By Wil Forbis
Other fiction by Wil Forbis
My name is Lorry Perez and let me tell you of this terrible thing I have done. A thing terrible not so much in grand, worldly standards - I’m no Pol-Pot or Stalin, no genocidal tyrant who cast millions to hide underneath a parade of skeletons. No, my thing is terrible on the microscopic level of day-to-day life. Terrible for taking but one single life, against the struggles of the many.
However, I suppose that I’m getting ahead of myself. For you to really understand the bitter turn of events that befell me, I should start at the beginning.
Of course, with tales such as mine, it’s hard tell exactly where the beginning is. I could tell you where I feel it all started, but as any Freudian will tell you, the obvious beginning is rarely the actual cause. No, they would argue that my fated night of terror was merely the culmination of a cosmic pool game where my actions were determined by my relationship with my mother, or my troubled ghetto childhood, or the fact that I were molested as a young child.
In fact, I’d like to say I was the victim of childhood sexual abuse. (It might give me some sort of excuse.) Instead I had a fairly normal childhood, growing up in Brooklyn, New York, an Anglo-looking child with the last name Perez. (My father was a quarter Hispanic.) I played basketball, listened to eighties rap music (perhaps therein was my downfall) and though I never really fit in, I was never particularly out of place either. I graduated high school in 1986 from Midwood High (With a 4.00 GPA, I was considered gifted.) then spent a few years in a community college up north in White Plains. I then returned to the city, settling in the lower east side of Manhattan. From there I meandered through a few odd jobs (dishwasher, department store clerk, and for a short while, doorman at the 24/7 club) before settling in as a night manager/delivery boy for a Korean grocery store. I suppose it was a bit disappointing for those who assumed that I had a bright future, but I was happy… or should I say content? Yes, I was content.
Content with most things that is. Except women. I had a few girlfriends through my life, a book store clerk ten years my senior and a couple portly Jewish girls who made it clear in their relationship with me, they were “settling.” They’d had their wild and perhaps unfulfilled teenage and college years and now they were looking for a boyfriend or husband that could provide them a permanent New Year’s Eve date and help them fulfill whatever role they thought society expected of them. Unfailingly after six months or so they realized that though they were willing to “settle”, they weren’t willing to settle for me. Customarily they’d end the relationship by making little attempt to hide the affairs they’d begun with my co-workers, friends, relatives, etc…
My problem is that I’ve never been willing to settle. I’ve always been in love with beautiful women. I mean really beautiful women. Though some men seem happy to settle with a moderately attractive woman as long as she satisfies his sexual needs and provides some type of amiable companionship, I’ve always desired, no, craved, more. I mean, New York is filled with beautiful women, hundreds of thousands of them. I failed to see, from a mathematical viewpoint, how I wouldn’t be able to indulge at least one of them.
That was part of the reason I took the grocery store job. It didn’t actually involve that much work, so I was free to spend a lot of the time (especially in the early evenings when I started my shift) staring out the window. Staring out at the beautiful women returning from a hard day's work or heading out for a night on the town or dog walking a caterpillar-like chariot of canines to Battery Park. Asian, Black, White, Hispanic… I could stare at them for hours, fashioning fantasies in my head of what I could do with that one… or that one… or those two together. And when I got done with what was usually a twelve-hour shirt (8 P.M. to 8 A.M., four days a week) I’d walk a few blocks to one of the local coffee shops and girlwatch some more. I was drawn to a particular espresso house, where a very particular girl would go for an almost daily espresso. Bleached blonde with short hair and a small frame, she usually looked less like this was her morning coffee but rather that she was extending the previous nights festivities for a few more hours. She had the look of an artist, someone who might have lived in numerous lofts in the area, blasting loud music while creating neo-gothic art pieces by spattering paint against a mile high canvas or some such nonsense.
