Ride Like the Wind
Andrews came to me today, sat at my desk so when I returned from lunch I had to pull up a chair. I asked him if something was wrong and he turned those small eyes on me, gray pupils like bullets. The night of the living walking wounded.
His Lordship walked in. I felt saved and glad to return to my duties. Fearfully I left my desk, at 4:00, waning. Andrews and his blank stare were at the coffee maker and the kitchen radio was buzzing “Ride Like the Wind.” Da da da, da, da, da, da. I should have taken the advice but apparently I will cross any block to greet suffering. We had one of those conversations that take place in kitchens and offices—two people standing, sipping from mugs, intimate but not at ease. His lover Martin had left. I suggested the occasional fight was normal, wouldn’t they probably get back together and he said No. Damn! When Andrews says no the planets jerk. No!
He made me promise not to tell anyone. Martin is an alcoholic. That’s it? So he drinks. So they’re gay. So what. It’s all hard, isn’t it? Well, maybe not for Kool and the Gang, who outshout Christopher Cross, but for us work-a-days. Screw it.
It is a blessing Andrews didn’t come in today because extant and new stresses were enough. His Lordship wooed a client while Ron showed the model he built, the shopping center laid out with miniature trees and tiny parking lot striping. With her customary efficiency, Maria flashed blueprints, and so it went. Thank heavens for the coffee thermos. I didn’t have to serve. The client—everyone seems confident—left at 3:30—Maria stopped by my desk; mentioned Andrews was out. I think she felt inhibited; everyone is intimidated by Andrews—held in thrall is probably more like it. He would flourish as a practitioner of the arcane.
Old beady eyes was back. His hand was bandaged. The official line is that he closed it in a door, a not implausible occurrence but sort of odd. We all became impassive for his benefit. WHY? If I had come in with a bandaged hand or Maria or His Lordship, especially His Lordship, oh! everyone would have fun then. Any fleshing out of the human condition is fair game; we run it into the ground, très amusant. Three architects, four draftspeople, beleaguered me, why not?
Andrews. We had lunch together. He asked graciously so my refusal could have been construed as ill-mannered. Give me a shovel and I’ll dig my own grave.
We each had a scotch and he asked me what I liked to do. What a question. So. Movies, books, restaurants, crosswords, see my dad and my wonderful and not wonderful brother Bill. He suggested a movie sometime and then revealed his bandaged hand was from a drunken fight with Martin although I’m not clear if only Martin was drunk. I felt I should share a chunk of my private life and I told Andrews about Bill’s up-and-down moods, how they keep me and Dad on our toes, but Andrews didn’t understand. Disclosure should authenticate my life but I don’t think Andrews realizes I am a separate and whole being, only a part of which, a pinprick, exists in relationship to him. He said he was going to avoid bars and nonchalant pick-ups. It would be nice to see a movie. I haven’t seen Being There.
Craziness. Andrews received a call. I talked to Maria in the john and she said all he did was nod and say okay and I can’t talk and everyone in the room became nervous. He looked distracted the rest of the day, walked me to my car, prefaced a confidence with the standard secrecy clause. Turns out his ex-lover Martin’s uncle is Mafia.
NOW this sounds ridiculous—ludicrous—but it scared me.
I suggested an uncle was not the same as a father but Andrews countered this saying Martin had been raised by the uncle. The uncle once had Martin beat-up! Had his own nephew beat-up? Oh, family. I wasn’t clear if this happened because Martin didn’t want in on the Mafia or because he was gay. Martin works box office, a union job, at the Music Center. His call was drunken and harassing according to Andrews, full of implied threats. Andrews worried Martin might call his Mafia uncle. Would they come in from New Jersey or Vegas? I thought there was no Mafia in L.A. Fortunately, it was Wednesday and I had to meet Dad. Everyone at the office knows about Wednesday dinners and Dad; and up-and-down wonderful Bill is in town. I hope he is calm.
What I liked most about this weekend was no Andrews. What I liked least was not being able to complete the Sunday crossword. Bill wasn’t easy.
Andrews suggested we get together Thursday.
