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the girls drunk and camera-ready
where they hire guys like me
and put us in a controlled environment
a brownstone on the upper west side of New York City
to pose with so they can send their selfies to ex-boyfriends
anyplace to cause a scandal.
although no one's completely naked
the photos just make it seem that way.
Today, the pose was from Rubens' "The Drunken Hercules"
where Clay (that's me) molds Clay
with a girl on each side of me.
and not as difficult as you'd think
"Drunken Hercules" was a tough pose
my arms stretched out on either side
holding my breath for the shot
it'd never happened before
the blood sang in my ears
I was out for maybe fifteen seconds
because she thought it was part of the pose.
A B.S. in Liberal Studies from CUNY
and the only job I could find
"And they took selfies while I was passed out..."
The guy at the bar was drunk enough
to think I was the best conversation in town.
"And they was naked?" he asked.
He gulped his beer, and his eyes shone under his baseball cap.
"I hear ya," the drunk said. "Reality happened, but no one sent ya the memo."
"I was a Liberal Studies major..."
"I was an English major," the drunk said. "Now I drink too much."
"Did ya got some?" the drunk asked. "From the ladies?"
For sure, he was drunker than me.
"I had sex with all of them." I said. "Ten, maybe twenty."
"Twenty..." He sighed around the lip of his bottle.
"Maybe more. I lost count..."
The drunk's eyes rolled back, and he fell off his stool.
The next morning, there was a knock on my door.
"The rent," she cried through the keyhole
I opened the door a crack, and her crinkled face peered in.
"Here you go." I wrote a check and handed it to her.
She wrinkled her nose like she smelled rotten fish.
"Serious National is no good. Last one bounced."
"Bounced? I thought they were a reputable bank. I won't use them anymore."
"Nah. This is bad, too. Got cash?"
"No cash. Paupers Loan & Savings?"
She hadn't heard of that one.
"Ok, Wegotcha Bank. I'll take that."
"If they give you any trouble, let me know and I'll call them immediately."
I closed the door and heard her footsteps down the hall.
It was our joyful ritual.
On the first of every month
she nailed me for the rent check
I was at the same brownstone
a new party of rich girls
and nibbling on crab cakes.
"Clay, it's sweet of you to pose with us," one girl said.
She munched on a crab cake
and spilled some Appletini on my leg.
and explained how her parents were always away
never taking her anywhere
"Did you see Love Tweets?" she asked sipping her drink.
"Totally," I said. "It's a paean to our times."
"She runs away to Rio and meets a fashion model."
"Yeah," I said. "They get married at the end."
and shit if I didn't I pass out
and a vision of my future
"We're always looking for donations to the Show," he said.
"It helps our young boys dress for the stage."
and wondered if the boys passed out at work, too.
"How you doing, uh, Donny?" he asked checking my chart.
"It's Clay," I corrected him
my mind was on something else
"Uh, Clay, we have a problem."
"It's your heart," he said tapping my chart.
"You've got Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. Your ticker's no good."
"Huh? What's wrong with it?"
"Your heart muscle is abnormally thick. It's stopping your heart from pumping blood. That's why
you've been passing out."
"It's very serious. Either you get a new heart, or you die."
"Get a new heart?" I asked.
"Sure," he said. "We just have to find a match for you."
"I'm short on cash. Do you take checks?"
"No worries," he said. "It's all free, thanks to Obamacare."
"Ok," I said. "Can I leave now?"
"You'll have to come back..."
and putting my clothes on.
The next day, I was fired from Naked Call
They told me when I passed out
I broke a statue of Zeus in the corner
had a couple of beers at her place
and talked about my future.
"You could be a manstitute," she said.
"A dancer? You have a nice body."
"An out-of-focus guy in a swimsuit catalogue?"
"Or a CEO of a tech company?"
"Or a disco shirt model?"
and I spent the night at her place.
I was in her apartment the next morning
when someone rang the door.
"Dr. Franklin...?" I asked.
"Kelly," she said. "I'm collecting donations for the Dr. DragQueen Show."
but figured she'd got Eve's address from my file at the hospital
"Eve's not here," I said. "But you can start in the closet..."
She checked out the brands in the closet
She filled her arms with dresses, pantsuits, and blouses
and struggled with some boxes of shoes.
and followed her down the stairs.
We stuffed everything in the trunk of her car
She got in the driver's seat
waved a manicured hand at me
wearing the new jeans she'd bought for me that morning
"No," I shook my head. "You're just angry."
"You bet I am. You gave all my stuff away!"
"I don't care. It's over."
"She'll return the clothes," I said...
"She'll return the clothes. It'll be ok."
"I thought you were special. I trusted you!"
"But you can't," I stammered
"We're Ken and Ashley..."
"I'm sorry, I can't be with you anymore."
"Wait..." and I forgot her name. Just like that. A blank.
"We're done! Get out of my apartment."
I was sleeping in my apartment
dreaming of naked socialites
jumping up and down on me like I was vineyard grapes
and crushing me into fine wine
the cell suddenly so loud in my ear
"Is Clay," I said it soft
because Eve was on my mind.
"This is Doctor Franklin."
"Hi, Doc. How are the boys?"
"Harrumph." It wasn't a laugh, just him clearing his throat.
"We've got your heart. Or will have," he said.
"Two days, maybe three. We're waiting on someone."
"We'll call you. Probably tomorrow night..."
"You're lucky, Clay. The family didn't want to do it..."
"They only decided today."
"They had a change of heart?"
My father lives in an apartment complex in Queens
(My Pop, when he still dreamed of owning his own house)
My transplant was coming soon, and I wanted to catch up
my new heart didn't beat right
and Clay stopped being Clay.
Like always, my dad was at his kitchen table
in a mythical world he invents
He has Anterograde amnesia, a rare form of memory loss
It was from a car accident when he was a young man
when he hit his head on the dashboard
and permanently screwed up his brain.
He remembers the distant past, before he was married
He can't form any new memories
and he doesn't even know who I am.
because of my college debt.
"Hi, Pop. It's Clay," I said sitting next to him.
"What's the news, Clay?" he asked.
He knew he was sick, so every time I visited, he had to be brought up to date.
That meant covering pretty much my whole life
which was how we kept in touch
using me as a portable history
"Blah, blah, blah," I sat next to him at the kitchen table.
Literally. That's exactly what I said.
"Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah..."
He nodded as I talked, like he was taking it all down
but he forgot the moment I said it.
"And finally blah! That was something, huh, Pop?"
"That was something," he said. "A great story..."
"And I got fired from my job. Pretty sweet, huh?"
He got a faraway look in his eyes and patted my leg.
I drank a beer
it didn't matter how many
and a black anvil fell on me.
I woke in the hospital again
a colony of furry ants having a party in my mouth
Dr. Franklin bent over me.
"How're you doing?" he asked.
"Good," Dr. Franklin said. He held my wrist.
"Your pulse is good. No temperature."
"You had a heart attack," he said. "The EMTs brought you in."
"You beat the odds," he said. "Say hello to your new heart..."
"New... heart....?" I finally got it out
"Fifteen-year-old girl. Hit by a car."
"Congratulations," Dr. Franklin said.
"In a few days, you'll be back to being Clay."
"Donny," I croaked. "It's Donny."
Seriously, I wasn't ready for this.
"Her name was April," he patted my arm. "Remember that."
"April," I muttered. "I won't forget."
"Bring on the nurses," Dr. Franklin said waving them in.
Then there were nurses, lots of them, fussing and cooing like I was a newborn child.
Not one of them wanted a selfie with me.