30-something aspiring artist struggles for acceptance and recognition in Greenwich Village
As Jerry walks, he is bopping back and forth fidgety, and puts his cigarette to his month often, quickly taking a drag on it. His arms swing as a whirligig, usually to put his jacket back up on his shoulders and retrieve his sleeves from his forearms. Bounding and full of energy, these people he has to mingle with, he hates, “C’mon, step it up sweetheart!” he yells at an elderly man with a dime store cane. Jerry rushes through his days for himself, not for the heads of companies like the sidewalk urchins, which he prefers to the slavish and depressing life of work. He prefers his own time, and his own place rather than the cubicles or desks others are chained to. Greenwich Village suits him, as he sees it, and it is his village to make.
Besides the splatter of trashcans, mailboxes, and food vendors, there are also islands of newsstands. Jerry swaggers toward one, as he normally does when walking down this way, a busy and bursting hut of plywood. This magazine-plastered kiosk is owned and operated by a portly man of Italian decent. Swarming with activity, Jerry’s bravado cuts into the throng without change in demeanor.
“Hey, Sousa, you old dog!” Jerry takes a swift drag on his shrinking cigarette.
Sousa looks up from the cash register, a tiny electronic device dwarfed by the handler and his piles of pulp, and sees Jerry standing out as a bobbing marker in a sea of dark suits. The man is about fifty, not that old, but relented long ago to Jerry’s barbs. “Jerry! How’z it going?”
Jerry starts to walk again, away from the undulating crowd, raising his hand to Sousa as he walks away. He takes another drag from his cigarette, and then knocks the ashes off, leaving just a nub.
A moment later, Jerry spots new art on display in the window of one of the many neighborhood galleries. His face twists questioningly, then morphs into disgust, and he stomps right up to the glass; he is not happy with the works. “Shit. Shit! Shit!” he yells, banging on the window with his palm. Taking his stubby cigarette, he throws it at the window in revulsion of what he thinks is low-quality art. He storms the door situated next to the display window, but it is locked and he pulls on it violently again and again. Giving up, he puts his face up to the glass door, placing his hand above his brow to block the sunlight so as to better his view, and sees no one inside. Angrily, he punches the door with the butt of his fist, “Shits!” He pulls on the door again, and storms off. “Shiii-it!!”
Heading off toward his original destination, he is almost out of sight within a few seconds when a gallery worker, expressionless, steps outside to see the fading Jerry.
An old coffee shop sits squeezed in between to storefronts that have been here for generations, and in its previous incarnation was a deli, but had been a bar after prohibition was repealed. Though exposed to early morning sunlight, no tourist ventures this way, which is much appreciated by its patrons. Out walks one such New Yorker, with his briefcase, and wearing a designer long coat. He turns in a direction that brings directly in front of Jerry. Excited to see him, Jerry taps him on the stomach, “Matt, Matt, come inside, I have an announcement.” Jerry, with a new cigarette bouncing in his lips, dances around, moving his feet, as a child needing to visit the restroom would do.
Matt is disturbed by this interruption, and raises his wrist up, bending his forearm so that his watch comes eye-level with Jerry. “No, I can’t. I’ve got to get too…” Jerry shakes his head strongly, pulls his cigarette out with a hand, and puts both hands on Matt’s chest.
“Hm-mm, man! Come inside, now, drink some java and listen to my news.” Matt watches the cigarette carefully, and gently pushes away Jerry’s arm, and steps lightly around Jerry. “No, I’ve got to go, Jerry. Sorry.” Matt, not wanting to hurt Jerry’s feelings, attempts to restrict him from dominating.
Jerry becomes disgruntled. He feels the back of his neck tighten and tremble. He turns away from Matt, and draws from the cigarette. Fidgeting some more, he turns around to face Matt, “All right, all right. Just, just come by Dijon’s tonight!”
Matt lowers his head slightly, and sighs, “Tonight? I don’t know Jerry, it’s such short notice.” He shows a look that immediately sends Jerry into a tizzy.
Jerry punches Matt in the chest. “No, you be there, bitch, ‘cause it’s important. After work, you be there!”
Matt sighs, and smiles, relenting, “Okay. I’ll be there.” He starts walking away, heading toward work, “It’s really out of the way, though.”
