Love remains as unfathomable as the cosmos, and as mysterious as life itself. Many emotions wear the mask of love, and many persons have said, truly or not, that their deeds were done in its name. For Matt Corso, love has become a journey, uncharted, and winding through encounters with all kinds of unexpected people and places. Can he, with his own flaws and mixed motivations, begin to understand love's darkest secrets? Or, will he find himself baffled, by the words and grand designs that claim their roots in the fertile ground of love.
A Hard Shell Word Factory Release
Dave Rosi (pseudonym) is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in New York City. He is on the faculty at a local medical school, and has a private practice. His novels, One Good Deed and For Love, Thats All have been Hard Shell Word Factory bestsellers.
"For Love, That's All entertains and also intellectually challenges and interacts with its readers. From the first page readers become involved in the story and maybe question their own opinion about love and its role in their everyday existence. What is love and how far would they go in the name of love? Maybe at the end of the novel, they'll be able to find the answers... or more questions."Amazon reviews
MAYBE THE THING I liked best about Deana was that she didn't know much about talking English. She just had that empty smile with those crooked teeth, and nodded the same no matter if I was talking music, or raving about her ass, or complaining about what a bitch my girlfriend could be. I just wished she lived in a better neighborhood, or at least someplace that was closer than this ten-block walk from the Number 3 in East New York.
But then again, if I really gave a rat's ass, I'd have helped her move someplace else. And she'd asked me enough times, hadn't she?
"Matt," she'd say, "in Park Slope it nice. In Park Slope, south, yes?
"Yeah, we'll see," I'd tell her, "we'll see."
But I never seriously thought I'd be subsidizing a move up the real estate ladder for this boiled kielbasa and cabbage-stuffed chubby little rag doll of a girl.
On the other hand I wished, on this night especially, that she was closer in to the city. Because the angry cold wind of this winter's third nor'easter was cutting into my face, and I was already tired of trudging through the snow drifts that had buried these grimy sidewalks and half-forsaken tenement blocks. Only consolation, I figured, was that there was less chance of getting mugged in a blizzard than on some balmy summer night. That's when it happened last time anyway. Yeah, last August. Two goddamned kids with a Glock. And to add insult to injury, neither of them could have been past twelve. But there they were, just all of a sudden as I turned the corner onto Deana's block.
"Hey, Mistah. Mistah Charlie," one of them said.
"Against the wall now foolish fool, with your hands up," said the other.
So I did what they said, and kept a lid on the impulse to grab the gun out of that little shit's hand and beat his brains out with it. Two hundred bucks and the passing illusion of self-respect; that wasn't worth risking death for, was it?
"Son of a bitch," I muttered to myself as I marched through the snow.
Thinking about it now, it still pissed me off. But just then I stepped on something soft, way down under a snowdrift. Something that felt like a big pile of clothes, or maybe some half-dead animal, and I almost lost my balance before I pulled my foot back from it. But then something, or someone, reached up from underneath the snow and grabbed my right leg; way down by the ankle, first with one, then with two big hands. They squeezed hard and tight, as if holding on to me was about life or death.
"Hey," I yelled out, scared as hell but trying to sound angry, "get the fuck away from me."
But the grip got even tighter. When I tried to pull away I felt that whoever, or whatever, held me was dead-ass heavy, and wasn't going to budge easily from underneath the snow.
I reached down with both hands and swept away the snow around my feet, cursing this crummy neighborhood and, at the same time, trembling at what I might find below. As the snow slid away, one bare, bony, blue wrinkled hand appeared, clasped tight over my pants cuff, then the other one, more or less the same, except with its skin cracked and bloody over the knuckles.
I tried bending back those stony fingers and unclawing myself, but I could hardly move them. And as I yanked and pried more and more, I heard a low, painful groan rumbling under the snow.
"Awwwwhghhh" it moaned, low and sad. Then it trailed off, and the roar of the wind overcame the pitiful sound.
"Holy shit," I yelled into the wind, "what...who...who the hell are you?"
I plowed back more snow, and unburied a split and frayed sleeve, covering an arm so straight and stiff-looking that it appeared to be made of wood. Then a big gust whooshed by, and blew the snow off a tangled, greasy mat of white and gray hair that drooped over a pair of thin and rounded shoulders.
