Most relationship end at the same point and throughout the 1980s my romances t-boned with fate in New York and Paris. I fell in love time and time again with the right women in the wrong places, but also never realized what I had until it was gone.
My long novella IN ABSENCE OF AMNESIA recounts my inability to see past skin-deep beauty into the souls, although I was no angel.
Nightclub owners, crooked cops, porno actresses, and runaways were my friends.
No one had two feet on the ground, unless they were in the grave, but I learned nothing from it all and that's because anyone who has all the answers has not heard all the questions.
Here are the women in question.
We were all so much younger then and we are still younger than now.
To purchase my novella IN ABSENCE OF AMNESIA, please go to the following URL
EXCERPT from IN ABSENCE OF AMNESIA
New York in the summer of 1981 was everything it hadn’t been in the winter. The 90+ temperature boiled the asphalt. New Wave had replaced punk and somehow the city had escaped bankruptcy. Money flowed on the streets and even the East Village exhibited signs of regeneration, since abandoned tenements can only be burned so many times before their ashes won’t catch fire.
People had work. Mine was menial construction on an after-hours club along the Hudson River. After paying rent I had enough money for Chinese take-out and beers at CBGBs. I lost weight and thought about robbing a bank. Whenever I entered one, guards placed their hands on the guns like they were armed with ESP.
I was no Jesse James.
Daytime employment was the logical solution to my desperate situation. I had a college degree. My permanent record was clean. I had worked nine-to-fives before and real jobs didn’t kill you, however Arthur, the nightclub owner, had promised the construction crew various jobs once the International opened its doors.
At our previous gig I had coined $500-700 a night. We hoped to open before Labor Day. On August 13th the club was $20,000 short of our goal and construction lurched to a halt, however the International was saved by a cash infusion from a criminal refugee from Odessa. His money was rumored to come from smuggling Tsarist icons. The source was unimportant. The club was a dead issue without his help.
Arthur said that Vadim had a beautiful blonde girlfriend.
“Almost cover girl pretty, but too short to succeed on the runways.”
“Sounds like your old girlfriend.” Danny Gordon, the DJ, had heard that the gangster’s girl came from Buffalo.
“No, that would be too much of a coincidence.”
Last November Lisa had left for a modeling job in Milan.
I hadn’t heard from her since.
When I spotted her in a French lingerie magazine, I almost flew to Paris, except she could have been in London, Milan, or Munich, so I remained in New York to be haunted by her imagined footsteps on cobble-stoned European streets.
“Coincidence is destiny crossing paths.”
“No chance of that. Lisa’s gone for good.”
“No one leaves the City forever.” Native New Yorkers like Danny considered anywhere other than Manhattan to be purgatory. “She’ll be back.”
“I’ve been dreaming of that day,” I said, but in truth I had been forgetting her piece by piece.
The smell of her skin after sex.
Her mocking laugh after I told a bad joke.
Buying leather jackets together. Hers white, mine black, yet some memories had lives of their own.
No matter how many drinks.
No matter how many days.
“Still it would be funny if it was her.” Danny wasn’t letting go either. He had a thing for her. Any man would if she looked his way.
“Funny, but not ha-ha funny.”
“Not for you, but me. I can’t wait to see your face when she walks through the doors.”
I chucked a hammer at his head. It missed by a foot and put a dent in an op-art sculpture from the 60s. Arthur noticed the damage a week later.
We denied any knowledge of how it got there.
The Russian’s money accelerated the final stages of the construction. The walls were painted lilac purple and the sound system was wired through the club. A Labor Day opening appeared realistic and on the hottest day of summer Danny and I were tearing down a last section of the ceiling. It was a dirty job and rat dust caked my sweating flesh.
The door opened for three shadows.
We lowered our tools.
“Guys, I want you to meet Vadim.” Arthur shouted from the entrance.
A muscular man in his late-20s entered the club wearing a pastel linen suit. We muttered hellos. Mine was silenced by the sight of a slender blonde in snug Versace. Lisa’s b-grade beauty was as haughty as a dethroned princess checking into a Holiday Inn.
“So much for the lack of coincidences.” Danny nudged my ribs.
“It’s a small world.” My throat tightened to a knot. “And a long life.”
