50 W 4th St, New York, NY

Neighborhood: Greenwich Village

There are some guys whose pattern is to realize a supposed deep love once they know a woman doesn’t want them. Maybe that explains me and Cristina. Maybe guys like me can’t love at all, so we mask our loveless souls with occasional dream loves, pure in their unobtainability. We safely suffer limited devotions at the alters of impossible bitches. Or maybe the naive innocent hornyness of a jackass is bound to come to ruin in New York and the explanation is as simple as that. Or maybe my Cristina was just incredibly beautiful and brave way deep inside herself, underneath her brutal superficiality, and I was good enough to see that and want to join with that…

These are the kinds of thoughts I used to have when I thought of her. I first saw her sitting on the lip of the fountain in Washington Square Park one winter day in 1969. I caught her eye and got a strange smile back. She was fearsomely beautiful and the smile didn’t compute. I forced my own smile out past my panic, and sat down next to her. It turned out talking to her was easy, she was almost totally inarticulate while putting forth a foolish and somehow sweet attempt at uptown sophistication. She was German, her English halting, her voice low and raw and guttural, her talk touchingly pretentious and street earthy all at once, the sound of her perfectly set off by the contrast, god forgive me, of the pure timeless ethereal Nordic beauty of her face.

She showed me a small black leather binder she had with her, her “portfolio”, with many haughty shots of her in magazine poses. She was quite proud of her modeling career, and she surely had the beauty for it, although she had only had one job credit and that for the catalog of a down town sporting goods store. In fact she was not really a model at all but rather a welfare case and an out-patient with a program for schizophrenics up at Lenox Hill Hospital where she spent every other day in group therapy and art workshops. Later she gave me a work she made there out of a four foot square piece of plywood, string, nails, black and white paint. It is full of tension and fear and darkness, and at the very center of it is a quarter sized hole burned through the wood with a blowtorch with a jagged fringe of stained wood around it; the not so abstract picture of her own pussy. If she understood what it was she never said so.

She was born a bastard in Germany just before the war, her mother was a bitter nasty maladjusted hotel maid and her father was a nazi soldier. She remembered her mother placing her in one of the nazi orphanages of that time, and reclaiming her after the war, but they couldn’t stand each other and by the age of 18 she had come to New York alone. There had been a car accident with a head injury, which some of the doctors had told her was the cause of her late onset mental problems. She had over a hundred self inflicted razor blade scars on her chest from the year before, and beyond the transient friendships of her outpatient community she was all alone. She had somehow married an uptown actor who mainly did voice overs for commercials; very handsome (I saw his picture) with a fine black forelock. But the marriage had just exploded and rent was about to run out on the apartment they had shared.

All this was just my cup of tea. Lonely marginal guys with horny spontaneity like many kinds of tea. We spent the next forty eight hours together, till I had to go to work or lose my job. We got up from the fountain without a word said and went to my place where we made strangely disjointed yet beautiful love. Then we went uptown to her old apartment and there was Snooder, her sweetly-paranoid Belgian shepherd dog, the one thing on earth she loved if she loved anything. Later she gave him to me when she left the city, because she saw I loved him and no one else would have him. He tried to bully me the first moment we met, but I just scolded him from a high moral plain and when he flipped back to ashamed puppy mode I reached into his psycho heart and held on as I could never do with her. He was her dog and he was her, I fell for him like I fell for her. He had a Prussian myopic devotion to obedience and doing the right thing as he saw it through the dark lens given to him. He worried constantly about it. He could walk in the city without a leash obeying commands like a drill field soldier, he could drink from fountains in central park, jump wrought iron fences on command, dive for rocks in lakes, and much more. And always behind the worried concern there was that crazy glint in his eyes that told all that he was quite insane. In years to come he eventually bit every friend I had, always on their right hands, leaving a small blue indentation between their thumb and index finger, like an incomplete paper punch, very painful but no blood drawn because his canines were worn to stumps from his obsessive passion for carrying big rocks. Every six months or so he would threat-growl at me and I would have to wrestle and hold him till he understood again that I was the dominant one. Very much his mother’s son, but I know the love reached him. We lived very happily together till he died, me giving him what she wouldn’t take.

