Flushing Avby Tony Antoniadis
The House of Frozen Miracles was a plasma bank in a part of the city where galleries and boutiques engulfed a hub of aging meatpackers. The nurses wore canvas scrubs and plunged the butterflies into our arms with the swiftness of thieves. I’d always tried to talk to the nurses, but since they didn’t speak my language—the double-talk of a man who’d perhaps sold too much plasma—our shared yet brief moments would often pass in silence. What they did know was how to cinch the grease-resistant sandwich bag where my plasma dripped down, how to fling it like a beanbag into the fridge. The sooner it was ready, the quicker they could ship it to the factory across the river. That’s where they made the leukocytes, clotting factors, and artificial hearts. According to a sign on our revolving door, each donation saved three lives.
Just for the record, though, that word—donation—was a total misnomer.
No one would have been there unless they were making decent cabbage, and because of that the House was like any place of work. The fluorescent rods sizzled and beamed above our heads. The drop ceiling was water-stained and punctured with pocketknives. The walls were covered with posters of a platelet named Jenzyme, who claimed that nothing turned her on like a man with healthy plasma. The House went unisex in ’71 and had a smoking section until ’89. There were dozens of iron cell separators that stripped the plasma from our blood, then spit the blood back through a coil of tubes. We were tethered to them on loungers that went all the way back.
My best friend just got tossed from one of those loungers. Trish had been selling her plasma here ever since she got dropped from a Nashville cowpunk label. We’d spoken less since the radios were installed in our separators, but I knew her so well by then that talking no longer mattered. I knew that when she closed her eyes in her lounger she was imagining herself tied to the plank of a ship, drifting toward some fictional deserted island. That once, as a child, she’d whispered “I love you” to her pug until it chomped her on the mouth, leaving a scar that few got close enough to see. And that every time she walked into the plasma bank, she heard Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man play in her head, which made her feel really stupid.
I was watching her make fists in this spellbinding rhythm—it was like she was devising a Morse code for the post-arthritic hand—when a nurse came by and tapped her on the back. Trish took off her headphones and turned around. The nurse smiled at her while tracing her fingers along the rim of her bouffant.
I took off my headphones, too.
“Pat,” the nurse said, pulling the butterfly out of her arm, “your last blood screen came back.”
“Don’t know what that means,” Trish said, trying to snatch the butterfly back.
The nurse clutched the butterfly and motioned as if to slash her neck. “This is what that means,” she said.
And that was bad news for Trish. When a nurse slashed her neck it meant something terminal, a retrovirus taking its place on the stage. The nurse told Trish to follow her into an office in the back, where a clinical social worker named Doyle did word jumbles and handed out wallet-sized infoids on blood-borne disease. I’d often glimpse into his office on my way to the payment booth. There was a poster of him waterskiing taped above his desk, a deflated air mattress in the corner, a desk plaque that said: Anger is Just One Letter Away from Danger.
Trish looked at me like she was about to get dumped into a sewer.
“You going to do something, Henry?” she asked.
“Bring her in,” Doyle barked, while nudging open his door with his bare foot.
“What am I supposed to do?” I asked.
“Girl shares a toothbrush with a circus ape and gets 86ed from this place!”
“So sure that’s what happened, Pat. You said in your last questionnaire you weren’t at risk. You know your plasma goes to folks who don’t need any more trouble.”
“Some loser in Queens who gets heartburn from margarine? Whatever, Ratched. C’est la vie is all I have to say.”
“Well, c’est la vie is right, Pat.” The nurse took Trish by the hand and led her to Doyle’s office.
The janitor was going nuts with the Febreze.
Trish covered her eyes and started to cry.
Something worked its way up through my throat: “Trish!” I shouted across the lounge, frantically waving my alligator arm, “it’s going to be OK! Come by tonight and we’ll talk, for old times’ sake. Le Bullet House on Flushing Avenue. You remember.”
