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FICTION With him leaning on me and my legs spread

to bear the weight, I try to hail a gloomy taxi daring to pick up the living from this dead but once-urban landscape. A lone light on a slowly moving cab declares “On Duty.” The taxi stops and I bend over to look inside. The driver peeks through an open window. “Get in, lady.” I open the door, push Rob inside, and scoot

onto the seat next to him. I give the cabby my address. If he wants to come over later to torment me, he can. Up to him. Outside my basement apartment, I struggle

with the keys and Rob falls against my landlords’ front door, perched like a scarecrow. When I open it, he stumbles in, tripping over the cord to my fan, which results in this trot-like dance step of four or five strides. Regaining his composure, he waits for my direction. I lock the door, point to the couch, and he plops down. We’re fine and it’s 4:30 a.m. “We’re sleeping now.” I begin pulling the

cheap knickknacks off my Woolworth’s trunk/coffee table to open it for blankets. “You know what?” Hands on my hips. “You’ve gotta get up for a sec so I can make your bed.” He stands. “Whoa.” He teeters, having some

difficulty with balance. “Do you have puke on you?” Always

charming. I never forsake my charm. He doesn’t know what to do with himself. He looks here; he looks there. Finally, he sits on the floor. After I make a bed, I turn to him. “Do you want me to help you wash up? Brush your teeth? Clean up a little?” My voice sounds slightly schoolteacherish. I’m into cleanliness and I’m sure this is a major stumbling block in my journey to becoming a great writer. What kind of artist am I if I won’t let the rock star with puke on him touch my things? We struggle and plod towards my bathroom,

knocking organic cornflakes off my portable plastic shelves. I sponge him off with a towel, clean his glasses, remove his shoes, put toothpaste on his finger and show him what to do. This isn’t sexy. I have to tell him to urinate too. I close the door behind me and hope for the best. I figure I’d better not risk malaise. Everything seems to work out fine. We return to my couch. “Keep your pants on,”

I insist. “It gets cold.” Then he empties his pockets. Out comes a


wallet, a key chain, and a pair of purple panties. He holds them up for me to see. It’s like he’s showing me a dead lizard or a

glow-in-the-dark bug. I peer into his gleeful eyes, mortified. “Where’d you get those?” I ask. “I don’t know.” He displays the purple panties,

giggling. Satin and lace. Possibly punk rock panties. “Take ’em.”

“I don’t want them.” This distresses me like

the alien punk kids, like the child learning Satan’s Salute. “How come you have purple panties in your pocket, Rob?”

He leans into the cushions, holding his

treasure, now balled up in his fist. “I must have,” he pauses, “collected them.” He grins fiendishly. Then he adds, “Maybe for my rock ‘n’ roll scrapbook, Syb.” Which we’ve never mentioned. But this isn’t memorabilia. “Well, put them away,” I say. He looks at the underwear in his palm. “I

guess I don’t really want them.” “Then, I’m throwing them out.” My hands are

back on my hips. He holds them out. I reach over, grabbing

elastic with index finger and thumb as if holding a rat by its tail. I slip into the kitchen, lift the plastic garbage lid, and trash them. Then I wash my hands, of course. When I return, he’s stretched out on the

couch, the sheet covering him. I dim the lights, walk over, and sit on the trunk. “You’re a nice girl.” He smiles like children do

when you’re tucking them in. “Let me touch your silk blouse.”

“I’m not in the mood, Rob.” I kneel over and

remove his glasses, still upset about those lousy panties. “What happened at Ramone’s?” He collapses onto his back. “I can’t remember.”

He closes his eyes. “Did you drink a lot?” “Yes.” “What did you drink?” “Scotch.” “That’s shit.” I get up to walk to my bed. “Sit with me.” He reaches a hand out. “Don’t

leave yet.” He searches for my wrist, finds it, and

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