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Apathy Girl and Other Tales

Musings of the Overly Naive Cynic

 Buzzati The Falling Girl

It seemed to be late at night now. He touched her skin, and then he thought, ‘Yeah, she is beautiful, but she don’t mean a thing to me.’ She was sitting up on the bed, he let his hand slide down the line of her spine. She stood up, he appreciated her shape as she crossed the room to the chifforobe, took out a vibrantly pink satin robe, wrapping it slowly around her form, the speed for his benefit, the coverage for no ones.

“Hey, maybe we can go out tomorrow night? I’ve never met any of your friends. We could go to your golf club, maybe we can?” Her voice was like her skin, creamy, smooth, lovely. Everything it was could not hide everything it wasn’t.

“No. Not tomorrow. Maybe some other time, maybe.” He rolled over, the bed coils of her cheap single mattress squeaking under his weight. He would never take her to meet his friends. He would never take her to the talkies, or down to the lounges to show her off. He could. He just wouldn’t.

“What, are you ashamed of me?” There was a playful lilt to her voice. She was secure in her beauty. She knew that men would worship at her feet, she didn’t even have to ask. Worship at her feet, her legs, her hips, her breasts, her face, her hair. She had even had a john once who had an unnatural attachment to her belly button. But this one, oh boyo, she thought, she couldn’t peg down what he worshipped about her, and it drove her crazy. She slipped into bed next to him, pressed her forehead to his back, wrapped her soft arms around him. He sighed, and she smiled. He was thinking of her, he had to be thinking of her.

He closed his eyes. Her embrace felt right, he told himself, this is what you are supposed to want. But all he saw through his closed eyes was olive tone skin, taught muscles, dark short hair. A crooked smile. Two nights ago he and Charlie had walked up six flights of stairs in a broken down tenement.

“Damn, man. I could get a better work out doing…” He paused to take a breath, and smirk at Charlie behind him. “Doing something else at least. Why the hell are we in this shit hole?”

“This guy, he’s a friend of mine, he just came in. He’s never heard jazz, on your life, can believe that? So we are going to properly introduce him to our city.” He knocked on the first door at the top of the stairs, running a hand through his hair, his tongue over his teeth. The door swung open, somehow sudden and unexpected, as though the outcome of knocking on a door should be anything but a swinging of the hinges. In the doorway, obscured by the angular shadows cast by the bare bulb above the entry way, was a man. Dressed in only an undershirt moist with sweat, his aristocratic brow damp with it, the subtle smell moved down the stairway. He could not help but stare at this man’s form in the doorway, it was an assault not on his senses, but on his sensibilities. His stomach should not be jumping, he should not feel slightly faint. He should not be nervous. Excited.

“Albert! What a hole man!” Charlie put an arm playful around his neck, and pulled him into the apartment. The radiator was obviously broken, steam poured into the room, creating a miasma that was somehow fitting. Albert shrugged, smiled, walked over to the radiator and turned it off.

“And how. But you take what you can get, my friend, you take what you can get. Hello, I’m Albert.” Albert wiped his hand with a towel and extended it across the silence. It was calloused as though it belonged to a laborer, but the palm was soft, a laborer who may read poetry?

“Walter.” He quickly withdrew his hand, and made a moment of wiping it on his trousers. “Put your shirt on, you want to run around having people think you’re an Ethel. We don’t roll like that.”

Walter steadied his breath as they left the apartment. Maybe it was the heat. Soon they were on the stairs. Maybe it was the stairs. Soon they were out on the street. Maybe it was the sticky night air. Soon they were in a speeding cab. Walter’s heart hadn’t found it’s regular rhythm, he began to ignore it. He watched Albert.

“Al, call me Al.”

He watched Al. He was Mediterranean, Italian, perhaps. His hair was slicked back with pomade, the latest style. His lines was long and lean, his body taut, seeming constantly ready to spring, to move. To attack. He stretched his legs out in the cab, let his head fall back, the air from the window rolling over his face, lifting his suit lapels. Al did not seem aware of his surroundings, more accurately, he did not seem to care. At the night clubs he smiled at the girls, but chatted up the flappers. He was at the same time disinterested and radiant. At the door of the speakeasy, a door that did not exist as much as it did, he looked the doorkeeper in the eye, slipped a greenback in through the slot, and got them in. And then he drank. But for all his bravado, Al had never had the strong bathtub whiskey, he gulped what Walter and Charlie sipped. Before the evening was anywhere near over, the bravado was gone, Al was slumped in his chair, his foot vaguely tapping to the jazz washing down slow and strong from the stage. His head rolled over, his dark bleary eyes opened.

“Walter…what is this? This…Walter, this sounds like jabber…” He laughed, reached his hand out, to no where really, but it found the side of Walter’s face. “Walter…this jabber…”

Walter lowered his head, his lips accidently brushing the palm of Al’s hand. “Shhh, just listen, it’s talking to you. The horns, they are blowing life at you! The bass is a…a heart. And there is no wrong in jazz, even in misstep it is good. Even when it is wrong, it is right.” The sheer volume made Al lean closer and closer. His breath warmed the side of Walter’s face, whose heart beat quickened.

“I cannot get your words in here. I want to go, can we go?” Al’s face was lacking the composure that had kept him cool all night, the whiskey and jazz had washed it away, and perhaps something more. Charles was lodged in line of fire of some vamp, trying to get a snuggle bunny for the night. Al was already drunkenly moving towards the door. Walter threw down money for their tab, and followed him out into the night air. Al did not hail a cab, but was drunkenly stumbling in the vague direction of his run-down apartment. Walter did not quite know what to do, to follow Al, making sure he got home safely, to ask him to come and stay at his loft, where there was no broken radiator, or just to forget this friend of an acquaintance, go home and sleep.

“Al!” He cursed himself as he called out, Al turned, a simple drunken smile on his face. “ That place is a hole, why don’t you just stay over at my place tonight?”

They walked in not so awkward silence, for ten blocks. The squeaking of theirs shoes was the only conversation, their only jazz. As they reached the steps Walter slowed his walk, he put Al’s arm around his neck, helping him to the apartment. Once inside, he dropped Al on the couch. Walter stood for a moment, shifting, to the left, towards the kitchen to make a pot of coffee, to the right, to reach down and brush a lock of hair out of his face. He had always fought this, this longing to be close to men. Just wanting to touch them, to talk to them. Men were supposed to be men, though, to take women and to care for them. So if Walter were to reach out, to smooth the hair out of Al’s dark eyes, to let his thumb run over Al’s soft lips, to…to ask him to…would that still let him be a man?

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