Thursday, December 15, 2016

MEETING ARTHUR by Peter Nolan Smith

In the summer of 1979 I was going out with a blonde model from Buffalo. One night Lisa came back to my apartment on East 10th Street late. Her hair looked tousled by a hurricane and a button was missing from her shirt. I checked the clock on the wall. It was after 3am. Lisa pretended that it was early and stripped naked before getting into bed.

"What's wrong?" Lisa lay under a sheet. It was warm in the back bedroom.

"Nothing." I positioned the fan to blow on her and we lay on the bed close. She had been with someone wearing Halston Z-14. It was a men's cologne. "Where were you?"

"At Studio." Her agency liked her to be seen at the famous disco. She was shorter than most models. Any edge could further her career. "I was with this nightclub guy, Arthur."

"I know him." Arthur had opened Hurrah on West 62nd Street. Its success had turned to failure the night Studio opened for business. He had sold out to the present owner who turned the disco into a punk dance club, where I worked the door.

"He knows everyone." Lisa sidled over to me. She had been with another man and not just at Studio. Any possible accusation was deflected by our making love. The feel was not right and I went to sleep wanting to correct what was wrong.

Two days later I spotted Arthur coming out of the 2nd Avenue Deli. The good-looking nightclub impresario was with shorter man, whom I recognized as a bartender at Studio 54.

"You," I called out from the corner.

"Me?" Arthur pulled off his sunglasses.

"Yeah, you." I was hot. Lisa had left in the morning for castings. She had said that she wouldn't be coming back until after midnight. A world-ranked tennis player was taking her out for dinner.

"And you are?" Arthur wasn't fazed by my approach.

"You were with my girlfriend two nights ago." My fists were knotted bones and corded sinew.

"Who is?" Arthur held the take-out bag at his side. His friend stood to the left. Neither were eager for a fight, but then they weren't me.

"Lisa," I said the name, as if the blonde was the only Lisa in the world.

"The blonde from Buffalo. I saw her at Studio." The lean six-footer admitted his guilt, but spoke from the side of his mouth like he didn't want anyone else to hear his words.

"Yeah, she said you were." The admission convicted him of adultery, even though my girlfriend and I weren't married.

"And you think something happened?"

The expression on my face was easier to read than a cartoon's dialogue balloon.

"What woman's going to tell her boyfriend who she just slept with someone. None. Not one. Your girlfriend and I drank. That's all. You can believe me or not. It's up to you." He put back on his sunglasses to accent the flawlessness of his logic.

"So you didn't go anywhere else with her?"

"If I did, you think we'd still be talking here?"

"No." There was someone else and I had a feeling that there was more than one someone else. "Sorry about this."

"Nothing to be sorry about. None of us have a bloody nose. You smoke pot?"

I nodded yes and invited Arthur and his friend Scottie back to my apartment to smoke a joint. I played records for them. We had the same taste for rock and roll.

"Where's Lisa?"

"Out with a tennis player." I envisioned how out was out.

"Do yourself a favor. Don't ask so many questions," Arthur instructed me, picking out the Rolling Stones BETWEEN THE BUTTONS. "This is New York. None of us are angels."

Lisa had been my angel. I had another name for her now. I never said it out loud. In September she left for Europe to pursue modeling. Within a month the phone calls ceased to ring on my phone.

Arthur and I became friends. He was good at telling whatever the truth without saying too much. Scottie, Arthur, and I worked together at the Jefferson and the Continental. Those after-hour clubs were the best of an era of errors.

None of us were saints, but Arthur came close if you didn't look too hard and that was easy for me, since my eyesight is terrible.

And every man is almost blind when it comes to love.

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