The door to Doyle’s office closed without a sound, and I could hear the echo of my last word—remember—as my blood continued to pump into the bag. I looked around the lounge for a reaction from the crowd. There was no crowd. There was just Wade, in the corner—a war vet who told me that once he worked the nerve to slip out of his “liquid handcuffs,” he’d apply for work at Sears—fiddling with the volume controls on his armrest. And there was Janet, by the payment booth—a mother who split her time between her kids, the plasma bank, and an online business school called the University of Yes You Can—snoring with the vigor of a congested Palomino. A nurse walked over to her holding a spray bottle, and watching her eyelids flutter in REM, pulled the trigger. Janet woke up, sneezed, and in a state of apparent confusion, begged for an extension on her paper about the art of middle management.
“Get it together, Snoreen,” the nurse said. “Sleep at home.”
Janet looked around the room, then lay back in her lounger with a sigh.
Home. For me it was an apartment in a former munitions factory I split with my mom. She paid her half with social security and I paid mine by going to three plasma banks during the week. Our landlord was a World of Warcraft freak who dropped out of high school to follow his passion for World of Warcraft. He was nineteen, besieged by acne, and said that our apartment was the former factory’s break room, where workers would pry off their gloves and write letters to their families. But he didn’t mention that he would sift through our mail, or that the washing machine upstairs would disgorge its filth through our tub, or even that pigeons occupied the unit next door, flying in and out of the windows as their whimsy guided them.
My mom didn’t spend much time in the apartment. For the past ten years she’d been devising a walking tour of Flushing Avenue—the street where we’d lived for just as long—that would reveal its forgotten history through a nuanced focus on the evidence of its past: nineteenth century horse car lines, navy officers’ houses strangled with ivy, a former Pfizer plant that once made drugs that flushed parasites from the body. Time became a factor when a magazine dubbed Flushing a real estate hotspot destined to explode. This prediction was based on the fact that it channeled into a neighborhood where pet spas and infant massage parlors were surging out of the ground. Flushing took on a decidedly different look since the article appeared: excavation pits yawned through a century of cobblestone, wrecking balls brought mansions built by beer barons to their knees, Hassidim in hard hats held blueprints to the sky. Flushing Avenue was disappearing, in short, and my mom’s tour, once full of odd promise, became an emblem of something that was no longer there.
I put my headphones back on and lay in my lounger, hoping some classic rock might take me away. Our radios were installed after Hal, a newcomer on the p-bank circuit, learned that the House of Frozen Miracles was marking up our plasma six hundred percent. A couple guys in fur coats were talking profit margins while Hal lay in his lounger just a few feet away. Hal spread word about the markup, and just a few days into his tenure, got us to walk in frenzied circles near the plasma bank entrance. There were about four of us. We toted signs that said, “Ask Us About the 600 Club” and “Let’s Toss the Sauce Boss.” To pacify us the director installed powerful sub-woofers in our separators, transforming the machines into vampiric radios. The signal streamed from a low-slung hacienda in the Texas panhandle. The message was strong and clear, and led me to believe that some men carried the elixir of life in a flute case.
“Nothing quite like Aqualung to get you through tough times, right Henry?”
That voice—warm, vulnerable, traces of a phony Irish brogue—seemed to pipe directly into my headphones. I took them off and looked around the room. Hal had come out of nowhere and slid into Trish’s old lounger.
“Seat’s still warm,” he said, easing into it like a wasted beach bum. He was wearing a t-shirt that said Thank Goodness it’s Fried.
“Out of all the empty loungers in this place, you’ve got to sit in that one, Hal?”
He cranked it back like a La-Z-Boy. “Yeah, Henry. You know this is my spot.”
I looked at him in sheer disbelief. Unlike everyone else at Frozen Miracles, Hal wasn’t here because he needed the cash, but because he was embarking on, in his words, “a mission to escape the tenement of the flesh.” In other words, he wanted to sell so much of his plasma that he’d make himself translucent. His project seemed to be working. Hal’s translucence wasn’t immediately or always apparent—if you were to walk past him at a bodega or café you wouldn’t notice anything odd—but a close and timely look revealed a germinating airiness, an exquisite dissolution that made you believe. I once asked him how he managed to accomplish this feat over such a brief tour of the p-bank circuit. I, for one, had been hawking fluid for two decades and still had the opacity of a beef curtain.
