One Decadent Life: Chapters 16 through 20


Chapter 16


Tere grabbed the ‘phone out of David’s hand, “Hello? Hello?” she laughed, “Your secret lover’s hung up.”

Rene crowded in behind Tere into Caroline’s bathroom, sat down on the fake-crystal toilet seat and lit a joint. David hung up the receiver; the instrument was installed in a clear plastic box by the end of the tub. One might simultaneously lounge in a bubble-bath and chat; like Angelique said, fit for a princess.

Rene barked, “Gregor? David, you’re NOT calling that idiot, are you?”

“It wasn’t Gregor,” David stood up and stared into the mirrors surrounding the two sink basins.

“Did you get him to call the wedding off?”

“Stop it Tere, Rene, can you get out of here…” He slammed the door on their asses, knelt over the toilet and vomited.

The new Iranian was just too much — incredible purity. But you would never expect from Caroline anything less. Other than his show of disrespect to the impeccable supper (lobster, crab, oysters, every possible exotic seafood flown in, just for her) the effects were gorgeous. David described it to himself as seething gold in my veins. The blurry-cloudy sensation was absent, just the elevation — like the first time you ever got high — when you understood the world was hard, and acrid, and intolerable — without it.

Before returning to the bacchanalian table, he inspected himself in the mirror. His hair was dried out, and breaking off. The pancake make-up used to cover his eyes’ dark circles was evident. He tried vainly to repair it; he hadn’t brought the compact along. He wanted to wash his face, get rid of the faint ammonia scent in his nostrils, the greasy perspiration under his chin. But he didn’t want to ruin his eye-liner, black lines artfully smudged by Tere. He availed himself of some of Caroline’s mouthwash, and cologne, and some whitish face powder that settled into the lines around his mouth. I look like an old whore.

He dabbed, he daubed, until the facade looked presentable. As he brushed grains of powder from his lapel, he remarked that his tuxedo would soon be unfit to wear. One of the last relics from the Glory Days… his dry-cleaner had remarked he could no longer remove the shine from the fabric. The cuffs were ravelling. The trousers were even getting tight at the waist.

The Glory Days — as the consort and apparent lover of Joanna Macrae — the wealthiest scion of the largest oil company in the world. The Macrae family owned an art collection that shamed many a museum’s. And yes, he’d looked perfect at her side, twelve years ago — when he was twenty-four, and she was twenty-one, fresh from college and not a thought in her head but what fun and games they could dream up next. So had they been the very best, most intimate of friends.

We are sorry that we cannot say: she looked perfect on his arm as Ms. Macrae had been crippled by polio in infancy. No amount of money or doctors had been able to buy her a pair of functioning legs.

Still she was beautiful, lively, mischievous — a fragile, pale-skinned brunette, one sort of over-refined specimen of the Aryan — at that young age already given to wearing her signature diamond choker: four rings of the clear white stones. And why not? Her allowance was astronomical, aside from her four trusts, one each scheduled to be cracked open at ages twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five, and forty. Thus she looked forward to a lifetime of escalating waterfalls of financial prurience.

And from nearly the first moment of laying eyes upon David, she had fallen completely, madly in love with him.

But he had never lied to her — not ever.

And she had told him —- it didn’t matter.

They’d met in Manhattan, at an auction. David had gone to view the fabled works; very rare Caravaggios, several Titians, minor related works and a Michaelangelo. Masterpieces unearthed from one private collection, and destined for another, and Joanna had been there with her father to buy.

He had remarked on her beauty, the pathetic wheelchair, her weak feet in Chanel pumps, and the good-looking muscle-boy who was pushing her. She looked vivacious, despite her infirmity, and had spoken to him, surprising him. They had a lengthy chat in front of one of the Caravaggios, when she mentioned her father and that he was bidding on it. In her wayward way she then introduced David to Mr. Macrae as “an old friend from school,” winking at him. She later explained that since it was nearly impossible for her to make new friends, she had dreamed up this ruse as a way to make her father take the person along with them, for a drink or coffee… Thus she might actually get acquainted with any handsome passing stranger who had taken her fancy.

Since graduating from art school two years earlier, David had been painting as often as possible. He was still using the studios at the Art Students’ League, able only to afford a small apartment in the East Village… in 1973 that had cost him one hundred fifty dollars. He worked at odd jobs, helping other artists in prep work, stretching canvas, even some light construction work. His parents paid his rent, the least they could do, since his father had squandered his inheritance before he was twelve…

But within a couple of months encompassing daily conversation, meetings every other day, dinners, lunches, walks with the nurse, and learning how to manage her wheelchair himself — Joanna had insisted he come and stay with her, at the famous Park Avenue enclave. She told her parents, “I just cannot do without him!”

His room was on the fourth floor of the four that the Macrae clan had maintained for a century in the venerable building. David suspected they owned the entire block, but who was he to ask? David was installed in what was known as “The Pompeii Room,” decorated with real Roman heads, and frescoes done in the manner of the school of Pre-Raphaelites, after the ancient originals.

The room, rather a suite… was directly above Joanna’s, and like mischievous children they developed a secret system of knocks to communicate with one another. They were very much like children, especially as David was no longer compelled to work for a living, his days taken up with attending to his friend. She could not have him gone from her any tiresome eight hours of the day, no indeed…

The bathroom and dressing area in the Pompeii suite was modelled after a Roman spa: a great round pool of Italian stone, rough and elegant like an ancient cistern except for its secreted, pulsating jets of water. This modernity had been installed for the benefit of the Lady Joanna, for her therapy. But it became the scene of much orgiastic cavorting, and without her… as David was encouraged to use it for his pleasure… his pleasure in that era meaning… a constant trawling in the bars of the West Village, the East 50’s and elsewhere around town for young men like himself, eager to express, with freedom and abandon, new-found sexual identities.

She tolerated what she called “your little boyfriends” in their first year, the coming and going at all hours. She only expressed a little anger if he was sleeping in and not available to her… she’d have her nurse wake him up.

But in the early seventies there was a certain ‘cachet’ to her taking on the role of Mistress of Ceremonies to a wild, burgeoning gay night-life. The partying spread from one-on-ones in the grotto bathroom, to his bedroom, and eventually to other rooms in the vast apartment, including Joanna’s. For he had begun to seek out people he thought she would like… even like to have sex with. But the truth was that Joanna was a virgin, still, though not in her mind. But David encouraged her, and before long she had lost that innocence. But never her feelings for David… if anything, that sacrifice only increased her desire, to know the one man she cared for.

Drunken revelry had its logical conclusion. The nurse, the butler, the cleaning staff… all complained. And one morning Joanna was found on the floor, out of her wheelchair, in a state of dishevelment that could not be tolerated by this protectorate. Not that she was called on the carpet, nor was David criticized; but her parents now took a closer interest in the activities, and the two found their freedom curtailed.

So the parties moved out of Park Avenue. Joanna was left alone too many nights, while David revelled elsewhere, and came in at dawn.

David had begun anyhow to feel oppressed, knowing there was, in the back of Joanna’s mind, a thought. Within this thought was the real reason she kept him by her — that one day, in some way, he would break down the wall between them, and make an exception, a very special exception, and make love to her. Knowing she was waiting — waiting for him to contradict himself — wore on him. But the seduction of her wealth, the promise of patronage kept him by her, and pity too, for her physical state.

David stared into the mirror, focussing suddenly on his twelve-years’ older face. He read what he had lost, tried to imagine: how could Joanna have loved him? What was there in him, for any woman to love? And then — why had she turned cruel? He had never once lied to her, made her think he’d ever…

She hadn’t really loved him. He had just been a challenge, something she couldn’t buy, for a change. His cynical self told him that — but his twenty-four year old self had known that was not the case. Not at all. That had been real love, a selfless love she had for him. At least in the beginning.

Running through his nerves came the yen again, God how can it be I’ve done enough to intoxicate an elephant. But it wasn’t a lack of dope he was feeling, though he was feeling utterly rotten, despite the high. It was just the thought of Joanna. Joanna loved me yes but Joanna still makes me feel there is somehow something wrong with me.

Everyone, even his own mother back then had railed at him to marry her. “Just do it a few times! I’m sure you’re capable of that. Hold your breath, knock her up and you’ve got the money for life,” his own father had urged him on. The pig, he’d married David’s mother for much the same reason. Beasts, pimps, all of them. But how much better off was he now for having had so much integrity?

“You should have married Joanna,” they still refrained, whenever he complained of his money troubles. And had it been integrity, or had it been only stubbornness, a refusal to be dominated, even for his best interests?

So the time for sensual frolicks ended… it was time for him to get back to work. To enwrap him further, Joanna had bought into the Hotel Des Artistes, an elegant turn-of-the-19th-century artist’s studio building; its top-floor penthouse had two-storey ceilings, and skylights, and balconies, on Central Park at West 63rd. Every day at 4 o’clock she’d come by with her nurse, to see what he had accomplished. They would then retire to the Cafe Des Artistes on the ground floor, a superlative restaurant with Art Nouveau murals and a bouillabaisse superbe… Sometimes he’d go back to Park Avenue with her, to dress, to appear at some tedious charity ball, or some old fossil’s late night card game and supper, where half the guests were reduced to eating gourmet gruel. Johanna was introducing him into the Society that he had been bred for, and never achieved, due to his father’s profligacy.

Still, he was growing bored… the harder she polished him, and gilded him, and went on re-inventing him, for the continuing role she envisioned for him.

The scheduling was highly restrictive. The only day off from her that he had was Sunday, which he partook of, to its fullest. By 10 PM Saturday night he was dressing for the leather bars, to pick up something handsome and delicious to use and abuse and love. Now and then he still took them back to Park Avenue, against all better judgement. For whatever reason he kept his Des Artistes studio inviolate; perhaps because it was the only place he could be alone…

But then Monday morning, it would all start over. In his studio at nine AM, the man from Torch would arrive — best art-supplier in Manhattan — fulfilling the order he put in every Friday. The finest canvasses, the purest colors, raw pigments, gold-leaf, the rare palladium-leaf he’d discovered, and the deftest, most costly brushes. It was then he began to work the mammoth sizes that later on made his name. To create just one canvas such as “Apocalypse,” provenance currently unknown… cost something like two thousand dollars…

And he’d dropped the whole thing.

He unbolted the bathroom door, and headed down the lengthy hallway to the dining-room, or rather the dining-hall one could call it… “The Ming Dynasty” indeed, this conceit reflected in the floor-to-ceiling display therein of priceless porcelain from that era. The walls were hung in peacock-blue silk, and elements of the French kings — the fat chairs of Louis Seize — cozied up to the chinoiserie.

His hostess was posed at the head of the banquet-table like some proverbial porcelain doll — except she was rigid with ecstacy. Half of the twenty-odd guests were still at table, in varying attitudes of langour, deshabille, and dreaminess. Caroline smiled at his return, the long falls of her lacquer-black hair smoothing her breast, cigarette holder poised at a flagrant angle in her supra-long nails. She motioned him to sit right by her, eager for a diversion from the intense, sincere, and senseless diatribe of Edith Docker, the fashionable obscurantist New Art critic.

Edith had two cigarettes going, gripped a wine glass as if it were a neck, and partook at two minutes intervals from a silver salver of cocaine before her on the spotless white tablecloth: silver for the coke, gold ones for heroin. She was fixated on the person of Caroline like some kind of bear on a honey-tree: too big and awkward to climb, she would try anyway — and was as well impervious to stings, in her quest for sustenance.

