One Decadent Life: Chapters 6 through 10


Chapter Six


In the urbane – or ought one say promiscuous – milieu of hip downtown Manhattan, circa 1975, the lady ‘Angelique Demars’ appeared as if out of nowhere on the scene. Appeared that is, as they ever do, with a pretty boy on her arm, at the fashionable night-clubs; expensively dressed on the banquettes of chic and noisy late-night restaurants; or attending certain evenings hosted by wealthy artists (and there were a plethora of such then) who might have been desirous of a dash of outre color from old Bohemia — Art’s Vestibule — that “dark and dirty Workshop where Ideals are made” **— Angelique gained entry and attention as a Beauty, a Personality, and a Scandal.

Like many who surface in the Vestibule, she was a wholly self-created, nearly fictive entity. Indeed she had come out of nowhere – as do so many Stars – from out of the wastes of small-town America. But more – for that in itself is not enough to gain a splintery seat in the Vestibule – she did spring from an especially pungent seed-bed, an almost sordid milieu (come now, is there such a thing as ‘almost’ sordid?)

Well – we shall confess – the lady Angelique came from trash.

Born in the early 1950s, Angela Gloria Podrowicz was the eldest of a brood of fourteen. Buried in the rural fastnesses of Virginia, and being frequently required at home to serve at her mother’s near-constant spawning, the girl was not often seen at school – this the source of the grown-up Angelique’s strange insecurity about her truly unparalleled intellectual gifts.

This mother of hers resembled nothing more than a great, white slug-like Queen Bee, waited upon semi-faithfully by a slender, drone-like father. Dimitri Podrowicz was a strange man for a parent. Though he tried early on to support his family with his violin and the songs of his native Czechloslovakia, his music was neither modern, nor marketable… and in those days, supremely erroneously, ‘not American.’ Though undeniably a virtuoso in his Art, he verged towards living the difficult life of the Poetic Unemployable.

But as his family burgeoned (his passion for his wife absorbing his creativity), he was forced to parlay his talent for the cornucopeia into a flourishing grocery business. Hence the origin of certain dismissive metaphors Angelique, as authoress, at times overuses: ‘spawn of dirty ditches,’ ‘a pedigree in cabbages,’ ‘soul of a grocer,’ et cetera.

Upon flowering at the age of thirteen into a real uncommon Beauty, and eminently bored with high-school, she summarily rejected the sub-maternal role that had been her trial since age eight and ran away, somehow managing to scrabble her way up to the Big City. But the Fate that awaited her there was all too commonplace.

In Manhattan she was quickly taken up — entrapped by – a man who was to have a specific, deleterious effect on her — but who thereby sped up her self-creation, forcing her to survive only for herself.

Self-created! From out of the useless innocence still clinging to her unprotected Beauty; away from the banal degradations of a life of prostitution; and far, far from the role of a proper wife: away from all the ways that others might define her by.

The man who saved her from the life of a waitress was monikered variously as Cabot Langley, the scion of a wealthy Boston family (useful in credit-card scams); a/k/a Carlo Confetti, nightclub doorman; a/k/a Norman Smith, son of a bus-driver in Nutley, New Jersey; a/k/a Lawrence Melrose, ‘Larry the Rose’ – a pimp with a police-record of robbery and assault. He took Angelique’s virginity, and became her first love.

Imprinted thus early by his romantic admixture of attentiveness and cruelty, he roused in her the fatal seedlings of a sadomasochistic passion.

Sensing the devotee in the girl, the sociopath readily married the fifteen-year-old, to overrule any charges of statutory rape. He planned thereby to assure himself of bed, and, before long, board, and the adoring gaze. She did adore him… this gaze a little too-long fixed upon his useless person. So was the flower of her pure heart engaged, and thus it withered… as an ever-changing stream of ‘old girl-friends’ began, after a perfunctorily short time, to pay calls on the newly-weds at all hours of the day and night.

But Angelique anyhow took poorly to the role of wife; and she rather admired these ladies who clothed and fed her. They seemed brave and powerful, their beauty that of movie-stars.

From being forced to witness her mother’s long, animalistic bondage, Angela was completely disgusted by the idea of pregnancy. Her own interesting condition was marred by a sudden spate of drinking and, then, a fall.

At six months, mother and fetus were hurled down a flight of marble stairs, and miscarriage instantaneous. Secretly relieved, still for some months afterwards she obsessed over this Fate. She began, for the first time, to argue with her Beloved, and was further disabused of the idea of his ‘love’ by his refusal to admit:

“You pushed me!”

“I didn’t push you – you were drunk, and you fell.”

“You were the one who was drunk – you fell against me …”

“You were bombed, and wouldn’t take my arm …

“I felt your hand on my back!”

“You’re sick – crazy – you’d have made a bad mother, anyhow!”

Whatever softening effect her maternity might have had on her was thereby dispelled by the verbal abuse and endemic stupidity of this degenerate ‘husband,’ and their increasingly disorderly household . Their argument stalled in its one pathetic rut, ruined her for any further friendly caresses from him. She became now chattel; her womb cursed, ready to corrupt; she no longer excited him, but was bound to him; and was there not alot of money to be made from a girl still so young? Within that year the marriage was dead, and Angelique had discovered a trade.

She was only briefly a whore. Incapable of mouthing kind lies, as the profession requires, ill-constituted towards performing repeated sex-acts (she was slightly depressive, not so vital), she quickly discovered amongst the population of high-paying ‘johns’ a significant, certain type: the submissive, often masochistic man.

Before long they were flocking to her, enamoured of her natural coldness.
In truth this emanated mostly from an austere physiognomy. Tartar blood gave her sharp cheekbones and slanty, cat-like eyes. She was taller than average, and built on a somewhat massive Grecian-caryatid scale. A very fine white complexion was surmounted by hair that could only have come from a recessive gene: apricot-white, thin and fluffy, so much like a halo around the severe planes of her face that her new name, ‘Angelique’, became a most evocative, most adorable sound to those subtle, sensitive admirers of feminine grandeur – the “slaves.”

Thus could she sell her Beauty without it ever being handled (but for the occasional passionate foot-fetishist). Such transactions were confusing for ‘Larry the Rose’ to deal with – based as they were on an exaggerated respect for women – but that was not long any point of contention. Angelique divorced him, with restraining order attached.

So she gained a whore’s freedom, becoming self-sufficient, even rich, whilst remaining single; but without the whore’s curse, as she sold an essentially intellectual service. In embodying the role of the Dominatrix, she as well avoided another curse: to grow old in her branch of the profession was no liability, as the illusion she created of Authority — of dignity, control and inaccessibility — might only become more resonant as she aged.

So by the age of twenty-one she had already begun to live as Angelique DeMars — a strangely perfected scion of her father’s pure blood — flourishing as yet another aspect of the Poetic Unemployables.

While Angela Podrowicz had not finished high-school, Angelique Demars was fond of reading. Though Angela was only self-taught in French and English literature, Angelique might let it drop that she had degrees variously in Psychology, French — even Criminology. Angelique told everyone her diamond shoe-buckles were part of her Great Grand-Mama’s inheritance; but ‘Angie’ had scored hers from an eccentric client who, much taken with her youth, had given her a number of other inappropriate gifts. While buried in Police Archives was Miss Podrowicz’s two adolescent arrests for ‘loitering,’ Miss Demars had no such thing as a ‘record.’

Indeed the Work that was now Miss Demars was all for the betterment of the social Zeitgeist. If Angela had had sex with over a thousand men and women by the time she turned nineteen, Angelique could now affect a highly genteel celibacy. And she was completely caught up in her writing-work, so much so we must finally admit she was not without some talent for the sentence. Her desire to be a poetess had evolved her, thus, to this certain extent and without delusion.

Or so she rationalized her commitment.

But we know of Angelique’s other ambition, that despite her lack of education and her paraiah-status, that was yet to be attained. For, we must repeat, she did possess artistic talent — but the Lady needed to become a Published Author.

The generous sums she enjoyed from her clients she spent on literary indulgences. She had a large library, with some old, rare editions; she indulged in fancy pens and heavy-stock paper. She took periodic writing vacations, burying herself in the solitude of rural New Mexico. In an old adobe house without a telephone, there was never one interruption to her avid scribblings.

Finally her efforts paid off. There appeared a vanity edition of poetry, “The Dungeon,” which did create some excited stir amongst those in Art’s Vestibule. Thereby was she accepted into the Company of a small, lively literary-circle. Though these artists were not as exalted as those in the aery realms of the Paris Report, neither were they as lowly (as per Chamfort) as ‘kicking donkeys braying before the empty-hayrick’ in some obscure chap-book stable. *** Some may have been mediocre, but all were proud to be Artists. None of them thereby planned to make much money, and in that they were surely virtuous.

Thus Angelique evolved, with her fervent, purist intent intact, from out of the slough of her early determinants. She could believe she held a special position in Downtown Society. But even this fey gang was to eventually reject her…

For though she had achieved some ascendancy over her spawning, she had not done so over her profession. We admit her paucity of Judgement against herself was a kind of powerful Magick, but that this lack might reflect a constitutional amorality (a fair assumption) was another thing entirely.