Andrews brought marijuana—it had been a long time for me—and we smoked and became enchanting. He softened, plopped, relaxed and smiling, on the couch, began talking about silly things. Inasmuch as humor is a risk, an ill-timed joke a chore to laugh at, he let himself be vulnerable. My flower poster, old-time botanical illustration, had already curled away from the wall at one corner and during our conversation a second corner snapped free. The poster was ready to pop off and Andrews reached up and started tapping a curled corner to a beat and I commenced dancing to his tapping. We went to gay bar Beakers. Andrews talked abundantly, talk of drugs—a fond reminiscence for him and a proof he earned his sixties’, well, really, seventies’ stripes. Maybe this kind of talk precedes many acquaintances and friendships, but mainly it just should be gotten out of the way so a friendship can begin. Andrews still partakes, psilocybin now and then and he was thinking of an L.S.D. weekend. We drove along Sunset in Silver Lake; he analyzed characteristics of bars, in encyclopedic fashion, latent Medievalist that he is. The marijuana wasn’t bad. We didn’t attempt the westside, although Andrews talked about Black gays. He said they (they) tend to stick together and some like to do a slave thing. A) I dislike him. B) The things he thinks about. Eeek.
My damn car. I was parked on Hudson this afternoon, tried to back up, and nothing happened. I was going to ask for help from the lives-within-four-blocks-of-Hollywood-Blvd.-type, long-hair, fast-paced and without a direction, who would understand car troubles, but I stuck my foot out, pushed, it started. I drove to Sal’s in Echo Park and was informed my transmission was ready to be terminated but they couldn’t replace it until Tuesday. Sal said the car was safe to drive, though Reverse wasn’t working. All Sunday I envisioned a sudden need to back-up on the Hollywood Freeway. Where do I get $450?
Big Andrews is meeting me at Sal’s in the morning. Dad’s lending me $200 and I have the rest. At least I’m not stranded. Tried Bill but no answer. Didn’t try Hennessey’s.
End of day, no car because Sal’s had gotten its new lifts installed. They’d better have my car tomorrow. I’ll call Martin’s uncle! Ha ha.
Andrews and I stopped off at Beaker’s. He said I should talk more. He said women deferred to men, didn’t they, and I said yes and smiled and Andrews said there was a halo above me when I said yes, which of course is so wrong in so many ways.
Andrews called me for brunch today. We didn’t go. Bill had given me an acrostics book. I challenged myself to finish three in two hours. Thank God Bill has returned and is functional.
Before work Andrews was waiting for me in the parking lot. He moved back with Martin on Sunday night. Monday morning he found a typed note in an enveloped under his windshield wiper. You better leave him your no good for him – not typed on an electric. In light of Martin’s background the note is chilling. Andrews said it could have been written by anyone he or Martin had run across, although I hope he meant by someone. Is everyone they meet a grenade? Does the Mafia leave notes?
I’ve had it. We had lunch and he talked the entire time about how sick everyone at work is, inhibited and inexpressive, and how they need marijuana and stronger to straighten them out. He talks, then lapses and stares. Andrews’ stares. Even his Highness noticed. Apparently a client commented. Andrews looks at a person forever, those little eyes boring in. Maybe’s he’s loaded but he says he doesn’t come to work high.
I asked if he had established the identity of the note’s sender. He said no, although Martin had a few ideas. He acted unconcerned. My heart goes out to Andrews yet—really—I wish he did not exist. Maria once said he is not at ease with himself. His Lordship only says Andrews’ work is neat. His Lordship would never confront anyone but me. I say he’s retentive. Andrews. Well, His Lordship, too.
Bill and Dad and I went out last night. Bill’s getting worse.
His Lordship and Maria treated me to lunch today for Secretary’s Week. His Lordship drank a bottle of wine by himself, a superior vintage I presume and ordered a different label for Maria and me. That man’s an ass. Maria complained about Andrews’ smoking. Their boards are opposite each other and of course the smoke drifts. His Lordship nodded, ordered more appetizers, said we should get together again. His Lordship sucks eggs.
Have learned a new trick: Ignoring Andrews. He wanted to talk and I simply typed through his prefatory stare. I had a backlog of work, including those damn specifications. Why can’t we send them out to a statistical typist? So His Lordship can have a wine cellar.