"Let me go," I said, trying to get a glimpse of the face embedded in the snow. "C'mon, let me go, so I can help you, okay?"
A cough pressed out from the snow, and those half-frozen claws tightened a little more around my ankle.
"I can't just drag you through three feet of snow," I shouted.
Another cough, that somehow sounded like it was mocking me.
"Uh-huh," I replied. "Given our current positions, your ass is going to freeze to death a lot quicker than mine. So just what the hell is it you want me to do?"
The face grumbled into the snow "your life" or "strife" or "end life" or something like that.
I reached over and grabbed the mat of hair and tried to turn the face into view, but then this real loud growl, like some nasty old junkyard dog, came rumbling out from under that mass of filthy tangles. I let go real quick and pulled back, with the distinct feeling I was going to get bitten if I tried that again.
Meanwhile, the cold was ripping through me and I longed for the warmth of Deana's place, which wasn't more than a block or so away. I took a deep breath and figured, what the hell; I gave a sharp yank with my captive leg, and got this bundle of rags to start sliding, like a sled whose frozen runners had just got unstuck. The face lifted up ever so slightly from the snow, and cradled into the torn up overcoat sleeves, now all prepared for the ride.
"We're going to do this for about a block and that's all," I said, as I dragged this predator down the street. "Then we're going to get to my friend's house...and we're going to call...and get you some kind of help." Just what kind of help I wasn't sure, but I'd think that through a lot clearer once I was unfrozen and unclawed.
After several minutes of dragging and heaving and stopping here and there to catch my breath, I got us to Deana's front door, at the sidewalk level of a five-story tenement walk-up. I pressed on her buzzer, and in a second her voice came screeching through the old tinny speaker.
"What?" she said. "Who it is?"
"It's me, Matt. Put on your coat before you come down. I need your help."
"I'm from the shower. It's impossible."
"Just dry off and put something on. And make it quick."
* * *
AFTER A FEW MINUTES she came and opened the door. She was wearing a long black robe and her short red hair was damp and slicked back. She squeezed her shoulders against the incoming cold air and scrunched her nose.
"Easier said than done, but I'll give it my best shot."
Then I reached onto either side of the doorjamb and pulled myself into the hallway with my newfound companion dragging along underfoot. Deana took several steps back, gathering her robe around her and crossing her arms tight over her chest.
"What this is?" She gasped. "This dead somebody?"
"It's a somebody...who may be a somebody, or a nobody. But it's not dead, as far as I can tell."
"But what you're doing? To walk like this?"
"This critter won't let go of my foot. Will you?" I said, looking down at this ghastly mass of hair and old clothes sprawled across the dimly lit tile floor. But no words came from below, just a couple of short sniffles.
"I need some help here. Maybe you can..."
"You crazy," she yelled, and took another few steps down the hall, and toward her apartment door, "I don't touch it."
"Okay, so don't touch it, but at least you can try--"
The front door swung open, and a blast of cold air followed right behind this huge black guy, dressed in a puffy gray down parka and a white ski cap.
"Mon," he bellowed, "you know it is terrible, terrible cold. Be bad enough you could lose your toes." The words shot out of his mouth in some West Indian rhythm and accent, not easy for me to understand. Then he looked down at the floor and then up at me and Deana. He was a little bug-eyed and bloodshot and his mouth went slightly agape, like he could be getting queasy.
"What's the trouble here, mister? We got trouble here?"
"What we got here," I said, "is somebody who...you could say is feeling real under the weather. Matter of fact, he was buried under it until just a little while ago."
"A hand is what they need, do they sir?"
"You got it, but be careful now, so as not to upset--"
A high-pitched cackle erupted from below, at first soft and slow, and then rising and faster, until that heap of rags began to shake and shudder. The hands around my ankles loosened and let go, and then clenched into fists and began pounding the muddy, puddled tiles beneath our feet.