“Hard to explain,” he said, a shaft of fluorescent light playing through his sternum. “And I’m not sure I’d even want to explain, Henry, even if I could.”
“Why not?” I asked.
Dust motes swirled and dispersed in his chest light.
“Because it might squelch the mojo,” he said.
Because it might squelch the mojo: a quote from an interview I did for an art mag called Skein Pop in 1985. Hal sat next to me because he actually read that issue, knew my art when I was making it, and was provoked enough by it to start making his own. He recently credited me as an influence in a culture blog that documented the lives of brilliant artists under the age of twenty-five. And because of the influence I bore on his work, Hal’s secondary mission—after ritualistically ditching his corporeal life at the House—was to rescue me from mine.
Our stories intersected in peculiar ways. Just out of high school, I lived in the city with a cat I named after my first piano teacher. Fresh out of college, Hal drove a moving truck to a town that had just been destroyed by a flood. My cat, Ms. Charles, was a ragamuffin with long hair and suffered quietly during the summertime. Hal, with the help of a dozen eager undergrads majoring in Domestic Disaster Relief, loaded hundreds of pounds of rubble into his truck and hauled it back home. One summer, I put Ms. Charles in an apple crate and walked her to a groomer to get her shaved for some relief. Hal unloaded the rubble and from it constructed nearly one hundred pieces of avant-garde furniture. An hour of buzzing later and Ms. Charles was a new girl, but as I put her back inside her crate, the parlor’s gorgeous exposed ductwork sucked in everything around me—a howling ingurgitation of flora, fauna, and furniture only I could withstand—and before I knew it, I was alone. Hal designed his furniture with a genius singular and convincing enough to reclaim our belief in human transcendence. An idea muscled into my head as I stood in the spaceless expanse. Hal’s show took place in a furniture gallery in Chelsea. I looked around the clipping room as it came back in view, and spotting the groomer drumming his fingers on a tranquilized Himalayan, asked him if he could put Ms. Charles’ fur in a bag. Hal’s show was called “Tabula Cleansa,” a phrase that highlighted the simplifying, purging, and regenerative powers of socially responsive art. The groomer filled the bag and gave it to me with a vague look of disapproval. Nearly all of the proceeds from Hal’s show went to a relief fund for the victims. At home I placed clumps of Ms. Charles in dozens of glassine envelopes—the ones dealers used to sell nickels and dimes. Hal, through a new kind of work that borrowed equally from principles of humanitarian response and decorative carpentry, became a powerful art star.
I then named each bag after a mind-altering substance. The names were written either in an expiring slang or a clinical vernacular, both of which, to my mind, pointed to the same thing. The bags were arranged in columns and taped to a Teflon still of my newly shorn cat. The idea was that eventually the bags and the labels would fall to the floor, revealing a gigantic portrait of Ms. Charles, naked except for the fur the groomer left on her head. I called it Class 4 Narcatic. A gallery that split space with a kosher slaughterhouse told me yes. I was reviewed and short-listed everywhere, and was thus unprepared for the critical cold shoulder my work would receive over the next twenty years. Exploding Cabbage Patch Kids, for example, by remote in Hell’s Kitchen: “gimmicky and borderline irresponsible.” Feeding entrees of braised pigeon to pigeons in Washington Square: “sophomoric, creepy.” Shaving a stray Welsh corgi and putting his hair in some leftover glassines: “desperate, transparent recycling.” Scrubbing toilets at Port Authority with an oil brush to reveal my subservience to Duchamp: not reviewed. Selling plasma to keep myself alive: not reviewable.
Hal leaned in close and looked at me like he was about to reveal a life-changing secret.