His face relaxing a bit, Jerry shouts out to Matt, “Be there!” Dragging on his cigarette, burning it down to the filter in one deep inhale, Jerry moves toward the door of the café. He lets out a huge puff of smoke as he swings the door open and rushes inside. The door slowly closes, but as soon as it is shut, it flings open again and a used butt flies out toward the sidewalk, nearly missing a pedestrian. The near victim pauses to look at the smoldering projectile.
The soft morning light is weakened inside once it passes through the cafés’ yellow and shaded windows. Half the seats are filled, and three people are standing in line at the counter to get their drink orders places with the one person behind the counter. Jerry sees his friends sitting at a table by the front window, away from the door—Erma, Steve, Jack, and Candice. They do not see him yet, busy in their own worlds or conversations. He walks briskly up to an open seat between Jerry and Steve, sitting down as he is pulling the chair out. “Hey guys!” They all respond.
Erma smiles, “Jerry, how are you?”
Jack is quiet, but smirks, “Hey, Jerry.”
Steve, a little apprehensive as usual, nods slightly. “Hi”
Deep into reading her book, Candice is leaning against the windowpane and says nothing, yet raises her hand in a small way to say hi.
Jerry starts to fidget again, rapping his fingers on the table worriedly, “Hi, hi.” He looks around at everyone, “You guys aren’t leaving yet, are you?” His head flips back and forth around the table.
Erma speaks first, scooting up closer to the table by lifting her body with her elbows on the table, pushing down on the floor with her feet and using her butt to grab and move the seat. “No, no, just sitting quietly and enjoying the coffee while we’ve got it.” Her hair dances as she shakes her head no.
Loosening up a bit, Jerry has a genuine smile, “I’ve got some news.” He pats his hands on the table, again, making a little music with it.
The attentive tablers look at each other, and Erma works to make him more comfortable, knowing how is about his personal news. “Well, get a coffee with us, and spill it all out!”
Darting his about, Jerry gets a little antsy, “Yeah, well, that’d be nice, but…” He puts his hands down flat, feeling nervous too.
Erma knows what’s wrong, and uses a soft comforting voice, “Short again?” She reaches into her small purse and pulls out a dollar. “We can pitch in a bit, each. C’mon.” Erma looks at everyone with a look that questions them, ‘Will you do this?’ while also prodding, ‘Do this, please.’
The others slowly move to their pockets, reluctantly going for their snacking money. Jack moves turtle-like, making a sound that would either be a grunt or moan—painful movement, or aversive action. He flips a dollar on the table, trying to show disdain at this point. Erma gets her bill on the table near Jack’s, while Steve gets cheery about the offering, “Here you are, old boy. Drink up!” He smiles a Cheshire cat smile. Candice, meanwhile, is into her music, and does not know of what just took place.
Gratefully, Jerry stares at the few bills and slides a hand toward the group. Snaring the money slowly, he apologizes, “Uh, thanks guys. I’ll pay you back.”
Steve looks at Jerry with some disbelief, and pats his hand on the table, wanting to reach over and take his one note. Matt is full of doubt, and Erma broadens her smile, “Whenever you can, Jerry.”
Candice seems to get a trickle of the conversation, and looks up from her book for a second, “Tapped out.”
Jerry turns to Candice, and smiles, crumpling the money into his fist. He taps on the table, “Alright. I’ll be right back. Don’t move!” He jumps up, and rushes toward the counter, trying to pull the attention of the barista away from the customers. His friends that have been paying attention watch Jerry blast his way through to the counter. The customers waiting for the barista to give them consideration react with dismay to this intrusion, “Hey, what’re you doin’?” “Get in line!” “No buttskis!” The barista is bemused yet stops working on a drink completely, taking some thrill at the irked patrons.
Jerry is amused, and asserts himself, “Hey, I’m just getting a cup of joe, not like you guys, and your elixir-of-cool that takes ten minutes to make because of the milk from a baby’s tit you need on top… So just chillax, bitches.” He puts on his normal air of cool, and looks at the waiting clerk.
Back at the table, everyone that was looking on chuckles a bit. Steve turns to Erma and Jack, hushing his voice and leaning toward them, “I’m leaving.”
The announcement upsets Erma, “No, you have to stay. It’ll upset him if you go before he tells us what’s going on.”