As David sat down, her palaver went something like this: “We enter now … upon a new empirical moment… in history… where anorexia of style is more likely… than feasts.” A portentous nod of self-approbation threatened her balance upon the chair. “Ergo… ergonomically… under the process… the terrible process” she looked up from the cocaine and gazed into David’s eyes: “There is this awful tension.”

Caroline pushed a golden salver before David. As he leaned over it, he was astonished to feel a powerful hand gripping his neck, and a raucous bellow of laughter.

“BOZZY!” screamed Caroline, “Stop bothering the guests!”

As the hand still pinioned his neck David could neither turn nor escape, but he muttered into the powder, “Well there Boswell — how ARE You — do kindly unhand me.”

“I’m just helping you save time, you know, might as well snuff up as much as you can…” and tried to meet his words with action. “BOZ!” warned Caroline, pummelling ineffectually at the hulking blonde form of her alleged fiancé. David managed to wrench his head away.

“Oh David I’m sorry just ignore the maniac.”

Edith, inspired, honked, “AWWW yaaas, now here we have the Special Case of David Manfred, a police blot mayhaps, fourth generation Abstract Expressionistic…. scrounging in leftover Angelic Dissertation.”

David now rested back on the silk armchair, rubbing his neck, uncomfortably observing ‘Bozzy’ manhandle Caroline’s personal upholstery, “Edith I’m not sure what that means but it sounds vaguely insulting.”

“Let’s concede, David, that you do not exist, except as an existential sore. But someone can always make you into a character in a novel?” She thereupon availed herself further of coke.

Such was the drivel pawned off on the art-world as critique, so deeply inane it was shocking. David wondered why no-one ever debunked the troll. She was obviously degenerate… Doesn’t anyone think for themselves anymore?

“Caroline, I think I’ll be off…”

“No darling you can’t go yet! First you have to tell me why you look so sad,” she riposted brightly. David ground his teeth as Edith and Boswell stared at him, smirking. “He’s just not high enough yet,” remarked the brute. David failed to react, and began to get up.

“She SAID… DON’T leave yet!” Boswell pressed him back into the chair. David gave up and snorted more dope. “Hhhm! What WOULD it take to get a rise out of you David?” and Boswell pretended to punch him in the face, “Not really man enough, eh… man enough… to take on the Master Race?”

David was flabbergasted, the speck of deracinated Hebrew in him aroused and revolting: “That is a UNBELIEVABLY vile game you are playing!”

But Caroline only laughed indulgently, as Rene’s voice pierced the air, “MASTER RACE? But Bozzy, you’re LITHUANIAN…”

“Like I said, ignore him. He’s just dying to show off the set of dueling pistols I got him.”

“You’ve ARMED that person?”

As Boswell rushed to the end of the table to take on Rene, David took Caroline’s hand and pressed it, “Darling, really — how can you think of marrying that Beast?”

“Eleven inches you know, darling, and really putty in my hands when it comes down to it. You know — anything I say!”

Joanna had gotten to be like that — interested in his submission, and little else. Their long midnight talks about realizing one’s potential — his, mostly, as she would never have to bore herself thus; all the weeks and months of intimate sharing, like some royal, eighteenth-century husband and wife, enjoying their many lovers but relishing more the retelling afterwards; even Joanne’s vaunted adoration of his Art — none of it had, in the end, meant anything. Because he would not, could not do that one thing for her, the very thing that would have destroyed him as a man.

“Now David, please, tell me what’s wrong,” she was caressing the back of his hand. He stared at the beautifully groomed talons at the ends of her fingers, forced himself not to pull away. She again pushed a golden paten in his direction, and together they snorted copiously.

“Caroline it’s nothing really.”

But she was off on another tack, breathing heavily, forgetting that she cared about her friend, sighing, “Oh my god it’s just so perfect, isn’t it? I just could not do anything anymore that had been stepped on!”

In this seeming incongruous use of drug-world argot, the elegant lady whom Caroline appeared to be revealed her true role in Manhattan’s underground. While her family owned hotels in Hong Kong, an international film production company, British oil-drilling speculations and several other castles in Spain, their ground-floor seed-cash came from importing.

Out of a dozen Iranian shipping containers, loaded onto an oil tanker heading out of the Port of Chabahar, through the Gulf of Omar, north through the Red Sea, and through the Mediterranean… across the Atlantic, bound for the western hemisphere… said containers lately diverted to the port of Savannah, Georgia, their contents unloaded and scattered throughout the United States… two tractor-trailers-full of sixty-percent pure had hit the Manhattan streets only that morning.

The starvation was over… Hundreds of cases marked “ART – FRAGILE” were unloaded into four fake UPS trucks, and delivered to four locations in Chinatown. One elderly gentleman, Caroline’s distinguished Great-Uncle Tom Ming, had sent his limousine driver to scoop up one case from the projectionist’s booth at a downtown Chinese movie theatre. Said driver was Ray, Anya’s kissing cousin… by nine PM he’d come uptown with a plain, cheap plastic suitcase, which now reposed behind the panelling in Caroline’s bedroom. One four-ounce package was now spread throughout the dining room where she and David now sat, and partook, and again…

Caroline waved a sleepy hand towards her mantlepiece, “You haven’t said a thing about how I framed it!” David struggled to blandish. He should never have sold that painting, the truth being it wasn’t finished. But she had come into the studio two months ago, adored it, had to have it, and he was hard up for cash… “ ’The Curse,’ “ she mooned, and David felt a surge of fear as he stared up at his Work.

The big canvas glowered back at him: an abstraction like some planet’s convulsing, a gorgeous vertigo, gilded all the way down. A black, winged figure emerged from its upper reaches… that was good… but the bottom half looked like a bog.

He felt like a fake.

He had never gotten Joanna to hang any of his Work. That might have been because he was not that good, back then. But when he had completed a truly great, long frieze, inspired by Catullus and the Pompeiian theme I hung it in the goddamned bathroom and they couldn’t even tolerate that … indeed he and Joanna had come home from a long weekend to discover that not only had the painting been taken down, but wrapped up and delivered back to his Des Artistes studio. The thousand-and-one hands of the perfect slaves, making your life a perfect torture when someone else commanded them.

Joanna might have convinced her parents, if only as an experiment, to clear out one of the fourteen bedrooms, or one of the nine, rarely-used salons, of the five generations of collected Old Masters; Great-Great Grandfather Macrae would not necessarily have churned up the graveyard, turning over in aesthetic fury, had actual twentieth-century modern art had its day therein.

Joanna lived in a museum which became for him a mausoleum.

“When we get our own place,” Joanna had consoled him, which had been about to happen: a townhouse in Greenwich Village, the top floor reserved for him as a studio. Ah yes always that agenda which included a man who did not exist.

At the end of their second year of living together, her interest in men reverted away from promiscuous hijinks; began to narrow fatally towards David. Still, on the surface, she pretended to accept his sexuality. She encouraged him to bring his pick-ups home to Park Avenue — as long as her parents weren’t currently in residence. But then a few times his men-friends mysteriously disappeared. The first time, he figured the fellow had just taken off, for whatever reason. But then it happened a second, and a third time, before he was really finished with them…

One of these disappearing acts came up to him in a bar he frequented, and complained that a butler had made him leave… David had been floored. He apologized, and wondered how the then-naked man’s clothing had been gathered and delivered to him, and all without David’s noticing?

“One butler showed me out, and another one brought me my clothes… while I waited in the vestibule.” The apartment was so enormous, that when David gone into one room to look for his friend, another butler was poised to grab the man’s belongings. “And the doorman had a taxi ready for me — fare paid.”

David had rushed home to confront Joanna, but found he was unable to. And within a month, he discovered that the invisible command had taken an interest in him, with a vengeance.

Caroline clutched at his arm, and he jumped, “David darling let’s go where we can talk without the masses staring at us.” She led him out of the dining-room, and down the corridor that divided the apartment in half.

Her apartment, though a full floor, was not in any way as old and venerable as the Macrae mansions; but neither had it the forbidding, inviolable atmosphere that David realized had, to a great extent, inspired his orgies. Modern art masterpieces lined the corridor walls; halogen spots brought out vibrant colors, deep textures.

David realized Caroline was taking him to her bedroom, and given his ruminations he felt suddenly suspicious. Caroline had thought of him once, that way. In defense he had introduced her to Bozzy… whose real name was George. “Boswell” had been employed by a top escort agency in Manhattan; David had purchased him a couple of times, and thought that arrangement would be nicely free of strings for the Lady.

But that work had groomed Bozzy for his new role, as Premier Gigolo. So David was partly, regretfully responsible for his ascension — not that the monster was in any way grateful.

Said creature now emerged from a side door, and planted himself before the two, muttering between teeth clenched on a Cuban cigar: “DER MEISTER RASSE… JUDEN!”

“God I hate cocaine!” Caroline hissed at him, and pushed by.

“That is totally offensive!” David added, but Boswell laughed in his face.

Stopping before her bedroom door, Caroline in the darkness wrapped her arms around David’s neck and gave him a tiny kiss. More for Boswell’s benefit than anything, she slid off as quickly. Anyhow it was just the drug. While it made men go fairly dead, women became rather uninhibited — so went David’s private observation.

What Jo wants, Jo always gets the Grande Madame-Hag Macrae used to laugh. She’d been flying in a bit too frequently from the Minnesota mansion. That last evening, a week before his twenty-seventh Christmas, he and Joanna had come in from a round of parties to find Mama, snug and pompous, waiting for them by the fireplace full of blazing logs. David had instinctively begun to perspire… sitting by her was a man, lugubriously dressed in a dark business suit. He stood as the two came in, and introduced himself:

“Doctor Emil Krieg, of the Somerset Institute.”

David had never heard of the Institute, an infamous ‘experimental’ clinic — cum concentration camp — where through the most advanced and allegedly humane of behavioral modification techniques —

“… the small problem you are having can be resolved.”

He had not known at first what the man was talking about. He looked at Joanne, wondering if this was another specialist, another quack who milked that endless cash, pretending they could fix her legs. But the Doctor focussed on him, “You, and Miss Macrae, ahem,” and hesitated. At that moment the Mother signaled to the nurse, who turned the wheelchair around… they had exited the room, leaving David alone with the Doctor. And he had never seen his friend again.

“It is my understanding, Mr. Morgan, that the Lady loves you deeply.” David’s vitals froze to rock. “And whilst I am sure the feeling is, well, if not entirely MUTUAL, it is similar in INTENSITY, would you posit?”

“Are you in any way qualified to judge of my relationship…” David started.

The female Hitler interjected, “I fully approve of your marrying my daughter.”

As David stared into her hard, satisfied face, the Doctor had begun to describe the ‘therapy.’ He had actually stated, in the twentieth century, that homosexuality could be cured. The clinic had its private jet waiting, and David could be in his bed in a private room within hours.

The thought of the man’s face made David feel violent, and as he tensed he heard Caroline sigh. She was in her own dream, still leaning against him… good God the dope is really taking me off… He began to peel her away, when suddenly from within the bedroom came Rene’s shriek, “OH MY GOD VALENCIENNES LACE! Wasted on a pair of nasty little panties!” The famous bawling laughter and Tere’s resonant, “Not on your head, fool!” set Caroline astir, and she tried the knob and swung the door to.

