Sept. 6, 1983


 The hum of air conditioning competes with the sound of traffic.

 I know it is morning, but I cannot see a clock, laying here, lost, half awake, half afraid to slip back into sleep -- though I live a nightmare these days even while awake. Anne confuses me, a stranger who slips in and out of my life without the responsibility of love.

 She doesn’t know how to remain, always wandering from place to place and person to person, getting stuck on things, but never attached.

 Sometimes I feel like a clown or comedian, caught up with the same dismal punch line, my apartment a parade ground for friends and strangers. Pauly lives here now, in the very same room he lived in a decade ago. He plots constantly against Anne’s brother, Clayton, the way he once plotted against me.

 “This apartment isn’t meant for three people,” he constantly tells me. “We have to find a way to get Clayton out.”

 Pauly said as much to Garrick in 1975 when I slept in the kitchen instead of Clayton.

 Is life a constantly repeated pattern of behavior in which only the pieces are exchanged, Clayton for me, me for Garrick, this Pauly for a younger Pauly?

 In 1975, we had plans. I’d moved here from Montclair in order to get one of the other apartments soon to become vacant -- the old Polish dying off one by one. In our deathwatch then, we waited for the old man in 84 Passaic Street to die or move out, and instead, he lingered, making me, Pauly and Garrick go for each other’s throats. Garrick was depressed. After three years, he was yet to recover from his breakup with Jeannie. In fact, he then approached critical point, exhibiting classic signs of depression. He did not sleep; but was always tired. He sat and stared at things, and frequently got drunk. Pauly fled here from Montclair, too, after his lost his job at the book store, after Jane broke up with him and took up Buddhism. The three of us constantly ganged up on each other, two against one, Pauly and me cursing Garrick, Garrick and me cursing Pauly, Pauly and Garrick plotting to get rid of me.

 At one point, Pauly traded his electric guitar for an air conditioner, then installed a lock on his bedroom door so we couldn’t get any cool air. Garrick and I lit a package of fire crackers and shoved it under his door.

 I suppose our situation now differs in one important respect. Pauly can not ally himself with Clayton. Anne’s brother is just too strange, a loyal robot for Scientology, with his command books and his audio tapes. Pauly wants him to leave, but needs me to side with him, and I can’t throw Clayton out without offending Anne.

 So I lie here staring at the ceiling, the hum of the neighbor’s air conditioning filling the morning, and I listen to Pauly, moving around in his room, and wonder if he will get depressed like Garrick did, now that Jane has condemned him to Passaic again, or will he wake up one morning, walk into the kitchen, and kill Clayton?


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