Gross-Out Point: Blank?
by Jessica Delfino
I bummed a cigarette off a pair of vaguely foreign looking construction workers over at the service entrance of the new Random House building.
"Do you live there?" One of them asked me, pointing to Le Premiere, which sits right across the street like a huge retarded dwarf in comparison to Random House.
"No, I don't live there, but I do stay there a lot."
"At your boyfriend's house?"
"No," I said. "Not my boyfriend."
They looked at eachother knowingly and smiled a little bit with the ignorance and filthy thoughts of two underpaid service men.
"What floor do you stay on?" One asked.
"I stay on the 30th floor," I lied. I just felt like lying, in case they decided to come and try to find me one day.
"We see you shower," the shorter one said to me.
"Oh, really?" I asked with feigned overly sarcastic delight. "Well! How interesting!"
"Yes, we see you and a lot of other people, too."
"Well, the window is frosted on the outside of the building, so you probably didn't actually see me," I said.
"No, we can see you anyway," they insisted.
"Wow, well, imagine that," I quipped.
Silence. Weird smiles. I take pride in not being affected by weirdos. I try very hard to out weird people by tolerating their weirdness. I win sometimes. For example, the other night after Deep Dish Cabaret, I went to the diner and had some food with friends. I didn't end up getting onto the subway until about 4 am. I walked down with my guitar and looked around the platform for a seat. There was a black guy sitting on the bench with a very disheveled and scraggly looking white lady leaning up against him, feet outstretched across three or four seats of the bench, and another man endcapping the row of seats.
If I wanted a seat, I was going to have to ask the creepy drunk chick to move her feet. I did want a seat, and I was quite drunk, so I walked over and said, "Excuse me." When she didn't move her feet, I just kind of snuggled into the seat beside them.
"Those are my feet," she said incoherently. "I know," I replied. "I see what they are." She sat up from where she had been comfortably leaning and started to interrogate me.
"Where do you live? What's your name? Where are you going? To your boyfriend's house to get fucked? Does he take care of you? Does he pay your bills? Does he pay your rent? Do mommy and daddy take care of you?"
She shot questions out at me in rapid motion. I felt like Nero, swatting each to the left or
right with a short, brief answer, arrogant drunken smile on my face, challenge accepted.
Uptown. Jessica. Home. No. No. No. No. No.
She got up and started circling me. She put her face right up close to mine and said, "You're a liar. You're a fucking liar," she spat out. "You're a fucking bitch."
Her boyfriend interjected. "OK, now, calm down," he said.
"I'm calm. I'm fine," she said, almost falling onto the train tracks. "Don't look at her," she told her boyfriend. "Don't look at her. She's a fucking bitch. Stay away from her." She began to spit repeatedly on the ground, rabid-like expression across her emaciated face.
"Don't get in trouble," I said to her.
She could have a knife and stab me, I thought to myself. She probably doesn't, though, I thought, hoped. I looked around to see if there were any cops down in the station. If she tried to fight with me, I was sure I could restrain her, she was small and scrappy. I hoped that her boyfriend would help me if she began to get out of control. But I was kind of enjoying her uninstigated attack and interested to hear what kind of comment she would throw out at me next. I wondered what it was about me that so fired her up? Probably my funky black and white cabbie newsboy hat. It screamed out at people, hey, I'm an artist, do you wanna fuck with me? Or something like that.
So, I sat and watched her, ready to jump up at any moment, but not really, mostly just kind of drunk and comfortable. I did silently beg for my train to please hurry up and come so I could get on it. She sat next to me and stared intensely at me. "So, you fucking bitch. Your parents take care of you, huh? What do you do?" She spat and it landed on my jacket. I was just about to get irritated, when she leaned over and brushed it off. "Sorry," she said. I knew she was drunk and probably on a salad of other drugs, and I just nodded forgiveness.
"No. I work at Christies." I guess she got bored of trying to instigate a fight and seeing she wasn't going to get one, she began to ask me questions about my family.
"How many siblings do you have?"
"Five," I said.
"I have five brothers," she said.
She saw this as reason for instant bond. When people hear I have five sisters they usually assume I came from a poor family and that makes them like me better or at least feel sorry for me, but either way, telling people I have five sisters, a true fact, usually works in my favor. Her guard came crashing down as she told me stories about how she lived in New York all her life, missed her family, currently taught English in the New York city school system.
Finally, our train came. I excitedly hopped up like a puppy and ran to greet it, leaving the platform cherishing the fact that I had either outweirded her or her buzz began to wear off. Either way, I won. It's not that I'm unaffected by weirdos, because I get affected, I just have a very high tolerance to craziness.
I blame it on my mother, and this is why.
My sister and I were talking about my tendancy to take in stragglers, route for the underdogs of society, hang out with dreggs. I blamed it on my mom, because there was a woman who could find and love a straggler if I'd ever seen anyone who could do it. My mom picked up nomads and transients all the time and brought them around our house. Not full on losers, usually creative people who'd been down a hard road, but still, in need of a shower and some guidance.
Two of my favorites were a guy in the wheel chair who looked like Weird Al Yankovich who had a fork for one hand and a knife for the other and the scraggly artist with fuzz in his beard who my mom paid to teach me how to draw.
I said to my sister, "I thank mom for my inner need to take in strays." My sister told my mom what I had said, and I heard my mom in the background say, "Yeah, whenever something is wrong in her life, she gives me credit and whenever something is right, she gives herself credit."
I puffed on my cigarette outside the Random House building while the men groped and molested me with their eyes. I stood there for a minute, flip flopping between feelings of disgust and sympathy. Part of the reason that I wasn't more bothered by the men might have something to do with my history of having go-go danced. That was the job - being oogled by icky men all day, and an occasional, very rare, no so icky man. But that's a story for another time.
"Well, thanks for the cigarette," I said. Ex-dancer or not, my threshold of grossed outedness had been just about reached.
"Yes," they stammered.
"Happy Thanksgiving," I said, and walked off, leaving them in the wake of the vision of a perfect ass.