“The nurses aren’t letting me use the toilet anymore,” he said. “They seem suspicious, you know? Like they’re starting to catch on to my whole ‘transformation from pure volitional subject to pure determinate object’ thing.”
“Sure, Hal, you’re right,” I said. “I’m sure that’s all they’re talking about in the car pool and the break room. You know, when they’re not talking about wallpaper, or their pets.”
“Failure has made you a bitter man, HC. I can change that. I’ve got sponsorship from Poundstone. I can get you a retrospective.”
“With one successful work? That’s not a retrospective, Hal. That’s a rerun that no one’s going to watch.”
His eyes sparkled. “Tonight, after we’re done, we’re going to your place. I know you’ve got some paintings under your bed. We could even talk about installing one of the pieces that didn’t fly the first time around, like when you blew up dolls that emblemized individuality and our first national urge to buy? You saw it before anyone else. There was no one quite like you, Henry Carotitis. In that way I think you were, you know, the Ultimate Cabbage Patch Kid. Who cares if it didn’t work in the public space? Let’s put it in a private space, have the visitors sign off on a safety waiver, and charge them a double sawbuck to watch.”
A shiver went down my spine. I shook my head no. Another shiver went down my spine.
Hal was flummoxed. A nurse came by to plunge a butterfly in his arm. He eyed it, spit out his words: “Excuse me nurse, but there’s a Microsoft logo on my butterfly. Take this one out and use a plain one. One of the baby-blues.”
“Just make a fist for me Casper,” she said, and the light that had been beaming through his chest suddenly disappeared.
“Did you call me that because I’m pale?” Hal asked. “Or because of something else?”
My separator beeped twice to indicate my session was over.
“You’re finished,” the nurse said to me, and started to prep a bag of sodium chloride. Everyone who sold plasma got injected with it afterwards, as it restored crucial nutrients lost with the plasma. She flicked a switch to begin my IV, and a beat later a toilet erupted in the bathroom. Doyle walked out with a toothpick in his mouth. He was heading back to his office, where he’d play some soft rap on the radio and make a telephone call. I could hear the purchase of the digits he dialed on my headphones—even though my headphones lay on the floor as he dialed—and the rich timbre of his voice as he greeted his friend on the other end of the line.
“Come on, Henry, let’s get together and do something special.”
“You’re crazy,” I said.
“But your apartment,” Hal said.
“What about it?” I said.
“Le Bullet House? You live in a building named after a combustible projectile. On a street that Time In just did a story on, no less. News flash, I read the magazines. Once TINY publishes a centerfold of a warehouse with a funky mural on it, that’s it—it’s over. Mattress fires today, brunch gardens tomorrow.” Hal made a gesture with his hands of a bird flying away. The funky mural, ironically, was one of my own: a mermaid diving from a pirate ship’s plank, on a collision course with the concrete the warehouse was built on. I painted it when I viewed my neighborhood as something I could make from nothing. I painted it after I met Trish.
“Never told you where I live, Hal. How would you know that?”
“Mojo, Henry, mojo. Not trying to squelch it. Just trying to help. “
“Help someone else, Hal. Even Jesus knew when to back off.”
“What the hell does that mean?” he said.
“I’m not sure,” I said, and swooned as the sodium chloride torpedoed through my veins. The nurse came back to slide out the needle. Hal fell back with an extravagant sigh. I buttoned my shirt cuff sitting on the edge of my lounger. Hal watched me from his like a jilted paramour.
“Just think about it,” he said, rubbing his eyes.
“Will do,” I said. I pulled back the waistband on my sweatpants and let it snap into place. “See you around.” No one had ever been as interested in my work as Hal was, and I had to resist the urge to hug him before he vanished altogether. But I wasn’t about to let him save me. That’s what the herpetic man in the payment booth was for. Brother slid me a twenty, a ten, and a five beneath a pane of bulletproof glass. Wade gave me a handshake with his free hand as I walked toward the exit. Doyle was out smoking in front of a boutique next door. A pair of androgynous mannequins were suspended from its ceiling. White chiffon veils spattered with red obscured their faces.