“Think she recognizes you?” Danny wiped a layer of grime from his face.
“Not unless she looks my way.” My body was black with soot
Her head turned to our perch.
She recognized me and the dice roll of jade green eyes indicated my lack of social progress had not disappointed her low expectations for a punk poet.
“No, she hasn’t forgotten.” Danny laughed at my pained expression, as Vadim, Lisa and Arthur disappeared into the office.
Right before our lunch break, Lisa and Vadim exited from the office.
She covered her mouth with a scarf.
Vadim shielded his a thick hand and they left the site without a glance in our direction.
By 4pm the ceiling had been replaced and Arthur called it a day.
As the rest of the crew filed from the club, Arthur pulled me aside.
“This isn’t going to be a problem?”
“What?” I played dumb.
“You and Vadim’s girlfriend.” He was serious. Émigré Russians from Odessa were notoriously violent.
Over the past year her name had floated in my mind a million times.
This was the first time I had said it.
“No, she’s nothing to me.”
“Good, then stay away from her.” He lifted a finger. “Vadim is a piece of work.”
Obeying his advice wasn’t hard.
On every visit Lisa ignored me and I couldn’t blame her.
I was a failed poet at 28.
The International might change my status. Three months as the doorman would earn $5000 in tips and salary. That amount could finance a winter in Maine to write my first novel about a free love community in the 1840s.
WATCHIC POND was destined to garner the best-sellers lists. The world would worship my words and Lisa would return to my arms. Self-delusion rarely offers the true options.
Two weeks after Labor Day the Continental opened its door without a liquor license. Limos lined West 25th Street well past dawn, as models, actresses, and strippers dancing with abandon to the city’s best DJs. Movie stars snorted coke with two-bit dealers and national politicians seduced Amazonian TVs on pop-art sofas. The club was an immediate success.
Few revelers cared about the illegality of an after-hours club. Everyone knew that the police were on the take. Some people were always on the list. Sanitation inspectors glommed drinks with big-hair wives, plainclothes cops strong-armed bribes, and Jimmie Fats siphoned the cash cow for the firemen.
Greed blinded the bagmen to Arthur’s wearing a wire for Internal Affairs and the FBI investigating our Russian investor for counterfeit twenties. A myopia from $50 tips blotted out my better judgment.
By Halloween I had my $5000. $5000 became $6000 by mid-November. Vadim sold his share to three men in cheap suits. He still hung around the club, because no one wanted to go anywhere else after hours.
“I thought you were leaving town,” asked Arthur, as the month near its end.
“I don’t know where to go.” Wintering in Maine had lost its appeal. So had leaving.
“Anyplace, but here.” Arthur nodded at our new partners. They looked like cops.
“I’ll leave after Christmas.” Another month was worth $3000.
“Don’t wait too long.” He was trying to tell me something only I wasn’t listening as long as Lisa’s Nordic profile, blonde hair and sculptured shoulders dogged my peripheral vision.
She was a siren and to other men as well.
Vadim’s bodyguards exhibited violent Slavic etiquette to these suitors in the alley. The previous week one of them had punched Danny and broken his nose. My obsession rejected fear and I cornered Lisa once, when Vadim was out of town.
“All I want is explanation.” It was Thanksgiving.
The anniversary of her departure.
“Of what?” She had embraced the comfort of amnesia.
“Why you left and never came back.” I had told myself a thousand excuses. None of them added up to one plus one equaling two.
“If I explained that, then I would have to tell you everything.”
She looked through me, as if I were unsmudged glass and said wearily walking away, “Sometimes you don’t get answers.”
I stood there for several seconds.
I hadn’t foreseen that answer.
Arthur came up to me.
“I told you to stay away. It was for your own good.”
“No one listens to anyone’s advice after hearing their own lies.”
I went to the door.
Snow was falling on the street. I let everyone into the club. Many of them tipped me $20. A few gave me C-notes. I didn’t bother to count it.
Money meant nothing, especially since Lisa’s neglect was a game and she chose to exploit a pawn in December.
To continue reading IN ABSENCE OF AMNESIA by Peter Nolan Smith: to purchase this tale of love for $2.99, please go to the following URL