So she held her happy, tenuous place in that artistic obscurity, in good faith, for a while. But the hard truth was: she was still involved in doing something shocking for her living; she inflicted pain and suffering for a price; actually, she was a criminal. But while she was still a Beauty, she could brazen it out.

Her function in the ‘Vestibule’ was as a kind of More-Than-Human ikon; viewed as an example of what a woman without normal, human inhibitions might look like. Though she was not degraded, she was definitely a specimen of Sex-Superstardom; a female Satan, a necessary figure in every Underground. And so far it had only been rather glamourous – not yet anything overtly tragic had come to smudge her perfect make-up. She enjoyed certain high-profile fashionable lovers, though everyone left her.

So had she arrived, by the age of thirty-five, at a point where a medium-sized, mostly reputable publisher would hire a photographer and pay a publicist to help create a palatable image of her for public consumption. She was not encouraged, for example, to say that she still was in possession of a Dungeon. And it was hoped, by some who cared for her, that her success would eventually inspire her to get out of the trade of Domination.

The appearance of a novel, “Salvatore,” after the book of poetry, was close to being realized. With all this, one might think Angelique could staunchly look in her mirror and say, “My dear, you have arrived!”

Alas! Those most in need of the happiness and safety society can offer are exactly those who are very cruelly rejected. She could not ‘arrive’ – for a woman such as she, there was no place to go. And this was not because she was a degenerate, nor that her writing was not very good; but because the highest strata of the literary establishment are bourgeoisie institutions, and could never accept her into their ranks – as long as she was alive. For example: how could such subject matter find its way into ‘the canon?’

So at present, as this history opens, the person of Angelique Demars could at most expect to rouse a dull hobnob with some spicy anecdote – she would be allowed to amuse, even titillate – but to be admitted into the Holy of Holies? That is, to be excerpted in the ‘Manhattan Tattler?’ How would the Gentlemen explain such a Creature to their wives, or adolescent children?

Once Angelique was safely dead – that is, unable to enter in amongst their candlesticks and tablecloths – her Work might at last be rated objectively, and fully appreciated.

But, for now, she was a freak – whose aspirations did serve to gratify, even preen the grandeur of the Poohbahs, alas alas! How could a “mere whore” be ranked in their Elysium?

We wonder why she might want to be.





** “The dark and dirty workshop where Ideals are made” is a paraphrase from Nietzsche’s “On The Geneaology of Morals”, First Essay, Section 14:

“Would anyone like to take a look into the secret of how Ideals are made on earth? Who has the courage? Very well! Here is a point we can see through, into this dark workshop. … I see nothing, but I hear the more. There is a soft, wary, malignant muttering and whispering coming from all the corner and nooks. It seems to me one is lying: a saccharine sweetness clings to every sound. Weakness is being lied into something meritorious…

“Bad air! Bad air! This workshop where ideals are manufactured — it seems to me it stinks of so many lies.”

*** Chamfort:: Sébastien-Roch Nicolas, also known as Chamfort, was a French author and Academicien, well-known for his witty epigrams and aphorisms.





Chapter 7



In the trash-strewn doorway of a tenement on the corner of Avenue D
at Eleventh lurks David, our hero — trying to be inconspicuous. Even in his two-thousand-dollar dupioni-silk suit, designer shades, and white skin he is doing a good job. Not the young drunk scumbling in the gutter, not the jaded, fast-cruising coppers, not even the wild teen-age girls, dancing blithely on the midnight sidewalk glance at him a second time.

Only other prowling junkies, mongrels of the lowest echelon look again at the man’s unnatural pallor, catch the slant of the furtive shoulders, the cigarette rattling in a claw-like hand. These mark him as a local — a regular, though hybrid, from the highest echelon — just another cog that keeps the drug-trade moving,

Tere was taking a ridiculously long time to cop. David realized he should not have let her go up there by herself. It was just that he could not bear to see those people: the dealer Lola, and the clientele – detritus of the art-world, the music-world, the dregs of the literatum – all the failed angels.

It’s too depressing. “Tere, Tere, where are you?” The unfiltered Camel burned into his fingertips, his teeth chattered aloud. Was she even now, as he waited, being ripped off, beaten up? Could she be dead? “No, not dead yet …” The three hundred dollars they’d pooled – was it stuffed in some laughing psychopath’s grubby pockets?

The filth of it all!

“Goddamned greedy Queen!” An hour had crawled by. Perhaps she IS dead. He imagined the street-slime cavorting with her body and he gagged, he’d caught that stench — his last fix seeping from his pores in an oily effluvia, mixing with his sweaty hysteria, drenching his skin in an ammoniac toxin.

She’s forgotten all about me – that’s it. Nothing personal – just intent on her own needs as usual. She fixed on the spot and nodded right out. David knew exactly where Tere was, what kind of couch she had found for herself. He didn’t want to have to go up to the den, told himself he still had some pride left: How can I risk anyone who knows me seeing me there?

The junkie’s logic went no further – to realize that anyone he knew, at that hour, in that neighborhood had to be thereabouts for precisely the same reason as he. But then neither would they want to be seen by him.

Another peculiarity – everyone showed up at Lola’s for some other reason. Lola’s my best pal … was just returning this book to her … going out to dinner, we are … and oh isn’t this flu going round a real drag? Sniffle, sniffle, red-eyed and exhausted, Terrible how I get every virus in vogue … oh god I’ve got the worst allergy… in the dead of winter.

David flinched away from a derelict hopefully murmuring, “Givva manna match?” His shredded jacket looked as if something had been clawing at him. David had to ignore him… making the slightest movement set the nausea going.

But he edged out of the doorway to gaze despairingly up the block. The street was empty. No blonde head dancing towards him. He swore. With rubber legs and head of lead he was going to have to go up and get her.

Once again a Queen is proved more willful and careless than any mere woman!

A taxicab drifted up as if to his command … he lurched at it, the sudden activity setting him wheezing.

“You been shot buddy?” cracked the cabbie watching David sprawl into the backseat, “Extra ten bucks for blood on the upholstery.”

“Just … take me to the corner’”

“Aw you in bad shape buddy. Yeah. Bad scene. Down ‘ere’s a REAL bad scene ….”

“Please just shut up and drive me to the corner.”

This rudeness was ignored – nothing coming out of that backseat fazed the driver anymore. David fumbled for a twenty, ” Could you just please – wait here…”

“No way Buddy am I WAITING for NO kind of person, on this ‘ere block at this time o’ night!”

David marvelled, The man’s some kind of incredible hick. He showed him the cash, “It’s really quite important, you see, just for five minutes – my sister is sick …”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“I have to bring her downstairs to take her to the doctor … ”

“Nah, NO WAY.” The driver pushed to bill out of his face, “I know how your sister is sick, man. You keep your money – you gonna need it someday.”

A group of black men in bright-colored jogging suits were clustered on the stoop of the building. Cans of beer held aloft, they greeted David, “Hey mon! Ay, yellow mon’ … Step raight dis way … step raight up!” They mocked him, writhing with joy to see the white man’s fall, “Heeeeey, BOY!”

“Aw – he be lookin’ fo’ dat yeller guhl. Ooo WEE, but she do be fine!” they howled at David’s heels.

David’s last shred of dignity curdled under their knowledgeable eyes. Somehow it was more unbearable that these critics were all rather old. They weren’t even nasty young punks he could dismiss. But he tried:

If these revolting PEONS knew who Tere really was … if any one of them had any understanding as to who I am, what I have achieved ….

Don’t kid yourself. They’d only laugh the harder.

So a very famous former mannequin of the House of Herve is who’s nodding out, on good dope on the couch of a dealer… oh, how very glamourous. So the last of the Manfreds is creeping up a pee-soaked stair, on his knees before some degenerate with a future in penology. Just so he can stop shaking and retching…. how impressive is that.

At the top of the six flights was the door, sheathed in steel – guarded by a hostile, handsome Puerto Rican. He recognized David and called within. The door slid to, absorbed him. Within sat the dealer in a kitchen lit with candles, a muse out of another era.

“You look like you’re about to tell a fortune.”

“… mmm, guess I already know yours.”

David’s skin itched at the loathesome familiarity. He consoled himself by thinking Lola looked dreadful. Thin and weathered like some pioneer dame — except her skin, untouched by the sun, was a pasty yellow — her eyes flickered half-crazily, half-moons of white rolling beneath muddy brown irises. The woman was just as stoned as it was possible to be without dying. She cocked her head in the direction of the bedroom.

“Thanks Lo’.” He avoided the eye of the still-somewhat-famous graffiti artist sitting at the table with his arm tied off.

In the back as expected was beautiful Tere, on the greasy sofa, white-blonde hair fanned across The Face. Mauve lipstick had worn away from the center of her puffy lips, and a cigarette slowly burned into the wood floor beneath her unconscious hand. David crushed it out and lifted her fingers, making sure the Alexandrite was still there.

That rarest of stones! It changed color radically under different atmospheric conditions, and David, being sensitive to Kabalistic codes, liked to observe these changes and interpret them. But he let the hand drop, not stopping now to reflect upon the poignant, lovely, pathetic vision of Tere high. The stone showed an insipid beige color … probably reflective of the lowest of vitalities. Beauty amidst the Ruins, ho hum! Tere made everything anyway look like a fashion photograph.

