Chapter 17


the first time i met Artie i was with my new boyfriend Cello in an apartment on Ford and Hessler. everyone smoked some pot, from out a three-foot bong. between the sprightly June heat and the Cleveland Brown we smoked, i plumb fell asleep on the couch. compared with our compadres, i was a lightweight. indeed, at mere days before 18 id weighed less than a buck. a couple hits put me leagues deep into a sea of thotless dream.

but i woke when someone pushed a pair of sunglasses over my nose and ears.

“shes a pretty one,” i heard a man say.

it sounded like the voice came from far away.

“yeah, no doubt,” i was able to make out Cellos voice, which sounded closer.

i opened my eyes. i blinked through yellow lenses. a handsome black man in a dress suit from the eighties with a fedora from the sixties, all mint and cherry, loomed over me, squinting, as if searching a rare specimen for more tell-tail features.

he studied me at length through his own gold rimmed reflective sunglasses. i noticed a couple more pairs of shades hanging on the lapel of his suit jacket.

“thats good, honey, open your eyes.” the black man told me.

“strong eyes,” he looked at Cello with alerted brow.

“does she work?”

“umm, you have to ask her,” Cello said.

‘do i work?’

was he kidding?!

i flashed rage at Cello and pushed the old guy out of my way. i got up and stormed to the back of the apartment, and lit a smoke. then i remembered the sunglasses. i ripped them off my face and held them in a shaking hand.

i didnt know Cello too well, but i had not expected this kind of shit. who were these people he hung around with?

Cello came in, “Bree are you pissed at me about something?”

i shook my head. i was unable to speak.

“whats the matter with you?” he tried.

“a pimp asks you do i work?” i hissed at him, “you fucking tell him you dont know?”

i threw the sunglasses at him. he caught them in his chest and set them down on a counter.

“Bree, hes not a pimp. thats just Artie.”

id felt examined like a skinny slave on the auction block, or like some flawed diamond.

just Artie?”

“yeah, hes like this harmless homeless dude. he found some sunglasses, i think he wanted me to give him a couple bucks for them.”

“ive known the guy for years,” Cello promised.

“i know youre not a prostitute, dummy,” he whispered.

Cello pulled me into a glad hug.

we went back in to the living room after. i felt a little sheepish. Artie didnt pay me any more mind. his brain was off to the races. at one point he stood up—like someone might stand to tell a good joke at a party:

“i went into a hardware store. i walked up the aisle, and i walked down the aisle. i walked on out of there. a man said, ‘who?’ i said, ‘what?’ he said, ‘i saw Santa Claus!’” and the rapture of laughter broke out Arties face.

he nodded his head at us, big smiles, quite satisfied, then he sat back down, chuckling to himself.

someone handed me the bong.

i sat there for a beat.

i took a hit 20 seconds long.

i exhaled, “has anybody got a pen?”


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