We had missed them killing the robot. The thing was laying on the ground like a big cardboard box, its giant breasts thrusting up into the darkness. Its glitter-spackled hulk sparkled under the strobe. Now they would violate her.
The strobe flashed across Lenka’s face. The soundtrack was bitter metallic screeches mixed with electronic bleats and farts. No rhythm to speak of, except for a bearded guy in a red robe in the corner who banged a gong every so often. I took a gulp from a beer, a nip from a plastic cup of white wine. It had been a dollar for each – a deal.
These two things wrapped in black plastic knelt down to fondle the missile. It was four or five feet long – a flashing red siren on the nose, red and blue blinking lights on the sides. The strobe pounded, the soundtrack chirped, clanked, ping-ponged and screeched.
I finished the beer bottle and set it down. I tried to grab Lenka’s hand, but she pulled away.
It had been around 7:45 that evening when I had spotted Lenka on the street. I had left Telephone Tower, gone home to shower and change clothes. I had walked up to the Taco Town on Meredith for three tacos for $.99. Feeling a bit dull and groggy, I hit a liquor store for a fresh pack of smokes and a 40-ounce Colt .45 in a brown bag.
I was knocking along south of Verdugo, digging on the sundown and the playful people, when I recognized Lenka’s limp speeding toward me. She had a black lace shawl on her head, a black cape, black leather mini-skirt. Her thighs and calves streamed out of the skirt, enclosed in purple lace tights.
“Lenka, hey. Hey, Lenka. . . .”
She stopped and double-looked.
“Oh, it’s you. . . .”
“Yeah, just me. . . .”
Her smile opened like an umbrella, though seemingly a bit against her will. I put a foot against the brick graffiti wall, had a sip from the bag, turned my head and blew from my butt. I was wearing black jeans and a canary yellow T-shirt, a plaid blue and gray sports coat. I grinned, looked off, took another blow from the butt.
“Well, I’m on my way to a show. . . .”
“Cool. Who’s playing?”
“I don’t think you know them.”
“Cool. Where at?”
“Well . . . right over here. Come on then, we’ll have to hurry. . . .”
They violated the robot for about ten minutes, then everybody clapped and the lights came on.
The crowd was a jumbled collection of terminal oddballs and the eternally hip, two segments of the population that always had a good deal of overlap: Guys with mohawks. Guys with just half of their head shaven. Guys wearing medieval-era costumes and carrying around swords. There were girls in feathers and lace bustiers, girls with dreadlocks dyed orange and green, a few folks in naughty cowboy and sailor outfits. I got two more bottle beers from the bar, put one in my coat pocket, and ordered another wine.
Annoying Annie – that’s what she called herself – had come on next, a terribly skinny thing whose hair was a blue and pink tumbleweed. She was wearing a jockstrap and the rest of her was wrapped in cellophane. She cut her palm with a razor, sucked the blood and spat into the audience, all the while hopping around on one foot.
“Your father’s sperm was watery and sour!” she screeched. “Does your mother know he’s such a cheap tipper? Give that man some wheat germ. . . .”
Next had come a band featuring a bagpipes player and guy singers wearing plaid skirts. They were followed by a transsexual tag-team reading poetry about transsexuals and Woody Guthrie. In the finale, a guy in a Shriner’s hat came out and said: “Welcome to the swine toss.” He took six or seven piglets from an ice cooler and began to juggle them while singing “This Little Piggy” in a high nasal voice. In the climax, he picked up a sword and chopped off the heads of the pigs. The crowd cheered.
Lenka led me out by the hand, took me to her apartment and sat on my face. Noise from a Siouxsie and the Banshees album floated vaguely in the background. I pushed my nose and lips into the purple tights, but it was for nothing. All I ate was cloth. I could barely breathe.
“You’re drunk,” she said, leading me to the door. “You gonna make it into work tomorrow. Or what?”
“I’ll be there. I’m O.K. . . .”
“Call and say you’re sick. Or don’t call. I can handle it.”
“But I have to come in. I need the money. You don’t understand. . . .”
“I’ll get you the money.”
“No, it’s O.K. I can do it, baby.”