He was turning her handbag inside-out, churning up the make-up collection, ripping at the bundle of glassine bags … he could feel it already, the relief. In his haste he spilt half a bag as he inhaled the other half in one famished snort. Then he got on his knees and snuffled up the spillage, right off the indescribable floor. He fell back against Tere as the warmth began to spread – though his stomach upset worsened – he just made it to a convenient air-shaft.

Shoving Tere’s inert limbs aside, he settled down next to her on the sofa, taking no notice now of its foulness. He lit a cigarette, tasting it with the intense pleasure the relief gave to everything.

Tere sighed and murmured something about a Pepsi. As he gazed at her pretty profile, noticing that she needed a shave, she began to scratch one side of her face and neck… as she seemed to have been doing for a while.

She was really badly marking up The Face. David gazed in a dream at the delicate hand surmounted by the enormous, mystic jewel. It shone in lurid contrast to its owner’s bedragglement. How she could pass out in this squalour, wearing a priceless gem and not lose it, was but another luxuriant aspect of the extravagance that was Tere Gaya.

David marvelled at the wealth of decadent contrasts… but as one long painted nail suddenly broke through the irritated skin, he cried out, “Tere!” Blood welled up.

“Eh? Daddy ! I wanna getta Pepsi!”

A rush of paranoia supplanted David’s euphoria. What if someone who knew Tere came in and saw her? If Tere was going to break back into modelling, she couldn’t have bloody gouges on her neck.

How could I even think of nodding out in Lola’s hell-hole?

He got Tere up and out with no little difficulty. All the way downstairs she kept stopping to dig through her bag, look around, sit down on a step and start to put on make-up, or argue with David,

“You didn’t go get me a Pepsi, Daddy!”

She was worse than a child. “I’ll get you your goddamned Pepsi, baby, can we just get out of this fucking dump?”

Out on the stoop the same group of well-wishers lingered, as if they planned to for all eternity. They brayed their good-byes, enjoying Whitey’s cringing scuttle. What a sight they were, in their couture

“…swanky motherfuckin’ uptown-fuckin’ junkies!” … staggering off through the high-piled garbage.

“Looking down der pointy-ass noses at dis’ere SLUM? Man I knows a slum when I sees one. At least I ain’ got no slum INside my body. My slum’s jus’tere, on de OUTside, baby –

“where yo’ Daddy built it!”





Chapter 8


Mid-afternoon in David’s studio, he sits smoking his last cigarette, one foot resting on a drawing-pad on the floor. He is staring into his last canvas, calculating when he had last touched it. Three months ago? Four? Could that be possible?

… appalled by the colors he used… from what melee of his soul had come that hideous burnt umber? The entire right side of the canvas looks like a charred waste.

“Face it! The thing is dead!” How can it have come to pass, that what he paints means nothing?

The vitriol in his tone startles him, but it feels good to hate it. At least that’s passionate.

I should go back to the figure… these experiments in abstraction are definitely a failure.
The critics had suggested as much. But what if what they meant was… that I should give it up altogether?

How can a man work, against such violent disputation?

So what am I supposed to do, get some kind of, of… a job? David shudders.

He isn’t rich enough yet to quit. But has he anyhow reached his peak, and passed over?

The Museum of Modern Art has two of his drawings, but not one painting. He doesn’t have a gallery in New York. Two of his former venues, the one in Paris, the other in Cologne, have neither given him the shows they’d promised him, whenever that was.

God could it have been three years ago, the last time I was in Europe?

Where had the time gone?

He doesn’t have a lover… and how is he going to attract anyone now, as a has-been?

Maybe he could make a few quick sales, get in the groove again… he could work some gimmick, get some quick attention… These efforts of his degraded imagination filled him with self-loathing. He couldn’t do it. Lassitude replaced false ambition, and it was all he could do to take the last cigarette-end to the ashtray.

His Imp of the Perverse popped in to inform him: This planning is worthless! You are finished as a painter – and there is nowhere, anymore to hide from the fact!

Around the central black pivot of his painted ‘Abyss’ the impasto, gold-leaf’d, glowered as if angry. The flamboyant, apparently ‘heroic’ gesture – the one that had gotten him noticed in the first place – was no longer in him. Now the thick, painstakingly worked-up abstraction of the paint actually made him feel nauseated.

He considered once again whether he ought to go back to the figure. Why didn’t he? Might it not ground him, prepare him for the esoteric flight of ‘de-representation’?

No, you can’t go back to the figure.

He moved irritatedly in his chair – “And why in hell not?”

It was because of those three new fabulously successful Italians – ‘The Three D’s’ they called them, Diamante, Dolfi, and Didiromana – all were doing the figure now. It would look like he was jumping on their bandwagon. The critics were even trying to get away with saying The Three D’s were the first, but who were they kidding? Painters had been trying to get back to the figure since the vaunted demise of Abstract Expressionism. Even he’d been on that route.

Anyhow he had to think of something new. He had to get back in the swing of things…

What was he saving his purity for?

He went on castigating himself: I should just start painting portraits of little old Park Avenue beldames. If there’s one thing I’m good at it’s glammerizing the female sex. Glammer.. in the oldest sense of the word. Glammering, hypnotizing… hoodwinking. He liked getting his hands on their plump little checkbooks.

But no. He wouldn’t be going back to the figure, even if he did possess a genius for capturing a likeness.

Thus another modern artist, denying the tenets of classicism, wrote a blank page into his creative life.

For the first time in a long time David thought about the mural he’d done at Basil’s secret studio: ‘The Temple.’ Basil Caldaway, dead for a year now at the age of thirty-four, from a heroin overdose. Dear Basil! As a lover he had not been first-rate, but as a fellow-painter he had inspired David as had no-one else. Basil too had possessed the ability to re-create the human likeness, and together they had enjoyed a well-kept secret. On the wall of their studio, they had both worked on a mural:

“The Waiting-Room To Hell.”

He thought of Basil languishing on his couch, supine yet dominant, waving a hand and inspiring David to add some color, or change a shading. Basil had been a ‘precipitator,’ able to bring out the best in others. If Basil had lived, he would have evolved into an exceptional professor.

So now, where was David to find friendly genius? Not in this cynical milieu of Manhattan, certainly.

He could work on the mural…he ought to go over to the studio, god how long had it been? As far as he knew the place could be trashed. It was only a squat, after all. But that was a real studio. David looked with distaste around his twenty-by-twenty space that he supposed he should be grateful for – that Rolfie Meyer, his last decent patron, still paid the rent on.

But Basil had found their ‘Villa of Mysteries’ purely by chance. Walking one day up Fourteenth Street towards Sixth Avenue, David remembered their astonishment as they looked up from the street-level of foul cheap shops and discount chains and seen – The Temple! Atop the narrow building, perched on the ninth and tenth floors, was a strange small Graeco-Roman villa. It turned out (as it often did in Manhattan in the 1980s) that the entire building was uninhabited, but for a gaudy toy-store at ground level.

Basil had broken in that evening – gotten up the stairs and into the top floors. Apparently it was unrentable, as there was no elevator. He had the locks changed by a friendly disreputable locksmith … and as far as David knew, he was still the only one to have a key.

It was their masterpiece, that ‘Waiting Room To Hell! ‘ They knew they’d never show it, and neither could it ever be sold, as they had perversely painted right over the crumbling layers of ancient, flaking paint. It had existed as their private exercise, rather in the tradition of The Picture of Dorian Grey: to preserve the exceptional youth and beauty of their genius confreres. For he and Basil had innocently amused themselves with painting portraits of their friends..

After Basil’s death, it had been David’s private torment to look upon it, as every person in the mural was dead. With one interesting exception – Tere, dear mad Tere Gaya. That child was still somehow amongst the living. There was a space, as well, for David’s figure, which, to David’s sorrow, Basil had never started.

What he needed was another one like Basil, someone to inspire him, direct him, make those hard decisions for him. Someone of sensibility, a Master! Someone he could ask – Shall I just scrape this bloody mess down to the gesso and start over? And they would say, You Must. Someone he could ask, What about this chrome blue? Or should I use olive? And they would have the concise answer.

By himself he couldn’t think or focus, he didn’t know what he was doing… the whole of his existence was a trial and torment and he wasn’t sure he ought to live it anymore.

In the back of his mind he understood that he ought to be thinking about taking a long, no, a very long break. His mother would pay for a room at Golden Hills Retreat. Detox!

Not yet, the Imp told him, you can’t do that yet. David stared into his painting again. It was worse than anything he’d done as a student. ‘The Abyss,’ well yes THAT part was anyway correct.

His Imp whispered, You are losing your ability to work the paint you are actually regressing to amateur forms no, you’re NOT supposed to go on. If only you could just stop WANTING to paint

…and at that thought, David knew he was in serious default.

Worse still — he had a show lined up for next month, and did not have even one new painting for it. He could drag out old stuff, as Rolfie had idiotically suggested. His new gallerist was a dreadful Philistine, Crasley Crawford, accompanied always by his gargoyle of a minion, the ill-natured Beauregarde. The two could show up on David’s doorstep any minute, demanding to see Work. Already a couple of importunate telephone calls had been fielded. God how he loathed them, loathed the entire process of showing and selling!