I’d confirmed this supposition a few months after first saw her at the coffeehouse. I was making a delivery for the grocery - several bananas, a bag of oranges and a case of beer. When I got to the customer’s address, a loft apartment atop a a four story Greenwich Village building, I knocked on the door and it was answered by the same illustrious beauty for whom I’d been languishing away my mornings. She was having a large get-together and was clearly inebriated when she answered the door. Slurring her words she introduced herself as Julia and mentioned that I looked familiar. I forced enough small talk to learn that she was a “mixed-media” artist and was celebrating her successful efforts towards pertaining a new gallery showing. She even invited me in for a drink, but I declined, saying I had to get back to the grocery. Even if that weren’t true, I wouldn’t have entered; I’ve never been that comfortable amongst “artists”. However, from that day I whenever I saw Julia at the coffee shop she’d smile, though conversation never ensued.
In girlwatching I had a partner in crime at the grocery. His name was was Lorenzo, a young black kid who was taking day classes at a local technical college to become a computer programmer. As someone with a juvenile sexual appetite, Lorenzo had a big thing for pornography, especially cyber-porn. He was always bringing in printouts of attractive women, usually engaged in some act of graphic coitus, that he’d culled from the Internet the night before. “Check this out” he’d say while excitedly poking me, unveiling a discolored photograph of a woman’s semen stained face. “Look at that bitch go!” I could never get too excited about it. There was something unreal about these women. How did I know they really existed? These were women with names like Anna Cunnilingus or Debby Brassiere, whose natural endowments had clearly been augmented by the surgeon’s knife. The women I lusted for were real women, who passed by my view everyday and were firmly planted in concrete. I suppose that’s where Lorenzo and I parted ways. He was quite content in the world of fantasy, whereas I needed at least some grounding in reality.
Lorenzo was able to pique my interest on a cool December evening when he came in talking about his newest Internet source: Anastasia.com. “It’s a fucking crazy site ese’” he informed me (‘Ese’ was his annoying way of referencing my almost non-existent Hispanic heritage.) “It’s some real life bitch who sets up a camera in her apartment and she walks around naked all the time."
“Huh?” I replied, only feigning interest for the moment. “Who walks around naked ALL the time?”
“You gots to check it out, hombre,” Lorenzo countered. “I mean, yeah, she’s not naked all the fuckin' time, but a lot of the time, she’s stripped down to the flesh, my man. Way she puts it, it’s performance art or something, like Karen Finley. Sometimes she’s dancing or puttin’ paint all over herself or something. But she’s a fine looking woman, man. More than you could handle.”
“Hey, at least I’ve handled a women,” I retorted.
“Trust me dude, you gotta come by and check it out some time.” Lorenzo continued, ignoring my jab. "It’s different from all the others, it’s like looking into someone’s life, just seeing them walk around the house, steppin over underwear… It takes a strange kind of bitch to let the whole world peer into their life."
Now I was starting to get curious. “I don’t get this,” I stated. “How do you see her? She’s broadcasting some kind of video to your computer? Like HBO?”
“Naw, naw, it’s not moving ese’” Lorenzo explained. “It’s photo stills captured off a video camera, you know. And like, she updates it every thirty seconds. So for one shot, maybe she’s on the couch reading a book, the next she’s in the kitchen getting coffee, then she’s back on the couch with a cigarette. You dig?”
“What about when she goes out?” I asked. “Does she turn off the camera? What do you see then?”
“No, the camera’s always going, man. But she doesn’t seem to go out much. When she does you just see her empty apartment I guess.”
“Huh… That’s a pretty good home security system,” I mused. “I mean she’s constantly got a whole army of perverts like you checking up on her.”
“Yeah, I’d like to be checking up the inside of her ese’” Lorenzo guffawed. “And I may too, homegirl lives somewhere in the city.”
“She lives here? In New York? Have you ever, uh… seen her around? I mean in person?”
“You kiddin’ man. If ever I saw her I’d be right on top the bitch right now”
“Stick to your computer women, Lorenzo,” I replied. “I don’t think you can handle the real thing.” I quickly exited to the stockroom, before Lorenzo could get in a response.