“Beautiful night tonight,” Doyle said.
“What happened to Patricia?” I asked.
“Not authorized,” he said, squinting and taking a deep pull on his snipe.
“What’s she got?” I inched closer, lowered my voice. “Is it the monster?”
“Classified,” he said, pulling tweezers out of his pocket to suck on the last of his snipe.
“But I’m probably going to see her later tonight. She’s going to tell me anyway, Doyle. I just want to be prepared.”
He took one last hit, dropped it on the sidewalk, and looked at me gravely.
“She’s got Carotitis-C,” he said, and walked back toward the revolving door.
A sign spontaneously lit up below the suspended mannequin’s feet: Celebrating One Year in the Meatpacking District! I found myself trying to reconcile the sign to the mannequins instead of punching him in the mouth, but by the time I turned back he was already through the glass. I stood and watched him walk through the lounge, slapping the top of each seat on his way to his office. Hal caught me looking inside. He gave me a smile and a triumphant thumbs-up.
When I came back home I found my mom doubled over in her scavenged Eames chair, her forehead flush to the kitchen table. The room was smoky and the alarm was going off. It alternated between an ear-splitting tocsin and the voice of an underboss that smoked Parliaments through a hole in his neck: “Fiyah, fiyah! Fiyah, fiyah!” I climbed on the table and bashed it out with my mom’s cane, then jumped off the table and tapped the cane on her shoulders. She looked like a feeble Betty Boop, wearing a sultry flapper shift and a cloche rimmed with seal fur. There was a bottle of Campari and a cup of ice on the table, and a drawing of a horse buggy on a napkin underneath the cup. A tube of oxblood lipstick stood next to the napkin. The horse buggy seemed to be drawn with the oxblood.
“Wake up!” I shouted. My mom groaned as she peeled her face off the table. Her lips were smeared with the lipstick. She raised the bottle to her mouth as if it were a microphone.
“Why can’t you just let me wake up when I’m happy?” she said.
I took the bottle of Campari from her hand and spoke into it like a microphone, too.
“Well,” I said rigidly, “why don’t you tell me why you aren’t happy?”
She shook her head and pulled a flyer from the suspenders attached to her girdle.
“Got this,” she said, handing it over. This is what it said: “Ya bella! Time to get out. This building has been sold to the Pastafarian Noodle Company, a spaghetti ’n’ reggae joint that will, in ninety (90) days, redefine the urban restaurant experience. First we’ll smoke you up with some robust, synthetic, FDA-approved cannabis. Then we’ll serve you savory Sicilian entrees prepared by our award-winning chef. This flyer is good for a party plate of zeppolis or a hair-braiding by one of our authentic and friendly ‘Ladies of Ocho Rios.’ Until then, please pardon our smoke! Some of your feathered next-door neighbors have been resistant to moving, and we’ve been advised by our investors to go ahead and ‘smoke them out.’ Why? Because we’re the Pastafarian Noodle Company—Where there’s smoke, there’s… delicious noodles, mon!”
I dropped the flyer to the floor and looked at my mom. A vein of blue mascara trickled down her cheek. Her eyes were vacant and bulged like a vamp. “What do you think about that,” she said. Dozens of our next-door neighbors thundered their wings, and a coughing sound came from the shell of the detector. At first I didn’t believe what I was hearing, but then the coughing became louder, violent—the caterwauling underboss trapped in his plastic shell—and just like that time at the grooming parlor many years ago, the world around me disappeared in a howl.
It was loud. It sounded like a Barracuda in park that someone was trying to explode with velocity. A man was scanning through data on a microfiche reader. The data moved so fast that the screen was just a band of white light. A sign above the reader said Your Passport to the World. The man stopped scanning for a moment, squinted, then floored it again: white light. A woman yelled, “Off, off, you’ve been on that thing for fucking hours dude, OFF!”
