New York City
Blast the damn heat, for my brow drips. For in New York it gets so hot in the late of August, a swelter box, most people of any means flee to their dachas in Strong Island.
Dawn is now rising, breaking and expanding on the garden roof of an ancient print house that’s been—at some time in the past hundred years— converted to a seventeen story cooperative. 140 Nassau Street, District Financial. On the 17th story roof deck, Sebastian Vasyli Adon, our antagonistic protagonist, tells old danger tales over a bottle of illegally imported Basque white wine. A fake gold watch dangles off his wrist as he enunciated his wild story with his hands, even though it is known that he is only one-half a Yid. Covering his dark brown hair, cut short for summer, is a brown scally cap.
Behold the faces of off duty urban partisans and gypsies who refuse the gift of sleep!
Slim and enthusiastic Europeans Mary Lia Monteleone and Victoria Christiana Lynch Contreras snap off photos and clink glasses bantering on care free flirtations and intoxications.
Mary Lia takes off all her clothing for various colors of money. “I’m a dancer,” she tells her parents back in the Cayman Islands by way of Italy and France. In another life she’ll hopefully take up photography, which “pays a little less but has more dignity” she claims.
Rafael Ernesto Lynch Contreras, a baby-faced Peruvian revolutionist with flowing black hair, with an increasing volume of white and grey streaks, is the husband of Victoria. He sits with his dear friend Sebastian and a ravishingly beautiful Russian dvotchka named Daria Andreavna Skorobogatova and attempts a boozy mediation as the two do increasingly evil eye each other viciously across a low wooden table. The stare down, which has endured now for the past hour between Sebastian and Daria is punctuated by accusations of impropriety.
Daria has big beautiful crazy person eyes the color of the Caspian Sea. She has an unnerving look, a cross between a size up and seductive stare, a dismissive dart of her eyes to cut men down. She is a stunning high octane mix of wild blonde partisan with her azure silver eyes darting between warfare and wanting; and the bright eyed curiosity of a child in a large affluent glass and steel playground. She is wrapped tightly in a light brown leather jacket.
Sebastian’s eyes are always sad. An auburn hazel slowly becoming green with the progressing sleep deprivation that is something of a lifestyle for him. Ernesto is their introducer and is a frivolous womanizing artist tamed as of lately by his government marriage to Victoria. Because liquor is so loose at the Mehanata Social Club, people sometimes have to introduced and reintroduced several times in different states of mental chemistry.
Sebastian is a dark brunette normally clad in a tattered brown leather jacket and pleather scally cap that none of his lovers ever want him to wear. Tonight he is in a white linen suit, hair done Dominican with products in his hair. It’s not his usual look. Normally he looks like a handsome grown up paperboy, but tonight a Latino drug dealer.
The reason he is dressed like that is because prior to his arrival at the Mehanata Social Club about seven hours prior he had been at an all-inclusive White Party, a river cruise of wild Latin salsa-based gallivanting around Manhattan.
Daria for reasons more than bust and beauty is capable, knows Ernesto well, of putting out some siren call to which many men have smashed their ships. She quite literally humors no man for any more than one dance. Belligerencies that pour from her mouth when intoxicated, well, they cause fights. She captures much attention anytime she steps in the room and onto a dance floor. Her style is quite Post-soviet in its cut and colors. There is well composed sashay to her movements to and from the bar all night.
An affectionate, overly familiar rendering of the Russian name Daria is Dasha, and this is what Sebastian has been calling her all night, which is perhaps a little too friendly amid those who have just met. They had been introduced months earlier, but both had been too drunk to remember. Despite both being regulars at Mehanata for years, the two had never crossed paths before. She is never cold on the outside, but this morning she’s provoked and behaving badly to the host.
Sebastian said “don’t smoke in my father’s house,” so she went and smoked in his father’s house, because that was her way. So he yanked the fucking smoke from her pouty lips and threatened to throw her into a cab back to Brighton Beach. Then he “classlessly” handed her forty bucks for that cab, even though it’s really a sixty to seventy dollar ride, and more if you tip. Which is against all Russian cultural context, to tip a chornay driver or take a man’s money and walk out and get your own cab.
