The following is an excerpt from a finished book that I may or may not eventually publish, The Four Seasons of Michael James. For now, I’ll be periodically dropping bits and pieces here.
There’s a monsoon outside. Not a real one, but real enough for New York. Rain falls in unrelenting sheets. Water splatters against my window like paint. A heavy-handed wind bends the trees outside my apartment, howling and shuddering, while lightening cracks through dark clouds and illuminates the walls of my bedroom with a cobalt pop.
“Come meet us!”
Audra is in town with her ex-boyfriend who is now her boyfriend again. He’s done terrible things to her; I’m not supposed to like him.
“Okay,” I say. “I’ll come.”
I haven’t left the house in weeks.
My umbrella whips around me furiously, yanking my arm around spastically. Water soaks through my boots to the socks inside. When I finally make it to the Bowery Hotel lobby, I look like a pitiful, soggy mess.
They’re sitting at a configuration of sunken-in sofas against the south wall. Brett’s older. He shakes my hand aggressively. He has an erratic charm about him, a pleasant care beneath crazed eccentricity. Audra sits next to him, a beautiful toy.
A friend of his arrives: Darren. Darren is older, too. Maybe late forties or mid-fifties. He sits next to me.
“Let me guess,” he starts. “You live in Brooklyn or the Lower East Side.”
“Brooklyn,” I confirm, turning my back towards him and craving better company.
There is something about Brett that is beguiling, despite an untoward intensity. He asks questions. He looks at you when he speaks. He connects and engages. He is a people person with a penchant for monstrous behavior.
Michael comes up. Winter. My malaise.
“I’m broken,” I say, a smile stamped into my face.
“You’re fine,” Brett insists. “Look, you’re here, aren’t you?”
I am here, but I’m not really here. Lately I feel like I’m trapped in a glass box, banging on the walls as the room begins to fill up with water.
“Let’s do a word association game,” he says, facing towards me, his forearms propped on his knees, his back hunched.
“Fashion,” he begins.
“Whores.” I say.
“See!” he exclaims. “You’re fine!”
Audra whispers something in my ear about having MDMA. “Let’s go upstairs,” Brett says and someone pays for our drinks and we take an elevator to a penthouse with a rain-soaked balcony. The green and white striped awning whips furiously in the wind. Clouds pass over the city, heaving water at Manhattan in buckets.
Darren cuts the bag of MDMA into quarters with a clinical precision. “There,” he says, standing above bits of white scattered on a red envelope. “That’s how much you need to take.” Darren’s a doctor. A real one.
Audra and Brett take swigs out of a plastic bottle filled with water and drugs while I admire the chenille sofas and the wooden ceiling. There’s something about it that reminds me of that scene in Mary Poppins with the penguin dance in a parallel, animated universe.
Brett suggests we go to Darren’s house.
By the time we leave it’s nearly 11 and the rain has passed. The sky looks less dense, though increasingly blackened. Darren picks us up outside of the hotel in a Jaguar from the 60s, a shiny white two-door with red leather interior. Audra and Brett crawl into the backseat to fondle one another while Darren discusses with me the curatorial process of bringing people into your life as you get older.
“The more sure of yourself you get, the more you know what you want, the more you know what people aren’t worth wasting time on,” he assures me. But here we are, all wasting time on each other. Pretty young girls and old rich men, money and beauty bridging the gap.
(Photo courtesy of Murray Mitchell)