“I can’t help myself!” Rene’s back was to the door.

“How do they smell?” Tere was fixed on the vanity mirror.

“Rich – rich – rich!” trilled Rene.

The ravaging pair quailed at Caroline’s presence: Rene, with the exquisite hand-made lingerie over his ears, and Tere, her earlobes adorned with canary-diamond drops, sparkling along her wavy white-blonde tresses. Caroline recovered beautifully.

“How glam we are this evening! But Rene you should have called the maid to find a pair to fit you.” She indicated Rene’s man-foot crushing down the sides of her black patent-leather spike-heels.

All broke into relieved hilarity, and as Tere reached up to remove the earrings Caroline stopped her, “You know darling they look absolutely divine on you — I’ve never much cared for them — canaries against my complexion you know. I never wear them.

“Keep them, dear — aren’t they perfect on her, David?”

David agreed… and as he did, he felt it rising up in him — his intense adoration of the boy-girl who was Tere, an ultimate original — pure and unabashed in her truth. He felt the old impulse, to kneel before her, embrace her passionately. Instead he gazed at her fiery-eyed. Tere met the gaze, and over her shoulder, sardonically — turning back to the mirror to admire her extravagant gift. She didn’t even say Thank You — she just took them as her due.

Rene began excitedly going through Caroline’s spilling-over jewelry cases, “Oh please can I have something too… just a little something, for me too… how about this teeny-tiny emerald? It’s such a bitty thing…”

David was still fixated on Tere. It was incredible how she could pull things off. He would grown old and grey sitting like a puppet at Caroline’s table, saying the right things, being the perfect courtier, jockeying desperately to keep his lowly position. She rummages around like a thief in Caroline’s boudoir and is rewarded with Van Cleef & Arpels.

Caroline might be utterly corrupt — the obscenely wealthy scion of the world’s largest drug importer — but she was no bourgeoisie. She would never be safe or stuffy in her wealth, not ever approach one of those dreadful “American aristocrats,” more stingy than the pettiest civil servant… who want it written down in the blood of your blood that they not only own you, but want a special discount as well.

So despite her pseudo-hipness, her alleged indifference to the conservatism of her great family, Joanna had turned out a square. She would never, never have given one of his friends such a brilliant gift. Nor any gift at all.

David had turned from that confab by the flames, and walked out of the mansion with the tuxedo on his back. While he sat up all night, devastated, in a dingy Chelsea Hotel room, his several suits, six pairs of shoes, shirts, underwear and accessories were being packed into a couple of suitcases and readied for delivery. His valet was fired, it appeared, instantly, and it took an embarrassing series of telephone calls to render up both suitcases and a cardboard box full of used art-supplies. It hadn’t taken them twenty-four hours to change the locks on ‘his studio’ in the Hotel Des Artistes, but had nearly taken a lawsuit to get the paintings back. And when they were finally delivered to his new studio, they had been folded.

The ruined canvasses, a small cache of jewelry — gifts from Joanna, and hocked long ago — and the custom-made tuxedo were the talismans, and little enough to show for having been the favorite of the great art-patron family. But those had been The Glory Days.





Chapter Seventeen


David’s walking the length of his studio, pretending to work… it’s 4:45, past the toll of magic hour. Lola’s not answering, and Anya’s line is busy, but he keeps calling them anyhow, getting answering machines, or nothing, just endless ringing into the abyss.

Like Basil used to tell him when he’d get frantic about it: In Hell Your Dealer’s Line Is Always Busy.

We need not reiterate that his nerves were bad, very bad — and so when he heard screaming from the sidewalk, someone yelling his name in a most vulgar fashion, he felt like screaming himself…

He peered out a crack in the metal gates that covered his windows and saw Rolfie, some dame, and a hideous white stretch limo. David groaned — Early! Fucking more than two hours early! Do I dare have the driver take me to cop?

Why am I being persecuted? I could have been working — I could have been out — either way, these people are robbing me. If I’d been working, they would have interrupted me. If I’d gone out early to cop, I would have missed the sale.

What is wrong with people today? Doesn’t anyone have manners anymore?

He peered out again… just the limo, and the driver having a cigarette. Rolfie and that cunt on their way up what in Christ-On-A-Cross am I gonna do? He rushed to the phone and dialled Anya’s again.

The line was free! But here was more Hell, as Anya’s languid minion, the boy Li, mildly threatened him, “By six-thirty we’ll be going uptown to Caroline’s for dinner, so get over here NOW because we may not be back until tomorrow.”

“But you said yesterday that no-one should come over until six and now what — twenty people will be copping in the space of half an hour?”

“I have no idea what you are talking about…” the boy hung up. David cursed — he should have known better than to say ‘copping!’ Now what if Anya refused to serve him? He tried calling Lola again and it just rang, rang…

He heard Rolfie yodelling up the stairs, “Oh David, David dear!”

Yes, David was their toy, his studio their playground, and they could come over
any goddamned time they feel like it — because of their lousy checkbooks! Because of course The Artist has NOTHING else to do… no important Work to accomplish, not one idea that requires their dignified respect in its presence. All they want is that I should come out and primp for their parade!

Before he was even in the door Rolfie was reciting the evening’s programme:

“…the Klondike opening. I hate his work, but Cobby and Moo-Moo’ll be there. They want us to take them over to Nozzle’s. After that jamboree, we’ll get to Krankencroft’s just in time. What’s made him feature FEMALE nudes I’ll never guess! No offense, Wanda!”

David stared down at the tiny woman who was the interesting escort of Rolfie. She was a garish golden-blonde, over-dieted, skin stretched tightly over sharp cheekbones. An elaborate, glittery eye make-up did not disguise a shifty, venal look. She kept a gigantic black sable fur on over further draperies of ostentatious gold chain jewelry…

This was Wanda Galliano, the infamous ‘Mafia Marquise,’ due to ‘tell-all’ in a scandalous new memoir, sold for somewhere in the low-six-figures — though it wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. Rolfie had already gotten his mitts on a tidy several grand for his brokerage firm — and now he, David, was lined up to pluck her fast before the police pulled her out of the river.

But in a turn that appalled David, the woman was going seductive. She seemed to have gotten herself aroused… Rolfie giggled to see David blanch, as she hooked her ankle around his calf in quick, uncanny female fashion. The woman then sighed and heaved her chest against his, “I really LOVE artists!”

“He’s the shy type Wanda, gotta go slow with him…”

David attempted to ease her off himself. It was impossible. A sense of being raped came over him.

“Come on, David, can’t you show a little affection?”

Fucking Rolfie such a whore, bisexual and open to everything. So what if he lays her for the cash – what’s the distinction in that, when he’s anyhow capable of anything?

“So you gonna show me whatcha got here?” The woman stank of vodka and hours-old cologne.

Further humiliation! Was he supposed to pretend to be interested in her? He wished Rolfie would stop smoking so much pot as to forget to fill him in on the ever-changing subtexts.

“Wanda! Get over here – look at this!” Rolfie was bustling in a dusty corner of the studio, as if he owned the place. Which he rather did…

“Oh!” she slid off David, shrieking by way of critique, “it is – z’actly – the blue I painted the den!” She pointed a fingernail studded with rhinestones, “You didn’t use Pratt and Lambert’s ‘Aqua Illusion’ on that, didja?”

David turned an eye of condescension upon the two, “Beg pardon?”

“Pratt and Lambert? It’s paint,” she huffed.

Rolfie carefully avoided David’s glare, “So baby, do you want that one?” He pointed at the large canvas.

“Rolfie, you said if we got it today, we’d get a real good discount?”

To David’s exacerbated nerves it seemed to him that the bitch meowed at him… he was snapping, frantic to rip those big diamond-and-ruby earrings right off her ears and ram them down her throat.

“Yes that’s right darling, you’d have to get it now – and half in cash, remember? Fresh out of the studio, forget the dealer – so that’s an instant forty percent off, right David?”

Through clenched teeth David hissed, “Of course, dear Rolfie. Anything for my friend Rolfie!|”

Rolf stopped his busyness and narrowed his eyes. He knew that tone – ungrateful. Wasn’t he, Rolfie, David’s current sole support? And hadn’t he been so, ever since the Katarina Aloysius Gallery had dropped him?

And didn’t he, Rolfie, personally own over fifty of David’s paintings? That he could throw onto the market – and so in one day drive his prices down, and ruin their value for years to come?

Rolfie considered that David had just better learn to do his, Rolfie’s, business associates a few favors, when asked. They might even become his, David’s, friends and benefactors, too… if he would bother to ever get his clothes cleaned. Rolfie compared the memory of how sleek and pressed the man used to be. He was going downhill… and was it his imagination, or did the studio reek? Fortunately Wanda was so coked up she couldn’t smell anything,

Wasn’t he, Rolfie, always as good as his word? Hadn’t he promised he’d bring over the Mafia Princess? Who aside from that obscenely huge book deal, had a husband who unofficially owned the Bank of the Bahamas?

What was wrong with David – where had his killer instinct gone?

“Wanda, leave David alone – come over here, come on – I have a little something special for you!”

“OooEE! Rolfie’s always got the greatest stuff!”

From the pocket of his tidy vest Rolfie extracted a black lacquered bottle, unscrewed the top and tapped out a pile of glistening white dust. Wanda pointedly rolled a hundred-dollar bill into a straw:

“Makes it taste better!”

David felt frantic – coke! When his nerves were already working their way out of his skin. He disappeared into his kitchen, searching for something to tide him over until he could get away and get over to Anya’s. He had to think of an excuse! It was going on towards 5:30. Didn’t he even have one drop of booze?

He heard them snorting and oohing and ahhing and screamed, “NO THANK YOU.” Amidst empty bottles of linseed oil he unearthed a half-pint of Chartreuse. He had once tried to paint with the green of it. He swallowed the contents down, about nine shots. Beastly sensation, but better than sweating.

“What are you doing in here – wanking?”

Grandiose from the cocaine, Rolfie assumed his proprietorial role. He busily trotted the studio, dragging out old unfinished canvasses, waving his hands before them importantly. He then sat down, did more coke, and collected Wanda’s cash for the blue painting — five large, half of the ten — before going on with his list of the evening’s exciting events.

“Better get moving… Nozzle’s… Moo-Moo… have to be on time to Indochine or we’ll lose the reservation. Half the place’s taken up for Francis Conroy’s daughter’s Bar Mitzvah or something… no she’s turning sixteen. Whatever. Gotta get there uh, uh before… uhh. Yeah he’s got an opening but let’s skip it, we’ll see all the same people at the restaurant. I don’t like his work. I don’t care. Place’ll be packed. He’s overrated… blah blah blah.” The inanity of the gossip made David’s brain feel like it was going through a shredder. But he had enough presence of mind to warn Rolfie, as he watched him fold the cash into his billfold:

“Do not give A DIME of that to Tere. She’s got some idea you’re going to front her four and a half grand — that will come out of MY MONEY…”

“Oh yeah… she mentioned that. I shouldn’t give it to her?”


“But why not?”

“Rolfie, please, just don’t DARE give her anything, not in my name anyhow, because I have the feeling it isn’t for a dress.”

“A dress? She told me she was going into business for herself and needed it as start-up cash.”