She debased him best she could as a “useless man living off his parent’s wealth.”
And said “never in my life have I been so offended by the callous, pompous behavior of an American dog such as you!”
“Less than a dog!” she had proclaimed. And the other late night-early morning Social Club regulars sort of stood about in silence, out of annoyance and also out of inebriation. But, Daria took her time. Intermittently insulting Sebastian. And Ernesto tried to calm her down and Maxim Bender, a Muscovite got annoyed and left on his own. Sebastian, to show he wasn’t a pushover to this bombshell, star lit scarlet that no one probably ever said no to, he feigned outrage about the cigarette which barely mattered, just showed total disrespect. Who the fuck did this bitch think, she was. That rolled about his head.
“I’m gonna call you a cab,” he said. And then she knew she’d won anyway.
He did all that, also because he’d been drinking a lot. And he’s not always the gentleman that he presumes himself to be. Letting any person show such appalling disrespect was late night cheapening. Yet, because she was pretty stunning and pouty and her heels took too long for her to fasten, in effort of perestroika he asked her to stay and then they all ended up on the roof to catch the sunrise.
Then the dawn break on Mary Lia, Victoria, Daria, Sebastian and Ernesto. And sometime just after that a dangerously insensitive story gets told. And Dasha is again beyond appalled. Sebastian removes his cap and says,
“The job, and operation; call it whatever you want; involves calling on high end prostitutes whose numbers one acquires in the association of men of your former Soviet back ground, mostly at the Banya or restaurants Wall Street guys hang out.”
Banya is Russian for bathhouse. In the past few years Sebastian has been bathing with Russians regularly. He loves the way music sounds in Russian. Though he knows under three dozen phrases and cannot even barely read Cyrillic.
Dasha watches his words take form. Her eyes just peer right into you, and they are not always as happy as the completely convincing smile she plasters on so regularly for photos. That is acquired art in itself. Either they are blue or they are grey or they are silver when sleep deprived, but they are not the eyes of a spectator.
“So shortly after they arrive and give you some fictitious cover, you take a coat and as they walk in and settle on a price that will involve no touching at all. Then, you tell them that they’re being filmed and recorded, but that you’re not a cop, or whoever else dangerous, you’re not there to entrap them. You tell them you’re an abolitionist.”
Puff, puff passes along this ill-conceived venture.
“You tell them to call down to the pimp’s driver, and say your John is layered out.
“Tiger-blooded,” notes Raphael Ernesto.
“Then you make tea, like advanced civilizations do. You tell them a story, a personal tale about why you are not a dog or a pig, and how you came to hate this line of work because you had loved someone forced into it. You convince them to take and perhaps disseminate to other persons a number to arrest traffickers and pimps, also to get trafficked and victimized people the resources they need to escape. They get half the job cash for nothing but a number and a way out. They get a number on a card, you ask them to put it in their phone. Eventually, the poor soul either will pass the number or report it directly to the pimps, but you force a violent hand and spread the knowledge that there is in fact a networked way to escape slavery. It’s cheaper and more effective than lobbying or political routes, we must go directly to the slaves and assure them there is safe way out. The next stage then is to get volunteers into brothels to feign cardiac arrest and call ambulances and firemen in as reinforcements. It basically has be understood as major disruptive campaign against all elements of the sex trade. ”
Daria’s jaw drops.
“They would kill you just for that,” Dasha spits out, “for bullshit man! For a lot less than bull shit. A number! I spit on your American number. On your insulting low grade bullshit that changes nothing. You will die, they will kill those dear to you, and nothing at all will be fixed about anything, not one woman will get out” retorts Dasha.
She’s not a debutante, not a true New Russian here to hunt. She has all the regality of being born Slavic, but perhaps outside the great dividing highway that ring roads that loop Moscow separating the have everything’s’ from the have nothings or have only little something’s. Being born so radiantly beautiful and tough and Russian after the supposed triumph of American Capitalism has left her charming, but more capable of fighting. Daria is far from Russia with love, rootless and floating in glittery fairy tales that don’t expel the hardships of her new country adopted via an arranged marriage for papers.