But he had to show, and these creeps were the only ones who had lately offered him anything. What clients could such scum bring to him, David Manfred? They were depending on him for the leftovers of his clientele, for their forty percent, which they certainly did not deserve. Crasley couldn’t even dress — Katarina wouldn’t have hired the man to dust.

God — Katarina! How had he managed to get dropped by her?

Was it only five years ago? A few choice years of making the rounds of the fashionable restaurants, riding in her limousine, hobnobbing with la creme at the best openings… not just making the scene, but creating it. He’d brought the bitch his clients from the Johanna days, with that cash infusion helped make her a success. His Work earned for her the cutting-edge image she enjoyed today… and as her Aloysius Gallery rode the crest of his sweat, she dumped him.

Allegedly because of his drug habit. In her words: that he “wouldn’t be around much longer — to go blue-chip!”

Now even Katarina’s new artists were pulling in middle five-figures. Painters who would sleep with her, massage her big fat ego, whores who would make paintings to match carpetting.

When exactly had it started … when had he begun to have absolutely no will to please them anymore?

The Imp sneered, They’re all planning to hate everything you do anyway. So why give the vampires your life-blood? What difference does it make if you show old work…

or the total crap he presently eked out? All that mattered was whether, or not, he was a la mode.

The problem was he did want to please, did want the adulation and fame. His contemporaries were passing him by, getting the reviews, the money and power. He did not know the reason why no-one looked seriously at his Work anymore.

But the truth was he barely had a drop of blood to offer.

He glanced at the clock – almost six. Well he’d made it past ‘magic hour’: 4:30 PM. You do NOT have to take heroin every day. So the Imp deluded him.

Six-o-five. He’d lasted almost two whole hours past ‘magic hour.’ So he could control it, he wasn’t like other people, he didn’t have to take it. He didn’t have to take it —

At least not at the same time every day.

David’s thoughts drifted to his stash. He looked at the clock again. Six fifteen. Better check on the stash, he had to have a little something at least, just something on hand in case, in case, he got too sick

He kept his heroin in an old cash-register, a relic from the thread-and-bobbin factory once active in his loft. He hit the SALE button. The wooden drawer slid open and David felt in the back for the plastic baggies. He pulled them out. All of them, empty! Goddamned Tere – she’s wiped me out. How could she do that to him. Christ on a cross, now I HAVE to go out. He counted his cash – just enough for the cab and $50. worth.

But what about the Angelique dinner? He’d promised her. I’ll cancel. He swore aloud at Tere’s rapaciousness. The bitch knew he always had a little something extra on hand … because he didn’t have to do it … but had to be certain… had to make sure he would never get sick.

With the loss of his back-up stash the need for the dope sparked to, broke him out from head to foot in the sticky sweat. He forgot the philosophical ruminations of the previous hour. The only torment of his existence was that he had to go cop.
He dialled Lola’s number. No answer! That was odd. He looked up Madame Anya’s number. Now her phone just rang and rang. What is wrong with these fucking people? Didn’t they want to make their money?

Goddamned Tere! What am I going to do now?

He didn’t really have to do the drug. He dialled both Lola’s and Anya’s again. No answer! He would not go out and cop on the street! His sweatiness disgusted him, that toxic ammonia stink in his nostrils. It really was like a kind of bloody flu, racking his body everytime he needed it. There, I said it, I said I needed it!

You are just a lousy junkie, just buy enough to kill yourself and get it over with.

The effort of dialling the phone had exhausted him. Again he was stationed before his failed painting. He smoked the butts in the ashtray down to their filters. Through a sudden fit of shuddering he thought he saw a light – a golden flash through the dirt-streaked windows. Sunset was long past. He looked again, blinked as the glow repeated itself, flashed and held, widened, hummed and grew brighter.

A luxuriant golden veil was spreading itself over everything. David wondered if he was dying, as he no longer felt ill… the walls of his room were dissolving.

He was in the center of the vast plaza on his knees. He felt the sway of a heavy robe on his back, along his arms were long sleeves of black. A glow seemed to emanate from the stone of the ground, and a tropical warmth enveloped him, this warmth a part of the Light.

It was the primeval place of Atonement. On all four sides rose the great stairways, leading to the altar of the Sun. He stared into the deeply cut scrolling of the carving, reading the brain-like convolutions of the hieroglyphs. He understood, as he began to read…

… the telephone rang. He gasped as the vision dissolved and swore – whatever imbecile chose to persecute him now? Of course they have to call when I am having a vision, the idiots, the torturers! He waited in a fury to hear whom it might be. But the person hung up without leaving a message.

Seven-o-five! He had to get out of there… he would call Angelique, she wasn’t a user, just have some drinks, two, three drinks before dinner. As he reached for the phone, it rang again. He tore it off the hook —


Paula’s voice mewed in his ear, “I knew you were there! Oh David, God David, I’m going to kill myself!”

“So what else is new. So am I! What’s your excuse today?”

She was crying, whimpering, and whining all at once, and David hissed, “What’s the matter? Won’t Darryl buy you another tennis bracelet?”

“Very funny, no! No he said that I have to start going to AA I mean NA meetings, otherwise he’ll put me in the hospital! And if I don’t do either of those things, the engagement will be off!”

Paula had well-hidden her addiction for over a year from her proper ‘preppie’ fiance, who of course was now doing the right thing by imposing these conditions, But God how loathesome the right thing was.

“So you have to go with me!”


“Come on David I can’t go by myself, you have to go with me!”

“No way am I going to be seen at one of those meetings! I don’t have the problem you do, anyhow.”

“I know but if I don’t go Darryl’s going to call my parents and tell them everything!”

“So he found your works?”

The woman was snivelling. David wanted to slap her, “So now you’re dragging me into this, so Darryl will know about me too?”

“He already knows. I told him everything.”

“You ARE a fucking idiot!”

“David there’s a meeting at eight o’clock, right on St. Mark’s Place.”

“Oh great, the most public possible place in the world. Can’t you find another one?”

“So you’ll go with me?

“Of course not – I’m just thinking of you – you don’t want to be seen by half of downtown, now do you? Pick some place uptown, at least.”

The perversity of his advice was lost on them both. In the end she was not able to convince him to rush out and meet her. Because he anyhow was going to get straight, with whichever of the dealers answered their phone first.

Then David reminded her they had to get to the Maxfield, for Rene’s reading at nine. After that, David lied, he promised to accompany her to a late meeting, if there was one safely on the Upper West Side. Because they didn’t know anyone who lived up there…

He called Angelique, cancelled their dinner date — said he was sick, and hung up a bit too fast on her sympathetic queries.





Chapter 9



We shall now leave David, Paula and Angelique behind in Art’s Vestibule, to accompany another artist, Rene Lepine, who is attempting to enter the Drawing Room of the Elect… Can we follow this fantasiste distingue, on his upward and outward journey, into the higher aery realms of la litterature ?


And what is a “Fantasiste Distingue?” This phrase, somewhat untranslatable from the French, refers to a ‘fantasist,’ a person who lives in a dream-world, who is nevertheless ‘distinguished,’ that is, capable of enhancing reality. Rene Lepine as a successful poet and artist fit this Ideal… unlike our delusional David Morgan, currently a victim of his unrealizable dreams.

We understand Rene had but recently been shaken from out of the sewer-trap that is addiction. Thanks to the timely intervention of a certain wife of a renowned painter, the poet escaped pulverization, and a final flush down the cultural drain.

Once Rene had been released from his last trial of detoxification, we saw how he did rush out and immediately find heroin again. Yet after two days’ indulgence, the thrill of it was done. The therapy had taken — he had been a junkie too long — for whatever reason the drug bored him.

He came to on that third morning on a brink, and made the phone-call that saved his life, again. His clinic had an annex in Manhattan, used mostly for those in their first days of kicking, its doors expectantly open to receive him.

His friend, the painter Branford Causewell, writing yet another grandiose check for Rene’s hospitalization, did not restrain himself from telling his wife Marilyn that Rene should perhaps be relegated to the pile of Lost Causes. Though he admitted he owed much of his success, ten years previously, to an essay of Rene’s, an incisive critique — did he really have to go on saving the fellow? Marilyn Causewell could not agree with his short memory. She believed passionately in Rene’s Genius, that it ought to be venerated, however that might cost them. So Marilyn continued to cultivate both Rene Lepine, and other New York artists less fortunate than her extremely wealthy husband.

She was not disturbed by Rene’s backsliding, having loved The Blessed for twenty years, understanding he might very well go on getting high for the rest of his life. Rene’s mere two days’ damage to himself was going to require another twenty-five-thousand dollar three-week stay. If only he could learn to really control himself, not go on binges…

The Lady didn’t understand that wreckage was a bed for him, from which he might arise enlivened. Still in her own fashion she devoted herself, kept him alive, as she understood it, to write a few more immortal lines.

“The doctor says you can leave on Monday,” so Marilyn related to her friend on a Thursday morning, “and just in time. You’ve been chosen to read at the Fleabane Awards’ ceremony – at the Maxfield Library this Tuesday night!”

“Oh GOD I CAN’T!” screamed Rene. His nurses were thrilled to see him go — more than half of his dialogues were at top volume.

“You CAN, and you WILL!”

“But how can I write something NEW in THREE DAYS?”

“Don’t write anything new. Just read some of your old stuff!”

