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Excerpt from the novel The Forgotten Liars

By Timothy Horrigan

Copyright 2004-2005 Timothy Horrigan


    
     On Easter Saturday, it rained pretty much continuously, and I also felt depressed and out-of-sorts. I spent most of the afternoon studying at the Classics Library. A certain amount of this time was devoted to napping, but I actually got a lot of work done. I was even enjoying the work, which was an alarming sensation. As I walked home through the garish purple light of Amsterdam Avenue at sunset, after being at the library all afternoon, I thought to myself, "Maybe this is what it's like to be doing what I'm supposed to be doing." However, this thought didn't last long.
     As I neared the corner of Amsterdam and 121st, I heard church-bells. I had heard church-bells there many times before, but I had never really paid attention to them until this evening. I turned left onto West 121st, and walked about halfway up the block to a little Catholic church called Corpus Christi, where a Easter Saturday night mass was just beginning. I was pleased to discover that this particular service was in Spanish, which meant that I could understand just enough to know what was being said but not enough to be able to think about it.
     I sat in the back pew and tried to think about God, but mostly I thought about Tammi Honig.
     When I finally got back home, I didn't immediately continue working. I planned to fritter away some time listening to my Mahavishnu John McLaughlin records. I put on Inner Mounting Flame, but before the fade-out of "Meeting of the Spirits" I had already started reading and writing. By the end of the evening, I had finished a slightly eccentric term-paper entitled "Yeats and the Swan," dealing with Yeats's masturbatory fantasies about young girls and Ireland. I also wrote a poem. I didn't like it, but Aaron Vogelsang loved it and called it "a perfect poem."
    
    
     *****
    
     By the time I stopped working, it was after 2:00 a.m. I was annoyed that I had allowed myself to be diverted from more important things, like partying and music and girl-chasing. So I went out. I headed down Amsterdam Avenue with no destination in mind. While crossing over to Broadway via College Walk I saw Chad carrying Tammi over his shoulder. Tammi was singing, much louder, shriller, and more tunelessly than usual. "YOU MAKE ME FEEL!" she screeched. "YOU MAKE ME FEEL! LIKE A! LIKE A! LIKE A, RRRARGGGHHHH! YOU MAKE ME FEEL!"
     She stopped screeching when Chad paused briefly at the midpoint of College Walk. He angled himself so that Tammi's head was pointing in my direction. She didn't really look at me, but she kissed me briefly on the lips. She smelled as if she had been vomiting. In a barely perceptible whisper, she said, "We all had a great time at the Tavern on the Green. We're sorry you couldn't be there." She then handed me a small plastic-lined bag with something warm and soft inside.
     I was worried that this might be an airline barf-bag full of Tammi's vomit, even though she didn't mention having flown on an airplane today. But, I didn't complain. It turned out to be some left-over pasta with something with looked like fish sticks.
     Tammi resumed screeching, "YOU MAKE ME FEEL! "YOU MAKE ME FEEL! LIKE A! LIKE A! LIKE A, RRRARGGGHHHH! YOU MAKE ME FEEL!" and Chad continued carrying her to Eli Glogal Hall, and I continued walking aimlessly towards Broadway.
    
     I walked as far down as West 110th Street to check up on the Green Dolphin, but there wasn't anyone in the Green Dolphin worth drinking with. I wandered back up Broadway as far as the Parthenon Cafe, where I found Persefone Sgambati, Ruth Hunter, and Frosty Griggs sitting in a booth in the middle of the restaurant. Ruth and Persefone were both wearing white dresses. white cashmere sweaters, and amazing improvised hats with veils and wax fruit stuck all over them. Frosty was wearing an ancient seersucker suit and a panama hat. They had just returned from the Midnight Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, even though both Ruth and Frosty were actually Protestants.
     I stood by their booth for a minute or so, smiling rather dumbly. Persefone was telling us about the 1969 student riots in Paris. "There was a tank parked outside our window, and my brother and I used to drop containers of yogurt on top of it. The soldiers didn't mind, but my parents were angry with us," Persefone said.
     Ruth interrupted her and shouted, "Persefone! Percy Phone! Purse Zephyr Phony! Phony Purse Zephyr! Zipperhead! Zipperhead! Zipperhead!" She began to affectionately pound Persefone's cranium.
    