“I am not afraid to die for a thing I believe in sweetness, I am not afraid to try and save only one life at the cost of all my American privileges” he flatly retorts in half-cocked rhetoric.
“He has such American beliefs!” She mocks.
Ernesto always has applauded his radical specifications and foreign adventures over the past three years he’s known Sebastian. He’s done his initial trench time, agrees Ernesto. Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Haiti, the worst assignments in Europe too and the street battles to occupy the District last fall that went so bloody poorly playing out in split skulls and tear gas all over national television.
“I guess you’ve never had to work for anything completely or work to keep something you fought hard for, so you give away most easily. Your life seems so easily offered, to take if you ask me,” Daria snaps at his bait.
“Hey, lady, you are insulting to my dear friend and our gracious host,” Ernesto interjects. “This man, you have no idea what he’s been through to back up these words.”
A few too many baton cracks in the Gulliver. A few too many months adding up to several years inside uncomfortable facilities. Sebastian’s given lots of militant speeches but never done any violent actions with his hands. He’s piloted an ambulance for the Fire Department for four years in all the city’s worst districts. He has traversed the Levant organizing against the occupation, the American occupation of Israel and the Israeli Oligarchy’s occupation of Palestine. He’s told people of their human rights over and over, until not over, and over again. He delivered a baby once, helped do it many more times.
Dasha could care less.
She is appalled by the rude cigarette yank and further appalled by his cynical bourgeoisie story about call girls passing itself off as utterly vain and stupidly incompetent activism. She only stayed because she doesn’t have a home that’s enjoyable to return to at this hour; an hour away in the Russian ghetto of Brighton.
She offers to kill him. He obliges her. Thinks she’s mostly bluffing.
“I’ll kill this over privileged American hypocrite,” she thinks. A civic duty to her new country and old country too. Mostly, she maintains a mighty level of the not giving of a shit. She’s also on an off day. She only remembers every other night out when she drinks. The rest of them a blur black haze punctuated with irregular black and blue marks.
“From falling down stairs,” she claims to her keeper.
If she kills him, the tragedy, as far as a memory, will belong to no one. Maybe there’s some demon in her. Maybe she’s just blacked out a few hours ago and won’t remember any of this.
Ernesto implores her to be more, “Suave, Suave”. To be more calm and “Tranquillo.”
The infamous Peruvian revolutionist is now a New York low key digital disk jockey at the Social Club and cannot modulate Sebastian’s posturing and Dasha’s swaggerous, murderous taunting. Now, they’re waving invisible pistols at each other’s’ faces like wild Cold Warriors.
Ernesto then urges Victoria and Mary Lia to intercede on some level of Feminine Mystique but they are long drunk too, now taking lots and lots of pictures of the Sunrise hitting all these steel and glass towers. And, the two young women have seen “Dasha” make a properly rude scene before. They’ve seen her throw drinks in men’s faces and punch men in the face. They detach from this drama for art; when men, “get smart”.
“When men get smart with me I cut them apart,” Daria lives by that.
The job of any and all men as far as she is concerned is to amuse or please her by makings sure her drink is never empty. That life is a series of taken care of attractions, to make her life easier. If one is well formed and handsome and he does enough work then, well, you know. Sebastian has failed on all fronts in his utterly crass, self-serving arrogance.
“So you’re gonna kill me or just threaten on about it?” says Sebastian secretly hoping she might actually kill him, there’s a sickness in his soul you know. He hasn’t felt so alive in a moment anyway since the last girl ripped his heart out with a dagger in a long game of masochistic sex coupled with co-dependent longing. That’s a thing.
There was nothing healthy about his love life ever, which was a fact.
Even the use of the word “love” bids a kind of shame inside him for perpetually having to beg back affections from those he’d thought he’d die for. A year ago his previous paramour Yelizaveta finally cut him off. The struggle took its heavy toll over the years boxing with monsters and holding such hopes for humanity, always repeatedly underwhelmed by human actions. His Icarus sky walled expectations! His place in the chain of command remains so unclear. Only “the existential problems of an overly privileged first world revolutionist”, as Yelizaveta used to declaim. His last six months have been an abyss of medical studies on how to beat back death with drugs and electricity, and small talk.
Something like that.
