She Blind-sighted Him

Henry sick allot, almost everyday— it was one of those things, one thing or the other, headaches and joint pain, feeling powerless on a summer evening, somewhere between 1970 and 1980.  

Henry, 43 — years of daily drug and alcohol abuse had takin its toll all right. Laying in bed with his curtains shut tight, writing on an electric IBM typewriter, sipping Jack Daniels out of the bottle for medicinal purpose, all day into the evening. 

Then, when the sun goes down he can go out— because, the sun and any source of bright light made him feel uncomfortable, photophobic, which isn’t a phobia but is a sensitivity of the eyes to bright light. 

At any rate, in the evening he would take a hot shower and force himself to go outside and walk the city, working through his pain, ignoring his pain—oddly thinking if he missed a night of walking the city streets he would die, clearly death anxiety or as Freud called it Thanatophobia. 

And yes Henry had childhood issues to boot, he was raised by a deaf nanny, didn’t know who his father was and didn’t see his mother Helen Lucowski much because she would disappear on drunk benders with any bum who could keep up with her.

His deaf nanny, Nil could speak, but not clearly, she could read lips though, so when Henry wanted to make a point embracing this or that issue he would put his head in front Nil’s and exaggerate his lip movement and shake his head to make sure that Nil knew he meant business. 

Nil was in her thirties and attractive. Being deaf and having to stay at home with Henry most of the time limited her life, and she was a virgin. 

When Henry was 12 he tried to fuck her, but she fought him off.  He never hit on her again, but he drilled a small peephole into her bedroom through his bedroom closet and would watch her undress at night. She would masturbate from time to time, he enjoyed the show but wondered why she wouldn’t fuck? It was obvious she liked the feeling, maybe it was some kind of moral contention. 

Henry didn't know what made Nil tick, she did what was expected of her but not much more. She took care of Henry until he left home at 16. He never saw Nil or Helen Lucowski again. Later in life by chance he saw Helen’s obituary in the Queens Gazette—the only details given in the obituary were that she died of Psoriasis of the liver in Little Sisters of Poor Queens, Henry not surprised and thinking she was lucky to die in a warm bed and not in a Bowery dive.  

He often wondered if Nil popped that lovely cherry of hers, sure that she got laid eventually, wondering who the lucky sap was who got her cherry?     

After leaving home in the late 60s Henry shipped out with the Merchant Marines, this was a period of liberation for him and he took full advantage of the ship's library and exchanged books with other readers aboard— reading everything he could get his hands on, Henry Miller, The Buddhist Bible, The Bhagavad Gita, Lawrence Durrell, Hemingway, Tolstoy, Jerry Kozinski, Shakespear, Coleridge, Yeats, Whitman and allot more. Reading the Beats turned his world upside down. 

That’s some of it, the sordid and odd stuff of how Henry progressed into what he is— a sexist, underground, cult-hero who was too lazy to publish his work, hanging on to life, in constant pain, fighting-off the shit coming his way.  

Finally out the door of his Queen’s dig, needing to go anywhere, hungry and heading to Chaim’s Deli to nosh. 

Sitting at his regular booth his waitress Ruby greets him saying, 

Henry, you’re a sight for sore eyes, if you don’t show up to eat regularly everybody here thinks you have croaked in your apartment or something. 

Henry says,

I’m on my last breath all right Ruby, death is my constant companion, if I don’t keep on moving I will die in place, I think if I stop drinking Jack Daniels my heart will stop as well.

Ruby says,

I don’t know Henry I haven’t given up on you, and I love you doll, even though you’re not long for this world, hahaha!

Ruby’s laughter nervous and confused, the laughter of a half-truth spoken without much thought.   

Henry says,

How about a Kosher meal to bring a nearly dead man back to life? I’ll have some Gefilte Fish, Borsht, some brisket and a Bialy, and how about a tall Seven & Seven to wash it down. 

The meal brings Henry to life, walking out of Chaim’s Deli he says hello to everyone in the place on the way out, feeling like the world was his for the moment. 

After eating Henry walks the streets,  then lighting and smoking a joint. He reaches the Bowery, a bum, a guy they call Fried-liver smells the pot and says,

that shit doesn’t do nothin for me, why I’d take me a re-rolled butt and a big ole bottle of rotgut any ole time. 

He keeps walking thinking Fried-liver might have a few brain cells left but like Henry or any chronic boozer, Fried-liver could drop dead any moment. 

It was the Freudian thing surfacing again—nobody knows when they are going to die, it is impossible to calculate but everybody has a death and survival instinct, sometimes as in the case of chronic boozers and bums, the instincts are out of sync and balance. 

Anyway, Henry needed a drink and he found himself in Chelsea at a dive called Billymark’s West, EST 1956, a dark cave-like place with a jukebox, the walls covered with stained wood and framed posters. The regulars a weird tribe of folks, most of whom had been there drinking since noon, of course, Henry felt at home straight-away. 

Henry was drinking shots of Mescal, not hallucinating yet but feeling pretty good. He notices a MILF type slash X cheerleader type blond women walking in the door alone, she sits at the bar. He buys her a drink and she some comes over and sits next to him, he can see she is built from the floor up and looks as though she could be a Playboy Bunny, she then says,  

I’m Cindy Sherman I’m a Photographer, I have been putting together a show at MoMA, hanging my pictures, working all day and I need a drink dear, what’s your name? 

He says,

Henry Lucowski, I’m a soon dead underground cult figure and writer.

As Cindy Sherman talks on about her new show, Disasters and Fairy Tales, Henry could tell that she was more than just sexy, she had an intriguing face, like a Beat woman of the fifties, shrew-like.  She goes on to talk about her work to Henry and says,

You know in my portrait work, I photograph myself dressed up and made up in odd ways, wearing wigs, different type poses in other-worldly environments using diverse lighting. My goal is to deflect the gaze of the viewer and to turn them on to their own societal conditioning. 

Henry says, 

That’s really marvelous kitty cat, hahaha, just looking at you reorientates my sexual conditioning. 

Cindy Sherman gives Henry a nasty look and he senses things that things have turned bad quickly, she then says,  

Henry your very existence and who you are is everything wrong in the world that I'm trying to expose in my work. A sexist man in the world of oppressed women— the 60s pin-up girl who was supposed to be a good girl but still put out, the ambivalence and impossibility of the role that men have forced women into. 

Cindy Sherman then knocks him off his bar stool onto the dirty tiled floor and stomps on his face, breaking his nose, saying, 

That's from every woman in the world for every fucking sexist man in the world!

Everybody in the bar cheers and applauds.

Cindy Sherman the liberator then walks out the bar.

Henry gets up and the bartender hands him a bundled up towel filled with ice and says,

Well, champ you better get your nose looked at, 

Henry pays his bill and walks out of the bar, trying to hold his head up as his nose drips blood into the wet towel, humiliated and feeling awkward. 

He gets a taxi home to Queens, as he sits in the back seat he thinks to himself,

I didn't see it coming, that bitch stomped me good, she blind-sighted me all right!

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