Lucky Bleeder: A Short Story

Written by | September 25, 2019 15:27 pm | No Comments

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“Widdling, griddling, skittling, diddling,fiddling, diddling, widd”

-Ian Dury

 

 

 

One

Money begets money and Carl Adelaid III came from four generations of oil  money and wore it with all the arrogance of the super rich. Carl’s Great Grandpa hit Texas tea, his Grandpa grew it in all directions, his pop, Carl Adelaid II married a popular actress of the 1950s and moved to New York, becoming part of New York Society and expanding the business into television production, real estate and beyond.

Carl III was the oldest of the next generation, the heir apparent, and he had all the genes he could ever hope for, money too… Just everything. And, more surprisingly, he wasn’t a spoiled little brat. Oh, sure, by most standards he had an air of privilege that could be noxious, and sometimes he misunderstood even middle class money, but he was a handsome charmer, and people liked Carl despite his money.

There was a rebellious stage in the 1970s where, while attending Cambridge, Carl became enamored of punk rock, but he got over it. Enjoyed the single life till he was a young but less young in those days, 23 years of age where he, miraculously, married for love. His wife was half Latin American and half Irish, a beautiful woman he met at a Prince concert at MSG,  she was in the cheap seats, he was in the front row, but they were born equal trying to get  through the main entrance, where standing side by side Carl noticed the petite beauty and wisecracked about how it would be 1999 before they ever even got in. Rosalia Gonzales was just nineteen, and  was so thrilled to be going to see her the man who was not Michael Jackson as he tried to sell Lovesexy, that her good mood was contagious. She giggled aloud, and as the audience entered the arena, was squeezed against Carl.  Rosalia kept on jumping on her tiptoes and squeezing Carl’s arm and hugging herself. She was with a girlfriend and Carl was with his best friend and before they got to their seats, they had swapped. Rosalia and Carl in the cheap seats, way at the top. After the show, Carl offered to drive Rosalia home but had to settle with walking her to the subway station in Herald Square and they sat in the park, waiting for her friend, and stealing kisses.  They were married within a year and they were never separated again till she died in childbirth at the age of twenty-three.

With no other way to get to the baby, they had  pulled him out of the dead Mom and managed to cause irreparable harm to the already irreparably harmed. The doctor commiserated with Carl, “You warned her,” the doctor said. Carl just cried. “We knew it was a distinct possibility”.  And still Carl cried as though there was nothing left on earth but his broken heart and twisted son. Carl had meant to name his son Carl Adelaid IV but after one look at the damaged baby he chose Ian Adelaid instead, named for his hero Ian Dury. “There ain’t half been some clever bastards,” Carl laughed to himself, in shock and wonder and humor at how suddenly his life had fallen off a cliff.

The next day Carl had a private meeting with some very unethical doctors and discussed ending Ian’s life. He chew on his lip and looked down his shades and shaded the three doctors. “So he will never be normal…?” Carl asked.

“Ian is normal, mentally, he will be perfect, but physically it is really difficult to assess how he will be.”

“Don’t fuck with me,” Carl snapped. “Will he be able to function alone?”

“Never. He will need constant supervision for his entire life.”

“What sort of…” Carl could feel tears stinging, waiting to be late go. Not for Ian but for his wife, dead less than 48 hours. For what he dreamed this reality would be and what it ended up being. “Would he better off having a shorter life?” Carl asked.

“It can be done but it would have to be done very carefully… “

“What should I do?”

“Do what is in the babies best interest.”

Carl was so close to telling the doctors to end Ian’s life  but he couldn’t do it. For better or worse Ian was his link to Rosalia and though Carl wanted nothing do with Ian, he couldn’t rid himself of the boy. He knew Rosie, who had died for Ian, would never forgive him, his beautiful, tragic wife and the only good thing he had ever done. Stood up to his family, to the world, and followed his heart.

Carl mourned his wife then compartmentalized her and got on with life. Carl  married again, and had some normal children to carry on the family name. And as for Ian “Spasticus Autisticus” Adelaid -Carl bought a huge town house on Fifth Avenue opposite Central Park, took his very own bodyguard Tommy Brown and placed Tom in charge of protecting his son and building a staff around the boy. But he only visited Ian on the rarest of cases, and though all of Ian’s damages were physical and none mental, Carl separated the baby from the human race and left him to grow up in isolated splendor.

In the late 1970s, when Carl was at Cambridge, and obsessed with Dury’s New Boots And Panties, an obsession his pals in University found hysterical, especially during glee night performances where he would stand in front of an audience of his peers and try and sound Essexian on “Billericay Dickie”. And an obsession that lead him to meet with Dave,a  partner in Stiff Records,and buy a stake -making a reasonable profit forty years later when it was sold to Universal. Carl did it for a love of music, and he did it to meet Ian. And he remained friends with Dury till Dury died in 2000.

When Ian met Ian, it was February 8th, 1998, a special gift from the boy’s father for the boy’s tenth birthday,  and the chance to meet his idol. Like his father, Ian loved Dury and, while Ian was in far worse physical  shape than Dury, he still saw in Dury how physical disabilities didn’t define him. Also, Ian loved Dury’s dancehall sound, the nursery rhyme, cheek of it all. and, maybe most importantly,  though Ian would never have admitted it even to himself, perhaps as a side effect of his love for his father, he saw the two as similar figures figures.Parents: for Ian, a love that truly dare not speak its name especially as the always casual Carl treated his son like a half remembered song and paid him practically no attention through the first ten years of his life.  Ian listened to Dury’s music all the time and he imagined he was listening to it with his daddy. After a series of pleading emails, and much thought, Carl decided to set up a meeting between his son and his friend.

Carl had Dury fly over from London in his private jet and put him in a suite at the Waldorf, they went out to dinner and a show, and the next day went to the Town House. An impressive, two floor, layout. The ground floor was where the people involved in Ian’s every day life, cooks, nurses, physical therapists, teachers, bodyguards, all managed by Tom Brown, and all calm in a sterile, businesslike environment. There was a large elevator and they rode to an entire floor lobby with one double door leading to Ian’s living quarters, and the other to his school and work environment, circling back round. It was nothing but room and it was where Ian was home: a small, torn, and weary child with knobs and handles surrounding him, so he could zoom through the empty spaces, and program his huge computer console by himself. Ian looked tipped over and ruffled, he looked like the alien in “Aliens,” the human in him bruised and bent, the robot in him tensile and metal and so used to people either looking away or through him, that his own sense of self was somehow missing. The white haired and tired looking Dury took an immediate shine to the boy -a sad sight, surrounded by luxury on a gold throne electric wheelchair speedcar, hooked up to a vocoder because his face was partially paralyzed making speech extremely difficult, imagine a baby Stephen Hawkins, there was something defiant about him  and his first words to Dury were, “So, what were those reasons to be cheerful, again?”