     I became very interested in the three souvenir Easter candles that were sitting on the empty seat next to Frosty. I casually picked up one of the candles. The candle was white, waxen, and smooth, as candles usually are. It was shaped like a tulip, to symbolize the newborn spring, and also the body of Jesus of Nazareth, who — well, it's a very long and unpleasant story, and I don't want to bore you with all the gory details. Suffice it to say that Jesus of Nazareth was a very ambitious person who managed to get himself into a lot of trouble. In fact, he ended up dying, at least once, and possibly twice.
    
     When Ruth stopped pounding Persefone's cranium, Frosty said, "If you give ol' Zipperhead her candle back, you can sit down."
     I handed the candle to Persefone who said, "How kind of you, William."
     "Zephyr! Zephyr! Zephyr!"
     Frosty grabbed my knee, and began caressing my thigh. He said, "How the fuck are you, Bill? How the fuck are you? We're sorry you couldn't make it. "
     "Make it to what?" I asked him.
     "To the midnight mass. It was very inspirational. Much better than the Tavern on the Green."
     "Tavern on the Green?" I said.
     "Yes, Billy, the Tavern on the Green," Persefone said as she grabbed my Tavern on the Green doggy-bag. "I thought you were supposed to be there with Tammi, celebrating her birthday."
     "Her birthday?" I squawked as I started to get up to head for the pay-phone on the back wall of the dining room, underneath the autographed photo of Nana Mouskouri.
     Frosty pushed me down onto my seat, and kissed me on the cheek. "Actually, Sunday the 6th is her birthday, not Saturday the 5th, so you still got 22 hours to celebrate," he explained. Persefone poured the contents of my doggy-bag onto her egg-stained plate. The food looked disgusting. Persefone evidently agreed, because she promptly stubbed out her cigarette in it.
    
     We sat there for almost an hour. I was hungry, but the waitress never deigned to take notice of me, so I was unable to order anything to eat. Well, I suppose that if I had actually been really hungry, I could have physically assaulted the waitress, or gone over to the counter, or something, but I wasn't motivated to go to such extremes. So, I sat there and attempted to listen to Persefone talking about politics. Mostly, though, I just sat there and thought about Tammi, but after about half an hour I started staring at Ruth, who was still interrupting Persefone's spiel by rapping her on the cranium and shouting things like "Persefone! Mercy Phone! Purse Zephyr Phony! Phony Purse Zephyr! Zipperhead! Zipperhead! Zipperhead! Zephyr! Zephyr! Zephyr!" Whenever Ruth caught my eye, she smiled at me affectionately. Once, she even reached over the table, rapped me on the cranium, and shouted "Post no bills, O useless Billy!" I was thrilled.
    
     After we got tired of hanging around the Parthenon, we went outside and stood on the sidewalk. Ruth feebly tried to hail a cab. She wasn't having much luck all the cabs were either full, On Radio Call, or Out of Service. Finally, Frosty took over and got a cab to stop. I thought he was going to walk back uptown with Persefone and me, but instead he zipped off downtown with Ruth.
     "It's sad," Persefone said. "She's a very pretty girl, but she lets herself get too thin. Tonight for example, all she ate was an English muffin. Oh well, though, I guess it's better not to eat at all than to eat stuff but then barf it all back, like your friend Tammi does."
     "What are you talking about, Persefone?"
     "Oh, Bill, stop denying, okay? The woman has an eating disorder! Not to mention some other disorders as well." Persefone said as she took my hand and began leading me uptown. I couldn't think of anything to say, so Persefone began humming the melody to an early Clash song entitled "Deny."
     I had grown extremely weary, and Persefone seemed to be weary, too, judging by the coldness of her hand. Nevertheless, it felt good to walk beside Persefone, on Upper Broadway in the middle of the night Between Good Saturday and Easter Sunday.
    
     I imagined a Cartesian grid, with the two of us at point {0,0,0}. The rest of the universe moved, but Persefone and I were stationary. Persefone and I parted paths by the Jewish Theological Seminary. Persefone continued to be at Point {0,0,0} , and I lost track of my coordinates altogether.
    
     "Are you going home now, Billy?"
     "Can you get home safely, Persefone?"
     "I think so. Goodnight."
     "See you tomorrow. Goodnight."
    
     Goodnight. I went home. The grid disappeared. I did not get up till almost noon. I could hear the bells of Corpus Christi ringing nearby.
    
    


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