“Start-up cash…? Ahhh, did she say anything about Madame Anya?” David felt sick, understanding — Madame Dealer was asking Tere for front money.

Wanda broke into this tragedy, oozing, “I hear Francis is very good-looking — and available.”

“They’re all available darling, especially when they’re married – “

“Did Tere mention anything to you about Anya?” David insisted.

“I’d like to go to FRANCIS’s studio, Rolfie,” throwing David a challenging look. Again David entertained a fantasy of wrecking her flesh in unpleasant manner…

“Rolfie, just don’t.”

“No, I won’t and no she didn’t say anything, except going into business. She was VERY insistent.”

“Don’t I know it. But I won’t bottom this time. Please just put it in my checking, as usual.”

“He lets me do his banking for him, you see. Very aristocratic,” Rolfie explained to Wanda.

“Thank you… but listen, you two… I have somewhere I have to go – first – before I go downtown. It’ll only take an hour. I’ll meet you at Indochine.”

“Day-yay-vid! We came EARLY, to take you With Us — this is gonna be a great night, there’s so much going on – DAVID!” Rolfie whined. In seconds the Wall Street maven careened from domineering to brown-nosed weasling. “Come on David! I know you’re trying to duck us… you should go out more, be seen, put all those rumors to rest,” at this last he lowered his voice, falsely confidential.

“I’m GOING to be seen, Rolfie — in an HOUR.”

“What rumors?” jumped Wanda, as she was supposed to.

“And can you just shut up Rolfie…” snapped David, out of control.

“Oh foo! Don’t get your tits in a tither! It’s just that – people are saying you’re Count Dracula!” Both shrieked into David’s solemn distress.

Some Dracula — they’re not the slightest bit afraid me.

Wanda went on shrieking with joy and gobbling up coke, as Rolfie capered to and fro along the studio floor. To David’s frantic eyes they appeared to be demons — demons strumming on his nerve-ends.

“So they say I’m a dope fiend?” He attempted to make it a rhetorical question, but it came out flat, uncaring.

“Oh so what if you are. Who isn’t?” Wanda was reaching for him again, “I like you anyway!” Shakily he moved away from her, an inch from a slap, and continued making his excuses to escape.

“Well, I’m going to, ah, meet a friend, then I’ve got to get home, shower, dress, you know,” he lied, “Oh my god it’s after five-thirty!”

“Yes yes, no no,” as they tried to tag along, insisting on driving him, not that he would be caught dead riding in that nightmare, driving him mad, he rushed away down the block, flagged down a cab and fell in:

“St. Mark’s Place, between First and A.”

The driver, a fat black lady in a flowered house-dress, her head congruously if oddly topped by a formal chauffeur’s cap turned around, gave him the once-over, heaved a deep “Humn, hnn hnn, HUH!” and took off at sixty miles an hour.

As she ran a red light on Fourteenth, David relaxed – it was so wonderful the way a cabby could be psychic, and do exactly as you required! She raced crosstown, swerved onto Second Avenue and swept down St. Mark’s. David sighed, “Beautiful!”

At the last stoplight David unrolled a twenty and tossed it over the front seat, “There – number 101, on the left – pull up – you can wait for me, can’t you? Thanks. I’ll just be a minute – um no more than five – okay?”

His driver gave vent to another “Hmm hmph – HUH!” that subsided into a series of “Uhmp uhmp, UHM! Waal shore thang hon, uhm, uhm UHN! No problema – I wait fer ye. Shore!”

As David entered the vestibule he heard the cab’s engine rev and gun off. He bolted out onto the stoop and cursed, “Fuckin’ bitch!”

A duo of young punks, ‘goth’d’ in black from head to toe, sexes indeterminate, gazed up at David from out of their narcosis. “Now tha’ ain’ nice… be nice… be nice now…” the girl-seeming one whispered from black-painted lips. Her blear eye looked ready to cry. David could only snarl and thunder up the unlit stairs.

When anarchist brats start telling me to behave myself… I must look really scoundrelly.

Standing, waiting, in Anya’s foyer, was a girl he knew – yeah – and she knew him. But they neither said Hello, nor even acknowledged the other’s existence. One of the D’s, Francis Dolmance’s wife’s girlfriend’s friend, yeah, she’s here for a big ol’ bundle of doojie, pour la soiree ce soir. Oh yeah.

David let loose a rude, nervous snigger. Just then Li opened the door, and allowed the girl in, nodding at David. He was next. He began to breathe a little easier… he made it, he was in. Yeah I’m in but so what, who am I, to sneer at anybody? I’m just a fucking Tragic Pig.

While famous Dolmance has his own personal slave to do his buy, look at the infamous Manfred — sick, shaking and sweating —

Where is his chauffeur – where are his minions – where have gone the Glory Days?





Chapter 18


From the manuscript of “Salvatore”

The lowest level of the palace at Versailles is a honeycomb of long passageways, meandering past numberless doors, ending in a vaulted musty cellar. This area is given over to every purpose from the banal: tack, potatoes, buckets, cots for sleepy scullery-maids; through to the clandestine: enclaves for passionate trysts, water-closets; on to the sinister.

Strange intents a windowless cell might hold, after nightfall; such as in the two rooms the priest Salvatore had keys for.

One room was for ostensible alchemical experiments, where Salvatore received Louis himself — to the King’s dishonour — speciously seducing him to imagine he might increase his store of diamonds. As legend had it that the Comte St. Germaine had done so for Louis XIV… *

The show of large, hand-blown globular vessels, filled with brilliant uncanny liqueurs, pans of glittering minerals, and the dusty creaking tomes piled up along the walls … all attested to a whiling away late hours in mystico-chemical pursuits. But what was the priest really up to? The exoteric blandishment of Louis is not what interests us. It served as a pretext for his in-dwelling the second room, in perfervid darkness, through the abandoned night.

Therein stood a profaned altar, dragged from a burning church. Upon its platform an entire other order of martyrdoms were instigated; upon this stage he made his sexual conquests, raping his victims with feral joy.

Horrid to realize, the ferocity is what seduced them — stirred middle-aged femmes’ jaded senses — overwhelming younger, rebellious aristocrats with the thrill of sacrilege — though he ended by murdering the homosexuals (for he could not trust them not to talk… and that crime was punished by fiery immolation.)

The altar’s wooden body still held a cache of holy martyr’s relics. As every fetish has no intent but what its Operator instills it with, so now the vial with the tears of St. Agnes, the knuckle-bone of St. Sebastian, and other holy leavings were turned from acting as engines of devotion, to…

… the service of his personal Demon (whose name we cannot write, he is too easily invoked) Father Salvatore devised new rites, imagined he invented an entirely new religion…

Stowed in secret closets and piled in oversized chests were the accoutrements of his True Art and Irreligion: chains, shackles, branding irons, blackened swords, bottles of blood, dried carcasses of creatures, clear crystals and irregularly-shaped cloudy gems. Strips of cloth, used as gags; bindings infused with the sweats of fear; blood from broken hymens, caught on silken handkerchieves. And drugs — powders, roots, elixirs — hypnotics, aphrodisiacs, poisons.

The rumor of murder lent him further lurid glamour. It was alleged sub rosa in his native country that he had laid waste to the whole of an aristocratic family. Grandmother, uncles, cousins, and infants — all perished in one day. No, it had not been something in the well. Or, perhaps it had been. They said he did it for an enormous sum, at the behest of a rival family in Capania.

Though nothing was ever proved, the King of Naples saw fit to instantly remove not only the accused, but every member of the Roman Catholic clergy in the pernicious wizard’s parish, all banished to


Whomever it was, shouting her name from the middle of Spring Street, was at one AM waking up that quiet neighborhood. Just as I’m really humming along, christ-on-a-cross who is that? If he screams I LOVE YOU DARLING next…


She put her head out the window —

“Rene!” she hallooed, and tossed the key down.

The poet completed the last turn of his snake-dance of joy before picking up the key and howling en haute voix —


He thundered up the old wooden stair and burst, all delight, into the loft —

“I am going to kill you!” Angelique pretended to be angry.

Rene shrieked to see the platinum-pink hair of legend wound up on two dozen pink plastic cones.

“Spoolies! Oh Spoolie-girl, they don’t make those anymore. Can I have a few? Can I wear one?” He began to unroll the curlers from her hair.

“You maniac,” she giggled, as he unwound her entire set. Lank, damp corkscrews drooped along her flushed cheeks. He found her charmante in satin pyjamas of gold.

“You are vision of the nineteenth… a damsel, a dreaming damsel…”

“I was working very well… But for Thee, I’ll gladly give it up…”

“So get dressed, dollink, we’re going out! I have a car.”

“A car? Who would give you a car?

“It’s Ray Nozzle’s Bentley… or rather his MaMA’s autoMObile, as she so southrenly pronounces it. Nozzle’s in Paris, and the houseboy didn’t know better than to give me the keys… which were sitting right there on the console… or was that the bomBAY… in the vestibule… excuse me, the foy-YAY —

“…yaass I stole it, right out from under MaMA’s aristocratic nostrils. I’ve been staying Up There” — which is how Rene referred to the pied-a-terre the painter’s family owned on Fifth Avenue and 74th — “Marilyn and Bramwell threw me out…”

“Why? No, don’t tell me. You ARE bad. What should I wear?” She fussed in her closet… “Give me a few minutes, if we’ve got a car I won’t have to overdress.”

“You won’t even need shoes, darling, the thing’s got the PLUSH-iest carpet. ”

Angelique was not exactly thrilled with the idea of being transported by Rene in a large motorized chunk of metal; she dressed rapidly in a winter-white wool trouser suit, black shirt and cloth-of-silver necktie.

“Your necktie matches the autoMObile…” Rene opened the passenger door for her with a bow… she felt somewhat appeased to see the silvery-blue Bentley, a heavy, safe car… and settled in.

“Well, are you gagging or what? No comment? Smell the leather!” Rene pretended to gnaw on the upholstery.

“You smell it you fiend… yes it’s a gorgey car… so where are we going?”

“Wherever! It’s just such a pleasure, to cruise around at night…”

Rene headed up Spring Street to the Bowery, and Angelique took his hand:

“Darling it feels like YEARS…”

“It’s been one year, actually.”

“Yes, just before Christmas, last year… the last time I saw you, you were filthy.

“And you told me about ‘The Spirit of Filth,’ remember? That story, about Jay…”

Rene swerved, “You are such a dear, to not reproach me.”

“How can I, when I see how you are, now… you’re better, aren’t you? Clean?”

She looked hard into his eyes; she laughed aloud to see him living. The bright blue was limpid, uncracked, the pupils large and absorbing.

“Rene I wrote that whole story down, as best I could…”

“You wrote down MY story? How dare you,” he joked.

“It wasn’t at all easy, dear — and I want you to read it. I’m sure I left out half of it…”

His foot was heavy on the accelerator, rocketing up Bowery, slamming past CBGB’s club, he ran red lights from St. Mark’s Place to Fourteenth, turning west before grinding to a halt behind a police car at Fifth Avenue.

“So Rene, what happened with Marilyn? I mean, you’re their investment, they paid for the rehab.”

“Oh it seems I dared fall off the wagon, for a minute. Dash of heroin, dollop of coke. But I recanted. BUT they don’t believe me… that tough-love stuff ya know ‘zero tolerance’ which is for idiots.

“And I was going to start my Salon with her, you know she has that beautiful atrium room.”

