by Phil Thomas
Iggy and Delphine hang out in their apartment and have a long talk.
September 6, 1982 – Sunday afternoon
Iggy and Delphine walk into their second floor apartment at the intersection of 5th and Douglas. The apartment was once bedrooms in a stately townhouse built in the 1880’s. However, in the 1980’s, it’s now six different apartments.
When the Great Depression hit, huge old townhouses became too much to heat and maintain. At that time, this house was fifty years old and couldn’t compete with the allure of new suburban homes. New developments came with land, good schools and bucolic surroundings. Why would anyone keep this place when they could rent it out and have the tenants pay for the new mortgage?
The current landlord happens to be the son of the original owner. He doesn’t care about the place, so long as the rent is paid. The lack of upkeep and maintenance are evident; however, that’s not important to Iggy and Delphine since the apartment is cheap, big and includes heat. At least the neighborhood is decent. Who cares if the place has peeling paint, leaky sinks, and water stains on the ceiling. Hell, even the closet door’s off its hinges is not all that bad. That’s the state the place was in when they moved in. Today, nothing’s changed. The landlord promised to fix the closet, but that was three years ago.
The apartment has twelve foot ceilings and marble fireplaces in just about every room; none of them work. They got furniture that was either salvaged from the curb or bought from the Hope Rescue Mission a few block away. One of the curbside treasures was a male mannequin. They both have fun dressing him up. It currently wears a cop’s outfit with a sign in its hands saying “I’ve got a warrant out for your arrest.’
Hanging on the dining room wall is a large banner from the Phillies 1980 World’s Series, it’s Delphine’s pride and joy. She got it from one of her friends at Vet’s Stadium. All in all, their apartment is super comfortable, but the place was not something out of “Town and Country” magazine.
Iggy’s loves his room and its view of Douglas St. He enjoys people watching. He spent many a night licking his wounds after a break-up looking out that window. He wears his heart on his sleeve. Delphine tells him how he’s too eager to please, he gives to much of himself. This leads to getting his heart broken over and over again. Somehow, Delphine has a soft spot for him.
What he never seems to realize is he’s looking for someone to love, but goes about it the wrong way. He thinks the right guy will complete him. He fears he is truly unlovable. He tries to find “the one” over a course quick hook-ups. The one man who’ll love him forever.
In the back of his mind, he wonders if “the one” could be Phil, the guy he drove to the ER. He knows the thought is crazy. He was so handsome in that jacket with the crazy looking tie. Phil has the most amazing eyes. Iggy thought, "Could I get anymore desperate?" Back to reality, thinking of Phil and the ER jarred him to his financial crisis; the very reason he left Phil on the sidewalk.
On top of owing Del $20, he still owes St. Joseph’s Hospital a lot more than that. Had he not passed out at the bus terminal when he got here, he wouldn't be sent by ambulance to St. Joe's. Now, he's got no Navy career, two jobs that barely pay anything and medical bills there's just no way to pay. The ER bill alone is over a grand. It's the reason he didn’t want to walk into the ER again. Would the nurses call the cops once they found out he stiffed them? Could he go to jail over it? It's stems from that fist fight in California. He took a pounding and ended up with severe bruises to his abdomen. The pain got so bad that when he arrived in Reading, he passed out at the bust station. Riding a bus for days on end was not a wise move. However, being broke, the bus was his only choice. He didn't plan on suddenly taking a cross country trip, but he was so embarrassed about getting thrown out of the military, he had to. So it's "Goodby San Diego" and "Hello Reading".
St. Joe’s got him healed up to the tune of $1,458.46.
As for Delphine, the night they dropped Phil off, she was supposed to be at work. She called off sick. Obsessed with what her ex-girlfriend was doing at the Scarab, she got Iggy to drive her there.
He knows Del had her own reasons to not get involved with the epileptic the rescued from the street. They both know If Delphine got caught lying to her boss, she risked getting fired.
