… Anastasia reveals EJ for who he is.
Met at the funeral.
Gina was his daytime t.v. partner. She organized parties for a living so was around during the day. They’d go for dog walks then smoke pot and watch t.v.
She showed me an obituary.
Its EJ’s father. In Rochester.
How’d you find this.
Anastasia sent it.
New products VP at Kodak. So he wasn’t a pauper. In Rochester his family must have been royalty. It didn’t explain his Korean side, but that didn’t really require much training. Perhaps he met her in College; perhaps she was his secretary. Probably not a princess, despite EJs allusions. Let’s go.
We – Troy, Gina and myself – catch the Maple Leaf from Penn to Rochester. Its an appalling slow train. After Schenectady it pulls over and we wait an hour for a CSC freight train to pass. With EJ as a favorite t.v. show, and the upcoming event quite possibly the climax we keep ourselves busy with EJ stories. I contribute my story about Marta and Blackie; Gina tells how he once tried to pass off a complete stranger as his English Grandmother Lady Stretton.
Gina was the one most certain the funeral would resolve something.
I always assumed him to be the person least explained by his history I have ever met. He wanted it all and would have aspired to it all had he been born a pauper or a king.
For some reason we all assumed he wouldn’t be there. … moment of panic … it turns out its his brother. His pupils are saucer sized and he speaks in a quiet, inaudible voice, as if he’s not certain how he sounds and is being more careful than he should be. His partner is wearing large black peasant skirt with mirrors
Anatasia’s story is done. Or at least I’ve heard enough. Perhaps I should pay her? I know she wants money. In fact, I’m amazed she didn’t ask for money up front.
There is a loud knock on the door. Its an African American woman. She’s dressed for an admin job, in a lace blouse and creased grey wool skirt and nice, flat shoes. She addresses me directly, dismissing Anastasia, “I heard you wanted something.”
I begin to shrug and Gina whispers “Eight ball for you know who.”
I turn to the admin styled dealer, “You have blow …”
She interrupts me, as if I’m the one being rude, “I asked if you want something.“
Nastja nods negatively and says, “I’ve love something. But I’m on probation. I don’t have no money anyhow..”
I give her $200.”
She hands me two grams. I know I’m being ripped off but don’t care.
“Give him an eight-ball. He’ll bring you great customers.”
With a grunt she removes the two grams from my still outstretched hands and replaces it with a package three times as large.
I put it down onto the table. “She can go first. She needs it.”
To which the admin dealer sanctimoniously says, “Its people like you who OD. Not acknowledging your craving. Not dealing with it.” I consider replying that I know exactly what an over dose is like and that’s why I’m not going there ever again. I don’t. It’d be petty. And bully for her for bothering to warn me at all. She exits with a terse, “God bless.”
I start to offer some of the eight-ball to Anastasia but its not necessary. She’s already laid out a gram into eight lines. The rest has disappeared.
I view the lines like an hour glasses. I wonder how long eight will last.
Anastasia does one line in her left nostril. And then a second line with her right. She hands me her straw to share. I’m grossed out at the thought of sharing straws and bring out my own, which I keep in a little dining kit in my knapsack. I do half of one line, Gina the rest. Troy does an entire line.
I blink and the rest of the gram is gone. Anastasia has produced the eight ball and is preparing another gram. I’m reeling and buzzed. I open and drink most of a beer. As I do so I get started, “How did you meet EJ.?”
She smiles. “Those are your first words to me, Mr. English suit. Do you remember?” She doesn’t wait for an answer. “I knew EJ from when he was born. Sure I was two and don’t remember much. But we were neighbors. He can’t bullshit me. And in case you haven’t noticed he’s full of …”
His act is pretty funny when its not sad. And its not that sad. I mean he’s fun. And he only sponged. He didn’t steal. Much. But the stories he made up are kind of sad. And he made them up even when people didn’t give a fuck.” She turned to me head on, “Do you lie like that? When you don’t have to? I don’t. I lie when I need to and keep my story close to the truth. Like that business about Lady Stretton. And who gives a shit that he was some rich Brazilian’s bum-boy. Sweet deal finding a place to live in NY for a blowjob a week. Or a spanking.”