I tend to get depressed around the holidays, and it was around the time Lorenzo and I had that conversation that I started a habit of drinking a beer or two in the breakroom before my shift would end. After downing a couple bottles I didn’t have much interest in my usual morning coffee, but one Friday morning, I figured, what the hell. I had a couple of errands to do; I might need the extra zip from a cup of coffee. Plus, it’d be nice to see if Julia was around.
Sure enough, as I sat down in the coffeehouse around 8:30 she came in. Maybe the beer made me a little braver than usual but I waited till she’d gotten her order and then spoke. “Julia… hi!” I wore my most engaging smile.
“Hey…” she replied, clearly unaware of my name.
“It’s Lorry,” I filled her in, trying not to seem too wounded.
“Right, I’m sorry” she responded, smiling politely, but clearly uncomfortable.
The beer seemed to have given me the courage to start the conversation, but not the substance to carry it forth. “How’s your art… thing going?” I asked, scraping my mind for some kind of epiphany.
“My what?” she asked quizzically.
“Your art” I quickly replied. (Had she been offended that I’d referred to her life’s work as an “art thing?”) “Do you have any more gallery shows coming up?”
“Oh, my art.” She smiled. “Well you know I do a lot of mixed media experiments now. What I’m doing these days doesn’t really work in the context of gallery shows. Besides the Soho gallery scene is so cliquish. I’m really looking into new avenues of self expression."
“Oh…” I said. I really didn’t have much to offer her in the way of avenues of self-expression. “Well, you know, if you do get a show, I’d like to come see it. I could give you my number or something…”
“Ohmigod,” Julia suddenly yelped.
“What?” I asked, panicking that perhaps the mere mention of her getting my number had shocked her beyond belief. But I calmed a bit after noticing that her eyes were gazing past me to the outside window.
“That’s Tanya, I haven’t seen her in forever” she cried out, pointing excitedly at a nondescript figure walking down the avenue outside. “I’ve got to catch her. Look Larry, it was nice seeing you… I’ve really got to go.”
“It’s Lorry,” I corrected her as she rushed off. “If you need any fruit you know where to find me.”
I’d meant the grocery but it hadn’t come out right.
I thought of the errand I had to run, but somehow I couldn’t find the interest. I walked home pouring my espresso in the gutter along the way.
That evening I showed up at the grocery feeling very tired and not at all up to the task of working my final twelve-hour shift of the week. The Christmas blues were really starting to come around and I hadn’t been sleeping all that well. It was cold, not cold enough to be snowing, but the heat in my building wasn’t particularly commendable. And maybe I was starting to go through one of those “What have you done with your life?” phases. Suddenly I wasn’t happy about being a thirty-one year old man working in a Korean grocery store. And I was starting to lose my hair.
“Damn, you should have seen that bitch last night,” Lorenzo informed me when I came in.
“What?” I asked irritably.
“Anastasia.com, ese’” Lorenzo reminded me. "I was checking her out her all last night. She spent the whole time watching Jimmy Stewart Christmas movies bare ass naked. Man, it was great.
“Obviously she’s got better heating than I do, “ I growled.
“And let me tell you something else, ese’” Lorenzo continued, ignoring my sentiment.” “I swear, when they got to that one part, you know the “Daddy, daddy. Teacher says every time a bell rings an angel get their motherfuckin’ wings” part, when they did that… I’d swear her nipples got hard."
I turned to Lorenzo with a look that said “Don’t bother me.” As he sat there, grinning like an ass behind the register and I could tell he wasn’t getting the message. It was going to be a long night.
The night became even longer a few hours later when I came across a familiar face. It was Trudy Dorwitz, one of my old girlfriends. Out of all my ex-flames, she was the one with the most open disgust for me during our relationship. And it had ended badly, with her storming out of my apartment after spitting on my pet iguana, while I had wept on the couch.
If I’d seen her entering the store, I might have made some attempt to hide myself. As it was, I didn’t notice her until I ran into her in the canned goods aisle. Or I should say, she ran into me. I was busy stocking the tomato soups when I head and gasp and a breathless voice say “Lorry.”