“Your Salon? Oh at last. Only you darling could realize that…! ”

“OR you. I’m calling it ‘The Society of Charles’ after Baudelaire, thematic being le dereglement de tous les sens, tu connais? ** Honoring the creative visionary powers… that CAN emanate from drugs. We’ll need you to come and read. A little something hyperaesthetic?”

Angelique stared at him, in a childish sort of amazement; tears filled her eyes.

“What now… bawling?” a tinge of distaste in his voice, “It’s only a bloodie reading.”

“Do you think, do you think…”


“… I would be heard?”

“Do you mean, do I think you are worthy? And will I throw out onto the sidewalk any reprobate who dares to raspberry you? Yes, yes and yes, my darling.”

It seemed she felt the honor so acutely it embarrassed him. As ever, Rene wished there was more he could do for her. But as an outcast, amongst outcasts, she had so much to live down.

“Let’s go to ‘Jacky.’ “

The big car at sixty MPH crunched the potholes of decrepit Fourteenth, swerved past the pack of trannies cruising the abandoned Triangle Building at Ninth Avenue, then slowed to more cautiously thread past The Trucks… from out of which white-coated men unloaded sides of beef, the blood pooling between the cobblestones. Rene slipped the Bentley into the No Parking spot in front of another kind of abattoir.

Above a narrow door, a tiny sign of purple neon tubes blinked a name: JACKY 9-0.

To the uniformly black-garbed crowd amassed before it, Rene leaned out his window and announced, “Hail Les Halles! Our compost heap of culture! Jacky, Jacky, Jacky Nine-O! We come now to worship nos bouchers, nos poules… so shall we descendons, amidst ces vegetaux.”

He then quoted ‘Shall we ever live, shall we ever live… In this picture my mind has painted of you?’ ” ***

“What, Rene, you’re not dead yet?” the door-woman Kitten called out in greeting.

“Darling! We never see you anymore,” Angelique was kissed on both cheeks by Jacky’s proprietess. This was her friend La Comtesse, known in the underground as ‘Miss She,’ or more pertinently, simply ‘She.’ The Lady was as well an alumna of Angelique’s ‘Whipshack’ (as ‘She’ had christened it, as per her famous wit, on her first day) where she’d gone by ‘Mistress Timothea.’

At Jacky, as in many underground cultures, everyone was in possession of several monikers. It was rare that anyone knew anybody (ever) by their baptismal certificate.

“Miss She-V-T, my dearest, Rene dragged me out. I am living like a hermit, really — the new book is in its last throes, I’m trying to get a last edit in…”

“We’ll have a book party! You can give a reading. Call me with the dates!”

“Alright…” Again was the authoress beset with that sick, sinking feeling; Rene had misinterpreted that look (and tears) as one of insecurity, even fearfulness. There was some aspect of both… but moreso, Angelique possessed an innate, nearly congenital (in the family of literati) disgust for being in the public eye, successfully, or otherwise. Her very blood understood that once she broke the hermetic seals of her curcubite, all creative engines faltered, slowed, could slide into abeyance. In other words, she more than needed solitude — she had to be solitude, and uninterrupted — to maintain both the fragile ego, and a continuously self-fertilising intellect.

Just thinking of a party, of being touted, of being seen by masses however ‘hip’ made her feel on the verge of a rape.

She observed La Comtesse wince as Rene rushed up, planted a sloppy kiss on her impeccably made-up face, and bustled on through the door, past everyone waiting.

“Bloodie hell, Rene!” cussed Kitten at his back. Her Liverpudlian accent was one of Jacky’s ornaments. “What’s he wearing, a straight-jacket? Looks like he’s escaped from a mental hospital!”

Rene did indeed appear to have burst some kind of bonds, dressed as he was in some boutique version of bondage gear. The white suit had lacings up the back, and peculiar back- strappings, attached to the arms with metallic clips. Underneath he wore no shirt, but a medical-beige corset.

“Do me one favour, darling, and keep him away from the stage when the show starts. He starts in with the commentary at full volume, and really, he steals the show — and the players don’t appreciate it.”

“And what is our thematic this evening?”

“Something you’ll appreciate: ‘Funeral for Virility,’ after Des Esseintes’ famous Black Dinner in ‘A Rebours.’ “

“Naked Negresses and all?”

“We’ve got a young trio of ‘Supremes’ aficionados… they’re gorgeous you’ll love them they’re doing ‘Stop In The Name Of Love.’ “

Jacky 9-0’s weekly party was always ‘themed,’ performances concocted by a venerable troupe of underground artistes: actors, singers, poets, dancers, with an occasional writer thrown in. The predominant fancy tended to a sort of attenuated Grand Guignol… horror, shock value, and plenty of stage blood spilt.

As Angelique entered the first room, known simply as ‘Court,’ her white outfit glared against a prevailing black of habilllements. The denizens of Jacky ranged the walls, staring — it was a kind of Court indeed where judgement was instantly passed upon your height and breadth of Cool.

“Well at least my shirt is black,” she remarked to her bartender, the actor Boyd in long robe and hooded mantle, his face painted to resemble a skull. Death’s cardboard scythe was at the ready against the wall. He presented her with the evening’s specialty: a chocolate-infused Martini Noir. Various black dainties in black bowls were arrayed about the bar: chocolate ‘nipples of Venus’ bonbons, black olives, black seawed-wrapped sushi rolls, pumpernickel squares… “You missed the caviar,” Boyd informed her. Angelique tipped him with a twenty; she never paid for any of her drinks at Jacky.

“So you came with Rene?”

“Yes, he’s here somewhere. Darling this drink is amazing… did you put Benedictine in it?”

“Vanilla Stoli, Godiva chocolate liqueur, a dash of Benedictine yes, and I skipped the half and half. So, Rene — is he looking for Tere?”

“Tere? I don’t know… why?”

Boyd didn’t answer, busy with another customer, and Angelique leaned back against the bar, perusing the crowd’s elegance. Every type of Gothic splendour in dress was on display… long leather evening gowns, brocade suits of eighteenth-century cut, ‘superhero’-styled leotards and capes, other science-fiction renderings… and as per the theme, even some shapeless old smocks — Italian ladies’ mourning. There was not a scrap of common-place couture in the entire place.

This small vestibular room, redolent with mixed tobacco and marijuana smoke, was hung in black satin bunting; Angelique admired the towering black flower arrangements: deepest red roses, anthuria painted purple, dark-green gladioli in great urns, set on pedestals. The usual ‘go-go dancer’ was balanced on another pedestal, completely enrobed in widows’ weeds and floor-length veiling; her feet went listlessly back and forth to lugubrious electronic organ music. Against the back wall a coffin served as seating; an animated young trannie arrayed in black tulle was sitting up in it, cocktail aloft.

The second room on was grander in scale, featured an extensive bar made of steel and neon, and purveyed more conventional sort of dance music for those who happened not to be Initiates. Kitten and crew did allow in the occasional squares, which might include Wall Streeters, Hasidim men on the prowl, or a group of old punked-out Ramones fans from New Jersey… Not everyone found it fascinating to stand around at Court, gaze their fill, and plink bon mots.

But no-one was dancing; the thematic for the evening did frown upon revelry. Therein the performances would take place, under a makeshift proscenium arch of pine wood and cardboard,
on a stage usually hung with red velvet. As weekly the theme changed, so changed the arch: the ubiquitous black satin was pinned onto the velvet.

Boyd came back to Angelique’s spot and rested his chin on a snow-white hand; across his wrist was a painted red gash. “I mentioned Tere,” he began, “as she’s now the travelling dealer of choice… Madame Anya’s minion. And right now she’s toting a-little-something-special called ‘Persian Brown’ that’s to die for.”

“Well as you might recollect Boyd, I’m not so interested. But anyhow, thanks for the gossip.”

“Oh sorry. I didn’t mean to imply. But Rene…”

At that moment Tere Gaya appeared with a lady of sorts by her side, someone Angelique recognized. Again, a former Whipshack worker, though this one would never have the distinction of being an alumna: she’d been fired over her drug addiction. Known as Mistress Cravia, she was a long skanky wraith in black leather, who sneered a greeting and yanked on a chain, at the end of which was a man — a slave, pleasingly unknown to Angelique.

All I need is to see her with one of my faithfuls…

She gave the girl the briefest of acknowledgements, then pointedly turned her back on the display; she never approved of exposing herself — nor any slavish acolyte — to the public’s gaze. Her set piece on the subject went as follows: “It’s like bragging that you’re a serial killer. Though people will be fascinated, why invite fear and loathing?”

Tere and Cravia lingered at the bar; Angelique felt herself talked about. Tere ordered a Pepsi, Cravia a Jack Daniels. There was a tap upon her shoulder, and she turned: the handsome, feminine face of the famous transgender was seeming to smile upon her.

“Hear tell — you’re cozy as bedbugs with David Morgan.”

Angelique went hot and cold,; was she found out? “Oh really… what did he say?”

“Well is it true?”

“Cozy as bedbugs… I’m not certain what that implies, Tere.”

Cravia let loose a bark of laughter, yanked on her slave’s chain. The fellow sat up and begged like a hound.

“Well, ahem it’s like… he’s your new husband.”


“He wants you to take care of him, Mommy.”

“And how exactly, WHY exactly would I EVER do that?” striving to make her indignation highly dramatic.

“Because you can. Because you’re a major sorceress.”

“OH!” Angelique was thunderstruck, shocked to her core by this development.

Her sacred-prostitute function, which talent she kept hidden from all, rose to smile and nod. Yes… there might be better subjects, other venues, than her Dungeon-Chambers, where this faculty of sorcery — an advanced mental control over matter — might reign.

Her mind sank into a karmic catacomb… she realized David had been discussing her, with others, sardonically, just like Salvatore.

Boyd had overheard and consolingly placed another Martini Noir before her.

“So, Mistress, tell us about your obsession with David.”

“I’d appreciate your correcting your impression, Tere. I do NOT have an obsession with David!”

“That’s not what he says.”

Angelique was seared. Her secret, a joke…

“Davd who?” Rene rolled up at that moment to rescue her.

“David Morgan. We were just discussing their new friendship.”

Rene regarded Angelique’s tight lips, and pallour… “Why are we trembling? What’s wrong? Look at her,” he grabbed Angelique’s wayward hand, growled and kissed it firmly, “Delicate, and gentle, and really divinely submissive!”

“You canNOT call me submissive, Rene!”

“Oh no,” snickered Cravia, “Don’t ever call La Grande Dame a sub!”

Rene looked down at the half-naked businessman floundering at their feet, “Why don’t you skedaddle your farm animal somewhere else to be watered, Clarabelle?”

The unholy trio wandered off, triumphant they had scored at least a half-point against the invulnerable Lady.

“What was that about?”

“She made some very rude comments about my friendship with David… she actually called David my husband.” She downed her cocktail in one gulp; Boyd poured a ready refill.

“So? You know it’s true. So you’re in love with one of the Untouchables, a tortured being, a homosexual decadent…”


“… a paraiah, a heroin addict. What more does your perversity require?”

“I’m not in love with him!”

“Oh? So you won’t say? Very well.”

“Rene, did you just say… David is a heroin addict?”

“One of the most torrid of them. He got me high the day I got out of rehab.”

“…… He never told me.”

“So you have to be TOLD now? You live in downtown, half your staff are druggies like that bitch who used to work for you… and you don’t see it.”