A veritable blur of broken dreams to lay down his irrational struggle and pursue medicine, choose life over vain pretenses as a prelude to inglorious martyrdom. His life has taken a turn for the worst now several times “believing in things”. “Being a hopelessly real romantic.”
His studies are now more specific.
He is enrolled in a one-year paramedic upgrade program. He had thought to jump country, apply for work abroad. He was ordered to hold the post in the city and just keep working on recovering his mind. Lt. Moshe Klein, the orthodox Jewish lieutenant on the grave yard shift of Station 31 Cumberland outpost, a sympathizer of the resistance arranged his hasty enrollment in the paramedic academy of Methodist Hospital on Kings Highway.
Or perhaps better focused on saving the individual life here and there. Not the world in its totality, for that, is what so well-meaning associates accused him of trying. Shouldering a burden not placed or asked of him. No one ever asked that of him or expected that he delivers on it. Just be happy, they urged him, just work on what’s right in front of you.
His weekends soak in vodka or with wine, sometimes one poured in the other. And the boozing keeps his eyes closed to certain things. And now he’s drunk now again. Acting poorly in the company of a bellicose Russian woman, yet again. Drawing bellicosity out of people well known for poker faced reserve and dispassion.
Kill me for the sake of it, he hopes. It’s what the world would surely not mind all too much. Though he knows he’d have a modestly well-attended funeral; it’s evil drunken, self-destructive thinking. From a fallen man who has locked up and been hit in the head a few too many times.
“So you’re gonna kill me or just threaten on about it?”
“Absofuckinglutely,” she replies.
Before drunken Ernesto who is now very, very sloshed, and also very, very tired can react. After spinning his music from a lap top all night can talk them down. Sebastian and Daria are climbing up a ladder. Up to the 18th story deck near the gear room elevator tower. It’s the highest accessible point. An easterly, elevated deck off that 17th story roof with a deep and deadly edge of plummet to death with the Blue glass Gehry Building towering above and looking down. A million cubicles of an upper-class aquarium. Like a Sorcerer’s tower of steel rising above the East river. Were anyone it awake now, left over from a coke party; they could see the two protagonists now sparring.
A great setting for a hastily arranged assisted suicide.
They’re now actually boxing. Daria is properly in a Brighton boxing school. She strikes at him hard and then even harder. “Die you fucking Amerikanski, you damn wasted one,” she thinks.
Ernesto, Lia, and Victoria who are always so very stylish, now have stopped their art making over white wine and look up with some very now real possible concern. Not a plane or a mob on a train could have killed him so far. Not jealous those ex-boyfriends, vanquished competing lovers from trysts and lusty engagements he’s partaken in, nor spy agencies, nor police forces with much bigger better-threatening fish to fry had gotten this close. A beautiful woman might get close enough this morning, all by accident.
“You don’t want to live here forever?” she taunts him. Their scrappy boxing and taunting have them perilously near the ledge and the edge of the fire pit.
The roof deck is a glamorous lit up garden at dawn. The ledge is just feet from the fight, and so is this big pit, for old buildings have deep internal fire ventilation caverns. A trip into the sweet hereafter where one might fall dead on to the front porch of New York’s highest high rise residential where the rent is now 40,000 American a month in the month before. The pit is just a dead drop, it’s a Fire code ordinance for building in late 18th century, a ventilation shaft for the 19 real story print house now a new richer-intelligentsia. A queer, liberal, Jew coop on the financial district’s northern most edge at the mouth of the Brooklyn Bridge and City Hall Park.
Daria is striking out at him, and he is just taking her hits. And then, then it finally comes.
“Hit me to kill me! Just knock me into that fucking pit and make an inglorious end to it all,” he swagger demands in a bellow.
The most beautiful woman he has ever seen is just a side story in his mind. A tandem episode to his tragedy. She cocks back and doesn’t blue eyed blink. “Kill me,” he beckons and then. She finally tries to kill him.
Daria hits him with one swift, hard jab, and he tumbles backward. He crumbles awkwardly toppling into the abyss.
As he plummets, he instinctively grabs out and yanks her back with him in a tumble off the ledge of the roof, falling now together toward certain death in the alley way eighteen stories below.