Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Drinks invited the Madison Avenue girls out for the 4th night in a row. My friend and creative partner Lauren were at our favorite watering hole, a stumble away from our agency. It wasn’t a gem of Zaggat, but we loved the unofficial one for one buy back we got at the bar.

I ordered a vodka. A bartender I had never seen returned with a dark, molasses voice and a shot of high IQ. That’s the thing with brilliant men. You can hear their intelligence before even they utter the first few syllables. His head was shaved, sleek and suggestive, his shoulders, taught, thick and round. Out of nowhere, they come: men that disarm you and write the next chapter in your meandering life.

8 minutes later we had a plan. Drink, debrief, and fall hard – across the street, after his shift.

This platter of passion and anger sat before me. Oil spill eyes, with pupils indecipherable were transfixed on mine. Words spilled and spewed out of him. Me, up way too late, like a kid under a blanket reading by flashlight, riveted.

Army career. Death metal band. Author. Drunk. Anarchist. I wondered if I would wear black at our wedding. His instability was prominent and thick. After my 9 year staid, passionless relationship, I was lulled into his tumultuous stream of consciousness.

Four in the morning, middle lane of 3rd Avenue, he took me in his arms. Tears, tongues, estrogen and testosterone crashed as cabs honked and swerved to miss us. My sweet flowered dress had lost its cottony crispness, surrendering to cigarettes, whiskey, perfume, and sweat.

He kissed me rabidity with infant-like neediness as he mumbled a disclaimer about having a girlfriend. I reached deep down inside of me and found a quarter sized dab of ethics, and rebuked his offer to stain my sheets with his scent. I backed away in wonder as he transformed into some sort of an ungodly beast. Crying out, movie-worthy, in the middle of 3rd Avenue – “I LOVE YOU AND YOU DON’T FUCKING CARE”. It bounced off buildings and reverberated in my ears and thighs. I left him there like that, watching him out the back of my cab window, arms outstretched, incensed and huge.

Later that week, I had heard from people at the bar that John was getting married. A week and a half after that, he was free and thinking about love, sex, and a girl from Connecticut. So I began my education of all things John. Pictures from his punk/metal days. vinyl recordings full of anguish, festering sexuality, and squandered intelligence. Pages of journal entries from days in the service. Smart, funny, haunting, lurid, wonderful. I was whetted by his pen, and his inexplicable drive to adore me.

I couldn’t tell you what happened after that. John fell out of my life as quickly as he had crashed into it. A year later, he called me at my advertising job. He had it all together, he had gone to school and was now a recording engineer at a well-known place in the city. He wanted to see me, for me to see him in his new element. A Halloween party was on tap at the studio, and he asked me to show.

I saw John lurking around the party. He came dressed, I guessed, as His Darkest Self. He was wearing his classic black, with blackened circles around his dank sunken eyes. He nodded from afar, and disappeared behind a black curtain. I headed back to Brooklyn, perplexed and unrequited.

One week later, I received a call at work. John had been discovered in his apartment, unconscious, two days after a Heroin OD. He had fallen with his leg twisted and bent in an impossible position. The word “amputation” was on the table. I called the hospital, his worn defeated utterances offered me comfort.

The leg was salvaged. John was released a couple of weeks later and having a barbeque at his father’s house on Long Island to celebrate his leg and his second chance at life. The promise of possible intimacy and hotdogs on a grill urged me onto the Long Island Railroad. John looked wonderful. His doctors had saved his leg. But Jesus had saved his life.

John explained, there had been a miracle. That he had a vision of Jesus when he woke up in the hospital. Girlfriends, Heroin, Jesus, it was always some excuse not to fuck.

We began spending quality time together. John was shopping for religion to replace his worship of whiskey, sex, and heroin. He started at Temple. He had always like Jewish girls, but wasn’t feeling a connection that high up the ladder. As he began to graze at the salad bar of organized religion, we spent afternoons and evenings together, often chatting until 4 in the morning, just like the old days. He insisted on sleeping on my sofa. John, writing in his journal, occasionally piping up with an inspired entry, me, trying to hide my haunting desire to inhale him from clear across the room.

A religious path was non-negotiable. Any other option would result in death. Plus, he was indebted to Jesus, big time.

A few months later, we had our first real date. John wore a jacket, I wore a skirt, we went to a nice place. We both ordered the shrimp scampi. I had red wine, he had ice water. We toasted to my birthday, which was in two days, and made a date on the day to celebrate. He invited me up to his tiny studio apartment to talk some more. “I want to be with you,” he said. The sex was talking. Jesus was hiding there somewhere in the tiny apartment, perhaps under the pile of soiled laundry. In full support his spiritual journey, I pulled away from his hand, which was gently working its way around my neck to draw me closer. He told me it was OK, as he popped the top button of his new black 501 jeans and drew himself out. The moment had finally arrived, and it passed quickly, the irony against the 3 year waiting period stung hard. He mumbled something about being tired. I let myself out, took the long ride back to Brooklyn and never heard from him again. My birthday came and went, no call, no date, no flowers, no goodbye.

I heard through the grapevine that John had enrolled in a Theological Seminary upstate. He was studying to become a Pastor, and word had it that he had set the place on fire with his passion, intelligence and intellect. I had spent a lot of afternoons in that wooded upstate town, antiquing and dining at charming eateries. I didn’t see why I shouldn’t drive by and scream out details of his blasphemy in the middle of campus in a halter top and no bra. But I thought better of it.

Years later, I did a Google search on John. He had his own parish in an extremely broken, impoverished town in Pennsylvania. He had married a fellow Pastor. She looked very kind and unembellished. They were starting a family. I found some writing he had done as a Pastor. It was gritty, impassioned, and wonderful. The core of John was still there, just cloaked in a cloak. I thought about his incredibly journey, and wondered how I had managed to still be standing in the same place – the middle of 3rd avenue, still waiting for that hell-fired impassioned kiss to pan out into something meaningful.

1 comment:

  1. If anyone can make a man see Jesus, it's you.