Junk: A Memoir – Chapter 2

Junk: A Memoir – Chapter 2

I left that particular bar behind, bidding Seamus adieu, and walked out into the chill of Third Avenue heading uptown. I decided to head west at around Forty-Second and hit a couple more bars before I went to some of the strip clubs west of Seventh Avenue. A little nudity for hire might be just the thing I needed to jump-start my little celebration. I was already way past feeling the effects of the scotch as I buttoned up my overcoat and enjoyed the cold February afternoon. Walking would do me a world of good.

I had recently become interested in some of the vices available to me in New York City. Since I was getting larger checks from the agency thanks to my innovative billing scheme, I found myself with some extra cash around paydays. I had found a place I began visiting with some frequency over by the East River. It was quite an upscale club, and in its dark lounges, I had spent many an hour and many a night falling prey to all kinds of exotic ladies—all whose kindness and affection could be bought temporarily for an unreasonable price.

In addition to these kinds of establishments, I had discovered a few brothels near my apartment in the Murray Hill area of the city. Occasionally I would walk over to one of them and meet the residing Madam, who would sit me down in a waiting area, fix me a drink and have me wait momentarily while she went to fetch the ladies who were available for engagement. In minutes she would return with six or seven of her girls, whom she would introduce to me by name. As their names were called, each would step forward and twirl around to give me a complete view. They were all clad in garters, heels and usually some kind of transparent shawl. I would pick the one that suited my fancy and we would retire to one of the rooms available to me. Often times, the ladies left a bit to be desired—some were a bit on the chubby side—but often there were one or two that fit the bill nicely.

It occurred to me that a visit to a brothel might be slightly careless in light of my impending financial doom. Rather disappointed at the prospect of not being able to afford the services at my neighborhood whorehouse, a surge of helplessness washed over me that even the scotch could not dissipate. I quickly dismissed those thoughts and focused more on the walk I was taking towards the West Side.

By now many of the offices were closing their doors for the day, sending the masses of employees from various companies, corporations and conglomerates into the streets. I stared briefly at the passersby, noting both their expressions and the relative amount of pain their gazes exposed as they hurried past.

I walked uptown along Third Avenue until I hit Forty-Fourth street, and then I turned west amidst the busy commuters rushing to greet transport to their suburban refuges at Grand Central Station. I envied these captains of industry who ventured daily into the city from places like Westchester or small towns in Connecticut. Their lives were planned out perfectly – a real house with a front yard seated on a quiet tree-lined street; a wife who tended to domestic chores while their two-point-five children were all incubating in the sheltered wombs of private schools, lacrosse games, summer homes and seasonal cotillions. Their wives would no doubt be waiting in the Volvo with the family dog to meet their hero as he trotted from the platform to the waiting lines of station wagons and mini-vans.

I dismissed that reverie and kept walking in the brisk February air, looking in the windows of camera shops, shoe stores and whatever else I passed along the way. As I looked at each window display, every item I saw transported me. A new camera took me on vacation with a family I borrowed from the commuters I had passed just blocks before. A shoe store outfitted me for a successful career. A restaurant became the site for a celebration of a promotion, or my nonexistent child’s birthday. I gazed deeper into these daydreams, looking into the imaginary face of my faithful wife. She had weathered the hard times knowing my determination to succeed would reward her patience. She had stood by me as I climbed the ladder at the firm, always encouraging me to persevere, listening attentively to my complaints about the rich bastards from upstairs who would seal my fate. My exuberance increased as I played out this fabricated drama for myself. My vision became clearer as the cold wind blew into my face. Tears began to well in my eyes and the street signs seemed to pulse as I reached the corner of Fifth Avenue and Forty-Fourth Street. I felt my heart beating faster from both the pace at which I was walking and the strange world to where I had just escaped. The booze made me feel warm and served to calm my nerves a bit, but it was fading away.

As the light turned green, I crossed over to the west side of Fifth Avenue. I was still walking in the realm of midtown businesses, passing executives, couriers, young trainees and salesmen as I went. The women had changed out of their heels and put on Reebok or Nike sneakers to make their long walks home, clad in wool skirts and dark pantyhose jutting out of their overcoats as they strode away from the safety of their offices. I walked past the pushcart vendors and breathed in the smells of hot sausage and chestnuts brewing from their stainless steel contraptions. I stopped at one of these and ordered a hot dog.

I ate the hot dog rather quickly as I continued walking. I felt good about having had dinner without much hassle. Eating can be a real pain in the ass when there are other things to do, like drinking and going to strip clubs. The adrenaline rush I get when I have important plans like that kills the appetite.

I decided to stop at a Citibank on the corner of Avenue of the Americas to remove the bulk of my fortune to cover the always unknown expense of patronizing a strip club. I opened the glass door of the bank, which led into an entryway with another door about ten feet ahead. The door slowly closed behind me and the hum of the city with its rushing wind seemed to become sealed off inside the bank’s outer chamber. I felt my ears begin to relish the warmth as I reached into my wallet to get my bank card. I slipped it into the opening to the right of the next glass door and removed it as the magnetic strip registered and unlocked the door. There was a homeless man lying underneath the counter offered by the bank for endorsing deposits. In the winter months, this was prime real estate for a homeless person here in the city. After the habitual punching of the machine’s keypad, I summoned the thing to dispense two hundred sixty dollars. I mumbled my usual prayer as the machine churned, asking the gods of finance to deliver the crisp twenties without incident. Papers bearing Andrew Jackson’s headshot spit out into my waiting fingers. I turned away from the machine and glanced at the vagrant as I walked to the door. I briefly contemplated his plight as I pulled the door open to the bank’s antechamber and walked toward the exit; I wondered what circumstances in my own life could bring me to that place. Then a song played in my head:

The vagabond who’s rapping at your door.

He’s standing in the clothes that you once wore.

This somehow absolved me of my sense of guilt about the homeless, and so I walked on into the darkness of Manhattan.

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