“Don’t call me baby. Ever.”
She pushed me out. I didn’t quite believe her on the money. Or she might have burned me over the “baby” line and called in another temp. There was never a shortage of temps, you had to fight for every job. Sometimes the temps were lined up outside the agencies before the sun came up.
I was in the next day, filling envelopes, as scheduled.
If you believed her stories, and I believed most of them, Lenka had been a hotel waitress, a stripper at the Rocking Horse, an official member of the Star Trek Fan Club, a pre-school teacher, a practicing Satanist, a punk rocker, a lesbian, a masturbating camgirl, a pre-med major and a saleswoman at the New Modern Art Museum Gift Shoppe. She had run with “bikers,” voted for Nader, checked herself into rehab (twice). She claimed she had been a cutter, purposely slashing herself and maintaining at least one open wound somewhere on her body for more than two-and-a-half years. She claimed to have known at least three people who had died from drug overdoses, and claimed to have made $50 giving blowjobs to four guys in a parking lot at a Southern Death Cult concert while high on PCP. I did not doubt it.
Her friends included many artist, musician and poet types who, due to the ignorance and bondage of the American people, were forced to make their livings as bartenders, waitresses and dishwashers, mechanics and adult-education night school instructors. They were way out of my league, that was pretty obvious. Various of their artworks were arranged about Lenka’s apartment: Postcard-size renderings of sea monster-type creatures. Bleak charcoal abstracts. Detailed sketches of warped faces and skewered bodies. A painting of two paths and a stairway arising in a mossy forest. A replica of what appeared to be the Taj Mahal, constructed from walnut half-shells. A Christmas tree made entirely of bottle caps. Handbills for bands with names like Vellum Tongue, Bogturd, Ordure of Linda and Grapnel, many decorated with themes of skeletons and bulldogs, knife blades and vampires. One pal had set up a website devoted to the “secret history of shoe polish,” while another’s website featured “guerrilla street interviews” and pencil portraits of homeless people and prostitutes.
Lenka had been at the Phone Company for three years. She had worked her way up to Associate Manager in the department and made, she claimed, “good money.” She was constantly announcing how, without a doubt, she had “sold out” by taking the job, that the Phone Company “sucked total corporate warmogering shit” and that a “total idiot” could do her job and, indeed, any job there. At the same time, the work was easy and “required no thought,” and she had been able to pay off her considerable debts. She was tired of being “shit poor” and didn’t plan on being “shit poor” again.
We had gone to a little restaurant, Casa Paco, for our second date. Lenka liked the turquoise beaded curtains in the doorway, the bowls that had little bluebell flowers. We stayed for six or seven hours. Lenka had chips, an egg burrito, shirley temples. I had chips, beer and margaritas. Many.
“Look,” she said. “This isn’t a date, O.K.? I don’t care if I ever see you again. I don’t know who you are. I don’t care who you are. I don’t even know why I’m here.”
“Sure, Lenka. Whatever you say.”
“You don’t know anything about women, do you? I could tell by the way you kiss and grab, like I was the last piece of food on earth or something. It was unreal.” She laughed.
“Thank you for that. I always heard that women like a man who really seems to want them. . . .”
“Maybe. . . . But I don’t want you.”
“I hear you, baby.”
“What kind of shitty luck got you temping, anyway?”
“Well,” I began, “I’m really a writer – a reporter, I mean, a journalist – ”
“For the news?”
“Yeah. Newspapers, I mean, you know. . . .”
I spun some tales about previous jobs. I brought up some hopes and dreams. The theory of myself as the last true great man. . . .
“You’ve got bombs in your head,” she said. “They’ve been planting them there from the day you were born. They’ll go off one by one, destroying you in the process. . . .”
“Yeah, probably. . . .”
“Also, you drink too much – way too much. I know your type. Drinking gives you the illusion of peace and power potential, obliviousness. . . . Your greatest love is oblivion. You don’t know a thing about anything.”
“Exactly, nothing. I claim nothing more, never have. . . . And I don’t drink hardly at all, Lenka, by the way. This is just one of those nights where I happen to be drinking. . . .”