I had some old-school headphones slung around my neck, and from them I could hear the chorus of a song by The Supremes. I’d somehow wound up in the old CD4, one of a convoy of mobile libraries that served people who couldn’t make it to regular ones. You climbed onto it like a bus, and it had all the elements you’d expect from a library on wheels: a Whitman poem typeset on horse parchment tacked to the wall, a water fountain that disbursed the sound of a wind tunnel, a creep hanging out in the Inspiration Stax. A pockmarked man in denim abusing a microfiche reader. An overextended woman telling him to get off.
“I’m trying to!” he shouted over the din, “But there’s no sexies to look at on this goshdamned fucking box!”
The woman telling him to get off emerged furiously from behind a mountain of National Geographics. It was Hannah, the longtime driver of the CD4. Her hands looked like they were dipped in asbestos. She noticed me on her way over to the man whose passport to the world she was about to revoke.
“Just waking up, eh, Hank? You were really trancing out on that Brill Building pop. Got a few more tapes where that came from. I’ll be with you in a sec.” She gave me a wink, then threatened to destroy the man who’d given her library the sonority of a Toys-for-Tots brigade. He stepped away from the reader with a sheepish grin and skulked to the Audio/Video Zone, where a woman who couldn’t have been more than three feet tall scanned the cover of a laser disc for The Poseidon Adventure. She stood beneath a sign—well beneath a sign—that said, A Laser Disc Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
“She ain’t speak English, I don’t know why she reading,’” the man said, gesturing toward the woman with a library pencil.
“I will dismember you,” Hannah warned him through clenched teeth. The man giggled and pulled a pair of bifocals out of his windbreaker to go check out the laser discs.
Hannah sighed as she sat across from me at the listening station, where the Walkmans were clipped to long anti-theft rods made from PVC.
“Sometimes,” she said, pulling out a cigarette, “I just want to drive this library into a building, Hank—a brick building. But there are some days when I just want to drive it out to Montana, you know, so I can be with my nieces and nephews. That’s probably why I drive it back to the depot in Gravesend after every shift. Preserving the option to do either one keeps me sane. So, what are you up to tonight? Long time no see. Come by to see your favorite librarian?”
She reached across the table and squeezed my hand.
“I think I’m getting evicted, Hannah. And honestly, I don’t even remember coming here. I think I must have blacked out.” I looked around the library bus. The microfiche reader discharged a helix of smoke. “And what’s up with the microfiche? You guys upgrading?”
“Yes, we are upgrading!” she said. Then her face went pale. “From Le Bullet House?” she asked. She dragged on her cigarette and blew smoke out the corner of her mouth.
“Yeah. They’re turning it into an Italian-restaurant-synthetic-cannabis-den thing.”
“Oh, man!” she said. “Maybe you can get a job there. Isn’t there a law where they have to hire a certain percentage of the residents they kick out? You’d probably earn better money there than what you’re making at the plasma banks. Do you make a nice Bolognese?”
“I can’t visualize myself in that kind of environment, Hannah.”
“You haven’t been able to see yourself as part of any kind of environment, Hank, since, like, the 80s. You’ve got to change with the times. I’m just learning that myself.” The man in the windbreaker began scrolling through ring-tone options on his cell phone: Girl from Ipanema, Bette Davis Eyes, Appetite for Destruction. His phone was thick as a brick.
“I’m not going to spice veal in an apron in my old apartment, Hannah.”
She continued where she’d left off. “You know how I’ve always complained about my job, the shit I have to put up with every day? Well, I’ve decided that I’m finally going to break the chains.” Hannah held her forearms up and made a pair of fists to illustrate a woman breaking the chains. “I’m getting a makeover and applying for work at Tim’s Place, Hank! They pay a lot more and the energy there is so much more positive. I’m doing it because I believe in change!”
I looked at her vacantly and coughed.
“And…and I know you can do something positive…too, Hank.”
