That Thursday had been a long day at the diamond exchange. Manny was worried about money and Richie Boy had shown up late shikkah or drunk. His son was our big earner.
“Nice to see you.” His father checked his watch. It was after noon.
“Same for me.” His eyes the color of deviled ham and vodka vapors fuming from his flesh. Last night he had dined with clients. Entertaining customers was tough on the body
“Huh?” Manny at age 80 hears 10% of a normal person. I don’t let him answer the phone.
“Richie needs some OJ.” I used to be Richie Boy’s co-pilot. Nowadays I went home just as his customers wanted to have fun.
“And a bacon and egg sandwich. Don’t forget the cheese.” It was the cure for what ailed him.
“You got it.” I knew how he felt, because I had deja-vued too many mornings in the past. The rest of the day passed as fast as a train being dragged across a swamp by oxen. None of us made a sale and Manny decided to close early for once.
“Thank, Dad.” Richie Boy was very grateful. He had a busy tomorrow. “Two customers for $200,000.” The profit would pay a chunk of our debt and my weekly salary.
We left the store and Richie Boy headed home to his wife. Pillow time was his desired destination. I walked over to Grand Central Terminal for a bowl of oyster stew at the Oyster Bar. The train station was bustling with commuters rushing to their platforms. I turned on the western steps to avoid the rush of suburbanites and caught sight of a spectral apparition amongst the well-fed faces.
The man was gaunt and grey.
His head lowered in a heroin nod.
I stopped in his path, thinking I was seeing the ghost of William Burroughs.
Over the years I had spotted the grey eminence of heroin shuffling across Grand Central Terminal.
The transportation vault was close to where the infamous novelist scored his drugs. He didn't know my name. In fact he knew nothing about me other than we once shared the same affliction, albiet mine was a mere shadow of his colossal addiction. Still he had acknowledged our affiliation with an uplifted finger to his head and for a second I expected the same from the approaching man, except he was not William Burroughs, who had been dead for years.
The phantasm was familiar for another reason.
It was my old friend, Davy. The ex-doorman was younger than me by a decade. He had once been the desire of every gay boy in New York. He now looked twice my age, although just as likely to survive every person in the terminal with a junkie’s determination. I almost let him walk by, then called out his name.
Davy’s yellow teeth gleamed in the half-light of the sunset streaming through the terminal’s cathedral windows.
“You look good.” I would have said the same about anyone whom I thought was dead.
Davy was happy that I didn’t ask many questions. Even happier that I didn’t ask him if he was holding any dope. I would have loved some. A little smoke would take away the pain of being in New York without my family.
I mentioned a soiree featuring punk rock.
“Emily and Pat are showing their film NIGHTCLUBBING at NYU.” Davy had loved punk rock, but said, “I really don’t go out much anymore.”
“Neither do I.” We had our reasons. His were more believable than mine.
“I have a picture of you, Barney, and Phillip. We look like an old rock band re-uniting for an oldies tour. I’ll send you a copy.”
“I’d like that.” My friend bid me farewell.
I wanted to say that I wouldn’t tell anyone about seeing him, for the mention of his name sets everyone’s heads to shaking with disapproval.
I wasn't ready to throw any stones.
Davy was a bad boy, but I was am glad that he was alive.
There were too few bad boys left on the books and one day I might need to ask him for help, because my days of being a bad boy aren’t over, simply delayed to a time near death.
My wife thinks that date is years away. For my son’s sake I hope she’s right. I wanted to live to 78. Fenway would be 20 then.
And Mem, my wife, only 46.
So fleeting and wasted on the young.