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Wayne Wolfson By

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I was superstitious.

The emperor of all that lay under the open, indoor umbrella, the reverse V shaped land which lay under a ladder.

Some names are all voodoo. I had been hunted by several Jeans.

No matter who I wake up next to there's a smile that's not in the cards.

I needed to go somewhere new. For inspiration, for the fleeting fits that would use up what was left of the night. The usable part doled out to everyone regardless of taste or ambition. I liked the girls on the East side. The tough Russian chicks with icy stares.Their passion and the ever present potential for violence. No mock gentleness was needed and in this was a sort of freedom.

Her name didn't suit this city. Her name was the same as that of the first girl I ever kissed.

Little Neva.

She demanded we get right to the meat of the matter. Feed the tigers. There would be no acting cute and clever. No "new in town strategies. Over many drinks she chose me. My capacity for drinking and my writing gave me a Russian soul, or so she said.

Her older brothers had helped make her tough. They also roughed me up. A test of my resolve. Was I serious? Would I come back? Would I complain?

Feed the tigers and they eventually stop eating you.

The first time I slept over, her brothers stuck around almost until dawn, undaunted. They each kissed my cheek before finally disappearing.

She said that she slept with her eyes open, but I knew she was faking it. What kind of a weird warning was that any ways? She wouldn't admit it, but often there were nightmares. She wanted a cat. Her feet were each missing a bone and the cat would keep the crows away, keep them from taking any more.

We always went to the same bar. Always only regulars, anyone new would be made so uncomfortable their glass would be left half full. There was music. We could fight and everyone pretended not to hear, even when some of her dry-percussive slaps were involved. The brittle sound of a twig breaking underfoot during an autumn walk.

When I went to take a piss, splash some water on my face, there was always someone to give me advice. I didn't need it, but I would rather have these guys for me than against. What does a series of nods cost anyways.

Music never failed to make the peace. I would try to time our fights with the time in-between each set.

A piano, a horn and maybe some drums. The drums really weren't important. Usually if there actually was a drummer he was someone's friend.

The pianist plays and people react.

During sad songs he weeps with them. Happy ones aren't as powerful, but they allow him to reach with one hand for his drink, eyes compressed into squints as he joins in the laughter.

Although no one new came in, during the tourist season they sometimes hired a horn too. For the pianist the spell was always broken the minute it comes in, no matter what the song.

In-between sets he stands outside smoking, letting the customers file by as he stares into nothingness.

We decided to get a place together. I hated moving, it made me nervous but, mine was too small, with too much history. To balance the power it had to be a new place. We found a cozy walk up. Her uncle owned the building, so no matter what she insisted, I always thought of it as hers. Her place.

When ever she got her period she would spend the first day raging then as the motor wore down a crying jag. Her passion would scorch anything that ventured too close.

Little Neva was going to commit suicide, but had caught a cold, calling the whole thing off. I bought her a bouquet of carnations and everything was again, all right.

Usually I tried to stay away during these times.

Signs of reality setting in. Her brothers, ever present were getting on my nerves, My writing, my Mahler, beard hair in the sink, on hers.

I needed to do some favors for her brothers so that when we were quit I could just call it even.

When she was not home and I was angry at her or disappointed by life, either of which was bound to occur on a daily basis, I would take the metal lipstick case that had been her grandmothers from the old country and throw it against the wall.

At first I wanted to break it, but after awhile I respected its resilience.

The final, when it all came down, there wasn't an airing of all our grievances, a laundry list five years in the making. She simply asked why the lipstick case was all dented and shook her head.

That was it? The case was the final straw? Why was the case dented? The case was always dented, did I say that out loud? I had been abusing it for years. Hell, I didn't even get anything from it anymore. It was just one of many empty rituals.

She went out, still shaking her head. I grabbed my notebooks and the coffee machine her uncle had given "us for our anniversary and headed to The Mick's.

Weeks of drinks and half started poems, followed by double shifts to pay for the studio I eventually poured myself into.


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