Dury laughed out loud then nodded his head and said “Well, my son, money buys a lot.”

“It does, just not enough. Them walkie talkies: lucky bleeders…”

“You’re lucky as well, I know kids in worse shape than you with no money, they have to find a way to make money and…”

Carl sat next to Dury and spoke right through Dury and over his son’s head. “You see the problem, right? It’s the family. I’d have let him live with me, if necessary, but I have the family name to worry about and I simply can not have it. My son, IV, now he is only six years old and you can just see he will be a titan of US industry, possibly President, if I don’t make a run for it myself…”

Dury looked worried and was veering into anger. “Ian can hear you, you know, he’s not deaf, he’s crippled.”

“Ian can’t come close to what I need but I’ve done well for him… … he has money, he has friends, he is in absolute luxury. What is he missing? It isn’t my fault he is stuck in that hideous disfigured state.”

“Actually, I don’t have friends. I guess money can’t buy everything…” Ian said.

“Are you anti-social?”

“I don’t know, I have not been made social though, I do know that. And I know I’m alone and always will be.”

“You’re wrong mate,I’m your friend.”

“Why?”

“You’re funny and you ain’t too self-pitying. You are going to do very well, my son. Very well..” And then to Carl, “He  is a good kid, you can see what I mean, he is a smart one, you’re gonna regret neglecting the boy. He is neither a liability, nor a deformity, he is an asset.”

“Well, he is very good with numbers, just like his Mommy… I never realized it was hereditary. And he can have a good life here, he has everything…”

“What is wrong, Carl. We’ve been muckers for twenty years, I’ve never known you to be cruel.”

“How am I being cruel?”

The son listened to all of this with a sense of sinking loneliness. Finally, he realized it would never change, it would never be better. He was stuck in the motorized coffin for the rest of his life and he could feel the tears welling up. Dury looked at him, then took his cane and slithered bent and hobbled towards him, pulled up a chair, and hugged him.“Don’t worry boy, I have faith in you, you will come through these days and become your own man, don’t let anybody or anything define you…”Then back to the father, “Carl, this is too cruel, people need families, they need love, they need empathy. You can’t tie him up to this place and leave him alone.”

“90% of the world would change places with him, deformities included.”

Ian turned to the boy. “Don’t underestimate yourself, my son. Your body doesn’t define you, you can still live a full life and more, better than a full life. Better than your father’s life and grandfather’s. We, the disabled, we are a family and the world can like it or lump it. We are because we are, fuck pity, fuck help. Life is a party son…”

Ian was ready to start crying again but pulled himself. Tears barely actually happen anyway, and the pain could be excruciating. “What’s it like?” Ian wanted to ask, the way he asked the only person even remotely close to him when he was a child, his keeper Tom Brown, . “What’s it like to be free to move and speak and have friends…”

“It’s the same, Ian. It’s just the same… But your old man isn’t a bad person, he is just incapable of seeing what needs to be done. “

At that precise moment, the boy was done with his father, any dreams he had of a family, of recovery, of being anything but a soul in a shell came crashing down and he went deeper into himself. Always secretive, he became more secretive. By nature reticent, Ian seldom said anything at all. He would spend days on end trying to think himself through to where he could live his life and all he could see was that while for many people the world was a hostile, for Ian the world was completely indifferent.

Ian never saw Dury again as Ian’s world was long, long halls, where he rode his revved up chair back and forth and back and forth, and round and round and round and round, deep in though and daydreams. The day Ian Dury died, Ian Adelaid sang “Spasticus Autistic” to himself over and over again:

“I wibble when I piddle

Cos my middle is a riddle”

 

 

 

Two

Though Ian has no memory of this, by the age of 16 months he knew his physical self was different than others. Cloistered in luxury away from the world, he was soon acutely away that there was something dissimilar between him and the world around him. It could have been something as simple as the lack of physical attention, of being held and hugged, loved regardless; perhaps if they had gotten him a wet nurse. But those first two years, it was like the baby was being raised by nurses and that lack of real contact would remain with him into his twenties. The baby was raised by the book, by the manual, by computers telling his handlers when to reach for him, when to leave him, how to hold him and how to let him be. The cooing of a mother’s voice was recorded and played throughout the floor, like a favorite song, yet in its lack of a heart beat, in its digital harness, it couldn’t reach through to Ian in the way it needed to and in his infancy Ian was slow to react to the world around him. At first, his handlers and Tom Brown in specific, wondered whether there was something mentally wrong with him, teams of brains surgeons and neurologists poured over him and decided that the lack of human contact in any meaningful way was effecting his development. So Tom did what any man would do, he sent out for people to interact with the child. To seriously play with him, however difficult it might be to play with an infant who couldn’t move. And slowly, working with language therapists, and physical therapists, the extended health providers surrounding him, the baby began to develop whatever skills he could, while his body as it was, was manipulated and developed, and manners of communication were built in.

Ian was an island, but a very clever island, he caught on, he communicated, he had favorites, he showed happiness by squeezing on someone’s hands, and sadness by scrunching up his face. But he was so unattractive, and so difficult to communicate with, nobody really cared about him, and as he began being taught kindergarten he was more alone than ever before.  Communicating through the computer by the age of three, and spending his afternoons watching Sesame Street and Dora The Explorer, there seemed to the boy to a world of people with different skills than he had. When one show had a little girl in a wheelchair as the protagonist, he watched it over and over again, as though it could help make sense of the world outside.

A world represented by Tom Brown who, in an act he would come to regret, had chosen to keep Ian at a distance from him. Tom would go out of his way to assure the little boy that Tom was not his father and not his friend but simply a paid employee. Tom had his own life, his own family, and his own privacy, and he wanted them to remain real by forcing his work life to remain just his work. He had explained to his wife the situation, very early on: “If I let myself consider Ian one of my children, I couldn’t give my children what they need from me, I would be mimicking feelings I had already showered on Ian and I can’t do it, I won’t do it.”

