I remember it was 1995 in a Brooklyn hip-hop bar and we were plucking No. 8 bird-shot out of Kropotkin’s shoulder and thigh with a pair of surgical tweezers, asking him how he had come to such a sorry pass, when suddenly Bede’s 20-year-old younger sister Virginia appeared in a shirtwaist dress. As we all remember, this June Cleaver mode had enjoyed something of a revival in the late 1980s, but by Virginia’s time was patently out of date; thus, as we summed up her forlorn silhouette against the Fort Green night, it must have struck us all at once: Virginia Van Der Meer was not only a fashion victim but perhaps a virgin as well.
We sought out clues. Bede told us she had gone to an all-girl’s school in Rhode Island called Havershire, whose enrollees, according to the most recent Farmers’ Almanac, were most famous for rarely rising above 4 foot 5 inches in height. Thus the school had earned some not-so-flattering sobriquets, such as “the Daughters of Emily,” the “Pocket Vestals” and “Band Camp.”
We immediately drew straws to see who would be the man who must immediately deflower Virginia, if only for her own good, and I, dear Leticia, unfortunately drew the smallest silage.
I walked her home that night, going as far as her boudoir, tip-toeing past her Korean roommate. My idea was to seduce her by way of a sort of word game I had devised, in which I would kiss one of her knuckles whenever she dropped the name of a female author and tell her it was punishment. Instead, before I could get to the first knuckle, she sucked me up into a tight embrace, climbing halfway up my knee and kissing me on the mouth for several uncomfortable minutes before confessing that someone had actually already ruined her, but this man then immediately broke up with her to become a priest. It left her feeling not only ugly and sexually ambiguous but with a great deal to prove.
It was all too awful, not to mention frankly funny, for me to possibly ever look her in the eye ever again, so the moment she went to the bathroom to affix the Dutch cap that her ever-hopeful father had bought her, I jumped out the window and ran back to the pub where I told the rest of my hale-fellows that the mission was a bust.
After another hour of dialectic about the commodification of black rage, I became smitten by a smoky eyed woman in a tam and a shoddy down coat named Sabine who bragged about having completely furnished her home with found items on the New York City streets and thus was above feelings of capitalist alienation that seemed to obsess the rest of us. Intrigued, hooked, besotted, I asked her to promenade with me along Atlantic Avenue where we could discuss prolonged people’s wars and other delicious topics.
“Wait!” she said. “It’s a full moon.”
“We must chase it.”
Before I knew it, I was running down the street after her in the middle of the night, following the moon as it left its trail for us in various pools of standing Brooklyn bilge water, Sabine often losing it behind a building only to find it again as we turned a corner moments later with a delighted shriek of “There it is!”
With all due respect to your fair sex, Leticia, this stone crazy bitch ran me around for two hours chasing windmills, only to land us about three miles away at the Red Hook wharfs at two in the morning where I was quite in danger of being attacked by a gang of drunk, angry hoods.
I called my friends from a pay phone to come get me in a taxi, and they sent Bede, who, got out of the car and punched me in the eye.
“You leave my poor sister alone like that? Don’t you know how fragile she is? She tried to jump in the Hudson River, you unfeeling bastard.”
As it turned out, Virginia jumped not into the river but into the arms of a Russian sailor near the Chelsea docks, a man whom she married and retired with back to Siberia where I hear they now have 8 children. I understand she has become a stocky and muscular farm woman who can punch an ox in the face and almost knock it down. Meanwhile, Sabine, the woman I chased all night trying to find the moon, has become quite famous by convincing Larry King she has cured autism.
And where does that leave me? Still pining for you, Leticia. In what chambers of the sea do you linger? What compass could ever help me navigate the map of red and blue veins under your pellucid white skin? What set of directions could ever lead me to you?
I am yours always. Remember what we used to say in Munich: “Is this bitter, or is it just me?”
I am an ancient reluctant conscript,
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