“Are you MAD? What a pathetic impression that would make. Fresh out of Detox without a thought in his head! Marilyn!” he whined, “You’ve got to get me out of it!”

“I’ll do no such thing! And no-one has to know you were in detox. ”

“Oh, right! They ALL know! Well I guess, better that, than them thinking I’m just high!”

“You’re going to be fine, my dearest. If you want to present something new, why don’t you just write down that speech you’re always giving – about the death of modern civilization? You know the one, it’s kind of anti-drug, too, isn’t it…” She trailed off in the light of his glare.

“Oh, ‘Just write it DOWN!’ I love how you all think it’s just fucking rolling off my fingertips! ‘The Death of Discipline’… just very fucking edifying! Ex-junkie gets up and proselytizes for ‘Just Say No.’ ‘Just Write it Down,’ ‘Just Fucking Slit My Wrists Why Don’t I’ ?”

“Stop it !”

“Why can’t you understand Marilyn I cannot NOW be subjected to the gaze of the crowd! I can’t I can’t!” The man was weeping in frustration.

“You can and you will. This is an excellent opportunity for you to prove to your peers that you are not just a junkie!”

“My PEERS!? My PEERS?! God woman you are so NAIVE!, And don’t you know by now that I’ll always be a junkie, on junk or off of it! Which takes me safely out of retching distance of those ink-stained wretches, so-called PEERS of mine!”

“I don’t know why you have to be so negative. Don’t denigrate what you’ve accomplished! I know you’ll ‘always be a junkie.’ That’s what they say in En-Ay and all, but now you don’t have to be ONLY a junkie!”

“Darling, I do love you. You’re the only friend I have.”

“Do it for me – do it for Branford!”

The husband had spent a breath-taking low-six-figure to restore his wreckage of body and soul. Marilyn was right. He shouldn’t be cranky with her. What had she saved him for anyway? Why him, and not a half-dozen lesser-addicted hard cases roaming Art’s Vestibule?

Because he was a true poet. And besides, why shouldn’t he take on the challenge to wow the bloodie poohbahs?

Rene put the clinic’s nurses in a flurry, dashing out to get him the right pens and paper – everything to start him working immediately. A sense of purpose was a very good curative, though he did regret cocaine. Now that would get him going in no time!

No, no, no! he reasoned with himself. It would mostly get him doodling around the edges of the pad … or regurgitating some tedious highfaluten dogma on the Art of Poesy. No, he had to write something beyond, beyond his best. He had to turn the bloodie PEERS inside out with envy.

Hmmm, ‘The Death of Discipline,’ Rene wrote the title at the top of the page. It had been his after-dinner set-piece for some years now. Marilyn was a genius. Why shouldn’t he finally commit it to paper?

And so he called his Muse at least forty times over that weekend:

“This SUCKS! I will NEVER FORGIVE YOU! I just CANNOT believe that as part of my very DIFFICULT rehabilitation, and I hate that phrase, can you tell me what I’m being HABILITATED back into? — That I have to perform at OPTIMAL CAPACITY for a bunch of IDIOTS who are already HATE MY GUTS and are PLANNING my DISMEMBERMENT?”

“So you can’t face those who know you as an artist? Rene, how can you possibly be afraid you won’t measure up? What a child you are! I can’t believe you’re so insecure!”

“Don’t rag me bitch! It’s not a matter of insecurity! it’s a matter of nerves, nervous resources, when all I have are fucking debilitated NERVE-ENDS!”

“Marilyn, I’ve lived my crazy life all my life, there’s no going straight for me, there’s no ‘normal’ to return to anyway, as I was saying, to ADD to the STRESS and STRAIN of detox I have to BE A FUCKING PERFORMING MONKEY-GENIUS for a passel of ENSCONCED MEDIOCRITIES who do not deserve to lick my TOES!!!”

“You’re afraid of…”

“Listen twat don’t you dare say to me I’m AFRAID, I’M NOT AFRAID I just don’t CARE, at this moment in time, do not CARE to be FORCED to be JUDGED by tedious establishmentarians in their holier-than-unholy sanctuary!”

“Yes Yes Yes.”

“To make this psychic trial even MORE stressful, you, my FRIEND, insist I throw myself before these old literary horrors. Beasts, who as we speak, are licking their faded chops, jockeying their knobby knees against one another’s, to be FIRST to suck my BRAINS right out of their little old BRAIN-PAN!”

“Calm down…”

“Easy for you to say. I’m the one who’s expected to go from The Slough to The Sublime, all in the space of seventy-two hours!”

“Are you working at all?”

“… well … yes.”

“Good! Now darling, we were thinking, “ Marilyn tried to make her tone light, he was so easy to offend, “In these twenty years I’ve know you – and in the over thirty years you’ve been the genius that you are – isn’t it too bad you’ve only had one book done … isn’t it time… that we might try to do something about that?” Her gentle voice tried not to imply that there might be something – just a bit – to be embarrassed about.

But Rene had never been urgent about such things – not ashamed at all of his lack of production. He was not obsessed, as some are, with seeing his name in print. He lived the life of le poet maudit – was just as satisfied scrawling some perfect phrase in chalk on a sidewalk – or in the air before him at a crowded cocktail party – as he was with having his poems engraved in type. His ‘one measly book.’ as he liked to deride it, with its thirty-odd poems displayed, would in time prove to be of more literary value than the dozens, and dozens, and dozens of eager mediocrities.

The ‘Enshrined Mediocrity’ is the most pernicious of literatum. Rene rightfully despised such careerist poets who lived to churn it out regular. It is a modern, sick-making phenomenon, to see their mild, well-fed faces, looking out trustingly from their glossy book-jackets, atop their wretchedly proper resumes. Of course such as THEY WOULD go on busily publishing publishing. No-one remembered one bland little, neat little line of those verses one instant after reading them. For they did not expend one drop of blood in their constructions.

Rene had always loved that quote from the obscure novelist Fowler:

Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood appear on your forehead.

Marilyn had heard all these arguments before. Still she had to push, push, keep on pushing him to produce. He really had so little egoistic need; thus was he called ‘The Blessed.’ Though at times only God knew why, it seemed the thankless task, Marilyn was devoted to keeping his Genius extant.

Three days later, Rene was climbing the stair of the great Maxfield Library – a white Temple on Madison Avenue dedicated to the Art of the Book. He felt positively crazed, even hallucinated, as if he were watching himself in a movie.

Yes, everything was more awfully REAL than it had been in a long, long time.

He thought, I don’t belong here.

Yet he did — in truth it was the only place where he did belong. He clutched his thick scribbled-over manuscript in his bare hands. He didn’t even have a folder to carry it in.

He knew Marilyn was right, and he had to do this. But not for the reasons she insisted upon. Not because he had to prove anything to anybody. Not because he was concerned with repairing his reputation. But because Rene Lepine had to Know His Time, Know Himself in his Time and Place. He had to hear everything they might deign to say about him – good and bad – and then soldier on beyond it.

The papers were sliding out of his jittery hands, he was on his knees in the vast marble hall of the glorious rotunda that wound up to the reading rooms. As he scrabbled amidst the sheets, he started reading the whole thing over. After a few minutes he was writing addenda in the margins. The ‘finished product’ resembled a kind of cuneiform, highlighted with trampling.

And thus it would (unsuspected by The Blessed) one day repose in that very Library sanctuary, in its own lovely wooden drawer – catalogued by worshipful hands, sacredly buried in those very revered archives of the English language.

But now, of course, the first person he has to see is his most tedious enemy, Asmodeus Whipley – publisher of that effete and well-funded literary review called, with unintentional irony, HUMM.

“You here?” Whipley’s astonishment was dramatic.

Rene drew himself up and glared down at the man, “ExCUSE me? I see you haven’t read your programme!”

“Didn’t get one yet. How ARE you?”

Rene understood the man did not want to acknowledge he was coming to see him read, though he was there… did not care how he was, though he asked. He was hoping to see, and hear the worst. That was the sport as far as Rene Lepine went. Not that he particularly despised Rene, or his Work. But that was his role, his pseudo-artistry: to exist on the fringes of talent, and wield a petty power: raising Genius up, by publishing their Work in HUMM, or shutting them out, by deeming them ‘unworthy.’ The true worth of HUMM existed somewhere in the realm of fiction.

“I am well – very well,” Rene answered. More personages from the art-world, literary-world were coming through the Morgan’s doors, and calling to Rene, to “AZZY!” and air-kissing one another… Rene viewed Whipley’s phyz as displeased to hear positive news, and somehow this gave him strength to meet the next question:

“So, ah you’re… out on parole, I hear?”

“I wasn’t in JAIL, Azzy. Who told you that?”

Asmodeus curdled at the nickname Rene had coined and caused to be bruited about. Awful! Sometimes even reduced to Azz. Was it too much to ask modern man to pronouce Azz-mo-DEUS?

“Well we HAD heard that they put you away! Golden Hills… drugs?”

In the man’s smile was everything that had made Rene shriek at Marilyn, “I CAN’T!”

“Well I’m out now, and cured for good.”

“Cured.” Whipley looked him up and down. Well the man didn’t look TOO wretched. “So then – how ARE you?”

“How are YOU?” was Rene’s only defense at that moment. To save him here came his darling Candy Mollingstone, dear ancient friend, encircled by four good-lookers in tuxes. “DARLING!” they screamed at the same time.