We all backed up a few steps, as if we weren't sure what could radiate, or explode from this newly animated pile below us. Then the laughter and shaking and pounding stopped, and all was silent. No one said a word, and for a few seconds it seemed like the whole world had stopped. The big black guy looked at me as if to say, "What's next?" Then, in another moment, a long lazy yawning sound swelled up, and slowly, as if on some kind of creaky rotisserie, the layers of clothes, and still-outstretched arms, and filthy mop of hair rolled over. A sliver of face, in profile, came into view, gaunt and pale. It could just have well been a cadaver, being turned over for identification. The nose was long and straight and shot through with a map of broken blood vessels. The lips were dry and cracked, and spread into a broad smile as the face came into full view. The top front teeth were chipped and the eyes were open extra wide. One was icy blue and the other dark brown. The skin had a light stubble of gray and black growth, and this was the main feature that indicated we were looking at a man.
"Well, gentleman," he said, looking at me, then at the West Indian guy, "don't just stand there. Give a hand and let a man rise to his feet, for God's sake."
We both reached down and grabbed his hands and pulled him up.
"Thank you. Thank youuuuu," he said, attempting to brush himself off. "And so, let me ask you, kind sir," he went on, looking at me, "do you know what the cruelest tyranny of all is?"
"The cruelest of all of life's tyrannies. Do you know what it is?"
"No, what is it mon?" said the West Indian guy.
"It is the tyranny of costume, the terrible, inexorable tyranny of costume."
"Yeah?" I said. "How do you mean?"
"I mean...I mean," he announced, as if on stage, "the costume we all bring to the ball. The costume we must all ultimately be."
"Which costume we must be in?" asked Deana, "What you mean?"
"No, not 'in,' my innocent one, not 'in.' We are not in the costume. We are the costume."
"Amen," said the West Indian guy.
"But...what saves us, you see, is that it is all so egalitarian. All of us may not exactly be created equal, but we are all uncreated equal, are we not? And does this not finally balance the misallocations of fortune?"
"It do, mon," said the West Indian guy, "it do. There be all kind of rides to the judgment day."
"Exactly," he said, scratching his belly. "And what are you called?"
"Reginald. I like it. It's full, isn't it? Full, though not fulsome, yes? Full of majesty."
"And who are you?" I asked.
"I? I? I am...hah. I am...you may call me Jonah. Yes, just Jonah, if you please."
"Okay, Jonah. My name's Matt. Now tell me this, what's your deal? What were you doing in the snow, and why were you so stubborn about holding onto my leg?"
"What you call stubborn sir, I call tenacious. Just a matter of one's perspective, you see. Whether one is underfoot, or proudly bestriding terra firma americana.Homo erectus or homo ... prostratectus, if you will. But enough of my dithering dialectics, for I've been remiss in enlisting the young miss into the midst of our mingy little mizzle."
Then he leered at Deana. But she could only press her lips into some vague communication of polite "how do you do?" and take another step back toward the door.
"She's just learning English, Jonah," I said, "and I'm sure your, uh, poetry there is falling way outside of her comfort zone."
"Oh is that so? Why don't we let her be the judge of that? Unless there is someone who passed and left you in charge of etiquette between strangers in the night."
With that, he made a loud gurgling sound and started to lumber toward her with both arms outstretched. Deana let out a shriek and turned and dashed for the door.
"Now you see what you've done," shouted Jonah, "you've poisoned the lovely ingénue's mind, and led her to think I'm some hungry gonad-stalking predator. What could be further from the truth?"
She slipped into her apartment and slammed the door behind her. He kept following her down the hall.
"For it is not the flesh I seek," he said, "for we know the flesh is all passing, all falling, all crinkling and shrinking and sinking in the blink of an eye, and in the end no place for love. I want what is beyond the flesh; the metaphysical, the stuff of the spirit, do you see? I'm a fool for love, that's all."
As he got closer to the door you could hear the deadbolt sliding into place inside, and then the turning of a key.
"The soul, the soul through all its changes, through all its longings and agonies is what I'm after," Jonah went on, and his voice boomed up the stairwell and echoed off the peeling plaster walls. "Let...let the flesh wither, wither and be damned."
He got to her door, and commenced pounding on it with both fists, with a force I never would have expected.