She knew a few of the ER nurses on call. She couldn’t risk being seen bringing in some guy she never met before. "I heard Del called off sick. I heard she got into a fight at the Scarab and ended up at the ER," How could she explain that?
Delphine walks into the kitchen and takes out fruit from the fridge an apple for her and an orange for Iggy. She knows he loves them. Iggy lumbers across the living room and turns on the stereo. The needle slowly lowers on the 45 making a “pffft” sound from the speakers. The sound of “Get-A-Job” by The English Beat fills the room.
Delphine sets the fruit on the table and slumps on the couch, adjusts her Phillies ball cap and pulls at the bill, “Iggy, I told you, don’t worry about it. If the account’s in collections, all you need to do is call and make a payment plan.”
He looks exasperated, “Yeah? Where am I supposed to get the money from, Delphine?”
When Iggy gets nervous and uptight, he juggles, He picks up the orange, apple, and a nerf ball off the coffee table and starts juggling. He tries his best to juggle with the beat of the music. “Our job pays crap. It’s a wonder we can pay the rent.” He stops juggling, the apple, orange and nerf ball fall to the floor. “If I didn’t have that second job, we’d be thrown out.”
“Man, you ain't never lie. Our scumbag landlord would do it in a instant,” Del said soberly.
“Three years ago, I thought my life was on track; a Navy guy in San Diego ready to take on the world. Del, it's like I run it over and over in my mind. I can’t believe I was so stupid. Why the hell did I let myself get so super drunk? Then I end up in that bar fight, like a dumbass.”
Delphine looks straight ahead and answers in a monotone voice, “Wow, Iggy, don’t mean no disrespect but I’ve heard this one before.” She thinks for a minute, “You know, there’s something I been meaning to ask you, Cap’n. You never told me what started the fight.”
“It was pretty crazy how it all started.” He thinks for a while, “Ya know, maybe getting kicked out wasn’t so bad after all? I mean, for one thing, I wouldn’t have met you.”
Delphine laughs, “You’re a sweet guy and a bad liar. No, but seriously, was that the only reason? I hope you don’t mind me asking?” Delphine starts straightening up the room by putting the fruit in the trash.
“No, it’s cool.” Iggy cracks his knuckles, “OK, here goes; I’m on leave with my shipmates,” Iggy hops over the armrest of the recliner and sits. “I havin' a great time. I was hanging out with Donny O’Corcoran. I don't think I ever mentioned him. I hate remembering him, hate to think about it. I had the biggest crush on him. I would’ve done anything for him. He never had a clue how I felt, thank God. He was too busy trying to get laid with most any eligible women in San Diego. Come to think of it, some that weren’t either. So anyway, I spent a lot of time trying to think of ways we could hang out together on leave. You know how obsessed I get."
Delphine looks at him like he has four heads, "Obsessed? You?"
He smiles, flips her the finger and goes on, "He was from Idaho, we were total opposites in so many ways. He was amazed at how much I could knock ‘em back. As you know, growing up in Pottsville; drinking becomes second nature by the time you reach 10. Hell, it's a wonder ya have a liver at age twenty.
“I knew he wasn’t gay, but I didn’t care. I was so crazy over him. Just his smile would make me crazy. Try living with a guy in close quarters 24/7 with the man of your dreams and not be able to do a damn thing about it. It's the Navy. You have to keep your feelings in, hidden. If you got caught being gay, your Navy career was over. Anyway, with him, the whole thing was one-sided. He didn’t feel any attraction to me. I’m sure he wasn’t gay”
“How do you know that?” she asks.
“Well, one, he didn't act gay. Two, he didn't sound gay. Three, he was just so wrapped up in women the stories drove me crazy. He drove us all crazy. He thought we were just dying to hear what happened with the chick he just banged or how he scored a phone number. He made some really bad choices too. He screwed this one chick and ended up with the clap. He was always thinking with is dick.”