“You’re out, you look GORGEOUS!” Candy regaled him. Her escorts, apparently heterosexual Wall Streeters, glared at the figure of Rene. He realized he was surrounded by malign smiles, Cheshire-cattish, looming. Mr. Whipley’s smile told him that Mr. Whipley did NOT believe in any kind of CURE. That was a fiction he’d publish any time in HUMM. The Four Tuxes grinned mirthlessly, showing this Lepine that it was all very well to be some sort of artist, having some sort off, whatchamacallit genius? — which Candy ranted endlessly about, boring them to snort. Still no it was not enough, in certain grand milieux, wherein they swam, in certain privileged drawing-rooms — mere funky Genius would never be admitted.

Candy’s smile told Rene that she knew he was back, that she couldn’t wait to get high with him, again… that she had some new stuff, “Persian Brown” that you smoked, that was totally incredible…

Rene’s slight vigor faltered under the scorching eye of these adversaries. It was evident to them all, that despite ‘the cure,’ that the Poet was still sick. The Tuxes wondered if he even had — The Plague!?

Rene smiled sadly at his Candy, glowered at one of the Tuxes, and pulled her arm away. Which one would she have to sleep with? he wondered. A woman renowned for her artistry in so many fields, she was now an Art Critic, penning amusing opinions. Ever the light-weight, but ever so charming.

She was stepping up and out of their world, away from the early days when first they’d met, and she was just a go-go dancer. When he too was hustling, one step up from a brief underground film fame. Bot of them going through a spate of drug-dealing — which she still engaged in, for select friends.

Like Angelique, another Authoress, we see Candy emerging from Art’s Vestibule, hopeful and idealistic. She commanded still enough beauty and sophisticated ‘cache’ to garner, in honor of Rene’s reading, limousine chauffeuring with four quasi-hip Wall Street brokers. To whom she had sold enough cocaine to pay her expenses for a couple of months. Which was well, as the big glossy, “Art New York,” for which she planned to write up Rene’s reading, never paid its junior editors.

Later, Ree? she blinked a semaphore at her pal. It lashed at him, the recognition that his friends would offer him drugs… and that his enemies were hoping and waiting he would take them. God, what a life! Would this phase ever be over?

“So what’s that you’re massaging – may I?” Asmodeus knew quite well it was Rene’s reading manuscript. Still he snatched at it, and Rene pulled away and held it to his chest, staring down… such vulgar nerve!

Despite his long affliction, The Blessed had always retained his brilliant vitriol of wit. But at that moment the large, pale, confident face of this minor Poohbah rendered him speechless. Terrorized by the sight of the pudgy hands grasping at his precious Work, he mustered what little energy he had and stalked off, to Azzy’s windy, “WELL!”

He called after Rene, “I do so look forward to being ENTERTAINED by you!” knowing full well Rene detested that distinction. ‘Art means to edify and enlighten; monkeys there are to entertain you!’ Thus the Blessed had writ.

“Now where is the john in this joint?”

Rene went down a corridor into an abandoned mezzanine. Everything was marble, white Carrara marble, which in New York’s earliest constructions they used like plywood.

In a corner, seated on a white marble bench, was a dour black man: an old man, dressed in a weird ‘colonial’ lackey’s garb. They had even saddled him with a curled white wig, with queue. Rene goggled, realizing this was a sort of butler or concierge for the Library, as he pointed the way to the toilet. Rene tried to break through —

“How are you this evening?”

The man did not respond. How cruel to place a man of color into that slavish drag. Is that what all this white marble is about? How hideously depressing. And of course — a servant should not chat with the Master. All at once he loathed the Library for the horrid charade. And they claim to be an advanced cultural institution! “Well I guess that would include SLAVERY, come to think of it!” muttered The Blessed, as off the toilet seat in the handicapped cubicle he snorted a couple of hits of coke.

Lovely stuff – nearly pure – in yellowish mica-like flakes. No jitters with this, and a nice let-down, especially with a drink or two atop.

When he made his way to the evening’s Reading Room, he was more than ready for that drink or two. The audience was already filling up the seats. Yes, a drinkie, or two…

What?! “No cocktails will be served until after the goddamned bloody ceremonies?”


He scanned the crowd, his erstwhile society. His friends and foes, all of whom he could not wholly reject, nor embrace… but it was his Time, and he was thus forced into their Company, for better or worse.

There was Andre, the so-called agent/bastard who’d never sent his manuscripts anywhere. He was too busy getting high. And Paula, photographer/bitch who’d taken hideous photos of him and sold then anyhow, against his wishes, because she needed drug-money. And there was David, so-called pal, who got him high the first night he was out of rehab. With friends like these, who needed enemies?

A minion scurried over to inform Rene of when he would go on. He had thought he would be first, so they could get him over with. Or, that they’d put him last, so everyone could leave. For why else should they stay on — to actually listen to him?

He had hoped to be first, while the coke was still taking him… god he knew it – he was last.

He looked again at the programme – what was this – he was the ONLY reader? So they would give out the Fleabane Awards, making their slavish little speeches about how great they all were. He could skip that. But then they were going to be … god, ENTERTAINED by the monkey!

The programme read, “Rene Lepine, Candidate for the Polliwog Fellowship”? Since when? Well it was for thirty thousand dollars… but who had put his name up, why had no-one told him about it? I am going to kill Marilyn!

It was bad enough he’d have to wait through the interminable self-congratulatory humbug – but to know he was being featured as some kind of aspirant to their company? Was this reading his ‘application?’ Too wretched!

I am going to kill Marilyn!

Well, he wasn’t going to suffer it. He would just go, and NOW.

Too late – there she was, smiling and waving. Cunt! They were pushing shut the venerable fourteen-foot oaken doors. Trapped! The minion reappeared and Rene let him know, with some violence, that he had to be given a private room in which to rehearse his piece. The minion could barely look at Rene’s face, so terrified was he of the man’s reputation. He led Rene to a small side study, outside of which door was stationed the unfortunate bewigged Negro.

Rene began by pacing up and down the room. He couldn’t run out, he’d look like a coward. He was getting hysterical, and he knew he was getting hysterical, which made him feel completely insane. He ingested the rest of his coke, About six hits, enough to turn him into a gibbering idiot. Then he forced himself to sit in one place, and read the piece through once without addenda.

The drug was rushing through his system like a train derailing. His writing was dreadful! He loathed it! He couldn’t read it! He was just going to have to chuck it, do the piece as diatribe, exactly as he had, at all the dinner parties.

Thus to a private, invisible audience, he began, as he had a hundred times, to speak his piece aloud. All of it was suddenly right – each detail that had tortured him a moment ago fell into rightful place.

Somewhere between the cocaine and the panic, Rene had achieved Detachment.

Yet atop that ‘security,’ he felt crazier than ever. He kept laughing to himself, which he knew disturbed his sentry. But he couldn’t help it. He was about to start tearing slices out of the manuscript, with the idea of making a sort of collage, when the door swung open…

There seemed to be a tolling of a bell… from somewhere out in the Manhattan night. His moment of doom was come, perhaps. Or was it only his Genius announcing him.

What did he care anyhow. His revery was not interrupted by the old man
of color, his servant as it were, coming forward.

He’d been saying, “Sir, sir!” but Rene hadn’t heard him at all. But of
course Rene was very loud, alternating his diatribe with verses from the Santero hymn, ’Que Linda Es’ –

Que Linda Es
Oh mano mio
Que linda es
Quando la Practicando

But now as the man’s calm eye caught Rene, the poet began to weep. The old man touched the younger, “Now now, don’t take on, sir -”

Rene was only briefly pacified by the resonant tones of that voice. The man was probably a singer, another artist, reduced to this sort of a job!

“Quel horreur Monsieur,” Rene shrieked, at the top of his lungs, “I beg you then, conduct me, sir – to my guillotine!

“But might I further beg you, sir –


Let us here leave the Blessed… and the recital of his ‘Discipline’ for a later delectation. We will however let you know the reading is not to be any kind of abject failure, as his Genius anticipates.





Chapter 10



Angelique’s telephone rang again and again she let the machine pick up. The volume was turned down on purpose; she would not be awakened from an after-dinner doze. Someone left a message she could not hear. She emerged from the covers, walked over to the device to glance at the indicator — ugh! The red light showed “17” — seventeen calls she had not listened to. She knew at least half of them had to be from Dickie #123. Why did I ever give that fool my private number? I’m going to have to change it again.

Why Dickie couldn’t make an appointment and leave it at that? He had to start calling six weeks in advance, and then, when there got to be two weeks left, he would call no less than three times a day. And when he called, it was only to recite, like an incantation, the details of his session:

When I first walk in you will order me to my knees You will command me to strip naked You will steal my wallet take all the money throw it all over the floor and tell me how I am a worthless piece of filth.

Yes and then would follow the three hours of heavy bondage. She knew his ‘scene’ in her sleep. She’d been seeing him for six years and I’ll probably go on seeing him ’til both of us are old and grey.

She considered that she ought to listen to all the messages. There could be some other interesting money in it… but no. She was going to write. She had to make some sacrifices, couldn’t just work and slave.

Besides, if I hear those whimpers, whispers and pleas I’ll just get irritated, then I’ll HAVE to do a slave.