So yes, Ian  knew no children as Carl had  locked his son away from the world, still he couldn’t hide Ian from what he was, a physically damaged being, ruined at birth, never to be seen or loved. This realization grew and grew, for Ian feeding his dreams and daydreams despite a world where his deformities were never mentioned on pain of immediate dismissal, from an early age Ian would brood as to why he couldn’t move very much at all. Except for his hands and arms, he was stuck where he was, incapable of taking care of himself and pretending, though he felt deep inside that it wasn’t true, that the people who surrounded him might have loved him. Soon the reflection in the mirror, nothing like the boys and girls he watched on television or read about in books, sneered back at him. By the age of five, Ian was withdrawn and introverted, and nobody loved him enough to get him out of it. Since Carl wouldn’t help, Tom, who was on a multi million annual contract, chose to remain distant.

Ian lived in a world where nobody loved him, nobody touched him, once he grew past infancy nobody picked him up to play with him, he was isolated inside his brain and simultaneously betrayed by the entire world and at the top of his own world. He didn’t understand it, as a child, he didn’t understand why he couldn’t move, why he couldn’t play. Put on the floor, he would be left to crawl on his elbows, randomly around the huge Townhouse with toys surrounding him but the toys of uncertain use. The nurses who took care of him, the family housekeepers who maintained the palatial habitat, the guards and guardians, the strict, restrictions when he went out of doors, across the road to Central Park, where he and Tom would sit for hours watching children his age doing what he couldn’t do and wondering why he couldn’t. With a vocoder speaking for him, and demon speed as a typist, he would ask anybody and everybody the same thing: “why? what does it mean? Am I less than human or more than human? Am I becoming something else or remaining myself?”

The answers came in flits and starts, and usually ended up with a God’s will, something more difficult for Ian to grasp then anything else. The sanctity of life was built on a foundation of wealth, “Many people would give everything for what you have… Think of Ethiopia.” A pontificating truism that Ian couldn’t grasp ether. He went onto his desktop PC and onto the World Wide Web, this was 1998, and waited for the modem to kick in, and then typed Ethiopia.  “I would rather starve to death than being stuck here for my entire existence waiting for God to give me my reward.” Then he searched out porn, gave his Black AmEx number, and  when he was done with that he researched his last night’s homework  and began working out how to hack the system, hack his father,

By this time in his life, Ian was beginning to realize his physical disabilities didn’t warrant the secluded life he was living. Though indifferent to his home teaching, except for everything computer based, he was certainly smart enough, and though severely handicapped, he could feel a certain intellectual power and in his thirteen years of life he had managed to get through childhood more or less, alone. He would sit in front of his computer screen, and he would wonder about self sufficiency. “Because I have no father, no mother, no brothers or sisters or friends, and I am still here. And that means I can live without anyone, I can deal with aspects of my life that people so wonderful, so lovely, girls who wouldn’t look at me, they would turn away and throw up, can’t at all.” He chucked to himself imagining asking Sarah Jessica Parker for a date. “If I went to a girl and asked her for a date she would laugh in my face,” he thought to himself and then, almost immediately, “I am rich, dad is rich. Isn’t that enough?

Ian loved the rain, listened to the sound as he sat by the window, a computer screen always nearby, and closed his eyes and drifted into fantasy, banal and fulfilling, running, playing games, hide and seek with his best friend Daniel and later, he changed his best friend to a girl, Dani: Dani was all cream and strawberries and tough yet gentleness, and they had adventures, they ran away to the farm (what farm?) and as the rain came down he could see Dani sitting by his side, holding his hand, in a world of love and friendship and joyfulness in the smallest of details.

 

 

 

Three

On February 20th, 1989, the exact same date as Ian’s birth, at the same hour as Ian’s birth, and  ten 10 miles further uptown,  , Rakim Brown arrived first, followed by Lakisha Brown, to their Mom, Tom Brown’s sister, Sylvia, who may have needed many things, but one of them wasn’t two more mouths to feed.   Sylvia  was 29 years old and Rakim and Lake were her fourth and fifth children respectively. Father, unknown, but given the lightness of their skin pigmentation, undoubtedly trick babies, There had been two miscarriages in-between as Sylvia hustled her entire life, stripping or dealing or occasionally more than stripping and dealing. With no husband, and no family able to help her, Sylvia had been on her own two feet for as long as she could remember, and promised herself to give her children a kinder upbringing. It is hard to feed so many mouths, but she didn’t make her children work till her eldest, at fifteen, got a fake ID and joined the same strip club.

Lake  would grow up, not in abject poverty, but nevertheless in the Marcy Project, a place where less was less. She was a lovely girl and Lakisha and Rakim, as the two youngest, were close even for twins, Lake was more like Rakim, a gangly boy who thought of taking up basketball, than anyone else, and every single thing they shared. Both were fairly good at school till they both dropped out at fifteen. Lake was literate and a reader, with a tight knit group of girlfriends, and a certain popularity among the boys. Rakim  wanted to get through and get out of the projects without joining a gang. Both kids were popular though withered out by poverty, and both faced life together. This closeness was always there, as children Rakim had the sofa in the living room, Lake a mattress in the girl’s room, and Lake would sneak down after a nightmare and snuggle with her twin. Lakisha was pretty but it dawned on her slowly mostly through inappropriate men:  an older gentleman trying to touch her when she was ten years old, boys at school pursuing her when she was twelve, and then getting a fake ID and joining her mother and sister in topless bars. If at twelve she was pretty, at fifteen she was stunning, white enough to pass and smart as hell. Rakim was hustling drugs most of the time, and smoking weed, and playing hoops. Lakisha was still a virgin when she started giving lap dances, and once she hit eighteen, she upgraded to a huge club in Queens, and then at 21 she was at the Hustler club. Big money. Big tips.

All of Lake’s friends were from that other way of Manhattan, a black culture of hip hop and drugs, strippers and rip offs, and it was the only world Lake really understood. Occasionally, some Wall Street white guy would fall for her and that was a real big mistake, for both of them. “Watch me drain him,” she would think to herself, and within a month she’d be 10K richer, without realizing that she could have gotten a whole lot more and with a minimum of work, she never gave the relationships time to unfold… There was a tenderness to Lake for her friends and family that didn’t include middle aged white men trying to fuck her and failing for her.  What the guys didn’t get was that she couldn’t love for money, and she couldn’t love without it. Meanwhile Rakim was wasting his life , drifting from girl to girl, from one unsatisfying relationship to another while hiding his true nature.