Staring blankly, Steve does not care. Jack tries to cajole him, “What’s a few minutes?” Although he does not want to stay himself, he cannot help but advise as Erma does. Steve knows Jack’s feelings and assisting for Jerry, so he finds this begging unnatural and confusing.
Erma puts on her sad face for Steve, “He’ll be crushed.” A commotion erupts from the counter, with Jerry at the fore momentarily grabbing the group’s attention while Steve continues to plead his case. “I hardly know the guy.” His eyes widen, and the palms of his hands expose themselves for mercy.
Jerry jumps back into his seat, rocking it back on its rear legs, and without a drink. He anxiously blurts out, “Everybody good? Hm?” Looking at everyone, Jerry points his finger. There are just a couple of no’s, “Good?” Then all nod yes to elate his care.
Candice speaks up from the prodding, “Yep!” The short retort pops her up a bit in the seat momentarily.
Jerry taps his fingers on the table, trying to still himself. Doing so quickly, he looks around at his ‘comfort friends’, pauses to look down, preparing to speak. But Erma cuts him off as his lips begin to part.
“Oh Jerry, make sure he calls you when your drink is ready.” She is aware that Jerry may have set this up already with the barista, but she dotes and also knows that Jerry can be forgetful when he is excited.
Stunned slightly from the interruption, Jerry agrees with a nod. Facing the barista, he yells out haltingly, “Yeah. Uhm…, Tommy…?! Let me know when you’ve for that done, okay? Hm…?”
The coffee clerk, upset with the disruption, is busy, with his back to Jerry, yet turns around for two seconds. “It’s Tony!”
Frowning just slightly, with a little pout, Jerry gets snarky, “Sorry, Tony. Tony! I’ll get your name straight, pinky-swear!” He lowers his voice as he turns back to his friends, “…Just be sure to NOT spit in my latte.” Jerry pulls on his sleeves to regain regal composure. “Alright, if I may continue?”
Erma gets the stare down from Jerry, but does not know for sure if the comment is directed toward her. She lowers her head and weeps her hand and arm in front of her. Jack smiles.
Clearing his throat, Jerry straightens up. “Very well.” He looks at everyone, turning his face to them all, “I want everyone to come to Dijon’s tonight… I’m having a show.” The thrill of spitting out the news elates Jerry so, that a smile erupts on his face. His eyes widen as he waits for congratulations.
Excited, Erma blurts out, “I love it! Count me in.” She is glowing, and puts out her hand for Jerry to take, which he does. With Jerry’s hand in hers, she clasps it with the other.
Noticing this bonding, and motherly moment, Jack shifts his position and doubles the expected attendance, “Yes, brother, I’m there.” He puts his fist out, so Jerry can bump it in camaraderie.
Jerry looks at the hanging fist, arching an eye, “Seriously?”
“Ditto”, Candice quietly chimes.
The others are smiling at the occasion, except for Steve. “I can’t make it.” His puppy-dog face does not deal well to the others. The group grows quiet, and Jerry’s excitement washes away.
“Hey! Here’s your coffee,” Tony explodes from the counter. Jerry exhales sharply and at length, as he slowly rises, staring down Steve, shuffling himself off toward the counter.
Erma gets stern with Steve, “You need to go.” Her voice is almost growling
“Why?” He rebuts without weakening, “We aren’t friends. Besides, I bet he thinks I’m Tony, too.”
Lips tightening, Erma’s brow furls into a tight bunch, and her voice gets deeper and quiet. “Go.”
Steve sits quietly and glares back at her.
The silence around the table leaves everyone in a shocked state. Jerry returns, straightens his chair, methodically sits down and adjusts. Sighting up his latte, Jerry then takes a sip, ever so slightly, thinking about Steve’s comment, and decision. He becomes snippy with the others, “The rest of you fuckers will be there, right?”
Erma and Jack’s faces are blank. They are still, feeling ashamed. This outburst is not unusual, but for Steve it is a new experience. Erma turns her head to Steve; Jack turns toward Steve; they feel it is best to quietly urge him into it.
Jack says, “Yes.”
Erma affirms, “Hm-mm.”
And Candice, “Ditto.”
Jerry’s face is unchanged as he mulls the votes. He takes another sip.
“I’ll see if I can make it.” Steve buckles, looking at Jerry with forlorn and bitterness.