"The...the flesh," he yelled into the gray metal surface in front of him, "let the flesh dither and be whammed, slither and be hammed, hithered and thithered and grandly slammed..."
"Hey Jonah," I called to him, "put a lid on it now, you hear me?"
"I hear you sir...sir Matthew," he yelled even louder into the door, "and to you I say, I haven't a lid at hand. Yet, were I to find a lid, in all that I'm amid, I'd surely seek a way for it to be rid..."
And he kept going on that way, pounding harder and harder, and yelling out rhymes about "orchid bids" and "telegenic kids" and "messianic ids" and other stuff I can't remember now.
Then Reginald said, "I believe he's asking for a ride to St. Johnnie's."
"Yeah, I'd say you're right. Let's do what we've got to do."
We went up to him on either side, locked his arms in ours, and pulled him away from Deana's door.
"What?" he cried, and struggled, "what tactic, what jack-booted tactic is this, gentlemen? Un...un-arm me this moment you...you swat jocks, you...you twat locks. I...I'll be compelled to call my attorney."
"Take it easy now Jonah," I said, "you're just a little, a little uh, over-stimulated, that's all."
"Over-stimulated, yes. But under-simulated. That's always been my problem. The fate of prophets who swim in a sea of banality. Where others choose to crawl, I want to butterfly; where others go to trawl, I want to skim and kiss the sky. And where certain of us seek to brawl, I shall only resist and pray to pacify. So I must petition you brutes to unleash me. Now."
And then he began to struggle, to squirm and kick and spit and flail. And we had to tighten up on those bony, ragamuffin arms and drag him down the hall, with his heels trailing and scraping across the floor.
"Young lass, young lass," he cried out, as we pulled him across the snow-melted tiles, "please...please do nothing, do nothing 'til you hear from me..."
Then he suddenly dove his head down and sunk his snaggled teeth into the flesh on the back of my hand.
"Goddamnit!" I cried out, and squeezed down hard on his jaw with my free hand until he let go. Blood spilled out the wound, and I figured it wouldn't be long until he'd infected me with whatever germ had been frying his brain.
"That looks ugly, real ugly," said Reginald. "We best get both of you to St. Johnnie's. Real quick, real quick."
So we dragged Jonah out the front door and into Reginald's leather-clad, tractor-tired, twelve-seated, designer-signed SUV, and cruised off to St. John's ER, maybe a mile away.
* * *
WE PULLED up by the emergency entrance, got Jonah unpacked, and walked him arm-in-arm into the hospital and up to the nurse's desk. He alternated between snarling at us, and making wisecracks about how he was double-dating us.
"Mr. Chocolate and Mr. Vanilla...but which, pray tell, is my favorite fella?"
"Poetry I won't get riled about," I told him, "but you try taking another bite out of me and I'm going to nail you to the wall."
"Not to worry," he said, "you're really quite awful for my figure."
This young Filipino woman was the admitting nurse, and when we got up in front of her she got this expression which was somewhere between pain and amusement. Maybe she looked that way at everybody, I don't know.
"Can I help you?" she said.
"Yeah, and sooner rather than later. I'm going to need a tetanus shot," I put up my hand, "and our friend here's not right in the head, he needs to see a psychiatrist, ASAP."
"A what-iatrist?" said Jonah.
"You know what I said. Don't make any more trouble now."
"I will submit to no psychological interrogations, Miss...ah." He craned forward to look at her nametag. "Miss Mendoza. However, it appears that this young man, perhaps by reason of the rabid bite on his hand, is in need of a thorough brain exam. Perhaps even a biopsy."
He tittered away over this, and then regained control.
Nurse Mendoza looked over me and Jonah, and then fixed her gaze on Reginald.
"I don't need a doctor, Miss," he said. "But I do agree that the old gent here needs a head doctor, straightaway."
"Miss Mendoza, please pay these men no heed. Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to ask you something."
"What's that?" she said, as she picked up the phone.
"What would you like better, a crisp afternoon at Belmont Park, or a little round of night volleyball?"
"Volleyball." She cradled the receiver on her shoulder.
"As I expected, from such a trim, dark-skinned Asian jewel."
