was wearing a black skirt, tank top, and Doc Martins.
We were in the shooting gallery. We did our thing. There was no electricity in the place; it was lit in candles. You might think a place like this would be littered with human wreckage, but this was not so. Some beautiful people were there. There was a class of people (a class I did not belong to), who knew how to moderate their drug intake. Samantha was one.
It was that night I beat her old boyfriend up. She explained he’d been stalking her and creeping her out. That he was a dopey pot head. We saw him on the street. He saw her with me and came at me. I didn’t hit him hard but he fell, came back at me. “I don’t like fighting,” I told her, when he got me good in the jaw, then one to the gut. It hurt a little. When he went to swing again, I caught his hand. “Don’t do this,” I said. He grabbed my throat with his other hand, and that’s when he got a beating.
“He’ll go back to Connecticut now,” she said.
She, and some others, had rooms above the shooting gallery. The bag being peddled there was inferior to downtown. When they found I could get better dope, I became quite popular, but what a hassle; even though I charged them extra, more than enough for my trouble. Plus the coke thing, some of them wanted coke. I wasn’t into coke but knew a place that sold nickels. To finance my heroin intake I sold these nickels as dimes in downtown bars, and now here. We had to sneak too, because the local dealer was a known Hell’s Kitchen Irish badass.
He grabbed my throat with his other hand, and that’s when he got a beating.
I began sleeping with Samantha. She had a bed and coffee table with what looked like a hundred candles on it. On nights I wasn’t playing with my band, I brought my acoustic and we improvised, after sharing a needle. And laying in bed afterwards, the light from the candles dancing on the ceiling.
Then that last night in shooting gallery. Philip, who did TV commercials and bit parts in soaps there. The model Susan Simpliski there with Wall St lackey Shane Grapple. Polly the circus dwarf. Jackson Frown. The others who came and went there. It was this night Samantha played her voila. It was the only time she’d ever play for them, she said. She glistened. I don’t think she saw what I saw in her. When she stopped, the room remained silent for the longest time, then Jackson Frown said we were conduits of the spirit
. In her upstairs room she again lit her table on fire.
In the morning I told her I wanted to be a poet.
“That’s nice, she said. She was sitting on the edge of the bed brushing Polly’s hair. Polly just fed her pet Burmese Python a mouse. We looked at it.
“I think I’m going back to Connecticut,” Samantha said.