I turned and saw her. She’d put on a lot of weight but still looked pretty decent. She had this strange crooked up kind of nose I’d always had a thing for. “Trudy,” I’d said, managing a smile. “Hey.”
“What are you doing her?” she asked. “Are you working here?”
“Yeah, I’m the night manager.”
“What happened at the 24/7 Lounge?” she asked. I’d met Trudy when I was the doorman there and it suddenly occurred to me that I was still working there when we’d broken up.
“Oh, that place” I mumbled. “Well, you know… things weren’t really working out so I left. The place really slowed down you know.”
“Wow,” Trudy replied. “I mean, I haven’t been back since… But I go past it all the time and it always looks busy.”
Jesus, get a clue, bitch, I thought to myself. “Well, uh, you’re looking good,” I said. “It’s good to see you.”
“Gee thanks,” she blushed. “I’m really exercising, like, twice as much as I used to. I’ve got a Stairmaster and everything.”
And eating twice as many cheeseburgers from the looks of things, my inner voice said. But I forced a smile on my face. “So, uh, how are you?" I asked. “What are you doing?”
“Oh, it’s totally great” Trudy gushed. “I finished college and got a job at this law firm up on 48th in the Capital building. You know, the one my uncle owns. I’m head of the Human Resources department. It’s totally amaaa-ziing.”
Especially since you couldn’t turn on a dishwasher a year ago, my brain added. But my voice said, “That’s great, I’m really happy for you.”
There was an uncomfortable silence for a moment, but Trudy rushed to fill it. “Well, you know, I only stopped in for some stuff for a salad. But really, Lorry, it’s great seeing you.” She smiled and gave my hand a quick squeeze while she talked.
“Yeah, it’s nice seeing you too” I said as she turned and walked down the isle towards Lorenzo and the cash register. I gritted my teeth and knew I’d curse myself if I didn’t say it.
“Yeah?” she replied, turning back to face me.
“Well, uh… you know, if you’d like to get together during the holidays or something...?”
“Oh…” Trudy’s face fell. “Gosh, Lorry, I probably should have told you this, but I’m getting married. Next June actually. Besides, I think we safely decided that… well you weren’t really my type. Or we weren’t each other’s types. How ‘bout that?”
“Yeah, forgot about it,” I mumbled, not bothering to hide the anger on my face. Anger at her, and anger with myself for getting suckered into this moment. “Good luck.” I said.
“Thank you, Lorry,” she responded. “And good luck to you,” she finished with a cutesy wave. Then Trudy walked up to Lorenzo with her bag of groceries
Jesus fucking Christ, I said to myself and wiped my sweating hands off on my store apron. Feeling moisture on my garb, I looked down and realized that one of the tomato soup cans had come open and spilled on my apron. “Godammit,” I said and went into the storage room to change into a new one.
When I got back on the main floor, I noticed Trudy was still there chatting to Lorenzo. I hid myself in the frozen food section and pretended to stock the stir-fry vegetables. I was there fifteen minutes later when Lorenzo came up to me.
“Man, you’ll never believe what happen!” he said.
“What?” I asked.
That JAP bitch that was just in here? She fuckin’ asked me out man. Can you dig it?”
“She… what” I said, my eyes widening.
“That’s right ese. I’m meetin’ her tomorrow night over at the Asterix Bar. A little drinkin’, a little dancin’ a little smokin’ of the pipe… then that bitch’ll be smokin’ on my pipe. Or I’ll take her home to those carrots she just bought and do a Bill Clinton on ‘er!”
“But… she said she’ll be getting married.”
“Man, you was chasin’ the pussy, too! Maybe’ll she’ll tell a dried up cracker like you she’s getting married. With me she knows what’s up. You think I care if a bitch is married? I can eat a married bitch just as good as single; they still taste the same.”
At that point a customer came in looking for cigarettes. Lorenzo headed to the counter.
Immediately, I went into “Fuck the World” mode. I hadn’t wanted to come to work today and things were just getting worse by the minute. I walked over to the beer cooler, grabbed a six pack of Coors and headed for the break room.