Andrews waylaid me with the announcement he and Martin were contemplating buying a condo in Santa Monica. They are tired of life in the gay ghetto, although where this stops and their minds begin is unclear to me.
Maria was in a frenzy about Andrews’ smoking in the conference room, a small and airless space. His Lordship hates the smoke, he does, but he will not speak to Andrews.
Dad and I had dinner and Bill joined us for dessert (doubles for Bill). I mentioned Andrews’ anger and weirdness. Dad looked worried. He’s used to my crazed girlfriends. Are you back to men, he asked. Is this Andrews a crazed boyfriend? In a way, yes, he is. Bill grabbed my thigh to quiet me. After Dad left I told Bill everything.
I do not converse with A. His tantrum exonerated me. He screamed at me. The point is: he screamed. The fact is: at me. I did nothing wrong yet I feel frozen. He attacked so quickly and with such vehemence.
Bill is here, standing over me. Write it out, he insists. He stopped off at the newsstand on Cahuenga and bought the New York Times so he could do the puzzle. Also, he brought a bottle. All right: On Wednesday I was battling my typewriter regarding an aspect of punctuation when His Lordship requested I tidy the conference room because a personage of the monied ranks would soon be in its and our midst. A. was in there, is morose self obsessed with his morose self. I lugged the fan from His Lordship’s office to clear up Andrews’ smoke-created smog. Brought an ashtray into the back room sink, rinsed and left it.
A. came at me like a wounded cyclops, his one searchlight eye blinded by the absence of ashtray, he grabbed my arm, asked if I wanted to have it out because he was tired of my moods. Red flames leapt from his mouth and his beady eye(s) squeezed tight and poison needles shot out as if from a gadget Q devised for James Bond. Even my mother didn’t yell at me like that. An hour later, we crossed in the hallway. I asked him why he was so angry. He sneered—did I want to go and talk it over with His Lordship? I said I wouldn’t mind but he stalked off, hissing and spitting devils.
Bill wants to know why I have not stood up to A. more vehemently.
Bill is asleep. The psychiatrists don’t really know what’s what.
Ah. While His Lordship is out. Maria and I have taken time each morning to split a sweet roll and chat. I told her about A.’s drug taking. I mentioned this slip to Bill over the phone this evening and he was ecstatic, talking loud and fast to be heard above the crowd at Hennessey’s.
Bill came over drunk. I had to wrestle with him to stop him from getting back in his car. Always the question from him: What have I done to restore my honor. What have I done to A. Nothing, I assure him. The angrier Bill is, the less angry I become. Bill’s medication isn’t helped by his drinking.
I refused to believe this happened.
A. strode to my desk and placed a note in front of me, another windshield note. Leave my sister alone or you’ll be sorry. Bill must have left it on his way to the airport. A. said, Tell your brother to leave me alone.
I called Bill who was in St. Louis. He was sober and defensive and I told him I was worried about him.
Today a note was on my car. I love you and will protect you. Bill is back.
Saturday’s note: Forgive me. Dinner? But when I phone, the bartender at Hennessey’s hasn’t seen him.
At the coffee machine, Andrews asked what’s happening. I said Bill and that Dad thought maybe my complicated and wonderful brother needed time at Cam or a private hospital if we could figure a way. Andrews knows some Styx that runs deeper and swifter through some souls than others. We understand the inevitable in each other’s lives and miss the grace. He said Martin was the best he could hope for. I wondered if what I had—dinners with Dad and worries about Bill were my best. Andrew said to call him sometime for a movie. Nah. Knowing someone doesn’t obligate me to more. Maybe not today, but soon I’ll ride, maybe not like the wind, but in a brisk and weatherly manner. Da da da, da, da, da, da.
About the author:
Sarah Sarai is the author of the poetry collection, The Future Is Happy (BlazeVOX). Her short story "The Young Orator" will soon be a Winged City Chaps chapbook. Fiction in: Tampa Review, Storyglossia, Fairy Tale Review, Devil's Lake, Homestead Review, South Dakota Review, and others. She was born a block from the Long Island Sound, grew up in L.A., now lives in N.Y.C. For links & more, visit My 3,000 Loving Arms.