"Uh-huh," she said into the phone, "Meson."
"And can't you just imagine what volleyball we'd play. The serve, the return; then to reach ever so farther, than you thought you could, and slap it back over. Yes, and the volley swells and escalates...with ever more intensity, with ever more velocity...'til, yes, the final spike that ends the long trick and..."
Ms. Mendoza looked behind us and beckoned someone to come over. In a moment, a uniformed security guard came up behind Jonah and said in a low, deep voice, "This way to Dr. Meson."
Jonah turned around, startled, and gave the man a bewildered once-over.
"Doctor Meson, eh? Well, I'm always interested in a meeting of minds, with a practitioner of the healing arts. He wouldn't in any way be related to the attorney Perry, would he?"
Jonah went quietly with the guard into a small consultation room down the corridor. Reginald and I followed in behind.
The room was windowless. Dr. Meson was seated at a small desk in one corner. He was a young guy with a bush of dark hair, a five o'clock shadow, and a look of sleep deprivation. The security guard directed Jonah to a chair by the desk, and gestured for me and Reginald to sit in a couple of chairs against the opposite wall.
"Sir," said Dr. Meson to Jonah, "can you tell me your name?"
"Yes." Silence followed.
"I see," said Dr. Meson with a wisp of a smile, "so what is your name?"
"Uh-huh, and what brings you here this evening?"
"Not what, but who." He tilted his head our way. "These two knaves, and that's all I have to say."
"I see. Could you just elaborate a little bit more, and tell me why these two, uh, gentlemen brought you here."
"Hmph.Hmph. I suppose these craven knaves feared of how history can repeat itself."
"History? How so?"
"These buffoons became rather...unglued, shall we say, by my overzealous rapping on a certain girl's door. Yes, that's what caused their, their apprehension. Of me that is."
"But what would...unglue them about that? You said it was something about your history...repeating itself."
"Of course, doctor. I am a man with a most lumino-heinous history."
"What's so lumino, or heinous about it?" asked Meson.
"Well, of course, you know I killed a girl, doctor."
"That's right, I killed a girl. Do you have the courage to believe me?"
"Who? Whom did you kill?"
"Does it matter, good doctor? Does it actually matter? Suffice it to say I killed a girl."
Reginald and I both leaned forward, trying to get a better look at that pale, ragged face.
"But," said Meson, "if in fact that's what you did, you've committed a very serious crime."
"Serious, doctor? You don't know from serious my fine, jejune fellow. My fine callow fellow, my fledgling fallow Dr. Shallow."
"What exactly did you do?" asked Meson.
"What exactly did I do?"
"Yes, what exactly did you do?"
"If you insist upon exactly Dr. Parser, what I exactly did was kill Vanity's child."
"I don't understand."
"And somehow that doesn't startle me, Dr. Damp-behind-the-flappers. I alone shall know of what I speak. You have no jurisdiction in the land of my crime. Zippo. Nada. Goose eggs. Got it?"
Dr. Meson turned to me. "Do you know what this man is referring to?"
"No doctor, I don't."
"What do you know about him?"
"Nothing, other than I stepped on him in a snowdrift a couple of hours ago. I brought him to a friend's building nearby, where he started raising a ruckus. So we brought him here."
"Did you notify the police?"
"Your yelping up the wrong trees, Hippocrates," said Jonah, "biting hard at the wrong bark. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm way past my evening aperitif at the Carlyle."
He got up and walked toward the door.
"Just a minute," said Meson, "just a minute Mr. Morrow."
"Get thee behind me," said Jonah, "all of you heathen. For I shall walk the righteous way, directly to the exit, pray."
Meson pushed a button underneath the desk, and in a second two jumbo-sized orderlies appeared on either side of the doorway.
"Take this patient to the Quiet Room," said Meson. "Give him 5 milligrams of Haldol IM. I'll be with you shortly."
"Shortly will you?" said Jonah as the orderlies came abreast of him. "How very crisp of you, Dr. Smack, Tackle, and Prop."
After they took away Jonah, the doctor took down some basic information on me and gave me a tetanus shot. Then he sent me and Reginald on our way.