Jerry crosses his arms, staring down Steve, “You’re practically next door, so I don’t see why not, cunt!”
Steve raises his eyebrows in shock, and puts out his hand toward Erma, as if asking, ‘Can you believe this shit?’
Erma clears her throat, wanting to move the conversation on, “Ahem. So, why the show? Do you need money?” It was a question she already knew the answer to. The real question was, ‘Do you need a lot of money?’ He has gotten himself into terrible jams before, and it has always been a Herculean feet to get him back on level ground.
Turning his cup around, Jerry moves it with just his fingertips, trading the duty with his left fingers, then with the right. The bottom of the cup rubs dryly on the table, putting him in a trance. “Uhm, yeah—the little prick wants me out.”
This puts the conversation up on a new level. Those listening now look at each other, as Jerry spins his cup some more, very slowly.
Speaking slowly, Jack shows unusual heart, “You’ve got a place to move to, then?”
Jerry turns to spit something attached to his tongue, then returns quickly right back to the conversation, “No, that’s why there’s a sale, dumbshit.” He pauses, briefly, rolling his tongue around the inside of his mouth to check for other debris. “Makes sense, huh?”
“I didn’t know.” Jack looks at the others, dejected. “C’mon, you like putting on ‘shows’ wherever you can…”
“…And no one buys anything!” Jerry is agitated, pointing everyone out. He loves the art shows, with his art, and what they represent, for him. What he does not like is the poor outcome. He stews over that, and Erma sees that she needs to get him to cool down.
“Did you tell anyone else?” she asks, trying to help in a positive way, as the caring mother and facilitator.
Starting to pout, Jerry answers as a feeble boy, “I told Matt, out in the street.” He goes back to staring at his cup, still turning it slowly.
Nodding, Erma offers help, “I can call everyone else. And maybe a few others.”
Interjecting, Jack asks a question that is burning in his head, “Does Dijon know about the show?” Jack’s notion is that Dijon would not cooperate in this manner, and believes that Jerry, in this state, would act in such a way as to chaff at Dijon’s will
Huffing loudly, Jerry verbally asserts his will, “That righteous bitch? No!” He looks at Jack sharply, holding his cup firmly, sloshing the liquid abruptly. “What does it matter to him if I have a life and a successful career?” He pauses, “…no-talent ‘fashion-hack’ hack.”
The group remains silent, reflecting on the rant they had just took, except for Jack, who remains steadfast to Dijon’s side. Dijon, the one who has had to deal with Jerry for so long, almost 24-7, has a courtly friend in Jack, speaking softly and inquisitively, “Why does Dijon want you out?”
Again, Jerry spins his coffee. “Jealousy,” he says quietly, “That’s all.” He stills his cup, and then takes a long drink.
Erma’s voice is soft and soothing, “When does he want you out?”
Jerry swallows his coffee, and even though the coffee shop is full of noise, they can hear him gulp just before he answers dryly, “Saturday.”
Erma and Jack area surprised—gasping in response. Steve’s eyes widen slightly, while Candice shows no reaction.
Jack quips simply, “Saturday?”
Erma delves more into it, “This Saturday?”
Lifting his cup again, Jerry says only, “Uh-huh.” He takes another drink.
Astounded beyond belief, Erma asks, “Why so soon? When did he tell you?”
“He told me yesterday.” Jerry shifts in he seat, getting uncomfortable with the inquisition.
Jack leans in, “Why does he want you out?”
Showing his nervousness, Jerry looks around at the others, “He wants me out so he can have a Sabbath free o chaos, his actual words. And that bitch has had chaos his whole life since his mom first put a dress on his ass.” He crushes his cup slowly as it reacts with muted popping.
Erma and Jack sigh under muffled breath. Sensing an opening, Steve says, “I’ve got to get going.” He stands up, then walks around Jerry and the table, heading straight for the door.
Not looking directly at him, Jerry tells Steve, “You better be there.”
Steve, nonchalantly, responds, “Yeah, I’ll be there.” He continues moving toward the door. Watching him closely, Jerry sees Steve walk out, seemingly without care.
Now feeling hopelessly lost, Jerry says to everyone else, “He’s not going to be there.” He goes back to staring at his now crushed cup.
Feeling desperate for Jerry, Erma moves her hand to his arm, “He’ll be there.” Her voice coos and her hand is soft. Jerry does not feel the comfort though, just a mildly boiling hate.