Angelique went to the bathroom mirror and closely examined her face. Bad, bad — she’d fallen asleep with her make-up on. But she didn’t look awful, really… so without washing up, she began to renew herself with various brushes and paints.

Assume the Maquillage; Assume the Persona. She had to set up her writer’s “role-play” — to use a terminology of the day — before she could begin Working.

Role-play, a type of acting, a method of dissociation from present reality — one forces the imagination into an alternate reality. Via costuming and make-up, music and trance and sometimes drugs… one enters into another desired time and place. Taking a cue from the fantasy role-playing of her slaves, Angelique had discovered she could Work very well when she thereby assumed an emotional connectivity, dressing and ‘playing’ as the characters she was writing about.

Though her main character in the novel “Salvatore,” the Russian Princess Marie Alexandra, was but thirteen years of age, so would not wear even a spot of rouge — (except perhaps to some special Ball… or as she readied herself for the private supper she was tonight attending, in the chambers of her confessor, Father Salvatore, her maid might suggest the depraved coloration) make-up was only a doorway. What Angelique sought was something far deeper: a consciousness recaptured.

As Angelique drew her bath, it became the bath of the Princess, heavily scented with muguet de bois. Tonight she planned to rewrite Marie’s seduction by the unholy priest. Thus she assumed the young girl, preparing for an interview with the man she loved: a man who was forbidden to her.

She considered how her desire for David, a homosexual, could be thought comparably wrong, outre. In 1985 Manhattan, such a passion would not be called a sin, as it would be derided as sick. Even had there been anyone she could have taken into her confidence — and there was no-one — she would probably be thought a pathetic masochist. But Angelique the artist understood the value of it, would use this present obsession to unselfish, proper purpose: to create an image of passionate loss, with no modern, degrading irony.

Marie’s degradation would be the loss of her virginity. Angelique considered how the seduction of a virgin was neither any longer the stuff of drama. Though, she thought, it is still one of the great traumas in a female’s life.

The Author had to make it again traumatic; eliding her desire into that of her character’s, when the seduction was upon Marie, the Author would transcend any degradation.

After the Prince Konrad Poniatowski had lost his wife in childbirth, he determined that he would honour their surviving daughter, the Princess Marie Alexandra, with the finest education a girl was then allowed. He would see that she was installed at the French Court of Louis XV at Versailles.

In St. Petersburgh there were many great scholars, amongst them Russian Orthodox primates, who anyhow jockeyed to train the royal child. So that her very early years were much dominated by such priests, forming in her mind what would be a fatal connexion between the attentions of such Fathers, and a kindly care.

Still the Prince considered, along with most educated Russians, that the finishing touch to a Lady’s refinement lay in the country of the Bourbons. Thus to the Court of Louis Quinze at the fragile age of eleven, he brought his only beloved child Marie Alexandra.

Naive man! Poorly advised, he ended by placing her in the care of one of the worst debauchees of the Court – the Duchesse Malincourt, Amedee to her many lovers, this Lady would abuse the girl, mostly by ignoring her.

So that the Italian wizard, Salvatore di Castiglione, would be able to enjoy, without the slightest hurdle, the innocence of a child who would only love him.

This Court thus became for Marie nothing less than maze of immorality

…. the bath-tub was running over. Where was that stupid maid? Angelique rushed from her desk to turn off the taps, muttering her annoyance. She disrobed, and sank beneath the water’s warmth… then closed her eyes and began the ritual to incorporate the Persona of Marie Alexandra into her own consciousness.

What had actually happened in the past — (for the story of the Princess was a true story) — was made more accessible to Angelique the artist in this fashion:

One begins with the recitation of intention forty times, at least. In this instance, Angelique had a positive, declarative sentence:

“I am the Princess Marie Alexandra, telling my own story.”

One then imagines the corresponding etheric ray, refracted from the creamy-white substance of the astral, flowing steadily into the bath-water. For Marie Alexandra, this was a rose-pink beam of light, pouring through a point in the ceiling, infusing the warm water with a steady glow. Angelique smiled at the scent of the muguet. As a girl these flowers had grown right outside her window — that is, outside Marie Alexandra’s window, in the wild Russian countryside, a message from the past.

Je m’appelle la Princesse Marie Alexandra, c’est mon histoire.

Imperceptibly to Angelique the incantation turned to French, a strangely-accented French-Russian that came forth in a higher-pitched voice — a girl’s.

She was happy at least someone was there to console her, for her thirteenth birthday had come and gone without a letter from her father. Marie was at that important age when a husband would be chosen for her. The Duchesse Amedee already had some ideas on that subject.

So why had her father answered none of her letters? Even if he was travelling, he ought to have written!

Her Father Confessor would console her tonight. Father Salvatore was very handsome, but he was a priest. She shouldn’t have such thoughts…

Unknown to the child, the priest was intercepting her father’s letters. For what purpose? To drive her to melancholy, to force her into greater dependence upon him. All it had taken was a regular bribe to the lackey who brought the mail,
who was anyhow not apprised of what letters the priest took away. It was common enough, all the letter-carriers enjoyed handsome tips from this practice.

As well, one small diamond had been enough for the priest to gain access to Marie’s every actions. So that her treacherous hand-maiden might report on her moods, for example. So he might then ‘magically’ know what she was thinking …

Marie dressed herself with care. The pale pink velvet suited her very well. She wondered if Father Salvatore would like it. That is an unworthy thought, she told herself. But she did find herself thinking of him, very often, too often his face was

David Morgan’s

Angelique sat up in her bath, quite distressed. David’s face had emerged naturally within the reverie. She felt displeased, though: what if David acted as a bad influence upon her Marie?

Well of course he would have to be. That was the point! He was wrong, even destructive for her. Angelique lay back again under the warm water, more minutely considering certain aspects of David’s personality. For example, there was a especial quality, peculiarly exhausting, about his conversation. Marie often felt that way after conversation with Salvatore. It was very like… the way David made a passionate demand upon her — though quite within her own inclination. How he exacted from her everything she had, in the faculty of intellect. But so it had to be, to maintain that highest level of discourse.

So Salvatore challenged Marie —

She emerged from the water and dried herself (but as if a maid was drying her… if the reader can imagine thus.) She then went to her closet and took out the pink manteau, whose ermine trim was girlishly decadent. Her long hair hung loose with just a few brush-strokes, and she was ready to sit down at the typewriter.

Once ensconced she does not allow herself to quit that chair, until she produces the determined eleven pages of manuscript. (We here note in passing that eleven as a metaphysic corresponds to the Power of Divination; as well as to the Celestial ‘Pendu’ of the Tarot, who hangs upon a thread of detachment between the Past and the Future. Eleven evokes too the first of the four Truths of Buddhism – Sorrow’s Cause.) The surface of Angelique’s desk is always in perfect order, so she might have no reason not to begin at once. Angelique glided a page into the machine, and surveyed her room. The candles were lit… Father Salvatore would be in his chambers when the girl arrived.

Angelique began to page through the old, original diary-manuscript, wherein was detailed the exact dream she had had. She squinted at her thin, sketchy handwriting, the fading green ink of seven years’ previous:

The girl had been all day in bed with fever, had not been certain she could even arise to dress. But she had prayed for some celestial intercession to quell her sickness, and make her well for him. She understood however, being of a devout cast, that her sickness was Guilt-In-Sin. He was a Man of God, someone who was never to be impurely touched.

And he was her own Confessor – so how could she confess her Love, as a crime, to her Beloved ? Especially when she hoped that he might even — return her love?

To a form of God that had the shape of the priest she prayed for some deliverance.

Then her maid had her up – she was being dressed. She felt as if her body was about to crack in half… as her pearls were set upon her throat, she swore to the Virgin that if she would be allowed to Love this man, that she would Love him purely… and that she would sacrifice any carnal desire. And she would confess all, she promised the Virgin, she would find another spiritual advisor to confess her

…lust! Mother of God, that is what it was. The word made her go red-hot, and then icy in terror. No, never one grain of her impurity would she ever reveal to the man for whom she had sacrificed her peace of mind.

Angelique felt vaguely oppressed as she read over these words written years ago. She had been a much better writer then; the style was antiquated, to be certain, but was somehow seamless, confident and strong. No such thing as a ‘role-play’ had been required for her to enter fully into that consciousness.

She deplored the current influences upon her, dictated by the modern world’s truncated attention span: that dreadful need to have “the point” gotten to instantly.

When she had been more alone she had possessed a purer style. Without any world’s eyes upon her, and she wondered: Why is it that Life, as it goes on, renders a person more degraded? Why can’t we continuously evolve?

Marie Alexandra, accompanied by her hand-maiden, walked the long corridor along a topmost floor in Versailles. His chamber was in this least desirable wing of the Palace — Marie Alexandra had never before been there — where also dwelt a few elderly, impoverished nobles who served Louis in a reduced capacity, along with certain elevated species of lackey, and the occasional poet. There was barely enough light to go on by, and no servants attending the fulsome stink of the open toilets.

Her maid knocked for her. His door swung to – the priest himself gazed down upon his prey. She was disturbed by his mode of dress: a too-rich, voluminous robe of brocade. In black, of course, as became a cleric, but somehow like some wizard’s, she thought.

Now she was alone with him and he was close by her — very close.

