Losing Tess was bad enough. It was more than bad though: I couldn't cope with it. Such a sweet, effervescent girl... none of that remained. She was wrecked to the core and I felt I was to blame. I should never have flirted with that... that... dare I call it a woman? Dare I call it anything? That demonic entity that tore us apart.
Justine, Juliette... whatever the fuck she called herself, had been able to do what she did because of my weakness, my lust, my despicable lack of character. When I probed deep into the matter – which I often did – I realized I was to blame for the whole goddamn catastrophe.
I had tried to re-establish a life with Tess, but that was pointless. Tess was no longer Tess – and on top of that, she didn't want me anymore. Tess's life had unraveled and my life began to unravel likewise. Well, my mind wasn't fried like Tess's, yet I wouldn't have been surprised if it would have been.
My deal with the publisher fell through... I didn't produce anything worth publishing anymore. And the diabolic woman had disappeared, taking all her work on my stories with her into oblivion.
I began to wander the streets of New York, day and night, without purpose, without hope. The days were the worst. The nights at least had their charm: the music, the people going out – the night energy. More and more I lived for that, for experiencing that night energy.
I drank hard, there's no point to sugarcoat that... the bottle had me in its grip... and that grip was mutual. I gripped and was gripped. By drinking myself senseless I managed to stay sane.
And then, one day, it was February 14... love was in the air and I fuckin' hated it. I was walking down Broadway wishing the Earth would begin to spin against its axis until it dropped me in the late seventies. God, it would have been something to be there during the heyday of sleaze.
A man with a broken heart would have been able to find redemption on every street-corner. I laughed at my perverse nostalgia – I had never been there, I just had romanticized something truly unromantic. I laughed even harder because my mind wasn't coping with this day, creating some sort of sarcastic mental antidote to all that saccharin Valentine bullshit?
And then I realized the best way to take this joke to its extremes: is to go and visit Birdland. I was sure they'd play 'My Funny Valentine', I was sure of it. And isn't that just the ultimate anti-Valentine song? At least when one considers Chet Baker's heroin laced rendition... Yes, this was the time to be at that place!
And so I soon found myself sitting at the bar, enjoying a Laphroaig. Yes, there were a lot of couples, that was a bit sickening, but wasn't the world sickening?
‘Fuck you, life’ I mumbled and sipped, and sipped, and ordered, and sipped, and ordered... and then I realized I must have really fuckin' lost it because I saw Chet Baker himself get on stage.
‘What the fuck?!’ I coughed, as I nearly choked on my Scotch. Some Wallstreet sleazeball, who had apparently been standing just behind me, laughed and shouted in my ear: 'Hey man, that ain't Chet man, that ain't him. He's dead.'
'I know he's fucking dead, man, what the fuck are you shouting in my ear for?' I said.
'I saw you... I saw how you nearly choked on your whiskey when he came on, hahaha!' he replied.
'Okay... so you did.'
'Yeah, well, the thing is. That over there is Ethan Hawke. He's in character.'
'What the fuck do you mean “he's in character”?'
'He's doing a biopic on Chet, man. He's performing tonight to show off how much he's into his part.'
'All right, that's pretty cool.'
'Yes, he does look like him, doesn't he?'
'Yeah, well, I guess he's too pretty... too unscathed... now I clearly see it's Ethan Hawke.'
'Yeah man, yeah... hey, wanna do a line?'
'No, in the men's, of course, you freakin' idiot.'
When we were in the cubicle together I said to my new acquaintance: 'Listen man, I'm not going to leave this place without a woman.'
He looked up at me with dilated pupils and a white nose like Tony after Manny boned his sister. I had to divert my laugh in order not to blow the blow.
'You look so ridiculous,' I said, crying with laughter.
'You sound ridiculous, man,' he answered, and also began to laugh.
After we stopped laughing I said: 'What, you think I sound ridiculous because I say I'm going to leave with a woman?'
'Yes,' he said, 'on Valentine's Day guys like us don't stand a fuckin' chance man.'
'Talk about yourself, you don't know me,' I coughed.
We washed our faces and went back to the bar. When we arrived back the band had just begun to play 'My Funny Valentine'. While I was greatly enjoying the beautiful rendition (that would have made Chet proud!) I spotted a woman with long, pitch-black hair, in a spotless white dress. She was apparently on her own, occupying one of the bar stools closer to the stage. I nodded towards my new acquaintance and said: 'This is my cue, junky.'
He laughed sarcastically and waved his hand as if he was squatting an imaginary fly.
I turned to the woman and said: 'Hey, how are you liking Charlie Parker?'
'You mean Chet Baker!' she shouted.
'Oh yeah, I'm sorry, I must be confused.'
'I'm sure you are. But hey, aren't we all?'
I looked deep into her dark brown eyes and liked what I saw.
'I like you, you're cool,' I said.
'I guess you're too. You're just a little high, aren't you?'
'What of it?'
'Nothing... I'm Anastasia.'