Jack chimes in to help Erma, “Yeah. He will. I’ll make sure of it.” Turning away from Jerry, Jack looks at Erma, hoping to get some ‘eye-action’ from her—recognition of commonality. Yet, she gives nothing, still comforting Jerry.
Unnerved by Jack, Jerry does not believe him, tosses his cup while mentally putting Jack’s help in its crushed corpse, and wretches his hand away from Erma’s hand. Then, without emotion, adds, “Whatever.”
Returning to bouts of fidgeting, he taps his outstretched fingers on the tabletop again, and then jumps up out of the seat. “I’ve gotta go.”
Sensing his uneasiness, Erma calls out to him, “Where are you going?” Her brow is arched, and voice toned with despair.
Erma’s attentive voice stops Jerry. He looks at her forlornly, “The only place I can fucking go…,” he pauses, shrugging his shoulders, “To the show!” He throws up his arms in mild defiance, looking a bit crazed, feigning futile happiness. While heading fro the door, he pulls out a cigarette, sticking it in his mouth, perching it on his parched lips; the dryness always happens in moments of ire. At the door, he pulls out a lighter, lights it up, then ignites the cancer stick.
Amused, Jack straightens up and yells out, “Bye, Jerry!”
Jerry looks at the door, exhales smoke as he announces, “The show will go on.” He shoves the door open, and walks quickly outside to pass his friends on the other side of the shop glass.
“Okay!” Erma yells back. “I’m calling everyone! Bye!”
They watch him go by, back in the direction in which he came. Answering quietly, Candice says “Ditto.”
Jack turns to look at Candice who is still preoccupied with her book, and smirks; he wants to be as detached as she is to the situation.
Erma is mournful as she watches Jerry disappear at the end of the windowpane. “This sounds all desperate, doesn’t it?” she asks aloud.
Turning to Erma, Jack confronts her with another admonishment, “It’ll be alright.”
Focusing on Jack, she voices some despair, “Seriously? A night show in the living room of a flop, on short notice, with one day to move, and …” Erma throws her hand to her mouth, a sudden ill feeling coming over her.
Consoling, Jack says, “It’s not really a flop.”
A wash of fear comes over Erma as she tries to control the urge to weep. She gasps and keeps herself in check, “I didn’t even ask if he has a place to move to!”
Eyeing her disbelief, Jack looks at her free arm lying on the table, and moves one of his hands to a place on her forearm. Begging timidly, Erma asks, “Where’s he going to go, Jack?”
Calmly shaking his head, Jack raises his shoulders slowly. “He has friends. Someone will take him.”
Erma levels a cold, steel glare at Jack, “He knows like, seven people, Jack, seven with some sympathy.” She whips her head left and right quickly, “And five of the were here this morning!”
“Yeah,” Jack says quietly, dodging past her electrified gaze.
Erma has thoughts that delve into the dark pages of drama and holocaust, worried that Jerry’s fate will end, not on the back page of the newspaper, but in oblivion and ‘what-ifs’. As a friend of Jerry’s, she does what she can, and what she considers she must, “Will you take him in?” Pouting, she blinks slowly.
The odd expression Jack had, the comfort and sympathy look, disappears as he quickly turns his head to find an empty space to look at. He retreats his hand, “Well, no,” he speaks slowly.
Erma sighs—intentionally heavy—grabs her floppy purse and stands with a jerk from the seat. “I’ve got to get to work.”
Losing the moment, Jack avoids looking at Erma, instead choosing to stare at her now empty chair. She turns, as he becomes upset with himself. The caring woman that she is, impulsively drives Erma to turn back around to Jack, and place her hand on Jack’s for a moment. “See you tonight.” Her voice was soft, again.
Lifted by her voice, Jack looks up with a slight smile, but vacant eyes. Erma smiles, and then walks away. The café, now near vacant, allows her footsteps to echo about.
Erma yells back, “Bye, Candice!” She is soon out the door.
“Ditto,” Candice says quietly.