Tim’s Place: a popular youth literacy center in a neighborhood whose renewal began about ten years ago. It was situated between a probiotic yogurt shop and an indoor water park called Le Café Monsoon. You needed an MFA to wipe the counters and a PhD to tutor the kids. More often than not the kids knew how to read. The PhDs usually took them to the water park.
“Good luck on taking your life back, Hannah. But I’m not working for the Pastafarians.” The man who’d been abusing the microfiche reader handed a card to the tiny woman. “You must call me anytimes,” he said, stroking his phone as if it were a bullion bar of gold. She snatched the card from his hand and put it in her enormous purse.
“Well,” Hannah said, “just know that you can crash here until you find a place. I’ve got an air mattress zip-tied to the wall in the back. It’s right next to the engine block, so it might get a little warm, but it sleeps two comfortably—very comfortably—if you get my drift.” She tossed back her salt and pepper hair extensions, which she once said had been harvested from the heads of virgins.
“I get your drift, Hannah,” I said, and got up and walked toward the exit. I thought about Trish, my mother, where they were, what they were doing, where I was, what I was doing.
“Wait!” Hannah shouted, “Before you leave, take one of those guh-gorgeous eggplants I’ve got on the console—I want you to have one.”
I looked at the eggplants on the console. They were mealy, black, fly-swarmed.
“They’re spoiled,” I said.
“No,” Hannah said, her eyes widening with enthusiasm. “They’re actually ‘distressed.’ It’s not food anymore, Hank! It’s textiles…”
I pulled down on the cherry that released the doors. Hannah kept talking, but whatever else she said was subsumed by their hydraulic gasp. I would approach Hal the next time I saw him and ask what he could do. It was the first real decision I’d made since I first walked into the plasma bank, and I ran back to my apartment, past burning houses and idling bulldozers in the middle of the street, to tell my mom what I was going to do.
Our apartment, when I got there, was completely empty.
There was just a note on the floor. It was written on the reverse side of a map my mom had once sketched of her tour. This is what it said:
A friend of yours came by looking for you after you left. I told your friend that I didn’t know where you’d gone—that you just disappeared. (Where did you go?) He laughed and said he knew the feeling. Anyway, there was something about the warmth of his laugh that truly endeared me to him. He found me in much distress as you know but made me feel a lot better by proposing to not only put us in an apartment that’s already been paid for—just down the street—but also saying he’d help me preserve the history of Flushing in a way that would make more sense today! I hope you’re not angry at me for allowing his friends to come by and move everything out, but there was no way I was going to say no to a rent-free apartment. Maybe this new freedom will inspire you, too. My apologies for the logorrhea, how wearying all of this must be to read. OK, they’re ready to leave now. Wow! That took five minutes. Come to the “Poundstone Gallery” (interesting name for an apartment building, but then again, after Le Bullet House…) when you get this. They said you’d know where it is. We’ll be there moving everything in. So happy—new life!
I knew I was where I had to be when I saw a handful of college-aged kids unloading the moving truck and arranging our furniture in the gallery. I decided to watch for a while before going inside, where Hal would hug me and tell me we were going to be in a show. I would go through him, or he through me, while a guy put up a street sign that looked like it’d just been ripped from the pole: Flushing Av, it said. A kid in a pink faux-mo tagged the words Prospective Retrospective on a sheet of cement board. I felt odd, at first, standing outside and watching them try to simulate our apartment in the gallery: our coffee table with puma feet stained with bong-water and wine, the Victorian fainting couch where Trish and I once slept, the Eames chair worn thin from the long nights my mom sat in it, thinking up ways to elude the vortices that made her tour obsolete. They splashed a transopaque wash on the walls and tamped it with butcher paper, creating a weathered appearance that gave a look of the old world. Trish was nowhere to be found. My mom stood at our kitchen table in the style of a contrapposto, while Hal, just a few feet away, drank the rest of her Campari straight from the bottle.
Tony Antoniadis's fiction has appeared in Open City and has been excerpted in the New York Times.