This is news to me. Gina mouths the name Renato. Suddenly it makes sense. EJ wasn’t only – or even primarily – Marta’s boy toy. His paymaster was her husband.
“But EJ’s friends are real. Muller father does own Greene Street for example. And Anthony’s does own Mullens. And Alex is a Romanov. How’d he met them?”
“His dad was rich. Not jet-setting rich but owns-a-strip-mall rich. He didn’t need his salary from Kodak so he spent it on tuition for some private school in Connecticut. EJ called it Choke. I’m not sure it was Choate. Whatever. I hated that school. It made him weird. More fake. Less fun. It nearly killed him. You’ve seen the scars on his left wrists.”
“He doesn’t strike me as someone to kill himself.”
“I haven’t noticed anything remotely suicidal about him.”
“No. But he’s soft. He’ll never be able to fight with rats over abandoned sandwiches. He’ll kill himself the moment before it comes to that.”
“I don’t think so. He’ll hold on as long as he can.”
Gina drew an image of EJs scars for me on her own right forearm.
“Will EJ inherit anything?” I try to change the subject.
Anastasia shrugs. “I doubt it. He was disinherited because he’s gay. That hasn’t changed. And my understanding is that his dad was a pig to the end. I mean patrician.”
“Let’s go to the service.” Gina pipes up.
I’d hadn’t intended to go to the service. I hate funerals. I want to remember my friends. I don’t think any of us intended to go. Now we all wanted to.
Anastasia insists on wearing white …
A US marshall mosies up and takes a seat on the far left aisle of the church. It has no site lines. The rest of the church and balcony are full.
… The event gets too creepy so I decide to go to the restroom via the Sheriff. I pass by him very slowly and reverentially – I pretend to study a piece of stained glass while I stand beside him and study him. I learn nothing. Maybe he’s here for EJ maybe he’s a friend of his father from the Mason’s lodge.
There is a lone man, with shocking white hair half hidden by a black fedora siting directly behind the Sheriff. He is very pale. Deathly pale. Its EJ. He catches my eye and casually looks away.
I cough and keep walking. The Marshall follows me to the restroom. We do our business and then meet at the sinks. He says, “I know what I’m about to say is rude, but we’ve all got jobs to do and you look like someone who doesn’t give that much of a … is less engaged than others at this event. “
Every branch of my family is peasant. We have this thing about Sheriff’s and other Lord’s men, but this guys pitch work. I don’t care that some cantankerous ass is dead and I really understand what a hassle doing your job can be. I say, “Shoot.”
“This Ashland fellow. The recently deceased. He has this kid. Asian looking. But very American in the way he talks and dresses. Do you know him?”
“Yeah. I think. Jacob.” I find bad knowledge is an easy way out of being pressured into saying things you don’t want to.
It doesn’t work. The cop says, “Listen Patrick. I know you’re bull-shitting. You were EJs roommate for 18 months. If you see him tell him I want to talk to him about the shooting of that French guy in Harlem and another shooting up her in Rochester. I don’t think he did either. There’s no warrants. But I do think he knows who did both. I think it was the same dude. Maybe he can give me a clue or two about where to find him. So you see this EJ fellow. Tell him to ask for Patrick, just like your name, but Patrick Monahan. Down on Worth St. No one will know anything. Our talk will be private. ” He forces me to look right at him “Patrick, you’ve met the guy who was shot so you know he’s a douche bag. But that doesn’t make this OK. Gun fights are never OK. Not in Harlem. Not in Rochester. You are a fool if you can help with this investigation and you don’t.”
As the Sheriff says these words EJ steps out of the stall immediately behind him, vaguely salutes to me and silently slips up the narrow wooden staircase. I look at the Sheriff face on, “I promise you I will make sure EJ knows what you just said if I ever get the chance to let him know. I mean it. You deserve that.” I sound sincere and am.
EJ whistles. I hear it clearly. We all do but only I knew what it means. Goodbye.