Toward the end of that first week she moved in with me and brought the reality of psychotic disintegration with her. I had to work a job. When I came home there she was sitting in a depressed stupor, punctuated by a snarling nasty demanding surliness that didn’t let up. There was no cajoling her out of it. Patience and understanding had no effect. Her tone was now of a queen who had fallen from high station into this lower east side gutter. And now I saw my first clear view of what she thought, saw, that I was. Not a miraculous knight of sensitivity and love come to save her, but a faceless functionary from the serving class, one of the vast untermenchen chorus of New York, lucky to have this fleeting moment of actual contact with her. It was the wrong tack to take with me, not that she could help it. The two narcissisms, her psychotic one and mine, presumably stable but no less powerful, could not stand together through such foul weather. Within two days there was a scene I vaguely remember, her down on third street demanding to be let in, me throwing her few shabby clothes out the 4th floor window. Now she was dumped, had to scramble elsewhere just to get off the streets. The nerve of that brassy nazi cunt, she never even saw me.

Here’s the good part. When all is said and done I believe LSD is a sacrament. At the right time and place it can transform your life. No doubt it kills off brain cells or turns them out to pasture every time you use it, no doubt some people flip out and don’t come back. But there are times when its’ benefits, in ways beyond measurement and that cant be studied, make it… transforming, and worth a huge risk. How do I prove this? And what a shame if the dull methodical two plus two equals four crowd, our rulers, our sensible elites, manage to extinguish it from the tools at hand for those of us who want to try to live. Yes, these are the last days, and they are very strange indeed. A day later Cristina came back to my place and we sat around the kitchen table, to talk about what had happened. We both took LSD and what unfolded then remains with me as maybe the most vivid out of body, out of mind experience of my life, and I don’t have the first idea how to communicate it to you. I can approach it clumsily by saying that when we were both completely out of our minds, then our minds came together really for the very first and very last times. She spoke to me slowly, in simple single syllable words, I don’t remember any of them. I do remembered that she revealed to me the absolute darkness and absolute loneliness of her psychosis, and that it had always been so with her, right under the superficial froth of her life. And to meet this void of existence, which in some ways even extended to her own self such that her very inner identity was a tiny barren island, to meet this void she somehow summoned up the courage from someplace to whistle and sing inside, and fight, and not kill herself. Now, in that instant, I came to love her very deeply, and that love has never left. If my life is built on drug induced delusions, then so be it. When I look around at the rest of you I say so what.

I spent the next two years trying to win her back. I was utterly hopeless, “she really did a number on me” said my perceptive friends, or did I do it on myself? She had no time for me, although she used to like to call me fairly regularly at night to toy with my devotion. She liked to ramble on about the fashion world and her friends till I would try to reach her, then she would get angry and hang up on me, and sometimes call right back and sometimes not. I also had a toe hold as Snooders’ baby sitter when he became an awkward inconvenience to her during some new redemptive fling. Her program at Lenox Hill must have been well regarded– it was full of chic, hip, rich Upper East Siders who helped keep her afloat till she left the city. She married and divorced again, twice during those two years, first to Cordie, a wealthy psycho wastrel from the program who had a trust fund sufficient for the gliterati life, and later to a well placed sleek warrior who kept her in style for a while on West End Avenue. Most of what I saw in her life, when I could gain admission, was plenty of drugs and bad loud rock music. But there was one time, when I had been waiting an hour outside her 5th floor walk up apartment on east 6th St., just hoping she would give me a few minutes, that I heard the street door open, and the sound of her bounding up the stairs singing some silly happy little German kids song in that croaky voice of hers, that took me right back to that day at my kitchen table when she showed herself to me for the first and last time.

Then she gave me Snooder, then she left. She said she went to Oregon to join an apple picking commune. Ten years after I left the city I got a letter from her, incoherent, sloppy, barely legible, saying she sometimes thought about me and it made her cry. I didn’t try to answer. I’m sure she’s dead now and I’m sure it was a bad end.

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§ 2 Responses to “Cristina”

  • ayla dumont says:

    oh, hell . this is so wretched and juicy at the same time .

  • Bonnie Ludwig says:

    From a feminine mind, this tale of a needy creature, although beautiful, could be true – how can one so terribly, frightenly, needy attract so many males – successful in one way or another. What it left me with is wonderment about the cause of her psychosis, and please, can’t it be reversed? Isn’t there good in Cristina, a good that will stay if she is with the right people. Those of us who are unaware of the workings going on in her head are also oblivious of the unintentional harm effected, simply by the unknown.

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