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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Obscured American: Rose the Mistress

As published at Unz Review, 2/10/17:

Before its rents became astronomical, I lived in Center City, so frequented McGlinchey’s and Dirty Frank’s. Now, I walk into Frank’s and hardly recognize anybody. Uncle Moe, Tommy Hackett and Skinny Dave are long dead, the last from an OD while in his late 30’s. Others have moved away. Last week, though, I ran into Rick, whom I hadn’t seen in 13 years.

Reminiscing, Rick pointed to a booth, “I proposed to my wife right there.” Then, to another booth, “That’s where a woman grabbed my dick. I went home with her, but didn’t cheat. I only ate her out, and she only sucked my dick. We didn’t have intercourse.”

“I don’t know how you could stop at a certain point,” I marveled. Then, “Oral sex is not cheating?”

“No, it’s not.”

“You never cheated on your wife?”

“Another time, I did sleep with a woman. I dated my wife for ten years before we got married, so it’s only twice in 40 years, if you count the blow job and eating pussy. That’s not bad.”

“You’re like a saint, man! Maybe your wife has cheated a little, too. What if she sucked a guy’s dick? Would you consider that cheating?”


“But not the other way around?”

“You do have a point.”

“Would you be pissed if she cheated twice in 40 years?”


“Shouldn’t it balance out?”

“You do have a point.”

Rick’s two lapses don’t quite constitute a double life, but who knows what he’s hiding? Even the most candid don’t confess everything.

News of high school teachers having sex with students have become blasé. Often, these are married women with children. Sobbing, a 37-year-old explained to the judge that she habitually mounted her charge because of “self-esteem issues,” a perfectly valid reason. It seems like everybody is sneaking some on the side.

If lowly schmucks are already like that, can you imagine all the inconvenient truths crammed into the closets of the super ambitious? The larger the appetite, the greater the propensity for transgressions and lies, and since this applies to entire societies, you should expect the most hubristic to commit the greatest crimes, accompanied by the grossest lies.

The shining city upon a hill is a projection, but with a real basement containing torture chambers, false flags and lots of pizzas. Fumbling through the stinking dark, one steps on corpses or zombies, discussing politics.

Even Christ may be a horny hustler, according to Cigar Tim, a drinking buddy. At Friendly Lounge, Tim said of a celebrity, “He must get more pussy than Jesus!”

Innocently, I replied, “If he gets laid once, that’s one more than Jesus!”

“So the Bible tells you,” Tim snarled. “If you’re God’s son, you’d be at every party, and you’d be, like, ‘You know who my dad is? I’m just saying. This guy’s dad owns a dealership. Guess who my dad is? My dad is God! Yeah, that’s my pop!’”

So even the greatest news may be fake. Me, I just think that behind a lie is usually another lie, is another lie, and tranquility rests on mountains of lies.

Just now, a two-star general, David Haight, is exposed as having an 11-year affair with an American military contractor he first met in Iraq. Into anonymous sex with multiple partners, they visited swingers’ clubs in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia and elsewhere. Though she targeted and pursued the married father of four, 49-year-old Jennifer Armstrong now laments to USA Today, “I gave him the best years of my life.”

This longish preamble leads us to Rose, not her real name, whom I’ve met but twice, both at Friendly. Two years ago, Rose told me she’s from Chicago and had studied acting in college. “Three Sisters” and “The Lower Depths” were her favorites. Though the plays I had seen could be counted on two hands, or maybe just one, I had seen and read the Chekov, and read the Gorky 30 years ago. We also talked about Tennessee Williams.

One afternoon last week, Rose reappeared as a different woman. The bar owner and I heard her long before she barged into the nearly empty joint. Rose was that loud.

Slurring when not raving, Rose talked with me or her lover, Thomas, first on the phone, then in person when he showed up. With his crew cut, trimness and bomber jacket, Thomas came off as ex military, and he’s old enough to have fought in Vietnam. Rose is around 40 and perhaps three quarters white, a quarter black.

Sitting together, she did most of the talking. Awaiting his treat later, he was comically meek. The old man gladly tolerated his lover’s stream of abuses because here, right next to him, was someone of his daughter’s age. Like so many others, Thomas was cheating not just his wife, but time, God’s medium of universal punishment. Whatever guilt he felt from the first was more than drowned out by the deep, calming pleasure of the second.

Where it most mattered, this relatively young woman had accepted, forgiven and salved Thomas, so who cared if she was shooting her mouth off? Though Rose was a horror, frankly, he probably thought I was envious. Adjusting his wedding band, Thomas grinned.

At Friendly, the jukebox periodically plays by itself. Roughly five minutes after Thomas’s appearance, Tina Turner belted out “Private Dancer”:

I’m your private dancer, a dancer for money.
I’ll do what you want me to do.
I’m your private dancer, a dancer for money.
And any old music will do.

Such synchronicities are as good a proof of God’s existence as any, I believe.

For obvious reason, I couldn’t take photos of Rose or Thomas, and though the below is too brief a record of her voice, it’s still a clear enough portrait, I think.

My job? Which one?! It is very, very temporary. Ushering and ticketing. It is what it is. It ain’t no glamorous position. C’est la vie!

Yes, Thomas, how are you? I’m sorry, I don't speak Mexican. Speak English to me! I ain’t got time for that shit. Fuck, yeah!

The rain has stopped. Here’s when the angels come back, but not at ya!

Silence, si vous plait! I talk to myself. Language is never a nice thing.

Yes, Thomas. I’m inside Friendly. Where are you? I just ordered us food from next door. Can you come inside, please. Thank you. Bye!

I don’t have a PhD, but I have a bachelor’s. I’m dating a married man, right now, the guy that’s coming in. I shouldn't be talking, see, because I'll get all cocky, socky.

I do love him, though. We've been seeing each for years, and years, and years. Just him and me. Well, apart from his little Mexican wife. Good for her!

My name ain't Becky Quick. So, figure it out, but don't ask me what I'm doing with a guy like that.

Next door, the sardine sandwich is the best! Aaaah! If I were to go for pho soup, I either go to 11th and Washington, or I go two doors down, but, sardine sandwich, that bitch got it figured out.

Thomas, where are you? Yes, but driving is the first fuckin’ problem! I’m not moving, from this seat that I’m in. I’ve got you a spot, OK?

Where are you at? Come meet me. I ordered food, and half of that is for you, dumb ass! You little fuckin’ German bitch! You better come to 8th and Washington and pick me up.

Oh, you’re on 8th? All of a sudden, homie is on 8th! 8th and what?! You could be at 8th and Jesus Christ!

You’re at 8th and Montrose? Well, you better keep it shipping! Keep it moving! You’re on your way, boo boo.

This is Thomas. He had a hard time parking, so I’ll act as if that’s the reason for his ignorance.

Isn’t this nice? This is one of the few smoking bars left in town. OK, what do you want? A Yuengling, please!

No, I’m not going to fuckin’ meditate! Ooops, what language! Ha, ha!

I don’t need you talking from 1966. I need you to not talk! That’s what I need you to do. That would be wonderful, if you could indulge me by, like, silence [French pronunciation]!

I’ve known this devil for a year!

I’m worried about Tina Turner chasing some cash right now. I’m not worried about you, Thomas. Shut up, and let it play! How about not talking? Thank you. Shut up!

Don’t talk. Why do you keep talking? Somebody asks you not to talk, don’t talk!

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About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of a non-fiction book, Postcards from the End of America (2017), two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), six of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007), Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009) and A Mere Rica (2017), and a novel, Love Like Hate (2010). I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). My writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.