Posted Monday, February 9th, 2009
Flower Drum and Persimmon Girl
He was the Japanese drummer known as Flower Drum and played for an Indie band called Lovers On Cell Phones. At the East Village club, she liked the way his billy goat face and his magic-squirrel hands made her sweat. Then, there were clouds of red smoke that made it impossible to see the band. The sound of the electronic snare reassured her and the cloud faded.
Backstage, her girlfriend, awash in frugal peach-smelling soaps, strung out on blue pills and cling-on solitude, made the introduction. The friend knew everybody but only slept with the ghost of an ex-boyfriend, a tattoo artist, dead from an overdose of something straw-colored and ratty. It wasn't really intentional the friend told half-strangers who asked for sex in exchange for red pills. In a circle of friends, his death was a trendy subject.
At the party, there were people with happy malleable faces. On the hardwood floor, by the radiator, a Burmese cat licked its coat. She drank diet soda and made stagey but necessary smiles. A man sat across from her, said little, reminded her of little towns and tombstone lives. A group of paper-doll girls surrounded the Japanese drummer like a moat. Occasionally, his eyes drifted across the room to where she sat. His eyes reminded her of tiny black tugboats in a morning haze. She wished she had a pair of scissors to cut out and toss overboard bits of her life story.
She would cut out the parts about how she arranged her life by a string of sudden impulses: dropping out of school, dumping boyfriends who were polite as waiters at The Tick Tock, the ill-fated stint at Juliard. She had given up on the cello.
Two by two, the guests disappeared. Her girlfriend left with a recording engineer, an older wiry man, who smiled like a father figure, had offered to drive her home. He was mostly bald with longish strands in the back, brushing his collar. He was still jabbering about working with Madonna once and how polite she was to studio musicians.
In the small living room, she clicked a remote, scanned channels, cartoon heroes and CNN war updates. In the corner of the room was a knapsack strewn with the initials: LOCP. She wondered if he had a steady girlfriend or just some party chick on the fringe. A fuck doll with static for words. On the sofa, she quivered, played with the side zipper of her leather skirt, thought of a song about a jelly-roll girl. She settled on the channel featuring "Everybody Loves Raymond." She swerved her head towards the dining room--a persimmon sat on the table. It looked out of place. It looked to have no face.
She imagined taking the fruit and placing it out on the sidewalk, under a drizzle, under the neon lights of karaoke bars, dollar stores and record outlets. Somebody, sooner or later, would crush it, a clump of soggy nothing that had no past and no reason to exist. Her hands felt sticky from too much popcorn and she reapplied cherry-tasting chap-stick.
The Japanese drummer entered the room. He wore nothing but a towel around his waist. Would you like to take a shower with me? he asked as if he wasn't really asking. It's the best way to get to know each other, he said.
She sat on the couch like some schoolgirl asked a question she didn't know, but could procrastinate the answer. So she shrugged. She almost giggled like a movie geisha.
Without make-up, his face looked whiter, chubbier, especially around the cheeks. His arms were sinewy, covered with tattoos of heavy metal gods resembling pirates. He claimed he worked out at the gym whenever he could. How often was that, she asked. Whenever, he said. Her eyes focused on the persimmon behind him on the table. She said she once had a boyfriend she called "fuck-face." She laughed. What brought him up? he asked. She kept staring at the fruit. He was really nice, she said, but she wasnít ready for long hauls.
Long hauls? He said.
Yeah, she said, rubbing her palms and leaning forward, like leading up to something. Does everything have to lead to something?
I donít know he said, pacing between rooms, grabbing empty glasses and placing them in the sink. You tell me.
He got tired of me, she said. It didnít hurt at first. Fuck-face.
She tried to pull her thoughts from a centrifugal-like swirl. Sitting next to him in Washington Square Park. Listening to some aging hippie strum guitar. The chants of the city late at night. In bed, he said to her: holding you is like squeezing a cloud.
The morning after the abortion. In a Chelsea loft, the girlfriend chain-smoked and offered Motrin and asked why she didn't tell the boyfriend. But she was listening to the rain, timing the spaces between drops. Tap. Tap. Tap. One second at the most. She thought of the word, nimbus. Was it nimbus or numbus? She wanted everything to pass through her without touching walls, inner organs, bone mass. She became a cloud.
He left the room and ran the shower in the bathroom. How do you like your water, he called out.
What's today? she yelled.
Outside the drizzle had turned to rain. Again, she stared out at the lone persimmon on the table. It was orange and red. It was beautiful and round. Its pulp was strong. But it didn't look ripe yet. She left to walk home in the rain, chin nuzzled against chest, kept her head down. Tap. Tap. Tap. The rain. She listened. The rain went through her.
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