Lakisha did the big money, sugar baby scene from time to time, though it was her first boyfriend, Daniel, who’d turn her around and out.

 

 

 

Four

The worst moment ever? Ian was around ten years of age, and one of his many handlers and helpers, gofers and comefers, arrived one afternoon with her ten year old daughter and, try as Ian could, he couldn’t see her looking at him the way all kids looked at him. She introduced herself, “Hi, I’m Diana, thank you for letting me visit with you,” she said. Diana had big blue eyes and straight hair, her skin lightly tanned in the mid summer season and when she touched Ian’s had he felt a rush go through him, and he smiled his quirky, scary half lip smile. “I am so happy you are here, you can enjoy everything… I have everything…”

Ian’s voice with the vocoder is laborious and scary, like a robot. As fast as Ian could type, it still never sounded normal at all. But Diana didn’t seem to care. She smiled down at him, and she was so gentle. “It’s wonderful, Ian. You have everything in your world. I wish I lived here with you, it’s….” She made an expansive sign, wrapping herself between the money and the world. “It is everything.”

Ian felt something he had never felt before, the possibility of a friend, of someone to share his daydreams, and no she wasn’t the little girl who had sat in imaginary glory by his side all day long, no, she was better. They sat side by side and Ian explained how Microsoft worked, revving up his modem like a car racer, and opening her very own AOL account. Though they were very young, there was something in the connection that stirred Ian, not sexually, but emotionally. By the age of ten, Ian had never really had the bonds of love that form with mother’s or family, or even friend. He had realized that when Tom invited boys to play with him, they never played with him, within ten minutes he was on the computer and they were playing together.

Tom  didn’t love Ian though in its own, secret  way he felt paternally towards Ian  and to a degree Ian realized the bond, but it was still a very distant bond indeed. When Ian  looked at the employees who surrounded him , he immediately put a dollar figure on their affection, he was a job filled with people who didn’t care for him and he kept an eye on everyone, short circuit TVs, which he monitored from his console. Alone in the world he could be scared, but on this floor and in the house, he was all things, all the time.  Everywhere, there were cameras and microphones, and he listened in.Sitting in silence, earplugs connected to his PC, he listened to his employees insult him as creepy, weird, and slow. Nobody stood up for him, all these people  unable to connect with the spasticus autisticus, the lucky bleeder who paid their bills. When he was a baby, he was wheeled out for an airing in Central Park, but soon he couldn’t take the people he felt were watching him.It is here a real parent would have been useful, there were support groups, and children his own age, but nobody knew them and nobody cared. On his motorized wheelchair he went round and round the veranda, deep in thought as he traveled between daydreams and revenge dreams, and wondered how life could have left him so adrift.

But Diana, for once, was someone who seemed to really like him, really be impressed. He watched her from the corner of his eye, waiting for a tell tale spell of contempt, disgust, dislike, but it never came. It wasn’t there. And for two hours they seemed to breaking through. Diana was also an only child, her Mom was responsible for keeping the main living room area clean and so seldom came into contact with him. Diana’s parents were divorced: “I’ve become an island, I’m just drifting to sea, and I miss Daddy and Mommy being together, I miss having that, I dunno, feeling of being part of a thing bigger, you know…?”

“I am only guessing of course, I only met my Dad like five times and my Mom never, but I think I know what you mean.”

“I guess we are just lonely little kids, and all we have is each other…”

Ian could feel his soul blossom, as if a part of him that had never ever been touched had been only hiding and just needed love and interest to blossom, and when it was time for Diana to leave she said, “I had a wonderful day”.

“So did I,” Ian replied with only the slightest of catches in his voice.

“I want to spend my summer here!” She added laughing.

“I would love it if you did.”

Diana moved onto his lap and gave him a long hug, “Should I come again?”

“Yes, you must.”

“I’ll ask Mom.”

“I’ll ask your Mommy as well.”

“Do you think we’ll become friends?”

“I want that.”

“For how long? A week? A year? Tomorrow? Will we always feel close…?”

“Forever.”

“Forever.”

Diana left the room and Ian turned towards the computer and followed her with a string of cameras as she walked towards the outer living room, where her Mom waited for her. Ian watched how she moved, not with the skip of a ten year old, but with a slower, more considered step. A lounge, swinging walk , he switched cameras and looked at her face, the smile she’d been wearing now gone, and her lips turned down. Diana didn’t look happy any more, she looked harder and more like somebody else completely. Over the years, Ian had gotten used to how masks dropped. One reason he trusted Tom  was because he never changed, but everybody else does, everybody changes when they get away from his middling widdling, piddling nightmare self.

Ian nearly turned off the camera, instead he turned to another camera that was facing her and put it on close up and  instead of seeing a series of placating visual elements, he saw the girl in deep conversation with her, considering and mouthing what she wanted to say when she saw her mother.  She opened the door to the room where Diana’s Mom waited, and Ian changed cameras again and it was like a shot of a two part conversation. “This fucking sucks, Mom” Diana said, with a snarl. “I’m not going to do it.”

“You’ll do as you’re told.”

“He’s a fucking monster.”

“A rich monster, and he will pay a lot of money for your friendship, I mean a lot of money if I handle it right…”

“There isn’t enough money in the world to make it worthwhile. Mom, have you seen him?”

“He isn’t that bad.”

“He is that bad, I won’t do it…”

“You are just being friends with a friendless kid. That’s all. And with the money, we can go to Disneyworld…”

“I’ve always wanted to go to Disneyworld.”

“I know, and all you have to do is be kind to the young boy.”

“Mom, you don’t get what it’s like.”

“I get what it’s like, but he doesn’t hurt you or be mean to you, he is just injured when he was born…”

“I hate him.”

That was a bit too much, and her Mom was sick of the give and take. “Listen to me you little brat, you do as you’re told or I’ll lock you in your room for the rest of the summer…. I’ll tell you father”

“He’s not my father.”

“I don’t care what he is, you be nice to the boy or I’ll give you something to hurt. He will want you back, I’ll say you are working for your dad, and he will give me anything to get you out of it…”

“Then I’ll be stuck with Godzilla for the rest of the summer…”

“Godzilla? You mean the Elephant Man…”

Diana didn’t get the reference but she liked the nickname. She giggled. “Disneyworld?”

“Disneyworld”. They hugged and walked to the lobby and neither of them entered the apartment again.

