Monday, July 23, 2007

Doomed, Doomed, My Love is Doomed

Time: 1983
Place: Atlanta. Georgia

I lived a few blocks from a strip club. I was watching this stripper with amazingly large natural breasts dance for these two guys. She looked over at me, shook her finger, and said, “You shouldn’t be watching.” What the hell, I thought, I paid the cover charge.

My apartment was on the second floor of a two-story building. I hardly noticed the couple who lived downstairs from me until the woman stopped me in the hallway.

“Do you go to that club very often?” she asked.

I was confused at first, then I realized she was the stripper with the big natural breasts who shook her finger at me. Her name was Karen and her boyfriend was Perry. He was a cab driver. They had that living on the edge vibe that warned me that if I wasn’t careful, they would burn me. I decided to keep a safe, but polite distance. When Perry offered to sell me weed or cocaine, I politely refused.

Karen and Perry worked at night. Their shifts ended around three a.m. and when they got home, they would crank their stereo up all the way. They listened to hard head-banging heavy metal. Just the sort of music I wanted to hear when I had to get up at seven a.m. for my nine to five job. The other neighbors and I complained constantly. Karen and Perry always acted surprised that they had disturbed anyone and would immediately turn the music down.

Another thing Karen and Perry did late at night was get into big drunken arguments in the courtyard of the apartment complex. The courtyard was a small grassy area that was right below my window. Because it was so close, Karen and Perry sounded like they were arguing in my bedroom.

Sometimes I would yell down at them to take it inside, but only if their argument lasted more than a few minutes. During these arguments, Perry yelled and Karen whimpered. It sounded like RAH, RAH, RAH, followed by mew, mew, mew. My favorite moment was the night, Perry shouted at her, “Nobody will ever love you like I do, so you’re DOOMED!”

“Are we all?” I said to myself. “Aren’t we all?”

One day, Karen showed up at my door with her telephone in her hand. She had a push button phone while I still had a rotary dial. It was that long ago. She looked at my phone and asked if she could borrow it. I said, sure come on in, but she meant she wanted to physically borrow the phone itself to plug into her line and in exchange she would leave hers. My girlfriend was over that day and watched the whole thing. I told Karen that I would give her my phone on the condition that she tell me why.

“They’re trying to kill us,” Karen said.

Karen explained that drug dealers were angry at her and Perry and the drug dealers were now trying to kill them. Karen and Perry were working with the police to snare the drug dealers, but that the police couldn’t get a decent trace with the push button phone. Apparently, you needed a good old rotary dial to get to trace a phone call. I gave Karen my phone and she left hers with me. A short time later, Karen returned and we traded back to our original phones. For weeks, my girlfriend kept saying, “They’re trying to kill us,” and then bust out laughing.

I grew very fond of Karen and Perry. They might have lived on the edge, but they were warm and friendly.

One day, I came home from work just as Karen and Perry were leaving their apartment. Perry had a cast on his arm and the top of his head was bandaged. His face was covered with bruises and he had two black eyes. He looked awful.

“What the hell happened to you?” I asked.

“The owners of the club where Karen works, that is where she used to work,” Perry said, “they did this to me.”

“Why?” I asked.

“They wanted her to sell drugs for them, and you know, maybe do a little prostituting on the side too,” Perry said.

“I told them no fucking way,” Karen said. “I couldn’t believe they would ask me to deal drugs. Can you believe that shit?”

“I went to the club and told the owners to leave Karen along,” Perry said. “Four guys grabbed me and beat the fuck out of me.”

“They beat him with a LEAD pipe,” Karen said.

Shortly after Perry’s terrible beating, Karen and Perry moved out of their apartment. I was really sorry to see them go. I had gotten used to their wild lifestyle and liked that they considered me their friend.

“Where will you go from here?” I asked.

“We’re going back home,” Perry said. “Back where it’s safer, where life is not so fast and rough and people are kinder and more small town good.”

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“New Jersey,” Perry answered.

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