“Lovely colour, that rose,” he breathed in her ear, “Quite the elegant child you are.” Marie’s head spun with a sudden blasphemous desire to remove that dress.

How could she be thinking that way, after all her promises to the Virgin?

The child was unaware of the machinations against her. Indeed the especial wizardry of the priest had put a serious wrinkle in the astral, in order to achieve his ends with the girl. Though her sex was of some interest to him, moreso the fact that she possessed a collection of jewels of an unparalleled rarity. In particular there was rumored to be a collection of Alexandrites — an invaluable gem found in only one mine in the Caucasus. It possessed an unusual responsiveness to humidity, changing in color from green to deep garnet, like a mystic barometer. The Alexamdrite went for a price well beyond diamonds.

His room was permeated with erotic suggestion so potent that the maid, who had caught a whiff at the door’s opening, was at that moment forcing her attentions upon a poor half-wit emptying slops.

This infernal perfume was having its effect on Marie, who collapsed in a deep chair, “You must excuse me… I’ve had fever today.”

“You’ve been ill? Yet you kept this rendez-vous?”

The triumph in his voice cut her heart … he knew, he knew! She kept her eyes cast down. But despite herself she loosened her fichu … the ‘dragon’s blood’ incense was heating her, riling her… She took a glass of wine from his hand.

“Don’t spill it!” But that was his intent. A drop of Medoc stained her bosom. She looked up in alarm, automatically for the bell to ring her attendant —

“No need, my dear, I can take care of it,” and he moistened the stain with a damp cloth. Damp, from an unmentionable substance, we are loathe to add.

She felt the wet burning into her skin. Then, to her dismay, she heard herself quite shamelessly ask “Don’t you think me too grown up to wear such a shade of pink?”

The pleasant look on her Confessor’s face hypocritically faded, and he drew back, to coldly respond to her coyness, “It does ill become a child of thirteen indeed to behave as one of the cocottes of the Court. Do you really think it is proper to draw my attention to your garb?” Marie already had forgot he had initiated jet such a comment when she had appeared.

“You have no mother to guide you — and perhaps no longer any father — you have just proved how much in need of my direction you are!”

He knew to induce shame would make her more submissive. The poor girl writhed under this admixed cruelty and lie.

“What do you mean — No Father?”

He chose to ignore that question, for the moment… it would add to her insecurity. He poured himself a glass of wine and would not look at her. Infernal stage-manners, trifling with reality… and it worked. When he did not answer, she looked for her fault, begged him —

“Father, please forgive me. I don’t know why I said that. Perhaps it is my fever, I am not well, and I should go,” but as she rose to pull the bell, he grasped her hand and kissed it, causing her to gasp.

“It is not for me to forgive you, my child, but God. Do not take my criticisms so violently. That too is pride.” She felt increasingly overcome by the touch of his hand. To her exacerbated imagination his fingers felt like velvet snakes, entwining hers inextricably. She tried to pull away, was able to — and instantly wished to feel that hand again.

“There is something you must understand about the Court, my child,” as he poured her more wine, “Most of the women are little better than whores, and the men much worse than dogs. I could count on one hand those of a truly virtuous nature.

“Do not be deceived by their courtesies, nor be swayed by a polished manner. You need a powerful protector against them, to insure your purity.”

He watched her swallow deeply of the second glass of wine. He had considered drugging it, but at the last minute decided it would be a better challenge to see if she might fall to him without any extra persuasion. He observed with approbation the glittering eye of her, her sudden deeper breathing:

The girl was aroused!

Without knowing how, she was standing before him, and he held both her hands by the wrists. His eye upon her filled her with dread — she felt he could see into her very heart. So he knew she loved him! She wished she could faint. But he at that moment was merely gauging the effect of his hands upon her. He was pleased to note his proximity made her go pale, then flushed. In the muscles of her arms he felt not the slightest resistance.

He had spent all his bribes well.

She felt his hand fall heavy, clamping around the back of her neck. His face was beating down upon hers — was he going to kiss her? He stopped just inches before her face. Then all at once he let her go.

She picked up her wine-glass, did not see his sneer: So the little trollop wanted more to drink, did she? Her glass was refilled, and he allowed himself as well to imbibe another.

He observed with interest that he had, all at once, lost his lust to seduce her. The deed was already done, she was thirteen and pliable. He liked a little resistance in his fucking. There was more satisfaction to be gained in just looking into her face, as she was utterly transparent. Her frustration was more amusing to him — a girl struggling with the first pleasures of sex…to want the act, yet to have no words to ask for it. He read his domination there.

Angelique was completely aroused, almost crazed. This kiss, this lack of a kiss, caught at her as it had not before. Goddesses! Her head was hot, perspiring, she felt she was getting ill. Bizarre how she had written this all out, seven years ago, really without thinking… except that it might be an interesting ‘period’ novel.

But now it was too real, had become an intolerable kind of truth.

She rushed to the kitchen and downed two, three glasses of water. She had to calm down. She would do something mechanical, go to the newest version of the manuscript, start altering Marie from the publisher’s requested age of sixteen, back to her original age of eleven The magic eleven! So when she died she would be only thirteen.

The same age when she, Angelique, should have died herself.
Before her sexuality had turned her own life into an elegant hell.

She went back to her desk, but could barely sit up. The manuscript repercussed still further into her body. She felt a wrenching pain in her nerves, radiating out from her spine, as if she were splitting in two, from vagina to throat. This pain caused her to start coughing uncontrollably.

She drank more water, abjured herself to calm down, continue on.
She paged on further, past the actual sex-act with the priest… that would be more, she thought, than she could at the moment bear.

More than the enjoyment of any physical pleasure, the priest gratified her need to be of use, as all true lovers require. The Ideal will render up to the overly experienced mere ethereal sensation – subtle tremours, grave smiles. But this new, deep embrace, the priest’s inhabiting her body, resolved Marie’s Ideal into a face and a body – into a man with a cruel need, and pain in his hands.

The supper had gone cold. He insisted she wait on him, pour his wine, cut his meat. She had never done such a thing for anyone before, and did it badly.

He laughed at her, “Well – you will have to do as maid – we certainly cannot ring for any servant.’ The thought that he perhaps ought to wait on her Marie dared not express. Instead she wondered where her maid had gone.

“It’s very unlike her – to leave me.”

“Perhaps not tonight however.”

Marie stared at her lover — appalled, at this planning revealed.

“You were quite certain of yourself, sir,” she murmured.

“Quite certain of you, of course. And was I wrong?”

“You lack delicacy!”

He grasped her again, violently, “I think you do not fail to appreciate that lack.’

The telephone jangled and Angelique shrieked aloud, “Good GODdesses!” It had better not be that maniac Dickie #123! She glanced at the clock showing just after three, and went over to turn up the volume so she might screen the call.

There came David’s mournful voice, calling her name, “Angelique? Angelique!”

She picked up the receiver, “Yes David?”

“Oh my dear, did I wake you?”

“Not at all. I was Working.”

“Please don’t let me disturb you. Are you alright?”

“I’m fine. But… is there something wrong? Where are you?”

“I’m out… I just left a club. After my meeting, we went to Rene’s reading at the Maxfield. I thought I’d see you there.”

“Oh goodness, I completely forgot! He’s going to kill me. How was it?”

“Fascinating, he’s just gotten clean. Brilliant. He’s unscathed…”
David’s voice was strange — low, constricted and nervous.

“Is there something wrong?’ she asked again.

“Ah, I’ve been thinking about you… I just wanted to apologize for breaking our dinner date. Forces beyond my control.”

“Not at all, I mean… I had plenty to do.”

“I did try to call you back. Did you get my message?”

Angelique considered he could be lying, but anyhow demurred, “No, I’ve had the volume turned down. I was being pestered…”

“I just felt, all evening… I wanted to talk to you.” He asked her again, “You are certain you’re alright?”

The transparency! Angelique felt herself sinking back into the trance-state of her writing-fugue.

Perhaps he will not be cruel to me, this time.

“Yes, I am fine. Just a bit overstimulated at the moment. Working hard…”

Her writing Salvatore had invoked him. For it was as she had predicted: as she materialized the priest, so would David come closer to her..

This time, this time he must love her, not devour her, not kill her.

“Let me call you tomorrow,” he concluded, “let’s have dinner tomorrow. Around eight. What about Raoul’s?”

Yes, the little private supper – the private, promised meeting.

“Eight will be perfect. So good-night,” she hung up and murmured

“… my dearest, my Beloved!”

Marie made her way alone, somehow, all the way back to her room. She met only one old serving-woman, who observed her narrowly. To her experienced eye it appeared the girl was drunk. “Child like that don’t belong in this place!”
The virago knew exactly where the Princess had been, had cleaned up after his victims before, “That dirty priest is an animal…” Her maid saw the bloodied under-slip… so before Marie had slept off her first debauchery, every servant in Versailles knew of her fall.

But when Marie awoke, the first thing she saw were his eyes above her. The look in them enough resembled that of love. Enough to soothe her conscience. God might punish her for her sin. But did she care? The eyes bore down on her, tearing into her. Father Salvatore was more than a man, he was terrible Spirit, perfected Sin, her own private Satan made flesh.






All Rights Reserved and Copyright Held
by the Author Terence Sellers
1985 – 2015