Along 198th Street I walked at 1 AM, and a white-skinned man I mistook at first for an orthodox Jew, with a longish silver beard, jerked his head at me with a beaming smile in an uptown direction. I was confused. He did not resemble the men who usually accosted me. I thought he might be a maniac. We arrived, about five blocks up, at a respectable red-brick building on Briggs. His interior shocked me, in a good way, for it met, improbably, exactly my own aesthetic. In it the first thing I noticed was an ancient wooden dummy covered in linen. Everything in this large room, worn, even shabby, seemed to be made of a real material, to embody an authentic craft or style. It was untidy yet ordered. The walls of the high-ceilinged windowless room were peeling yellow or beige, perhaps calcimine paint. It might have been the house of a retired ship’s captain: bone, driftwood, beads, small sculptures. Japanese prints, however cheap and mass-produced; documents and notes scrawled with real handwriting or typed with real type. For the third time in my life I had stumbled onto a man whose taste for humble artifacts, inflected with the patina of wear and tear the Japanese call wabi-sabi, matched mine: paper, rock, scissors.
The dummy was marked with points denoting vulnerability. Its owner practiced Tai Chi and martial arts; he could stun an opponent by tweaking his ear, he told me. Again, I was slightly afraid.
Alonso, who was Puerto Rican, spoke with no accent; at sixty he could have passed for forty. He had not a single grey hair on his head, only in his beard. He told me he was a widower, his wife, with whom he’d been together 27 years, had passed away eight years ago from asthma. They had a son together, whom visibly Alonso did not love. Recalling this now, I at first remembered the son as a stepson. Alonso hated any disruption of the intimacy he shared with his wife.
In a second room, darkened, was a mattress on the floor, of good quality I noticed. On the television Alonso played DVDs of old episodes, in black and white, of Dragnet, the Beverly Hillbillies and the Honeymooners. I love black and white, the colors of childhood. His body was soft, white, hairless powerful and bore no trace of age. He fucked me; I came. I did not care about this connection. Beyond all affinity, I cared only for the sixty dollars he gave me.
I moved in with Alonso, glad to leave Jimmy’s stinking, angry environs. This was a place of solitude and Alonso would not let me wreck it with the company of miscreants, refusing me keys, making me stay outside during an especially cold winter while he went to work as a janitor at a Bronx school at 5 AM each morning. I stood at the laundrymat, in the dark.
Alonso rode a motorcycle, a streamlined black Kawasaki. He was saving money to buy a new one for $14,000 cash with which he planned to ride to the West Coast. He wanted me to come with him, to travel through forests and deserts where one’s only compass was the moon. He knew how to survive in wilderness. I was intrigued but not sure I wanted to share this dark, isolated experience. I knew how to navigate the darkness of cities, where the compass was the nearest bodega, the slowly approaching john. Did I want to be alone with another being, more alone, void of buildings and lights, than I had ever been? Alonso's proposed vacation sounded like what Fundamentalist Christians call the Rapture, the darkness visible described by Milton, limbo on earth. I lived already in a kind of self-imposed Rapture, a zone of anomie. Had Alonso offered me a Cadillac convertible trip towards Memphis or New Orleans or Vegas, I would have jumped. He was a solitary, more solitary, if possible, than I. He wanted to reproduce the sense of absolute enclosure he had had with his wife. I wanted a safe harbor with unearned freedom in which to continue my depredations. I reacted to Alonso as I always did when a man genuine loved me: I retaliated.
Alonso always cooked dinner; he had to urge me to clean up. He ate only meat; I ate kimchi, from a Korean grocery around the corner on Valentine. We also drank beer together, Heinekens. The only thing Alonso smoked was weed, but he allotted me small amounts of money, ten or twenty dollars a day, to smoke crack, always reminding me that these sums were cutting into his motorcycle savings. As always, I was shiftless, expecting cooking, cleaning and money in exchange for the prize of my pussy, which I gave up only grudgingly. More and more, Alonso’s attention made me want to be left alone, cocooned in a trance of black and white television. Probably because he loved me, I wanted only Alonso's surroundings, as a place to hide except when I ventured out in pursuit of crack. My new circumstances, which were not as lavish and freewheeling as I might have wished, kept me tricking, especially since I had to stay outdoors while Alonso was at work. I maintained a lively friendship with Pixie, always warmer when we did not live together.
One evening I came home with a few dimes. Alonso told me not to light them up but I did anyway. Alonso threw me out, which was something of a relief. It made plain what I felt. I did not want amorous attention I could not return and the 5 AM regime too bleak. I was in his abode on too many conditions, one in particular that taxed me.
Pixie took me back.