In 1985 President Ronald Reagan begins his second term in office, Mikhail Gorbachev becomes the General Secretary in the Soviet Union, Jason Robards stars on Broadway in Eugene O’Neill’s “The Iceman Cometh,” Boris Becker becomes the youngest man to win the Wimbledon’s single’s championship, and Yankee legend Roger Maris dies. In 1985, I can not get myself to leave my home.
The idea of taking part in life outside my home is not just preposterous, it’s terrifying.
Those who pass my second floor apartment door often see a sign taped there that reads, “DO NOT DISTURB FOR ANY REASON.” If someone does knock when the sign is posted, I do not answer the door.
My friends, many of whom live in the same building with me at 286 East 2nd Street, take me under their wing. They keep me supplied with food, coffee, cigarettes, pot – anything I want and need.
Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning and shuffle into the kitchen wearing only my bathrobe, I see an envelope has been slipped under my door during the night. In it, there is always cash and occasionally, the cash is accompanied by a joint. Sometimes a particular style of knocking on the front door signals me that someone is leaving bags of groceries for me.
I am blessed to have friends like this. Dane, my brother in the heart. My apartment mate, an amazing chef named David; my landlords Dorrill and Kathy Semper, and then an array of loving friends: Hart Faber, Kenny Mencher, Arty May, Dominique Nadel, Zeke, Joshua and a scattering of others.
I am kept fed and protecting which is wonderful because I am afraid to leave my home, I am afraid to live; at times, I am afraid to get out of bed. Sometimes I don’t.
The only person on the planet who can get me to leave the house is Michael. From the day we met there has always been something about Michael that lets me know I am safe at all times being me with him.
One time after several days of flashbacks, hideous events that leave me freezing cold and sweating profusely while wrapped in a pyramid of blankets while I wait for the terrors to pass, I call Michael and tell him what is going on.
Michael, who lives in Staten Island, says, “I’ll be there in a couple of hours. Listen for the horn. Hang in there Babaloo.”
Less than two hours later, I hear his Karmann Ghia’s horn. I rush down the stairs, out of the building, and into his car.
We drive off and fire up a joint. Moments later, stopped at a red light at the corner of Avenue A and East 2nd Street, Michael says, “Hey, you’d agree the two of us are a little fucked up, wouldn’t you?”
“A little I suppose, sure.”
“I mean you’ve got a bullet in your head, hole in your skull, I’ve got no legs and a bunch of shrapnel in me, I’d say we’re a little fucked up.
“You think so? You see that woman?” he says, pointing at a woman who is crossing Avenue A holding hands with her boyfriend. Both are model gorgeous, beautifully dressed. He looks like he just stepped out of the pages of GQ and she looks like she stepped out of the pages of Cosmopolitan. The one curious thing in this image is she is walking across the street with a pizza balanced on her head.
Michael says, “You see that? That woman’s never stepped on a fucking mine and she’s never been shot in the head and there she is walking across the street with a pizza on her head. And you think we’re fucked up?”
We dissolve into warmly welcomed and, for me, desperately needed, laughter. The light turns green, the car behind us honks, and off we go.
A few minutes later we are parked on 2nd Avenue drinking coffee. We in one of our feigned debates over the WWF, the World Wrestling Federation, with the likes of Hulk Hogan, the Rock, and a muscular beyond-belief female wrestler named China. Michael believes China is as hot as a woman can get and strenuously feigns an insistence that the wrestling is real. I, of course, insist it’s all a bunch of phony position.
“Phony! Whattaya mean phony? You call yourself an American and say something like that? That’s real blood, bro. How can you call yourself an American and call a real American hero like Hulk Hogan a fake? And you don’t think China’s hot? Are fucking crazy?”
“Hot? She looks like a clenched bicep with a head on top.”
“Do me a favor, Peter,” he says, his eyes twinkling laughter a mile a minute, “Don’t embarrass yourself by talking like this in public. Keep it in the car. You’re going through enough as it is. You don’t want your country turning on you.”
“Not real… You know that bullet fucked up you’re thinking, bro.”
I am, for the moment, happy again.
There is an unspoken understanding between the two of us. We know things like flashbacks, the darker moments of life, are things you simply need to go through, or let them go through you, I’m not always sure how it works. It’s kind of like sweating on a summer day, it’s unavoidable. Thinking and reasoning never spared anyone their life experience. You just keep going, catch the breaks you can, and remember the basics like bathing, eating, brushing your teeth, washing you hair, keeping you clothes and your bedding clean. Other than that, you let the storms of life have their say and then move on.
Michael pulls up in front of 286 to drop me off. “Hey, listen, next time you start having those flashbacks?”
“Just stop it.”
I laugh. “Why the fuck I didn’t think of that is beyond me.”