Thursday, February 18, 2010

Aimless Reading: The F's, Part 30 (Heather Fuller)

Fuller, Heather
perhaps this is a rescue fantasy

Not quite sure where I bought this. It was likely at Talking Leaves in 1997, around the time Heather read with Rod Smith in Buffalo, but I might have bought it at a reading I saw the two of them give at the Segue Foundation in the spring before I left New York.

Dan Machlin used to run a series in the Segue Performance space on 8th between B & C. I saw a lot of my first avant and post-avant readings there. I also did my first reading in that space, with Eileen Myles in April 1997.

My apartment was just down the street at 235 E. 4th St., corner of Avenue B, 6th floor, no elevator. It had two bedrooms, one bath and a combo kitchen/living/dining area. My rent was $825 per month. In the 5 years I rented the apartment, I had five different roommates. The first was a friend from college, a woman, C., and we made it through almost a year before all kinds of unexpected romantic feelings intervened to screw up what had been up to that time a perfectly useful living arrangement.

After she moved out, another friend, P., who I've mentioned before in connection to a writers group I was in, moved in. He made it through the half of the summer before deciding he couldn't stand any of my friends, who I was constantly inviting to the house to eat and drink and socialize.

I think my friend J., also of writer's group fame, moved in briefly after that -- he was on his way to grad school in Austin and needed a place for a few months before he left the city. It was one of the most eventful periods in the history of that apartment.

He lived with me in the middle of a summer heat wave. One night, to get out of the apartment, we walked over to a little cafe called 7A, at the corner of 7th and A (get it?). We each drank a giant tumbler of iced coffee before returning home to go to bed. About three in the morning I heard a faint knocking on the wall between our bedrooms and then J's voice calling my name.

When I entered his room he was sitting naked on the edge the bed, muttering, I am burning up, but I am not sweating. I helped him into the shower, turned on the cold water and sat on the edge of the tub while he cooled off. He said felt alright and then went back to sleep. I heard the same moaning and knocking on the wall a few hours later, around sunrise, at which point I took him to the hospital, where they told him he'd suffered heat stroke from dehydration and had to pump him full of glucose. His father came to pick him up and I think he spent the next week or so out at his parents' air-conditioned home in Massapequa.

Returning from a bar one night later in the summer, the two of us were climbing the stairs to the apartment when we found a young woman on her knees on the landing between the 5th and 6th floors. She had long, dark hair, and she wore a black, sleeveless one-piece skirt. One her feet were a pair of heavy, florescent green socks, but no shoes. She was crying. We asked her what was wrong. She said she had slipped and fallen down the stairs. We took her up to the sixth floor and sat her on a couch in the hall that had been thrown out -- I think it had been mine or J's.

She had a teardrop tattooed on her face, just under one eye and another on her arm that read, Phaedra. She said that was her name. Turned out she was living in the apartment next door. It was a very run down, rent-controlled place with peeling paint and without electricity or heat, neither of which had been paid in years. A would-be Euro-rocker cum heroin addict named Lung, who paid his rent by renting rooms and floor space to squatters from Tompkins Square, had the lease. I'd seen him on the stairs in his combat boots and ripped up clothing. He'd bummed a few cigarettes off me in the past.

Anyhow, she smoked a cigarette and calmed down and went home. We figured that was the last we'd see of her, but it wasn't. About a week later the two of us were smoking cigarettes and watching a movie on TV when we heard screaming from the hallway outside the apartment. Through the peephole in the door we could see a large man kicking and punching Phaedra. Then he started dragging her around by the hair.

All of the sudden she started pounding on our door screaming Help me Help me Help Me. One of us held the doorknob and counted to three, then pulled it partially open, while the other, I think it was J, grabbed her by the arm and pulled her into the apartment, while I closed the door and locked the dead bolt. We expected the man to start pounding on the door, but he didn't. Phaedra lay on the floor shrieking, "He hung me out the fucking window! He hung me out the sixth floor fucking window!"

We called the cops, who got there pretty quickly. After knocking on the door several times, they burst into the apartment–which was pitch black because the power had been shut off by ConEd–guns drawn, and searched the place. The guy had already left.

Phaedra's face was beat up pretty badly. She may have lost a tooth -- I can't quite recall. The cops questioned her for about an hour. She told them the man was also a squatter and that he had accused her of hocking the amp for his guitar to buy drugs. They asked her her name. Phaedra, she said. Got any I.D.? She showed them something. Her name was actually something very plain, like Jennifer Jones.

Phaedra, what's that name for? asked the cop.

She looked up at him and said, It's from mythology. Then she smiled. Her teeth were all bloody and her eye was black. It's a love story.

Then they took her down to an ambulance and drove off. When they had gone we discovered a huge blood stain on the carpet. We initially thought it had come from her face, but then realized that the stain was to large to have come from her mouth. J. surmised that she had had a miscarriage. We never really knew.

A few weeks after that, she moved back into the apartment, now with her new boyfriend, a young, dreadlocked black guy named Purple. He, too, was a squatter. They started stopping by once a day or so, asking for things -- sugar, tea, cigarettes, a little change. They almost felt like roommates for a while–or annoying relatives. Then one day Phaedra was gone. The next day we came home and found Purple standing in front of the building with a giant suitcase.

He said the U.S. Marshals had seized the apartment and asked if he could store his suitcase with us. I said sure, but only for a few days. Days became weeks. Occasionally, Purple would stop by with a few other squatters to get a change of clothes o to take a shower, promising to take his stuff soon. J moved out in August and we threw a big party. I put Purple's suitcase on the fire escape to get it, and it's odor, out of the apartment. I found him, drunk, in Tompkins square and told him I would throw his stuff out if he didn't come take it the next day. It rained that night, while all his stuff was on the fire escape, so when he came to pick it up it was quite heavy.

About two weeks later he showed up and demanded that I pay him for the cassette tapes he'd had in the suitcase, which had gotten ruined in the rain. I said I was sorry, but I felt we were even, given that he'd had his things in my apartment for so long. I never saw either of them again.

After J., there was T., and then I went away to Ecuador for a year and sublet the Apt. to J. and his girlfriend. I moved back in a year later with another friend, P., about whom I'll have plenty to say at some other point.


Here's a recording of Heather Fuller reading from perhaps this is a rescue fantasy.


Aaron Lowinger said...

this reminds me of the epic Lee Greenwood/Nancy Sinatra song, Some velvet morning when I'm straight
I'm gonna open up your gate
And maybe tell you 'bout Phaedra
and how she gave me life
and how she made it in

Michael Kelleher, Buffalo, NY said...

Never heard that one -- I'll have to check it out.