By Frankie Leone, USA (Published in Issue 10)
*i purchased less-than-legal goods more than once in yesteryears. sometimes i patronized a vendor introduced to me as 'the rain man.'
he stood on his block year round making a living. a boxy rain coat always hung over his torso. he wasn't burdened by mental illness or deficiency. when he claimed the street with a shout no one dismissed him as crazy.
everyone in his neighborhood knew why he wore the rain coat- under it was a sawed off shotgun. double barreled. twelve gauge.
he wasn't modest about this artillery. flamboyant would be more accurate. part of his business was everyone knowing that part of his business.
once i asked 'the rain man,' "wouldn't something smaller make more sense?"
"ain't 'bout the kind of sense you thinkin' on. think i tote this heavy-ass bitch for fun? wear a damn rain coat year round cause it look fresh? hell no. she good for bidness. helps chumps pay attention."
i didn't understand. he sensed this and tried again.
"know 'bout vanna white? wheel of fortune bitch? why you think that snow bunny's turnin' letters?"
*stepping onto 10th ave between 16th and 17th i notice a strange feeling in my mouth and lips. throat too. the taste isn't unusual. just a vaguely familiar sensation. numbness.
i'm disgusted, mostly with myself, as i realize the cause.
cocaine or heroin's been part of her night's substance regiment. she's a good kisser. still, i make a mental note to avoid a phone number exchange. breathing deep i feel bass pulse through the club's doors.
a lanky frame sachets out of the crowd of smoking people. the promoter. his voice sounds like soiled silk glittered with gay mannerisms. i've always enjoyed it.
he asks, "how're we doing beb?"
"i'm getting by."
"aw. frankie, such a dark sensitive soul. brighten up," he says.
his words hit the wrong spots. i get plastic. a smile airbrushes itself across my face.
"i'll do what i can for you. thanks for another invite sugar."
"of course. how could i not have the hard core bukowski boy of brooklyn at my table?"
this characterization embarrasses me. it also massages my ego. at least he's not introducing me like that. not now. i leave it alone.
"how's everything with you?"
"you know how it goes gorgeous. these idiots take forever to get new bottles to the table. the coke-dealer's always late. my friends leave. everyone in this town's unreliable. i'm going to skull-fuck some bitches. you'll see. get some drinks?"
"haven't had a drink in years."
"i forgot you don't drink. i love that about you. i have to ask- why do you come to my parties?"
"i'm hooked on beautiful people, the appearance of glamour..."
he cuts me off.
he lights a cigarette. marlboro light 100.
"and i hate myself," i finish.
with gusto he pulls on the marlboro while nodding his head. through a cloudy exhale the corners of his mouth slide almost to his ears.
"you're right where you should be beb. papa'll love you if you can't love yourself."
i force a laugh before changing the subject.
"i made out with another one of your kids. she numbed out my mouth."
his smile fades. frustration dominates his tone.
"the pretty skinny young-looking one."
"are you autistic? that's all of them. listen to me- slow down your perversion with my friends."
i raise my eyebrow but don't respond.
he continues, "try to wrap your little mind around this- i get them young to earn loyalty. nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two. they grow with me. it's my career. there's lots of divas in there. you start drama with your smooching they might not show up. that's wasted time and effort for me."
i respond, "sounds familiar. like you're leading a gang."
"of course i am. how do you think this spectacle you enjoy so much happens? this is 'gangs of new york' in the clubs of chelsea and i'm bill the fucking butcher. do what you like tonight but if it happens again i'm trimming the fat you bitch."
any trace of our previous moments' theatrical affection is boroughs away.
my face betrays rage. his eyes are wide in anger. i look into them. his irises, already near-black, are covered by saucer-like pupils. cocaine's taken potential for fear from them. noticing balled fists at my side his grin returns. he nods towards three enormous bouncers less than ten feet away. their bald heads shimmer in the street light.
he laughs. his voice shakes the shells from both barrels of my hands.
"all your tattoos and bad boy history mean nothing here."
he breaks through another giggle before talking again.
"awww. the big man stands all by himself."
it's two-thirty a.m. and time to get some sleep. the bouncers lift the rope and i walk passed a row of waiting cabs towards the subway.*
*lady luck forced me into lifestyle changes long ago. business trips to 'the rain man' don't coincide with them. i never returned to his block.
we saw each other years after my last visit though. at dallas bbq on 3rd ave. wearing a leather pelle pelle jacket he sat across from a woman eating a fried fish sandwich. didn't see a point in being rude.
i walked over to say hello.
after skin deep 'how you beens' i asked, "no more rain coat?"
"nah, had to change up my style."
"vanna white wasn't worth the trouble?"
it took a second but he got the reference. his laughter was warm.
"nah player," he answered.
we did 'take-care good-to-see-yas' before i walked back to my table.*
Frankie is the chief writer and editor for http://boroughoflostboys.com/. (Over twenty-thousand hits since December.) His work (or himself) has been featured in New York City journals Imprint Magazine, Free Williamsburg, The Williamsburg Greenpoint News and Arts, Lovelorn Poets, and The Scarlett Fervor (among others). He studied creative writing at Brooklyn College.