I’d visited the Laundromat,
a large, sterile, white-tiled room, four, maybe five times already, enough to
loathe it not for the sad daytime soaps that played simultaneously, but mostly
for an awful 25-cent toy crane that, every 10 minutes, giggled like Pennywise
before imploring children to feed it money. But I had embraced my new home in
New York City unconditionally and was keeping atop my laundry with
uncharacteristic frequency to have my freshest duds available.
Ryan was a fellow minority,
the first Caucasian I’d seen at the Laundromat. The neighborhood where I lived,
on Decatur Street between Wilson and Knickerbocker avenues, consisted primarily
of Dominican and Puerto Rican families and was only a train stop from East New
“I like your shirt,” Ryan
told me as I folded. He had a Mohawk. He had reddish hair, fair skin and the
disposition of a real live wire, the type that makes you inexplicably a little
nervous. I thanked him. “You live here?” he asked. Ryan’s jowls were badly
swollen. He could barely enunciate. I told him that I did, over on Decatur
Street. “That’s awesome man! I’m house-sitting for a friend over there.” He was
the real friendly type. “You smoke?” Sometimes, I told him. “Dude, we should
hang out. We’ll have to burn one and have a couple brews sometime.” I
reluctantly agreed and we exchanged cell phone numbers. Before I left, Ryan
apologized for his mumbled speech and swollen jowls. He had recently had his
wisdom teeth removed.
The following three nights
Ryan texted me. I replied the first night, told him that I was busy. I ignored
him the second night. On the third night, I told him that we could hang after I
finished work. However, by the time I got off work that night I was pooped and
hoping that Ryan had found someone or something else.
I hobbled off the train
desperately needing a toilet. This would happen frequently: I’d finish work,
enjoy a half liter of beer, sometimes two, then leave the L train 16 stops
later stupid, swollen and nearly leaking.
And there Ryan stood, right
outside the Wilson Avenue train station. “Spence! What’s good?”
Surprised and slightly
disturbed, I said, “Ryan, what’s up?” and then told him how badly I needed to
go. I continued along hurriedly, keeping Ryan a few steps behind, as he
jabbered faster than his thoughts could actualize.
I got home and left Ryan on
my stoop with a $3 four-pack of beer and ran into the bathroom. Afterward, I
let him in.
Structurally, my apartment
could just as well have been built of cardboard, though inside was cosmetically
modern, appliances and all. (That summer, as my roommate did our dishes, the
kitchen sink collapsed into the cabinet underneath.) According to my notebook,
Ryan “ooo’d” and “aaah’d” like a son-of-a-bitch. We returned to the stoop to
crack our beers and have a smoke.
Ryan gave an unsolicited
synopsis of his former heroin addiction and then asked what drugs I took. I
told him that, well, of the harder drugs, I enjoyed LSD most but I hadn’t tried
“Damn! That’s awesome!” He
paused, contemplated. “I haven’t done acid in a while.” He stole a drag,
recollected. “I’d do that again.”
I told Ryan why I’d come to
live in Bushwick—to become a famous writer—and, struck by a furious wave of
excitement, he began telling me things.
According to Ryan, he was
27, had a law degree, Series 7 stockbroker’s license and a brownstone apartment
in East New York. He had a 24-year-old Puerto Rican wife and a 3-year-old
daughter. Ryan was let go from JP Morgan when the economy tanked and has since
begun a DJ career while working as a part-time box seat concierge at MSG.
After our beers, the only
sensible thing to do was continue drinking, so we purchased 40s of Olde
English, returned inside and sat at my dining room table, slugging away. With
each tick of the second hand, I became more awkward.
Ryan asked if we could
watch Sons of Anarchy on my computer
because it was his favorite show and because he’d missed the last episode.
I positioned my laptop on
the kitchen bar table and we assumed adjacent chairs and began watching the
screen. When every few minutes the video stalled to buffer, I would inspect the
white paint on the wall in front of me. From my periphery, I watched Ryan’s
eyes slowly close. He began drifting toward the laptop screen, nearly drooling;
before toppling over, he shot upright again. With eyes shut, Ryan shoved his
hand down his pants to scratch his balls. He caught me unguarded the first
time, when he, eyes still shut, spastically swung around toward his back and
attacked a bothersome pimple.
After some time, I squared
up with and nudged him. “Yo… Ryan!” I nearly shouted. His eyelids slowly
opened wide. “You’re nodding out,” I said.
“What? Huh? No I’m not.
This show is great, right?” I said that it was and Ryan fell asleep again.
I let him carry on like
that, nearly toppling over and then re-righting himself, unsure whether or not
he needed a place to stay and if I could trust Ryan if he did. Soon enough, I
told him that it was time to go and gave him two dollars and 25 cents for the L
train. He left cordially and quietly.