The 80s Cushion
A Short Story By Adam Furgang — July 17, 2020
Ark walked along Ludlow Street, away from Katz deli clutching a pastrami sandwich and a bag of French fries that had become so soaked with grease it had become an edible appetizer. He remembered his girlfriend, Sili, who hated meaty Jewish deli food and how she’d likely bitch and moan through every bite of his meal. As the thought passed through his head he turned west to head to Washington Square park where he could enjoy his meal alone on a park bench.
Houston street was polluted with a backlog of cars straining to get into the Holland Tunnel, belching exhaust and backed up, likely, all the way into Brooklyn and Queens.
The city hated itself, he thought. It was not there for the people, for they mostly hated it too. Even the ones who professed to love it and produced from it were really just parasites. Endlessly sucking milk from a tit intended for a neglected infant. Noontime had passed hours earlier. It felt like six but when Ark saw a watch randomly on some wrist of a vapid SoHo couple he realized it was closer to nine. Where had all the time gone? He had certainly left for Katz at 11am.
Ark sat on a decaying bench in Washington Square and as splinters snatched his pants he ate his sandwich and fries, animal and vegetable grease moisturizing his unshaven face, skin, and arteries. He had hoped to see kids on swings and slides singing young sounds but it was already too late. The smell of cannabis stained the taste of his meal and he recalled the last time he was stoned — a paranoid episode where he damaged his skateboard with sand, clumsily groped a breast of an old girlfriend, Trina, under the Brighton Beach boardwalk before she kindly nudged him off her, broke up with him, bought him a large cherry ices, and sent him off on the F train stoned, crying, with a red stained drippy mouth, and a white T that looked like his throat had just been slit.
He finished eating his deli food, mostly. Veins, rye, and potato stuck in his teeth, when a homeless man took the oily bag and scraps off him before he even decided completely that he was relinquishing it. He wandered home, occasionally stepping in foul smelling cold gray puddles of city excrement, then stopped at Yonah Schimmel for a potato knish for Sili.
“For Sili?” asked Abrom from behind the counter. The aged tiled interior seemed as if it had been assembled somewhere in Russia and shipped along with the store’s original proprietors, right through Ellis Island and reassembled on Houston Street.
“A kinish!” Exclaimed Sili. “Oh I love you so,” she said as she bored into the derelict baked potato pillow. “Any Doc Browns cream?” she asked as Ark produced it from the paper bag. More excitement. A kiss for Ark. Several burps later Sili was on the couch. A roach brazenly helped itself to some fallen mashed potato crumbs in the center of the room.
It was 1982. A lone television played channel 11 news. Ark gazed at a man named Ronald Regan on the TV. He was the new president and he was explaining somber news about a recession that disturbed the air in the room. Ark and Sili watched, dead faced, as they pulled out their works and began to cook up some brown junk in a spoon. Sili stood anxiously and produced some used ear swabs of cotton she had stolen from the dumpster behind the barber shop several days earlier. The match flame burned Ark’s already blackened and blistered fingers as he waited for the junk to boil. He didn’t even notice. Sili sucked up the junk into two syringes simultaneously — her one skill of dexterity aside from the decent head she often gave Ark most nights after he’d finger her, and before they’d both fall asleep, sometimes with needles still lodged in veins.
“I like this Regan guy!” barked Ark at the murmuring TV. “He’s never gonna clean up this city though. This shithole will smell for a long time even if it finds its way past the distant fire tha mer sal skl…” he said as the junk hit his brain and pleasant mucus music filled his head. Sili sunk into the couch. They stripped off their permanently dirty clothes and managed to find the bed. The junk was better than usual so nothing sexual between them. They were awake but asleep. Eyes open but not seeing.
Sirens from the street below. Noises from Puerto Rican musical instruments bounced through the open windows.
Ark urinated in the bed.
The TV flickered black blue light and the news ended and the program switched over to an old episode of The Twilight Zone where a man wanders into a town to meet his younger self.