Motionless, Jack sits thinking, still facing the direction of Erma’s seat. He turns suddenly to face that chair, to communicate with it. “Jerry,” he says exasperating. “Why not take him in? It’s a perfectly sound idea. Sure he could be there forever, make a colossal mess of the place, and never pay a share of the rent or food.” He mulls over the conversation, staring at the void once filled by the warm and caring Erma. Then, with a change in attitude and pitch in his voice, “And he can be an ass.” He turns his head about, 90 degrees, so Candice can hear him, “Why don’t you take him in, Candice?”
Still reading, Candice retorts with a commanding voice, “Bye, Jack!”
Like Erma, Jack knows the ladies cannot share an abode with a man like Jerry, so he returns to staring off into nothingness until slapping his knees. It is with that, and some consternation, that Jack stands up, and walks out on towards work.
Outside, on a street corner in Greenwich Village, standing—writhing—with ten others waiting to cross the busy street is a fidgeting Jerry. He stomps his feet and finishes a cigarette with fervor, but not enough so as to draw attention away from the crowd around him. His attention though, is attracted by a boutique on the other side of the roadway. His eyes dry out from the intensity of his stare. Cigarette, burnt down to the filter, is deftly thrown away, and another is procured to take its place. The lights change, and the group bolts to cross the street, staying within the lines and skipping quickly against a normally fast light. Jerry pulls out his lighter, gets its flame going, and bares it to the new cigarette now clenched between his lips. A passing pedestrian notices, and coughs noticeably. Jerry does not want the heckler to go without comment, “You should have that checked, darling! It could be life-threatening.”
The crowd of off-timers—people that do not work this early in the morning—pop up the curb and split off, either going left or straight ahead. Those midday crunchers head to their own coffee shops, or out of desperation for a life, early to work. Going head-on against the flow of pedestrian traffic, Jerry bumps a few elbows while lazily trying to avoid contact with the passersby. Charging up to the display window, Jerry stares intently into the shotgun shack shaped store.
The boutique, ‘La Laissez-faire’, is mostly a second-hand store, with a large array of colorful clothing crammed on racks stretching the length of the inside of the store. In rummage sale style, patrons will cram themselves into the aisles, and wrestle with the sizes, hangers, and other patrons, usually on a Friday before the clubbing begins that night. As a business venture, the owner is always on edge, and subsists his inventory with new designs and ensembles created by his employees, like Jerry’s soon-to-be ex-roommate, Dijon. The owner, inside the store with Dijon, siphons off from his employees the karma and lifestyle of an avant-garde designer. This working relationship is torrid, and though Dijon and the other clerks live with it, as it is thought to be ‘normal’ and usual business for the industry, Jerry hates it all. Just as much as he hates gallery owners and art managers, he hates Dijon’s manager for being a sycophant.
Staying in the black on the ledger, utmost concern for the owner, means that he can be vile; his mentality for survival is ‘quantity over quality’, having noticed many years ago that he cannot afford the design house designers to get them to work for him. Also, he knows that the men he has working as designer/clerks, are usually self-taught, low-talent clubbers looking for cheap outfits, and some clout as a designer. Though there is usually no one outside of the Village club scene that will ever have heard of ‘La Laissez-faire’, it is the work experience they will use to step up to a real designer, even if they will only become a seamster, runner, gopher, or sew-hack. With this knowledge, the owner is yelling at Dijon, haranguing him for something Jerry cannot make out from the outside.
The owner tugs on a rack of clothing, swinging them up to elaborate on whatever he is saying. Visibly angered himself, Dijon watches where the hands of his antagonist are pulling and pointing, occasionally nodding, or saying something—his lips moving, but not as wide as his boss, whose arms are flying up and down, waving about, directing Dijon’s attention to the back of the store, and then to the front. When looking to the front, is when he sees Jerry standing outside. Recognizing the also visibly angry Jerry, the owner yells in short to Dijon about this appearance. Dijon turns more actively to look at the front window, sees Jerry, and raises a hand in that direction. He mouths something; Jerry thinks that it could be ‘I’ll take care of him.’ The owner rocks his head up and down once, and seemingly says, ‘You will now!’ So Dijon quickly moves toward the front door, and the owner, in a huff, starts pulling items off the rack, throwing the pieces to the floor.
Reacting quickly, Jerry steps backwards from the glass, and pulls the burning cigarette from his terse, thinning lips, and throws it at the window with rage. The tobacco hits the pane in a spray of ashes, bouncing off, arcing to the ground its unburnt remnants. Jerry takes off quickly, before there is any confrontation.