 

 

 

Five

There was a lesson to be learnt here, and so Ian learnt it. People, other people, have friends and lovers and family and they may well love each unconditional. But that was not Ian’s world, Ian had only extremely conditional relationships based upon commerce. For Ian Adelaid there was only one constant, supply money, demand obedience. Don’t be fooled by that woman who calls you her other son, she doesn’t mean it. She means: give me money. Don’t even think of being fooled by the ten year old girl with big blue eyes who wants to be your friend. She means: give me money.

Ian spent his life in a gilded cage with only the internet to get him out of it. Studying constantly from the ages of ten to fourteen, he was allowed to move at his own speed through High School towards college. By the age of fourteen his computer skills was Freshman college, his social studies, especially geography, not so much. Then sex reared its head and again, when you have spent your life ignored, sexual desire doesn’t coincide with romance, and when you are seriously disabled romance deserves to be ignored. When Ian reached the age of fourteen, he graduated from nurses to handmaidens. Women were brought in to teach him what romance couldn’t give him, the joy of sex. “I really owe her,” he had forgotten Diana’s name, “so much. I might have felt guilt forcing these girls to figure out how to fuck me, but I don’t. I’m giving them something they need more than love or pleasure; I am giving them money. And they give me something I need more than love, they are giving me sex.” By the time he was fifteen Ian had   a fairly steady stream of women coming to visit him from escort services throughout the city, and beyond. Yes, Ian was underage, but at the prices he paid (and with the clear warnings he provided the service, helped by his handy Black Amex and supercharged Mastercard), women acquiesced. Ian had no type at all, no age preference, no looks, his taste for blonde hair blue eyes best friends didn’t survive puberty, and what he wanted was simple: sex with women. Some became regulars, some could barely do it once, some friendly and some cold: a revolving door of women, two, three times a day, two at a time, three at a time.

Ian spent the rest of his childhood in one and one classes to study the basics and graduate from High School, online college to study media, and graduated with that as well. His one interest, computers, became two. He started to write and write and write. Short daydream stories of private eyes and lovers entwined at night. And think pieces, about Ian Dury and being a spastic. And another thing, a novel, where he tried to put the two together, but couldn’t seem to figure out at all. He had a party when he graduated High School, essentially whenever he chose to say he had graduated. he chose his birthday. Ian invited his dad as well, and Carl said he’d try and show but it completely slipped his mind and he probably wouldn’t have shown anyway. It was himself, some cake, and every employee, and everyone one was given off the following days, Thursday and Friday,  February 9th and 10th, 2006. Ian was just eighteen.

College? Ian steamrolled his face through it, and didn’t even care. With a cast of teachers, he studied applied math and applied math to his life. That’s as much as he could be bothered with because as far as Ian was concerned there was no world he was welcome to outside the walls of his house,  he really didn’t exist outside himself: just physically, his face twisted, his body a riddle, his inescapable, unmistakable physical repugnance, left him abandoned, by his mother who died so he could live and a father who lived and couldn’t care if he died  their Ian looked as though he could well be the villain in a Bond movie, a hideous, twisted, soulless creature. Left without friends and family, the only human touch from a stranger, for money, he seemed well into the makings of a supervillain. But there was something about him that remained grounded to a world where he had the freedom not to hate: a computer system so advanced it helped him become a cultural sponge for worlds he had never seen and the other?  And a gut feeling that his mother saved him for a reason. Because if only one person in the world loved you, wasn’t that enough?

Once he had graduated High School, Ian became obsessed with two things: computer hacking and writing. Hacking so he could gain control of his money. Going deep into the computer, two months after his eighteenth birthday,he electronically put everything to do with him  in his name, around $100M in cash, the house, the house economics, Ian had nothing else but himself and now he did, finally,  have himself. It was bad enough to have his father at his doorstep for the first time since Carl had been there with Dury. Tom, who had very little to do with anything anymore, though Ian didn’t bother to fire him, showed his father in. Carl didn’t know the way things were and spoke mostly over Ian’s head to Tom directly. Tom and Ian listened and listened as Carl claimed, “I’ve done everything for that boy. Everything. And he repays me by stealing from me. It is a disgrace, I tell you. Tom, you are to blame, I left you in charge of the hideous monsters life and…” Ian turned up his Bose cans and went back to writing, till he felt Tom tugging on his shoulder. “Your father asked you a question…” Carl said.

“I have no father,” Ian responded.

Ian had spent his life  deep in the thought process, so much of his life was only what he imagined it to be. He imagined running, he imagined friends, driving a car, prom night, love stories, imaginary sisters and brothers (his own half brothers and sisters he never met -he didn’t even know if they knew he existed), he imagined being poor, not making the rent, being hired or fired, loved or thrown away. Less being in love, but he imagined, and clothed himself in the daydream all the time, of a woman being infatuated. But he was always stuck with the same reality, of teachers and nurses and prostitutes, of hookers and dream girls, and a world where he did reside like no one else ever had. At fifteen years of age he decided to visit London, he wanted to see Dury’s world. But it was a horrendous outside of private jets and mobile wheelchairs, scurried about  by bodyguards and servants,  and more bodyguards, hidden, till he found himself in another room, with another computer, and English girls in short skirts and easy license. He went back home.

Tom kept his family and his ward completely separate. Married in his early twenties, the Adelaid family had funded his family with ease and Tom  didn’t let them near him. But he enjoyed working for the Adelaid family at least that it got him away from enforcing the more criminal elements and paid at least as well. Tom  didn’t hover, he sometimes went a couple of weeks without seeing Ian at all, and it didn’t much matter to him:Tom’s feelings for Ian were complicated, he had known Ian since Ian was born, and was as used to his manner of being as Ian himself was. But he had never really become close, as much for his own personal reasons, as  a certain disregard towards closeness. Tom was 25 when Ian was born, and not the gentle sort: actually, Tom’s relationship with Ian left him scared to get married nine years later. He’d sat with his fiancée and tried to explain: “I need to know that my coldness for my charge is a reflection on him, not fatherhood.”

“It is him, Tom, it is. He is just so bizarre and ugly.”

“And what am I, he is a young boy and all alone…?”

“With a ton of money.”

“Money can’t help a boy who has to pay children to speak to him.”

“So, you do care.”

“It’s my job, the money is great, better than great. I don’t care one way or other.”

“But Tom, he doesn’t know that.”

“He might.”

“It doesn’t matter anyway, because you love me so you can love and you will love our children.”