“So, back to how we got into that bar fight. We’re at this dive bar, place was known for only two things: cheap beer and prostitutes. We weren’t supposed to be there. Of course, we went anyway. We got really drunk. I mean “falling on your ass” drunk. I was so tempted to try something with him. I almost got the courage to kiss him. Thank God I didn’t, but I wanted to go for it so bad. I would have really created a disaster. Thank you Jesus. Thank you from keeping me from pulling that stunt.”
He went on, “It’s late, last call. So, what does Doc do just as we're about to leave? He orders another round."
"Who's Doc?" Delphine asks.
"Oh, that's Donny. Somehow he got that name. We all called him that. So, anyways, the bartender cuts him off. Doc gets pissed ‘cause it’s dawning on him there's no more booze. In his drunken wisdom, he decides that's not gonna to happen. He goes to throw a punch at the bartender and, of course, we get thrown out. So, we leave and head back to base.
"Delphine, I swear, I don’t even remember how we got to the guard station. He drove about five miles across the bay. I’m amazed we didn’t get ourselves killed. Doc was all over the road. At one point, we almost went over the side of the Coronado Bridge. By the time we get back to base, I started sobering up. I remember Doc got into it with one of the guards at the gate. The MP asked Doc to step out of the car. Doc gets insulted, how dare they assume he’s drunk, even though he’s behind the wheel totally shitfaced.
"Somehow, I get it in my head, Doc needed me to protect him from this MP. This guy was huge, a full three inches taller than Doc. I flew out of the car and knocked the guy out. I think you know the rest. It didn’t take long before I found myself on a Greyhound bus, out of the Navy and all banged up.
“When I got to Pennsylvania, I couldn’t face my dad. We’ve got a long family history in the Navy; he served, my older brothers served, grandad served. I think dad must have intervened after I called him from jail; probably the reason I’m not there now.
“Anyway, that was the last I ever saw of Doc. I felt like shit, like a failure. I let everyone down." Tears welled up in his eyes. Iggy stared straight ahead, "When I got to Reading, I didn’t call dad right away. I knew how fun that talk would go. So, when I finally did, he told me not to come home. I disgraced him and the family. Del, when he told me that, I was devastated.”
“Did you ever try contacting him again?”
Iggy takes a deep sigh, pulls the lever on the side of the recliner. He lays back, staring at the ceiling. “No. Ya know, all my life, I wanted to be like him. I idolized him and now I screwed it all up. I lost everything because I got drunk and ended up making a mess out of my life.”
Delphine had never known Iggy’s story. He never talked about it. She was moved by his trust. She noticed how she feels more and more like a shrink when she talks with Iggy.
“Cap’n Crunch, look at me. It takes a big man to admit he's made a mistake. However, look at you now! Stable job, doesn’t pay much but it’s a job. Working with disabled adults is rough as hell and you do great at it. You're a natural. I know a lot of residents have become so close to you.”
“I love those guys too.”
“On your days off, they ask where you are...over and over again. Drives me nuts.”
“It’s good to feel needed. I mean, it’s hard not to care for them. I feel protective with my guys. It’s not their fault the way they were born, anymore than it’s my fault for being a queer.”
Iggy asks, “You know what the worst part is? I hate having to hide it from everyone; being a closet case makes me feel like a fraud. On the other hand, what choice do I have? I’d be fired immediately, probably blackballed from working in another group home.
“So now, here I am. Just drifting with no goals. Sorta like being in the middle of an ocean with a ship that’s got no navigation, no engine. Any I did have were all based on what dad wanted. I had to be the man he wanted me to be."
He thinks for a minute, “It’s a good I have friends like you who know the real me. You’re like family, the one I wish I had. You know something? I’m actually closer you than I am with my brothers.”
“Iggy, I’m very touched to hear you say that. I have to admit, I feel like we’re family. It’s like we’re brothers or something. I don’t trust people, never did. But I trust you.