“Half my staff? how would you… oh God never mind. But David — he told me he was… that he used to…”

“He’s still a big junkie, Angelique. So if he asks to borrow money!”

Angelique barely believed Rene. How was it possible that this man who was such an Ideal for her…? With the exception of Rene, whom she had known as long as she’d been in New York, whose genius had always shone through … ordinarily upon learning some friend or associate was a heroin addict Angelique would instantly reject the person. But now?

Her tormented mind reached for a cause, a rationale… a transmission from the manuscript Salvatore. She tried accessing that connection, as per: How would Marie Alexandra heal a calcified evil? Was David’s addiction a curse from that past? Unexpiated crime?

She felt herself very drunk and collapsing internally. She just wanted to get home and page into the manuscript for the solution… “Let’s get OUT of here!”

Rene demurred, “But the show is just about to start. I want to see how they flub Huysmans.”

“I don’t want to see the show.”

“Well whatever. But stay and wait for me.”

Angelique recollected She’s warning about Rene at stage-side, “Alright then… I’ll come in a minute.”

She went downstairs to the basement play-room, where the conveniences were. An old brown couch supported several people in various stages of undress… she averted her eyes from one heterosexual couple actually fucking; the sight made her feel like vomiting.

The lines for the toilets were agonizingly long. She wandered through the basement room, back to a honeycomb of long passageways, meandering past numberless doors, ending in a vaulted musty cellar. She rarely ventured back there, and looked hopefully for another toilet. She knew ‘She’ had placed some of her old dungeon furniture, which she’d donated for whatever fun and games, in these back-rooms. But usually they were locked: ‘She’ said she didn’t want Jacky to turn into a sex-club.

Angelique continued down the damp corridor through to the clandestine: enclaves for passionate trysts, water-closets; on to the sinister.

She looked through one doorway upon tableau: a naked man tied to a crucifix, with two women standing before him. This slave-victim was covered in what seemed to be fluffy white meringue pie-stuff. Several pastry boxes littered the floor; horn-rimmed spectacles still on his face showed ecstatic eyes. As she moved off she heard one woman say, “Prince Michael, we’re putting you into sugar shock… ”

Such scenes for most people on the surface would stay laughable, ridiculous. For others, such a pathos would be a revelation, inspiring them towards the lineage of freedom, expansions of consciousness, openness of expression. But for a jaded professional Dominatrix it was a soap-opera; Angelique felt only bored. Always the same show of human frailities, the same sad aspirations towards a decadent Ideal, over and over compulsively, to no exalted issue. (Only the orgasm, which for many was exalted enough.)

And those Ideals! Too often it was embodied in a female who might be but another species of neurotic.

She glanced into other doorways, where mostly men engaged in garden-variety sodomy and fellatio… coming at last to a locked door: a fire-door, marked all over with signage as to Danger and Not Keeping Door Blocked. Continuing banality of the modern world. No way might any wanderer imagine further tableaux. No more secrets to be revealed; no longer anything Romantic about a closed, locked door. No release, no light at the end of a long passage. Every inch of her world was mapped out, under observation, charted, measured.

She turned and walked back towards the mass revelry, the sounds of which evoked the howling, bawling of souls in some imagined hell. She stopped again, turned and suddenly rushed for the forbidden door, hit the steel bar across and thrust it open. A loud siren announced her exit, and she ran up the steps, laughing, racing across the sidewalk back to the Bentley and the entrance of the club.

“What did you do?” demanded Kitten, “You set off the fire alarm!”

“Oh I did? Sorry about that.” Angelique went to the car and rested against its flank, fanning herself, feeling triumphant in her tiny bit of rebellion. Another denizen joined her and offered her a marijuana cig… she partook…

A NYPD patrol car pulled up and Angelique froze, dropped the cig. But the officer who got out of the car looked neither at her, nor the illegally parked car. Leaving his partner in their vehicle, he approached the club’s door, took off his uniform cap and dropped to his knees before Kitten’s thigh-high black patent-leather boots.

“Slave Copper, do you really think you deserve?”

Out of the corner of her eye Angelique saw two young black kids, behind the Bentley, jump up from the curb and take off running down the block.

“What in hell?”

She walked around to the back of the car… it had been ‘tagged’ with graffiti. Orange, black and yellow spray paint, still wet, adorned the bulky rear trunk, and a name emblazoned thereon:


“OH my GOD!” She turned to Kitten, enjoying her authority-figure-slave, by now on all fours, licking at her stiletto heels. Angelique yelled at the other doorman, Byron, in black leather — Both had gleeful faces.

“Byron, Kitten, you just let those kids…?”

“You’re illegally parked… we’re not responsible,” snarked Kitten.

Byron editorialized, “That’s Bully’s tag. Your car is now worth at least another twenty-five grand.”

Angelique was aghast, “It’s not my fucking car! It belongs to some old lady… Ray Nozzle’s mother!”

“The painter? Well Ray’ll love it!”

Tripping over the cop’s big shoes, stuck out across the entry, Angelique rushed back into the club. The fire-alarm was still blaring, but everyone was ignoring it. The Court was nearly empty; the show had begun.

From the back of the room, Angelique heard on stage La Comtesse “She” introducing the esoteric subject matter of J. K. Huysmans’ novel, ‘A Rebours,’ to a receptive audience: not that they fully understood what she was saying… but anything that emanated from that night-life oracle was immediately taken up and swallowed whole.

“In the review of the author Barbey d’Aurevilly, of what is now considered the First Decadent novel, he compared Huysmans to Baudelaire. It was Barbey who said, ‘After Les Fleurs Du Mal was published, Baudelaire’s only choices in life were the muzzle of the pistol, or the foot of the Cross.’ He felt this to be likewise the only choices for Huysmans.”

The red velvet curtains opened upon the tableaux vivant. A large crucifix stood in the center of the stage, with a beautiful girl, stark naked, apparently hanging upon it. At its foot knelt a young man dressed as a monk, holding a pistol to his head… ‘She’ continued to expound:

“He was a young man, anemic and nervous, with hollow cheeks, steel blue eyes, a thin yet acquiline nose, and dry, tapering hands. He had a pointed beard of extraordinarily pale blonde, and an ambiguous expression, at once weary and subtle.”

The monk now rose and stood before the crowd, still holding the fire-arm. Angelique considered that it looked very real… The girl on the crucifix writhed and moaned — the monk turned and ‘fired’ upon her. On cue, little beige baggies of blood popped open and ran down her salacious curves.

“He chose the pistol, and God was dead.”

Assistants then untied God and carried her off-stage. Others appeared and positioned a dining table covered in a black cloth, setting it with black china and black silver. Chairs were placed around it for who then appeared — several of the underground stars of Jacky 9-0: Timofay, the melliflous tenor; Curtisette, an exquisite trannie, who like Tere had broken into the world of haute couture; Miss Love Forever, a torch singer (and the only woman amongst them); and six others of distinguished, arcane talents. With the monk gesturing at the head of the table, three young, slender black women, naked but for silver stockings beset with crystal teardrops, silver shoes, and tiny silver modesty patches, appeared carrying dishes filled with fruit, cakes, and other delicacies… every morsel being painted or dyed black.

The monk announced, “A Rebours! Against the Grain… for there’s nothing in this world but mediocrity. Lest I join those ranks, I give this Wake for my Virility. Let Sex be over, and Life be over! So there’s nothing but Nothing — Let’s Get Drunk!” He raised a glass and let fall his monkish robes. Beneath he was himself naked but for the silver stockings with sparkling teaardrops, silver high-heels, and a black modesty patch. The crowd applauded.

“No my friends, I can longer get an erection… so shall let us lay it to rest forever. A funeral for my dick!“ He gestured below his waist, and the party raised glasses full of dark red wine and drank.

“Hail, Impotence!”

A honking voice cut across the scene: “So what about VIAGRA?”

‘She’ re-appeared on the edge of the stage and admonished him, “RENE! Stop that at once. This is the nineteenth century!”

Angelique tried to move to the front of the stage, to do as She had asked her — restrain Rene, if that would ever, in a hundred years, be at all possible. But the crowd was too thick and she was stopped at the end of the bar.

The actors knew to ignore him, but Rene bellowed, “Nineteenth CENTURY? Loulou is wearing NIKES.” Indeed the actor, otherwise perfect in an elaborate rams’-head head-dress, had on those more comfortable, and ugly shoes.

The crowd was becoming hilarious. The atmosphere seemed ruined, even for burlesque. Jacky’s stilted homage to a dead author and the Death of Sex was being subverted by something Huysman would have detested: Naturalism. Rene might be a hyper-aesthete, but he had never been a bull-shitter.

Angelique tried to wave to ‘She,’ who glanced in her direction and gave her the cold shoulder.

The three Negresses now faced the audience, and started their incongruous musical number, given that in the novel they are but ciphers:

In the Name of Love
Before you knock me up
In the Name of Love
Before your cock falls off

They slaughtered the lyrics… but in sixty seconds the song was upstaged by Rene, who planted himself before the central lady, faced the audience, and began a parody. Even the singers couldn’t help laughing at his screechy falsetto, his manic dancing…

When the number was over, She returned to her narrative pose at stage-side. The actors continued on ‘eating’ and ‘mourning,’ as She read from the novel:

“ ‘What a time that was! The period of evening parties, of race-meetings, of card-playing, of love scenes, ordered in advance and served to the minute, at the stroke of midnight, in his pink boudoir. His mind was obsessed by glimpses of faces, looks, unmeaning words that stuck in his mind…

“ ‘There was the fact, odd as it might seem, he was less confident at the present moment than he had been in his boyhood, in the days when the Jesuits exercised direct supervision over his training.

” ‘When their teachings had to be received, when he was entirely in their hands, was theirs, body and soul, without family ties… they instilled in him a certain taste for the marvellous! That had stealthily taken root in his soul, and was coming to a head in this solitary life…”

“GREAT head, those Jesuits! MARvellous dicks!”

“I’m not putting up with this another second!” shouted Timofay, who rose from his seat and stomped offstage, “She, you’re letting him walk all over us!”

Rene interrupted, “Oh pipe down Christian Woman! Even you ought to know this is a Prelude to Religious Mania!”

Love Forever, willowy fragile brunette, in appeasement fluted — “She, you may as well just let Rene take over the stage.”

“Yes, yes, let me take over! I know more about ‘Against the Grain’ than any of youse!”

The crowd began to stamp its feet and chant, “Rene, Rene!”

‘She’ gestured to the disk-jockey, who at once started up the dance music. The curtains drew to a close. The show was over.

“I’m so sorry,” Angelique tried to catch her friend as She flew by in a fury:

“Do not EVER bring that crazy bastard into my club, EVER AGAIN!”

Angelique understood she would not be able to assuage the impresaria until some time had gone by. Anyhow — am I really to blame for Rene’s most constant blasphemy?

Such picayune artistic performance could not ever, in any event, measure up to She’s egoistical demands. Rene was a genius of the highest caliber, as was ‘She’ — as were most of the others. The conditions of a performance are stressful to all, but this wasn’t the Opera — there was no need for perfection. One might have realistically incorporated Rene’s madness into the general Sacrilege…

But Rene did not care that he’d infuriated his friends; he was off and dancing to the latest hits.