She was wrong about Ian not knowing, he could smell the stench of indifference, but she was right about Tom  loving his own children. The day he held his first son, counting his fingers and toes, moving his legs with such care, “Is he normal?” Tom asked the nurse.

“He is a perfect boy,” she replied. And he was just that. But Tom didn’t introduce Ian to his son, just took the bonus and the paid leave and that was that.

 

 

 

Six

Rakim could save Lake from some things, but not from the family business. The relentless, mechanical fiscal variants on topless dancing for a very attractive underage girl. Lekeshia had that about her that made her other worldly. Even within the commerce of Champagne rooms and handjobs, she seemed untouched by it. With three sisters in the family business and a clear concept that she caught on too fast, she knew what she was doing. Mom would always say, “other girls strip for drugs or clothes, I strip to feed you. That’s the difference, that’s where I make my stand. That’s where you will make yours.”

While stripping, topless dancing, borderline hooking, can be soul crushing, it wasn’t for Lake. She was among friends and family she had known all her life and she knew she was made for bigger things than the Queens T&A palace, and had her eye on a Queens Boulevard jiggle palace  the day she hit 18 (big establishments would never accept fake ID). So she kept her virginity the way you might keep a savings account, a rainy day fund. Because, as Lakisha would tell Rakim, she had never come close to falling in love.

And then, at the age of twenty-one, her luck ran out in the worst way possible. She fell in love with a hustler and pimp in waiting. Daniel Reed was a friendly acquaintance, and, an act Rakim would truly regret, was introduced by Rakim to his to his twin. Daniel looked sad because he was sad. Everything about his life had been harder than they needed and he responded to his absent father, always working mother, and his own extreme handsomeness, with a me first attitude that charmed everybody who came close to him and yet had no substance underneath it. Daniel’s biggest problem was a complete inability to understand himself. He regarded himself as a cool con artist with no regard for other people, but he was more than that: his dreams were filled with memories, some false, of violence and sexual assaults acted out against him, and when he awoke he buried them again.

Everybody was attracted to Daniel, even Lake was attracted to Daniel, and Lake, who had never felt much sexual attraction mistook it for love. From the first date, in a Chevy that didn’t belong to him, he treated Lake as though she was a magical Princess: An intoxicating mix of sharkness and glow, Daniel turned it on full beam at an expensive French restaurant on the Lower East Side, no club after, nothing. They sat and talked and he held her hand in his, and stroked her palm. The time tripped by and then he paid, and they went back to the car, and Lake thought “if he doesn’t kiss me right now I am going to die.” And as if on cue, Daniel enfolded her in his muscular and kissed her so she knew she had been kissed.

“I can’t explain it,” Lakisha said to Rakim and her sister, “How did it happen? How did he get me?”

Rakim shook his head, “The guy is bad news Lake,” he said, a worried frown on his face.

Daniel sofa surfed on the Lower East Side as he attempted to break into rap and used the gorgeous Lake as another intro into the world of hip hop. Her model gorgeousness and arm candy getting them into a world of upscale parties and free booze and food. Sometimes they would sleep over at a party, sometimes Lake would get them a sofa at her friend’s house.

Daniel was not your average gangsta, handsome enough to be included in the BBN rap crew out of LES, he didn’t have the skills to actually record with them, and with a temper and an attitude,  was considered a very minor inclusion. He knew neither his father, who was in prison throughout Daniel’s childhood until, when Daniel was thirteen, he learnt his dad had died in a fight at Rikers. Nor his Mom, who disappeared later after three years of chemo and radiation, till her insides were fried. He was raised by his struggling big sister, a nurse, and her husband, a jack of all trades who drove for Lyft, bartended, and made money for summer vacations through  minor league drug pushing.  All of this left Daniel paranoid and untrusting. The simple arithmetic of hustling appealed   to Daniel, He lost his virginity at nine to an elderly woman who paid him $500 to have sex with her in front of her husband and he began appealing to pederasts mostly till he graduated at the age of eighteen. With a tiny apartment on Avenue B, he spent his money dusting off the life in projects and projecting himself as a man about town businessman selling sex to just about everyone. Not close enough to anyone to explain his future, he took Paul Schrader’s “American Gigolo” as a how to after watching it on TV and planned to move to L.A. where his good looks would get him real paid and, hopefully, into the world of rap music.

“I had my chance,” Daniel would say to himself, as he dressed for a date. “I should’ve been smarter.” He did have his chance, a rap engineer/producer for Interscope who cleaned up half the the tapes rap artists left behind for release till they sounded half way decent, and was paid plenty, set Dan up in an apartment in Murray Hill, and visited him twice, three times a week, there was money and there was opportunity if Dan could just figure out how to tap into it. He couldn’t and it frustrated him like hell and when Dan got frustrated he drank and then he got violent. An altercation so bad that even his Interscope guy wouldn’t take it, left Dan back on the streets, couch surfing, going to industry parties, sleeping with his true preference, women, and hustling for every penny even as he ticked along from 25 to 26 years of age. Lake was introduced to Daniel by Rakim, friends of friends, neighborhood guys trying to get out. For Lake, there was something, beyond his physicality, that attracted her to Daniel. Daniel had the gift of being quiet, safe in the knowledge that people would come to him. Lake was nervous, and she was never nervous around men, and for some reason Rakim was nervous as well. But Daniel was smooth, sipping some brown liquor and keeping his eye lazily on Lake. They slept together that night and some part of Daniel glimmered through the years, and the memories, and reached a place where he could stop hustling and just accept that maybe his dreams of rap stardom were meaningless, As for Lake, she had never ever felt like this and would’ve done anything to feel this way forever. And did. But he was terrible for Lakesha, who ended up in hospital after he tried to strangle, and then cut her price per hour to $350 while she raised his bail. Their life toegther was too dramatic, too vicious, too much was up in the air and too much was fake. The strangulation was the breaking point, not right away but it started the slide away and Daniel could feel himself losing her, and his outbursts were faster and more vicious.

Lakeshia, Becky, and Rakim were sitting around Becky’s home, trying to find a way out.

Becky was Lake’s  best friend, a tall, voluptuous knock out. They met at a rich men’s bar where they were both getting transactional with a 64-year-old white man who stank of money, finally, spoiled for choice,he invited them both back to his suite and they became friends. Lakesha was bi if it was good for business, and Becky liked girls, they would share contacts and do duos from time to time. Rakim and Becky tried to explain to Lakesha the facts of life.