'Okay Basilio, if you want to continue this conversation in private, it will cost you two hundred dollars.'
I laughed, not even sarcastically, I knew that I had taunted the Gods with my romanticizing of the old days of vice. If I had longed for a sex worker in the vicinity of Times Square, well, here I was, this was it – the real thing. It occurred to me that I was thirty-five years old and had never paid for sex. If any time was to be the first, there could be no better time than this.
'Okay Anastasia, let's go,' I said and winked. I put my left arm through her right arm and gently let her outside. On the way there I patted my new Wall Street acquaintance on the shoulder and whispered 'I told you so' in his ear.
'You have my blessing, ' he said.
We took a taxi to Greenwich Village, where she had an apartment. We bought some beers on the way in a corner store. 'I live together with a girlfriend. If you want us to have the place to ourselves, she can go to a sauna.'
'Okay, that's cool.'
'Yeah, but you'll have to pay that for her.'
'What? You're trying to give me a proper shakedown here?'
'Well, it just more convenient this way,' she spoke in her unmistakably Russian accent.
'Okay, let's move her out.'
Anastasia called her friend and had an animated conversation with her in Russian.
'It's okay,' she said, 'driver, here we are.'
As we drove up to the apartment and stopped, I saw an angry-looking, young blond woman leave. Anastasia led me into a simple, though a quite attractive apartment. Even though I was quite numbed by all the substances I had been devouring all night, I was actually quite nervous. There was something intimidatingly haughty, almost regal, about Anastasia.
I also realized she was even more beautiful than I had initially given her credit for. We sat down on a large white sofa in her living room. I wanted to ask her many things... I was really quite curious about this woman, but I realized that I shouldn't... that I would only by beating around the bush, and that she wouldn't respect that. So, I looked deep into her eyes and kissed her. We kissed for minutes... I loved playing with the tip of my tongue onto hers.
'That's better,' she said, 'I was just wondering if you were a real man.'
'Of course, I am.'
'I hope so, you never know in this country.'
I laughed and kissed her more passionately. After we finished I asked:
'where are you from?'
'I realized that, but I mean, what city?'
'The middle of Siberia. Wow. That is one of the most exotic places on Earth to be from.'
'It is just a city.'
'Well, really? Were you not isolated? It must have been strange to grow up there.'
'I guess. Kiss me again.'
'You are right....' I kissed her again and began to undo her dress. I did not fidget long with her bra and soon she was there, next to me on the couch, bare to her underwear. She relieved me of my clothes and I pulled her panties down her legs.
I was extraordinarily thrilled, not just because I was with a woman again, after months, but because I was with Anastasia, this thrilling, exotic and most erotic being. I put a condom on and entered her. It felt so natural, so as if we had been doing this many times before, so as if we had been made for each other... It was a wild session, I felt no restraints, and after I had come it did not take long before I rolled on another condom and went back into her.
'You are amazing, truly thrilling,' I said as I lay next to her, heaving and panting.
'Come back into me,' she said, 'I want you again.'
As I began to twiddle with another condom, she said: 'Don't. I like it better without.'
I knew that sounded quite alarming, but I didn't care anymore. And so I complied. I went into her unprotected... and it felt astonishing. I grabbed her by her ass and lifted her up, fucking her as I walked through the room, with her tight to me as if we were dancing... dancing a most intimate dance. We came again... simultaneously, I felt her tremble as I came. We lay next to one another, catching our breath. Then we had a beer.
'I like how you fuck,' she said.
I laughed and answered, 'I can only return the compliment.'
'Perhaps you can.'
'Perhaps I should....'
I jumped on top of her and we fucked again. It was savage and redeeming. It was as if something that was deeply broken within me was being repaired as I watched her labia swallow my cock. I took it out and sprayed all over her belly. More heaving and panting and then she jumped me again.
After the fifth time, we moved to the kitchen. We sat down at the kitchen table and drank another beer.
'I like you, you fuck like a man,' she said.
'You give me a real woman to do it with. It's irresistible,' I said.
'I often find it difficult to get what I want in this country,' she sighed.
'Why are you here then?'
'For the money.'
'So, this, all of this, is this also only money?' I spoke.
'It was in the beginning. But now it's special,' she answered.
I looked at her, admired her phenomenal body. She stared at me... we were about to experience an awkward silence, and I was positively thrilled at how she prevented it: she took my right arm and coaxed me to sit on my knees, while she placed herself on her knees in front of me and pushed her ass onto my cock. I had never seen a better way of preventing an awkward silence. When I came I saw red stars, yellow moons, and green clovers. After I regained my breath I said: 'We deserve the Olympic gold medal for sex, baby.'
'No,' she answered.
'You, you deserve it. You did all the hard work.'
I laughed and sighed: 'This sure is Valentino's day... thank you, Anastasia, I'm truly grateful. You have saved my life.'
One hell of a fucking Valentine's Day. I never saw her again, but – as strange as that might sound – that only made it more beautiful.