Before Anthony Rienzi was married with two daughters and working for a marketing startup in North Carolina, he used to steal girls’ underwear.
Rienzi was the panty-pilfering bandit of Louis Pasteur Middle School in Little Neck, Queens. His heists started in the seventh grade and ended—as far as I know—when Corinne K. died in a car crash on Little Neck Parkway.
Rienzi was never caught. He’s never confessed. I’m the only one who knows about the jobs he pulled. We were best friends.
This morning Rienzi sent me a friend request on Facebook. We haven’t spoken in nearly two decades, and there he is, an older, thumbnail version of the kid I used to eat lunch with every day.
The guidebook promised “a revered afternoon,” the city would stop, people would spill out of the cafés and brasseries, and, sure, there were plenty of signs in the windows: Le Beaujolais Noveau Est Arrivé!, but most places were empty, apparently no real rush to uncork the first bottles. So, until things picked up, if they ever would, I thought I’d do something quite ordinary, my laundry, and when I got it spinning, a full load at the Lav-Club on the rue Frédéric-Sauton, I walked the few blocks to Le Vermeer Café.
It was quiet inside. Three Sorbonne students were playing cards by the toiletries; a collie was asleep by the coat rack.
The future is for ghosts.
Breeding placidly behind screens.
Electronic doubles, dead echoes,
Hollow shells of familiarity.
My mind is a ghost.
My body an echo.
Just a lump of days gone by
The words “fifteen years,” from the judge’s mouth, hit him with a monstrous force. “I haven’t killed no one!” And it was then, in the fury of the moment, with the click of the handcuffs, the cold metallic grips, that he began looking at life differently.
Later, he would tell the pastor: “I was playing a game I could never win, and I guess like a lot of dudes, I got caught up in a false reality. Up was down. Open was closed. No was yes.” And locked up he had plenty of time to think about it. All along, he had thought he was game tight but it took only one mistake: a telephone call to a DEA informant about a few white hot kilos rolling down from Chapel Hill, and it was game over, Cheyenne.
“Mr. Andrew Gavin. Take a seat. It’s time to talk. It’s time we talk about you.”
“What the hell is going on? I didn’t do anything wrong!”
“I do apologize, Andrew, but we had no choice but to come for you. You left us no choice.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong!”
Silence in me
as my eyes open
to a world,
to a life
that I struggle
to make better,
so that I might finally
taste the breath of freedom.
The glass door whooshed open, and sunlight slipped in. A smell of chemicals mixed in the air with blood, sweat, and maybe even tears. Dirty footprints marked the tiled floor right up to the mat under the glass window. A pad and pen was ready for the visitor, and she signed in. As she signed her name and time, she grimaced at a broken nail, making a mental note that such a thing had to be fixed and could not be ignored. As she moved away from the glass window, she made a fist so as not to see such a flaw, but then she saw those in the waiting room staring back at her.
There were only eight chairs. An elderly woman sat in one, staring off into space. A mother with two kids occupied three, and her little kid was a monster.
How long does an art experience or observation last? One painting, maybe can last a few minutes as you stand in its grace with contemplation before moving on to the next piece. A sculpture may last slightly more, as you circle for perspective to unlock its meaning and find interpretation. Modern art, depending on its form, can be an immersive encounter that moves through various mediums, yet its engagement still only lasts a short while. The observation of art is a fleeting experience, for connoisseurs and academics the impact can be longer, but for the average art lover and gallery goer, art can be a fading encounter. Film on the other hand, taken as an art form, can last from eighty minutes and beyond, as the film’s contents and narrative sink in, its impact after viewing can be immeasurable.
The band was practicing here for the first time, three of us in my living room, when grunge was all the rage. We called ourselves Count Bitchula. People likened our sound to a brutally overdriven version of Violent Femmes. They associated us with the Melvins, Nirvana. I didn’t mind the comparisons. I would’ve personally thanked Kurt Cobain for ending the reign of hair metal if I could have. Incidentally, Kurt Cobain and I were both twenty-seven that year, and I felt an odd kinship with him every time I put on a Nirvana record. This was somebody who never bought into the lies, somebody who’d figured things out, who knew that idiots ruled our planet and he was having no part of it.
When I was a child, I was afraid of the closet. It didn’t help watching movies like the first Poltergeist or that American Ninja movie, where another girl gets sucked into the closet and then gets possessed by a ninja. The Horror movie, House scared the ever living crap out of me, but the one scene that I will never forget is when that thing erupts out of the closet. And I was done, but I still watched the rest of it. And the closet continued to haunt me even with Cat’s Eye when James Woods peered inside, realizing that someone was indeed in there, watching him. It would take years to get over this phobia. Thank you, Hollywood, but the stuff of nightmares had yet to come.