“Just remember Cap'n, when you’re lost at sea, you can always radio for help”
Iggy smiles, “Thanks man. Hey, by the way; did you ever hear what happened to the dude we dropped off at the hospital? I was thinking about him. He was so hot. I mean, even though he was comatose, he was still a hot guy”
“Here we go” Delphine throws her hands up in frustration, “I knew it was just a matter of time. YOU, Mister Crunch, are a mess! You drop off someone at an ER and next you’re picking out china patterns and the wedding venue.”
“Don’t you think that’s a little over the top, Del?”
“Crunch, he’s the last guy you should be dating. We're in healthcare. We know how difficult epilepsy can be."
She looks at him sideways, "I need to get you laid, dude. You have no clue who he is or what he has. Iggy, say you did get involved with him, ever think of that? Ever think of what your life would be like? He's not like some stray cat or dog. Now, just leave it at that. You sure know how to pick ‘em. I hope you’re not serious about all this. Life is tough enough without you getting involved in someone else’s issues.”
“Del, I think that’s my choice to make.”
“You’ve got to be joking! The sad part is, knowing you, you're not. You’ll find a way to track him down at get way too emotionally attached. Stop being so needy. You’re a handsome guy. You could do a lot better.”
“Del, I know you’re looking out for me. And by the way, I’m not needy.”
Delphine looks at him and says under her breath, “whatever.”
“No ‘whatever’ Del, you don’t trust me to make sound decisions about my life?”
“No…hell no, and you wanna know why? I have more examples than I can count where you’ve gotten involved with the wrong dude because you let your dick make the decisions. You're like the gay version of Doc”
He grabs a toothpick from the coffee table and focuses on cleaning the dirt from under his fingernails. Iggy sheepishly says, “That’s not right. I can’t believe you just said that.”
“Isn’t it?” Delphine starts counting off the times with her fingers, “OK, let’s see, there’s the married guy you got caught doing it with in the bathroom of the Abe Lincoln hotel. Iggy, that was just two weeks ago.”
Iggy chimes in, “It was two months ago.”
"How ever long it was doesn't matter, dude," Delphine rolls her eyes. She gives another example., “What about that taxi driver in Philadelphia? How long did you think that would last?”
“He was really into me.”
“So much so that he went back to his ex, later that night?” Delphine was on a roll, “Let’s see…Oh, yes, the bouncer at that bar in Pottstown. You sure bounced around with him. An abandoned depot, Iggy? Really? Crunch, do you ever learn anything?”
She puts her foot down, “I’m not bailing you out again. You have a long history of this. Look, I know you get horny, we all do. That’s not the problem, it’s what you do about it.”
Delphine sees she’s getting through to him, “Look, I wanted to ask you if you heard about how there’s this new “GRID” thing going around. From what I read, it’s pretty brutal. I read it’s a disease only gay men seem to get. It's scary as fuck.
"So, please Iggy, you’ve got to be more careful. I mean it could kill you. I couldn't deal with that. All the doctors know is it’s hitting gay men and guys are dying soon after they get it. When someone gets it, they’re dead in no time. Now, personally, I think it’s something Reagan dreamed up to get rid of us. I know that sounds crazy but…”
He looks at her ashamed and puts his head down. He feels bad he's worried her and how he's acted. His hands start scrunching the back of his black wavy hair. He looks up at her and sighs.
“Iggy, why not take it slow. Get to know people. Allow your man to get to know you. You’re such a nice guy. You deserve to be happy. You deserve more than just one night stands. Are you getting me? Do you understand? I’m not trying to be a hard ass, I’m just concerned about you.”
Iggy looks at her, opens up a pack of her cigarettes on the table. He takes one and lights it. The end of the cigarette glows bright red when he takes a drag. He rolls it between his thumb and forefinger, exhales and says, “Yeah, OK Del, I’ll take it slow”