“You need to get away from him, Lake,”, Rakim warned.“He is dangerous, and when he’s coked up he is violent and he could kill you. Run away.”

“Move in with me,” Becky offered.

“Like he won’t find me here. As soon as I disappear he will go crazy, he’ll rip this town apart”.

“Go back to Mom’s place” Rakim added uselessly.

“It isn’t just money… I’m 29 years of age.”

“There are girls older than 30…”

“Not because I’m old but because I have to get out of this. I don’t wanna be my sisters…”

They sat there in silence, and then it dawned on Rakim, a flash of hope. “Uncle Tom” was all he said.

 

 

 

Seven

After college a change came over Adelaid, as though the lesson that Ian Dury had been attempting to apply had become applied. It manifested itself in a change in his daydreams. Not always, but sometimes, enough of the time, he was the world famous Spasticus novelist, stuck in his state of the art wheelchair, riding through the huge corridors that constitute his home, riding on his motor chair and zooming around like Danny in “The Shining,”  he was the man who didn’t court fate but was famous for his stories, adapted into endless TV series, Spasticus was the voice of 2019, the voice of the world, the voice of a style and sense and…

Ian came at life in two directions, first he wrestled control of his business and finances from everybody and did it in such a way that not a penny wasn’t accounted for, with that in mind he invested and during the great crash made a fortune betting against Fanny Mae (with the simple insight: these loans are bullshit) and  in the booming Trump years made a fortune on the stock market. By 2019 he was very nearly a billionaire, and getting richer.

But money was its own reward and what interested Ian was writing, he began writing short stories when he was twelve. Always dreams of skills and abilities, specifically with women, that seemed to exist only to make his widdling diddling reappear as a man his father could take pride in. As a Carl Adelaid IV (the name his half brother, who might not even know he exists, is called). But as he grew out of his teens, these dreams of ability were being changed into scarier forms of his skill sets; the fictions took on apocalyptic visions of worlds of crippled people after a nuclear attack, where everybody slithered and crawled on the floor like reptiles. He called the first of the stories “The Writhe”. And he vanity published them under a pen name but despite spending money after money, didn’t capture the world’s attention. Ian fumed over this before writing a deadly and sexy spy series about a female James Bond.

By the time Ian was 24 years old, he’d written a couple of 100 stories, been taught by a highly successful and published but broke novelist, Alec, who edited Ian’s work. And it was during a long email exchange that Alec gave Ian the idea he was waiting for: since Ian loved Dury so much, why not write a novel retelling the Ian Dury Story? The idea interested him and he  invited Alec to his house, and paid him very well, to help him write the novel he wanted to. The two were born to be friends, Ian a loner through physical design and Alec a loser through piss poor luck and a dreadful wife he couldn’t seem to rid himself of. There was something so consistently sad about Alec that it offset Ian’s crickely body. Alec always looked as though he was going to break down.

So they discussed a biography. Well, then why not write a biography? Ian discussed his options with Alec, and they couldn’t quite get it right. Ian didn’t want to put the story in the UK, but Dury’s life was was so English that it had to be placed in London, there were no options, must, must. “But,” Alec interrupted, “But you’re not writing about Ian Dury.”

“Yes, I am.”

“How are you doing that? You are writing about a disabled artist who fought back against his own disability  and became a star and died too young. But it isn’t Dury as such, it isn’t the angry anti-hero.”

“Though it is an heroic anti-hero… It is someone who rebels against the world.”

“So what it is, is?”

Ian thought and thought and concluded, it is neither the story of Ian Dury nor Ian Adelaid, though maybe somebody more like his father, just a cruelty that had caused Ian to live his first 25 years in splendid isolation…  Or any outsider, any super geek, anybody who could only work inside his brain and show through art what he had done. But then what?

This was a big problem for Alec and Ian, and they spent hours talking and emailing, and, in increasingly frequent visits where Ian finally forged the first true friendship of his life as they talked and talked, first about disabilities, then pain, writing, hope, and Ian Dury. Alec began to listen to Ian Dury as well and was surprised he hadn’t been aware of the man, not really, before that. The thing about Dury was that he was so unique a talent that he had no influence on upcoming generations, I mean, maybe a little on Britpop, but not to the point where his name is anything but a sound of a possible hero missing. Maybe a Gene Vincent.

There were many false starts though two things didn’t change:

1 – It was always a novel and never a short story.

And

2 – The name: “Lucky Bleeder”.

As the months turned into years, Alec discovered Ian was his only true friend and slowly turned to him about his disappointments as a writer, as a father, as a husband. There seemed to be nowhere Alec could get the traction he sorely need to be a popular writer. Though his books sold, the math was outrageous, four years hard work to generate $75,000. And he could live with that only he needed, more than anything else in the world, an agent who could sell his novels of sci fi and quiet desperation to the movies or streaming services, anything. There was too much noise, too much clutter. Meanwhile, his wife of ten years was committing adultery with a friend at the real estate company she hustled for and his twins didn’t seem to quite see him at all. “It’s just a matter of time,” Alec explained to his sole major source on income, “She is half way out the door now.”

“And you love her so much…”

“Yes, no, I don’t know. I don’t want to be alone, I just want to feel, safe in a world. You probably think I’m crazy…”

“I understand completely,” Ian replied. And he wondered about how he had never got to the point, not after that child when he was ten, where he considered safety as an option. Comfort, family.

Ian’s problem with emotional intimacy wasn’t solely the people he lived among, but the way he himself was after quarter of a century of being ignored. Not everybody that had ever surrounded him had despised him but none of them had gotten close to him. And the girls that came to service him were too upset by the way he looked to show themselves as anything but doing a job.

The two had discussed this as well, and Alec had explained that Alec himself knew people who wouldn’t care about the way he looked, but Ian couldn’t breakthrough, couldn’t see a way to believe in something his entire life had denied till then.

For the first time, Ian explained the loneliness he had felt as, with robotic dissonance, handlers raised him in quiet, cold determination. How the lack of normal, emotional connection had disconnected his brain and, “I don’t find it easy to feel for other people and it is impossible to communicate with them. If I was poor I would be dead, nobody cares for me and I can’t find a way to get people to listen, or read me… or think of me as human.”

“Except for Ian Dury.”