“Look at him… he looks like he’s escaped from a mental hospital,” someone else remarked at the sight of the poet. As he flailed his arms, his couture ‘bonds’ with their metal attachments flew in all directions, snapping at other dancers and causing them to cry “OUCH!”

“Let’s go eat, I want a borscht, “ he grabbed Angelique on his rounds, trying to make her dance with him.

“You are NOT going to believe what they did to the car.”

“Who, what, when? Did it get towed? WHAT?”

They burst onto the sidewalk; Rene walked over the still-prone policeman as if he were a throw-rug (and he had placed himself there, for just that joy), and together took a long gander at the ‘Wild Style” graffiti-tag ruinating the butt of the costly vehicle.

“Gorgeous! Gorgeous…. but I can’t take it back to Ma-MA like this.”

“What are you going to do?”

Rene got in the driver’s seat and started up, pulled out from the kerb and headed for the
East Village. Angelique noted the other cop in the patrol-car, swilling booze from a pint bottle.

“Depraved freaking cops! No wonder the city’s a mess.”

“Hmm!? What should I do? Only one thing TO do. Ditch it… report it as stolen.

“But first I need some potato pancakes.”

They pulled up in front of the Second Avenue Deli and entered the bustling kosher restaurant. They called up potato pancakes with applesauce, cold borscht and a dollop of sour cream and chive, cole slaw, a Reuben (pastrami and sauerkraut, open-faced on rye with Swiss cheese melted on top) … egg creams, Dr. Bronner’s Celery Soda, Manhattan Special Coffee Soda… they had a feast and a half, the likes of which is no longer to be found within the confines of that island city Yet it was once merely a commonplace, and for all that, our hero and heroine are surely very decadent… though they don’t know it.

Such foodstuffs, brought from Romania, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Germany… the original immigrants of the early 1900s.. is for them only the stuff of life.

By now, gentle reader you may be asking: What IS Decadence? Let us go back to our library, an old-fashioned one made of paper and pasteboard, and look up books not to be found (possibly ever) on any Internet search engine.

As described by Havelock Ellis, in his classic introduction to ‘A Rebours ‘ (and written when Huysmans was still alive!) : Decadence exists only in some kind of contrast. There can be no grandiose, polished, flourishing of hyper-aesthetic individualism, without reference to the Classical… which exemplifies the greater Good, the grander Scheme, the Higher Power… however you wish to term Classical Idealism.

In the face of this marble visage of Perfection, Decadence thumbs its nose. Decadence is undisciplined, but disciplined in its Dionysiac. It may say whatever it likes, but it accepts every consequence. It may make its mark by mucking up the face of the Father, but still, it loves the Father.

It’s like being accused of being a Satanist — but you cannot exist in an evil vacuum. You can’t be a Satanist unless you believe in God. You cannot be Decadent unless you (once) believed in the Higher Art.

Exquisitely Ellis states that Classicism has no shadows… only Decadence does. The Classical is spare, concise, nearly mathematical. The Decadent is elaborated, multicolored, flawed.

And thereby may Decadence be the more perfect of the two philosophies.

Rene dropped Angelique off at home, declined to come back later, after his ‘caper,’ to sleep with her, as they often had done.

“I’ve kept your cherry-red satin pyjamas for you, all this time. They’re still hanging in the dry-cleaning bag.”

“Another time, my love. I have to go ditch the car before it gets light —

“Lend me some cab fare, won’t you?”

A couple of days later, said Bentley made Page Six in the New York Post:

“Nozzle’s Bentley Tagged; Grafitti Art, 1 — New Wave Expressionism, 0.”

It was found by the NYPD, with the keys in the ignition, parked in front of the New York Stock Exchange.





* It may have been the bastard wizard Cagliostro, though I believe it was the elegant sorcerer Le Comte de St. Germaine who, allegedly possessing the magical ability to transform glass into diamonds, increased the coffers of Louis XIV by several millions by this Art.

** ‘Le dereglement de tous les sens’ : translation: the derangement of all the senses, was a line penned by Arthur Rimbaud, in homage to the Baudelairean aesthetic of finding new ideas through the use of drugs; in his case, absinthe.

*** Les Halles was once the premier market of Paris, full of every kind of eatable, and thus every kind of compost… Rene refers to the locale, the West 14th Street meat-market of the 1980s. Nos bouchers, nos poules… would be “we worship our butchers, we worship our chickens,” though ‘poules’ is french slang for ‘whores.’ We descend amidst the vegetables? More Les Hallean references, some original Rene…

‘Shall we ever live, shall we ever live… In this picture my mind has painted of you?’ ” — a translation from the French of a line from Baudelaire’s most beautiful ‘The Invitation to the Voyage.’ A prose poem, the complete passage reads thus:

“Dreams! Always dreams! And the more aspiring and fastidious the soul, the more its dreams exceed the possible. Every man has within him his dose of natural opium, endlessly secreted and renewed, and how many hours do we count, from birth to death, that are filled with positive pleasure, by successful deliberate action? Shall we ever truly live, ever enter this picture my mind has painted, this picture that resembles you?”





Chapter 19


David Morgan had avoided the galleries in Soho for half the season. He was not up to feigning solidarity with his fellow-artists, nor hardy enough to face down his detractors. But there was one show he had to see: a collection of photographs by Marty Thorpe, formerly his lover, recently deceased.

On the last day the show was up, David walked into the Nana Zaray Gallery (which unlike most showed both paintings, and high-end photography) grateful to see no one he knew…

… but the bodies on the walls. Ecstatically contorted torsos, athletic limbs bound in sinew-like ropes, faces slack with lust, the genitals in full flower … bodies he once had touched and adored. Dead and moldering now. But made immortal! Shock value went for much of their popular appeal — but, for posterity, it had to be admitted they were more than well-composed — all imperatives of harmony strictly appeased.

Though it was bizarre that a segment of his very private life could end up on a gallery wall. That era of his love-life was now sacrificed to the holy cause of Art.

And without his permission… though of course he had let Marty take photos of him. In bed, before sex, during sex, always taking photos then of everyone he screwed, every lover, every chance encounter, throughout every orgy. No one had thought much about it, didn’t think all that much would come of it. But now with the corpse barely cold, the photos were raking in some very cold hard cash for the Thorpe estate — which ironically consisted of a few proper maiden ladies, in for a real education of sorts…

As David thought about it, he recollected how Marty had been quite deliberate in setting up certain moments. How the ‘trade’ they picked up had been selected for more than sex. He was often teased (or scolded) for being more intent on making his own ‘pornography,’ than he was in making it with the bodies present… Well you never knew where genius might scavenge.

There it was — his cock’s portrait, at full mast. Facing your genitalia blown up four feet tall is beyond embarrassing, and he felt queasy. But even encased in a wrinkly prophylactic, David had to consider it a compliment. He wondered if anyone who knew him … oh what the hell!

His name was not attached to the title, though possibly inscribed deep inside one of Marty’s as-yet-undusted diaries. Or not. He laughed to himself that it was a portrait to look forward to, say at age seventy – were he so unlucky to live that long.

He walked back towards the offices to see if Nana Zaray wasn’t at her desk. She wasn’t a bad woman when sober. Might as well get in a little harmless hobnobbing.

Odd. Not a soul about. Not even a minion. He walked further back, into the racks, calling out “Hello,” lest someone think him a snoop.

When he came out of the bathroom, he noticed a key, left in the lock of a door that led to the basement stairs. He stopped, thinking he heard a cough below. “Hello?” he called again.

A man’s voice in answer cried out, “Come on down, come on! Isn’t the key in the lock?” David thought he recognized the voice, as usual raked with irritation… he turned the key and started downstairs.


In the center of the large, cluttered basement room sat the young painter, star of Soho, Pierre-Louis Quillier. Before him, and leaning on every wall were canvasses of his gorgeous, satanic Work.

“Hey man, d’jou bring it?”

The area was badly lit with several bright bare bulbs. David did not register the question, stunned as he was by the incredible profusion of Art. Painted diatribes scrawled in blood-red, against the encroachment of dead Syphilization… black signage of the shaman, literatum of the underworld… an apocalyptic cave-dweller’s mad last golden hieroglyph, before the dropping of the last bomb.

Pierre-Lou’s face peered up at David from the center of the glorious shambles, “Dave, huh? Lo’ send ja, ya got it?”

Too stunned by the Work to notice at first, David now stared, horrified at the artist’s deplorable condition, looked into sunken, glassy eyes, reflecting a state both mystic and crazed.

His deep black skin had an ashy tone, seemed lax and dried, and dry the mouth too but moving constantly, sere lips gnashing, in ghastly convulsions.

He was totally out of his mind on cocaine.

David could see he had been so, for weeks, or perhaps months. And it looked like he was living down there.

Then he saw something else, had to rub his hands across his face, his eyes, to convince himself that what he was seeing wasn’t a hallucination. He had heard it spoken of as a joke: that the motivation behind Pierre-Lou’s prolific production was… that Nana kept him chained up in her basement.

And there on one raw ankle was an actual shackle — chrome steel attached to a chain, whose end was sunk in the concrete floor.

Could anyone have imagined that the gay cocktail party slur was the truth, actual, hideous truth?

“SO, man, you holdin’ for me?”

“No, no actually I’m not -”

“Is Lo’ upstairs? She comin’ ?”

“No one’s upstairs, man, listen, you — “

“What, man?” Pierre-Louis saw where David was looking, and he giggled evilly. Pain-daubed fingers skittered over in-drawn features, rested on a scab to pick, pick, pick. “You got somethin’ to say, man?”

“Pierre … this is insane!

“Huh huh, heh heh, yeah, in-sane. You bet. Whatever I want, as much as I want, all day and all night long. Yeah. IN-SANE!!”

David felt like crying.

“You not gonna tell anyone, okay man?”

“I should call the fucking police!”

“Not a good idea. Chill man. Nana never leaves me more’n two, three days.”

“Are you quite sure about that?” David regarded the state of the younger man’s clothing, the quantity of Chinese take-out containers, an unspeakable bucket. He was sweaty; the room stank atrociously. Adding to the reek was that pus-y sore on the shackled ankle.

“It’s for my own good, man. I got no discipline. I wouldn’t work this much unless…”

David watched the young genius go scumbling through the piled-up trash
and treasure of his painting-table. Amidst squashed tubes of color, bits of blackened tin-foil, burnt-down candles, broken crockery, pizza crusts, coke cans and filthy scraps of rag, Pierre-Louis drew forth a pristine paint-brush. He caressed its bristles, murmuring to himself. It broke David’s nerve to see how blind, even stupid he appeared. His famous grace had vanished: the posture was that of a demented bum, the hand movements vague, wandering:

“Pierre-Lou you cannot let her do this to you!”

Now the vacant mood swiveled into viciousness, “Fuck you man and fuck off. Who ast you? What you doin’ here anyhow?” He swept an arm towards his Work, “Know what I’m getting for this series? Nana’s asking MOMA for two-hundred-fifty thousand. EACH. That’s a quarter of a mil, you fuckin’ has-been.

“So like I said, fuck you and fuck off.”

David cringed and managed to reply, “It’s not worth it.”

“Huh! Sure as hell IS worth it! Jealous I think? Yeah. Jealous bastard.”

David took a step back, which inspired the younger artist to lunge forward aggressively, though he lurched against the chain, unable to reach the bottom stair, “Make yourself fuckin’ useful and go get fuckin’ Lola to get my stuff I can’t finish nothing…” then he seemed to freeze in a sort of spasm.

