Lubricated Intruder

by

10/10/2006

60th St. & 1st Ave., NY, NY 10022

Neighborhood: Murray Hill

Golden slumbers. I slept like an heir apparent, drifting in satin oblivion from Sunday to Monday. I had been away for the weekend. I had visited my family: my nieces and nephews, my successful older siblings, my mother and father. We did wholesome things as sign of our shared familial concern and love. And for once, in a surprising four years of undergraduate education, there was nothing to be made up for: No inexplicable double-F’s. No bowls left on the sink. No mushrooms decomposing in a forgotten backpack. No carelessly discarded prophylactics found behind my mother’s nightstand. I rode a momentum little known to me; stepping onto the platform at Katonah station, I felt blessed.

Metro-North south on the Harlem line: not a sound. I enjoyed an auditory cocoon away from the train’s whistle and the noisemaking of other passengers. The sun shone in, dappling through late summer leaves. My gaze rose out from the careening shuck of steel and fell sanguinely over the blue sky, the half-thought swabs of cloud, the gleaming lakes and the rocking swingsets of happy children. No one got on at Chappaqua. Not even at White Plains. By the time 125th showed up, though I can offer no proof beyond this account, I was levitating. At Grand Central, I floated onto the platform blown by the breath of my own will. Nearing the Concourse, I decided it would be better to just walk.

Euphoric, I arrived home at four p.m. Sunday. The roommates were out, so I busied myself with unpacking. I inspected my bedroom loft—a 10 x 8 x 2 overturned closet—to make sure things were as I left them. A quick glance assured me they were. I drank one of my roommates’ Vitamin Waters and helped myself to a Balance bar. The roomies—Nakul, Wang, and Orges—returned around six. They had been at the park with a football. Wang and Orges looked healthily flushed. Nakul looked like he had been in the bushes carousing with the homeless. I greeted everyone quietly and happily. They took to my mood well, except for Nakul, who hastily got in the shower, then retreated to his bedroom for the rest of the evening.

There was an eighteen-pack in the fridge. Sunday-night television improved by the half hour, culminating in an episode of “Entourage.” Jokes were made at the expense of Asians and I elbowed Wang and laughed. He hit me hard. I asked if he had removed his shoes before entering my dojo. He hit me again. After watching next week’s “scenes,” I climbed the stepladder to my loft. Beyond the threshold the dull weight of fatigue laid me down; I nuzzled my pillow and shut the light.

It was early morning when my senses detected a slight other. My sleep had been full. I had been elsewhere—sunk in a warm dark—and waking was like docking to a port of distant memory. Yet there was something in the room, something chemical, inorganic and bitter. I lifted my upper torso off the sheets, stretched for my lamp’s dangling chain and yanked. The motion pulled top-heavy on the lamp and knocked it over. I fell face-forward to the corner of my futon, landing on something sleekly lubricated and strangely alive. It was slipping beneath my cheek trying to free itself. What was it? A slug? A leech? A godless tapeworm escaped and on the loose? I shot backward to the other end of the futon, cranking my head against a heating pipe. I winced and craned my neck beneath the low ceiling. Had it made a break for it? No, something was still there, lying prostrate and agape where my face had just been, something pink, discarded and latex—a spent rubber.

The next few moments replay for me like a movie: The sound is muted. The police bust down the door, guns raised, advancing through the house looking for some dangerous perp. A woman screams hysterically, her nostrils ablaze from the junk. She tries to stop them, beating her fists against a police officer’s chest. She’s brusquely thrown onto a couch and told to “Shut the fuck up!” The perp is asleep upstairs beneath 300-thread-count silk sheets. He’s wearing a male thong. There’s a Glock on the nightstand. The cops line up against the wall outside his bedroom door. Someone gives a three-count; they rush in. The perp jets awake and goes for the Glock. The cops open fire. Then there’s a slow-mo of the blood spraying from his chest, followed by a tragicomic close-up of the perp’s face—bloody and surprised. Maybe the woman, having been left unchecked, walks into the bedroom firing a handgun they kept hidden in the kitchen. Maybe she hits a cop in the back. They turn and blow her away too. Slow pan over the scene with some appropriately high-times-no-more ‘70’s rock. Cut.

This all occurred while I was still in my loft,—spinning, though I was, for explanations and revenge—safely within my imagination. Apparently, while I was gone, Nakul’s friend Eric “may have brought a girl up to my room.” I countered that, yes, someone had indeed brought a girl or some other willing receptacle up to my room because I had bedded down with a used condom. Yes, Nakul assented; Eric had brought a girl up there. I expressed that some sort of reparations were in order, an apology at the very least! Of course, of course, it was my rightful due. But something else seemed to be afoot. After sufficiently apologizing, Nakul stood, mouth open, words caught at the back of his throat.

“Sig,” he said.

“Yes?”

“It wasn’t just any girl.”

“What? Were there like dudes?”

“No. Definitely not.”

“Was it my fucking girlfriend? I swear to fucking god…”

“No, not Erica. No way, dude.”

“Well, then what the fuck.” I held my hands out, palms pleadingly turned up. Nakul took a moment, glanced at the floor and then slowly, almost sadly, lifted his head to face me.

“It was a prostitute,” he said.

I called in sick to work. The “client” had retreated to Princeton; he was a sophomore government major. Nakul couldn’t get him on the phone. He left for work as I stripped the bed. I emptied the loft and threw out everything except the futon mat, the lamp and the alarm clock. I went to the Laundromat on 2nd Avenue. My stomach turned with rage and violation. I wanted to kill Eric, but he had disappeared with a Cheshire smile into the shifting mass of Princeton’s student body. I had six in quarters. I sat with a book and watched as my abused sheets frothed behind the washing machine’s glass porthole. It was another beautiful day out. Traffic poured off the Queensboro Bridge and moved downtown. Apartment windows reflected passing clouds. Wind moved down the sidewalks. It was nice, despite the situation, if you could even call it that.

Only yesterday life had been illuminated by beauty, sense and love. My parents loved me. I loved them. I had graduated! Did I mention that? The undergraduate saga was over. I was free to pursue life as I saw fit; and no two-bit, inconsiderate prick from Princeton was going to bring this guy, this superstar down! These were great things to behold! And behold them I did, slowly warming in the generous light of the sun, when a peripheral glance told me to “Look!” I turned again to the porthole. I watched with complete attention. What was it that I may or may not have just seen? For a moment there was nothing, only churning. Then it appeared again: buoyant and dancing and swimming with verve—a second flash of pink—the rubber’s hidden twin.

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