“Shit, you’re rats-ass drunk right now. I’ve lived with drunks my whole life. You were going at it even before you came here tonight.”
“That’s ridiculous. I just like to drink with somebody I can talk to.”
“I don’t like talking to drunks.”
Lenka had been living in the same studio apartment for eight or nine years. By her own estimation, she had been adding a new chain or deadbolt to the door every 12 or 18 months, and there were no less than six on there now. The place smelled of dust and patchouli oil, there were many stacks and curiosities laying around, books and magazines, piles of Victorian lace and dried flowers. . . .
In addition to the artworks by her friends, her walls included a framed poster depicting human ears floating on a pond, and a black and white photograph of a pile of old baby shoes. The bathroom door held a life-size poster of David Bowie wearing striped sleeves, jodhpurs and hooped earrings. On her refrigerator door she had stuck up a copy of the so-called “face of Satan” that a photographer had allegedly captured in the smoke of the plane-bombed World Trade Center tower. Also on the fridge were headlines announcing GLOBAL FROG HOLOCAUST and SCIENTISTS: WORLD TO END ‘RELATIVELY’ SOON.
One of Lenka’s most compelling curiosities was a plastic box containing four cigarette butts that she kept on the windowsill in the kitchen. These were relics from the hour she had spent talking with Tom Waits in Downtown Hell, after Tom’s show at the Cheshire Lounge two or three years ago. As she told the tale, Tom had given the bartender a $100 bill in exchange for six bottles of beer and a bottle of schnapps. He had then kissed Lenka on the cheek and walked out into the night. Lenka had fished Tom’s butts out of the ashtray and slipped them into her purse.
Lenka said her limp was due to the catastrophic midnight motorcycle collision that had left “Bob,” her former boyfriend, with “half a brain.” She herself would have wound up paralyzed had the metal not missed her spine by “an eighth of an inch.” According to Lenka, they turned off Bob’s machines after six months. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” she said.
There were also the dolls, six of them, on top of her bureau dresser. Crude things, made of wax, clay, paper, bird feathers, strips of fabric. . . . All had pins stuck in them and red ribbons tied to various limbs. . . . The trick of the dolls, Lenka said, was that they each had to have some part of a real person’s body – such as a strand of hair. She never said who the people were, and I never got around to asking. . . . It scared me and I didn’t want to know, I didn’t want to get involved.
“Are you trying to hurt these people, Lenka? Punish them? Is that it?”
“Not hurt them. . . . Just stop them from doing bad things.”
“Does it work?”
“It works. . . . But I should tell you – it’s a power I don’t fully understand. You have to be careful of your intentions. What you send returns on you three times. . . . When I’m ready, I’ll have to go out in the woods alone and bury them.”
Absolutely, Lenka never permitted me to fuck her. She permitted me to crawl up her skirts from time to time, but never did she allow me to dive in with my own penis. Lenka claimed she hadn’t been fucked by a penis that was attached to a man in years.
“Come on, don’t worry,” I said. “I don’t want to be your boyfriend. I don’t want a girlfriend. I don’t want to get tied up.”
“Yes, you do. . . . You’d love to control me. If I let you fill my holes, and it was O.K. – just O.K., mind you – I would become psycho-sexually attached to you. Nothing I can do about it – this is evolution. Then we’d hate each other. I’d end up wishing you were dead. Don’t make me wish that.”
“Now hold on, Lenka. I’m not that bad.”
“The bastard lives inside all men.”
“Oh, man. . . . Don’t call me a man, Lenka. I hate men, too. They totally suck. Fuck them. I don’t deserve to be called a man. I’m not – I’m still a boy.”
Lenka laughed. I knew she would like me saying that.
“All right – so, please? Come on, it won’t mean anything. It’s just rubbing each other because it feels good. Then we can forget about it.”
“Under no circumstances. Subconsciously you’d try to impregnate me. Then you’d try to murder me. It’s the way of the man. . . . and no, Thor, I don’t blame you.”
Excerpt from “The Ballad of Yeltsin Rape Abortion,” from ONLY FOOLS DIE OF HEARTBREAK, stories by Thor Garcia (London: Equus Press, 2013).