David stumbled up the steps, his heart pounding violently, terror-struck, even crying a little for the pity of it. As he reached the top the voice of the genius wafted up the stairs, “Nana? Nana!” To David’s semi-hallucinated ears it sounded like an infant crying for its mother – “NANA!”

He got out to the sidewalk, just barely was able to flag a cab and fall in. I didn’t see that. I was only imagining… utter madness. I could not have seen that shackle, simply impossible, in this day and age?

He wished he had the nerve to call the police.

Once in his studio he locked himself in, and broke down. Who would believe him, if he had anyone to tell? Who wouldn’t think he was, yes, simply jealous? He felt on his own ankle the cold steel digging in, felt the yielding pus, the torn flesh.

I did, I did see it…

He laughed once, sardonically, to recall the tidy bondage, the stylized, trivial torments displayed on that gallery’s walls. Whilst just below, in the infamous basement, the most dire of enslavements continued.

One day it will all come out — how that work was really created.

David felt like going back and smashing up every one of those pretty, shocking, heartless photographs. The Zaray Gallery/Whorehouse: Art? A vile exploitation, for money, of the deepest fiber of the soul.


“You are making it up. It’s just not possible.”

“I tell you, I saw it with my own eyes and I still can’t believe it.”

“And the paintings are – quite good?”

“Stupendous. Going for a quarter of a million.”

“So… are they worth it?”

“What do you think?”

“Quite a job of pimping, on a very grand scale.”

He had finally called his friend Angelique, and David was taking the opportunity to come out vociferously against the use of drugs.

“But… they are getting him… everything he needs?” she remarked carefully.

“So it would seem. But wait, wait until he comes to the end of his ideas. Every artist does, more or less. But at the rate he’s tearing himself up, with the coke, and probably heroin too, I give him less than a couple of years.”

“But by then he’ll be obscenely rich.”

“And washed up as a painter. With a habit the size of the Empire State Building, churning out anything to feed the monkey.”

The phone was falling out of his numb hand, as he brought his hysterical raving to a close. They agreed to meet for dinner the next evening… One hour killed. One hour left, til magic-hour.

His thoughts went back to Pierre: so what, really, if the man was a mess. He was painting masterpieces. And yes, so what if all artists eventually came to the end of their vision? as he had insisted to Angelique. He certainly had.

Then to work only to keep up a reputation, to live on, and on, in complete boredom with yourself, self-disgusted, knowing you were excoriate.

David marvelled at how he could talk to Angelique about anything. Such a sympathetic soul, though hag-ridden, jaded, knows it all, she’s almost as bad as I am.

“The Angel” had once called that constant, very bad feeling ‘the inconsolable center.’ A point, located around the solar plexus, that is always needful, always hungry, never satisfied. An inner ache — something, perhaps, like a conscience.

But was it a real need, or only a masochistic entity?

David was anyhow done with that inconsolable conundrum. In her, it would be inconsolable. She doesn’t do junk. Because it didn’t matter if a shot, or sniff didn’t last. Because there was always another one. And that was consolation enough.





Chapter 20


“Read Paracelsus”


For this newest problem of her life — that the person she loved was a heroin addict — Angelique intuited that ‘normal’ channels of healing would not be powerful enough — in the case of David.

Though Weiser’s immense occult bookstore was open on Broadway at Astor, she required a deeper search than current texts might offer, into the psychic bases for addiction. She had always meant to visit the library of the Parapsychology Institute on East 70th. While it is not a lending library, should the right invocations be made, one might achieve an astro-material double of whatever pages are required.

She was very pleased with the attending Librarian as the perfect fetishistic Scholar — pale and emaciate, necktie pulled too tight and thin, colorless lips disdainfully pursed against profane interlopers. She hoped her high-collared starched blouse, long skirt, hat and muff served to console him for her intrusion into the Sanctum Sanctorum; she imagined the Library had few readers.

She hoped with his blessings she might delve into a Truer Meaning of that essentially psychic illness: substance addiction.

He took down books for her with deft, reverent touch; under his delicate ministrations persuaded their arcane depths back to life. They sat together for more than three hours in a beautiful old wood-panelled reading room without exchanging a single word.

With intensest interest she read and made notes from the text of Addiction and Its Psychic Repercussions:

“The ethyl in alcohol, when taken into the body,
immediately seeks to escape into the Astral.
It naturally follows the usual avenues of communication
between the two Planes. But, in escaping, it passes
through the Chakral centers in a
reverse direction to the normal current,
and in so doing gradually burns off the insulating sheaths.”

Spurious though such an explanation may strike a strict modern scientist, they must agree with Us — that there must be more than one description for elements in phenomenal Nature. This paragraph seemed anyhow perfectly transparent to the basically practically-inclined, if esoterically perfumed, mind of a woman steeped in the poetical verities.

To consider there was a corporeal body of soul-stuff within the Astral — possessed of its own subtle physiology! clarified for her David’s specific problem. Why shouldn’t the Soul, interconnected with the body, have its own connective kind of flesh, with symbiotic heart, arteries, and veins, organs, tissues and blood — for the fulfillment of its special life?

“These Chakral centers, or doors, are normally protected
by Nature with oily covering, or sheaths,
composed of both Astral and physical matter,
which permit the flow of life-forces,
and protect them from encroachment by others.”

Angelique was pleased to read of a specific structure: a protective sheath, made of the mingled physical and astral… a third substance thereby? What could it be like? The oiliness especially intrigued her. She considered the dry, parched look of David’s hair and skin.

She considered how she was already conversant with other subtle essences — for example, sperm and semen had to be of this nature, given its psychic origin. Blood too, had to be of such commingled essences, honored as it is in sacrificial rites, like the magickal blood of Christ. And probably tears …

“Nature is never just — but she is exact.”

Her certainty that her Beloved was a heroin addict pushed her to seek a key to unlock a cure. For naively she did believe in one, and that she might wield it.

She did not yet understand that it might be best for him to be left alone. That his affliction might be karmically necessary, for his spiritual development. Loathesome as such an affliction may look, dubious as that development may seem, it was for no-one but David Morgan to judge how far his degeneration had yet to go.

Thus such soft care as Angelique’s would become only an intrusive judgment.

A sign that the conflict held a proper place in his soul…? He did enjoy his suffering. This might be the deepest perversity of heroin — it enables the user to live with pain, chaos, the worst in life, as it can all be transformed by the drug into pleasure… the classic sadomasochistic

She knew she was spending her love on a gamble, but she could not help herself. Her attraction seemed somehow beyond her control. It was perhaps a problem in her own karma —- to care for those who were indifferent to her care —

“These Doors should be opened only by a gradual purification
and development of the protecting sheaths.
Normally this takes place as a natural growth,
resulting from a life of mental and bodily purity,
and intense spiritual aspiration.
It should not be a forced development, for each Door
must be opened or closed under the absolute control of the Will.”

Angelique considered thus the ‘DT’s,’ delirium tremens from alcohol, LSD melt-downs, all those spills of unconscious material into a psyche broken by excess. One could possibly benefit therefrom creatively, if one was hardy enough intellectually to integrate monsters into the poetic cucurbite. Violence, suicide, all horrors, all demons, such evils were not fantastic. They truly existed. More often, she understood, artists just went insane.

It takes a certain kind of steel — that is strength, and resilience — to live in the presence of such material. Well that is the difference between the true artist, and the common man, is it not?

She read over the description of the destroying of the sheaths again and again. She wanted instruction — she needed more detail — for example, which Chakral centers were damaged thus? Could they be repaired? What Doors were opened illicitly? Could they be re-sealed? Could this information be used against the Heroin Demon?

What was the ultimate end for a soul thus damaged?

“Once these sheaths are destroyed,
the person is no longer able to close the Doors,
and so becomes an easy prey to the denizens of the Astral.
The results may be insidious, and not show
markedly for several incarnations. But the result is certain.
Every indulgence in the destructive substances
is a step towards the Second Death.”

Angelique yawned, hung listlessly over the page. Egads not that again… reeking a bit of ye olde Christian punishment… staring down ye olde Maw of Dissolution. Is there no evading it? She felt both sleepy, and irritable.

What she did not comprehend was that David’s Fate was set; her impulse towards some loving cure was futile.

Thus was she losing interest in the truth.

She read over the last paragraph: “every indulgence in the destructive substances…” yes so drugs were included in that. So was it that there was no hope for David? That not just this life, but future incarnations, were to be stained with both the weakness and the crime?

That would mean… I should disinvolve immediately. But thus she wrangled:

He’s the one who is always calling me! He needs me — it’s because I can help!

Why isn’t there more on how to protect ones’ self against these ‘denizens of the Astral?’ What are they?

And for that matter, isn’t every indulgence in NON-destructive substances ALSO a step towards the end?

What is this ‘Second Death?’ Isn’t every bloodie thing in the universe a step towards the First, Second, Third or Fourth Death?

So her mind pattered on, justifying David’s madness, her sympathy for which was rendering her philosophy nihilistic.

She inquired of her effete Charon if there were any other texts on ‘the sheaths.’ He looked alarmed. Perhaps she trod on Initiate ground.
For some time he perused an index, but in what she perceived to be a desultory manner.

“No? Nothing specifically on the Physicality of the Soul? What about any books concerning heroin?”

He reared his head like a spooked horse. She realized he was growing tired of her. He may not have had so many demands on him in Aeons.

She wished she could enlist him, prove her worthiness. But when she erred in joking, requesting he make her ‘astral doubles’ of the edifying text, he could barely suppress a shudder. Anyhow he delved into an interior room, and did her bidding over the xerox machine.

Angelique waited by a window, looking out upon a derelict marble courtyard. Its white stone was ingrained with the heavy black soot of Manhattan. Dirty plastic summer chairs were offensively scattered about. A book right by her eye ironized the view: Realms of the Living Dead. She took it down and read the first paragraph:

“ The great aim of evolution is to make the personality
the earthly expression of the Spiritual Soul,
to the same degree that it now expresses the animal soul.
Yet every form of energy must be directed,
must be applied, with integrity,
to the full satisfaction of its destiny.”

At that, she decided she was responding to something more than David, something greater than her aroused emotions. Her soul had some requirement, and she felt again that she had no choice in the matter. Nothing interested her but what related to him.

Thus, despite the stigma of masochism, she would follow through on this destiny: would love someone who did not, perhaps could not love her.
But that would not matter. She had to see the passion through to its end. Such would be her affliction; but for what necessity?

Because she was swept up in the conviction that all she was now experiencing with him had occurred before, in a past life with him, and that Contemporaneous with this shared Past would they live into the Future, and realize some compelling, resolving Reality — in Art, and through Art.

Her underworld emissary rematerialized, and handed over the evanescent texts. As she slid Realms back into its place, his look was reproving. Bustling up, tsking gently, he tapped its spine until it sat precisely as he required. How many more years would pass before it was again pawed by human hands?

He gazed at her thoughtfully, and issued one dictum: “Read Paracelsus.”

Thus the Secretary of the Arcanum, ensconced upon his throne, took up the thread of his Alexandrian toil and assumed, once more, an impeccable froideur, that permitted Angelique, as she departed, to gaze unobstructed upon his perfection; which, even if it did not admit of such as she, was still some consolation.








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