“That’s exactly right, except for Ian Dury. I know his story, I know his life very well. I understand he was a right bastard, a lucky bleeder, and I can see his life whole. I can see him in my mind from beginning to end, and in there somewhere, my Dad has gone off with Tom to discuss something about the rest of my life, and it is just me and Ian, and he is sitting there and he says. ‘It isn’t you, you know, it is everybody else in the world. You are fine, you’re fantastic. You smile though it hurts you too, I hear your medication, you’ve steadily managed to weaken it, you want to be clear in your mind. I am going to talk to your father and get you out of this gilded cage and into the real world. Fuck his family name. Fuck everything but you.

“You see it as a curse and it is not that, the curse isn’t your body, the curse is the way people can’t see you but there are other people, people who have your disabilities, and they will see you right, they will see you for the person you are. All but alone, you have survived and thrived in a personal hive…’

“And that was the last time I saw Ian and not because of anything he said at all, but because he got cancer and declined fast and was gone.”

“I’ve seen my father and his perfect family, and a world I am not allowed in. I could push for entrance, but I never have done, never reached for him or anyway one else…”

“Nobody is happy, Ian. Happiness doesn’t exist, all that exists is loss and loneliness.”

“You don’t know the meaning of loneliness…”

“I don’t mean to be cruel but…”

“Go on…”

“How do you miss what you’ve never had? Your loss and and loneliness is theoretical, it never leaves you stranded at all lost in memories, the way I feel.”

“Yes, but…”

“I am right.”

“Surely there is comfort of having been loved and there is comfort in knowing there will be more.”

“Ian, you don’t get it. I’m done. I want to die. I’m so tired of rejection, writers, all we get is rejection. Nobody cares. And somebody has to care.”

“I care about you.”

That made Alec cry, “I have failed, failed, failed…  I have done well at nothing. I am no good.”

“Then what am I, Alec?” Ian replied and as he spoke he realized that he didn’t believe Alec was no good and he didn’t believe he  himself was no good either. Rather, Ian realized that he was as good as anyone, that his body wasn’t him, and that nobody had it that much better than he did. “It’s so not true, Alec. Everyone is exactly the same, because people can’t look at me… so what? Fuck ’em if they don’t like me because of something completely out of my control. All we can do Alec is control us, is control our territory to the best of our skills and when we are finished doing that we will be left dead just like them, Alec. Just like the walkie talkies… I am not a walkie talkie but I exist within this frame. And I am rich. And have sex with plenty of girls. And I write with a great writer. I am Spasticus Autisticus, and beholden to no one. Not even my dad has a control over me. When I was eighteen years old I performed a coup d’etat and today I have things that maybe walkie talkies, maybe anybody, would want, and sure, my emotions are as deformed as my body but they are still my emotions, my feelings. I am unlovable because of the way I look, but I can live in this body, with these thoughts and be no worse than anyone else. My father was wrong to abandon me, but it did one thing, something I wish I had said to Dury: it left me invulnerable to emotional blackmail”

“But you can’t walk… can you love?”

“Do you mean, have I ever been in love?”

“No, I don’t mean that at all, though it is an interesting question.”

“How does being in love feel?” Ian asked, and he could feel himself tensing up, as if some answer that had always alluded him was about to be revealed.

“I’ve been in love,” Alec replied, and his eyes glazed over. “It was so odd, Ian. I think I could sense her presence even when she wasn’t there, I could stop and concentrate on her and suddenly it was as though everything pulled me towards her. I was, maybe 22 years old, not my wife Gloria, she worked as a paralegal and was going back to college to study marine biology. She couldn’t afford to go back to school so she worked all day and studied all night and then, on a Friday night she let loose everything that had been building. The first time I met her, Gloria was completely trashed and she smelled of rum and perfume and she was at that place where she loved everyone. It was around nine and you’d have expected the bar to start thinning out but it was actually the opposite. I could barely hear her for people and the music had a mix of EDM, like the Black Eyed Peas, on repeat and Gloria came close to me and the music was so loud I could only just hear her, ‘This is the third time I’m hearing it,” she said, and then began singing along at the top of her voice “my baby don’t mess around…”. That’s when I fell in love, just like that. I don’t know how it happened. Maybe it will be like that for you.”

“I have liked girls but… they are never serious about me, they just want my money and when they think I can’t hear they laugh at me.”

“It goes with the territory.”

“But your wife wasn’t like that…”

“I’m scared men suffer from misogyny, I bet men and women were very similar in the caveman days and through the thousands of years they’ve drifted further apart. I think she loved me, I felt as though she loved me. If you haven’t felt the closeness of post-coital affection with someone you love it is difficult to express how much you’ve missed. But is it better to have it and lose it or to never have it all?”

“Also… children? You see, I do have parents so there I am not guessing, and the only thing I can say is money can even buy the good riddance of a deformed son. Where is all this love? I don’t even believe my Mom would have loved me.”

“I believe she would have…”

“She died for me, but is that love? It’s this terrible fallacy that parents have to love their children, they don’t have to love their children at all”

“I want to tell you something.” Alec paused, his eyes flicked down, and then up again directly into Ian’s eyes. “I despise both my children. Fred is a spoiled little mommy’s boy and Carolina is a horrid, selfish, obnoxious bitch. I’ve tried to love them for year after year and after my marriage has reached this ending, let her have the little shits. I did my best, truly, but they never took me seriously. Mom was the boss and I was just the loser that nobody could be bothered to listen to. I stopped trying years ago, just, do whatever the fuck you want, all of you, please just leave me alone.”

Ian remembered every word and he gave the words to a different character as he continued to write “Lucky Bleeder”. He remembered them so clearly because he never saw or heard from Alec again. The police actually visited Ian to discuss Alec, his state of mind, that sort of stuff but Ian didn’t say much and didn’t help. Alec left him, went home, left a letter for his wife, and went to his

In one of those all too typical, too cynical, synchronized fucked-upness, an obituary in the New York Times, lead to a reassessment of Alec’s four novels, and all four of them got scooped up for movies and television series.

 

 

 

Seven

Alec killed himself on May 20th, 2019, and Ian went into what, for him, was a tail spin. He needed friends and he needed hope and all he had was Tom. A week after Alec died, Rakim and Lakesha went to Uncle Tom in search of a place to hide Lakesha before Daniel jumped off the deep end and killed her and very much so.

“Ian Adelaid will know, you know…”

“Know what…”

“As much about you as I do…”

Lakisha blushed, and Rakim interrupted, “But he won’t care.”

“She would make a good assistant, with his only friend dead he needs somebody to help edit his book…”

“How can I do that?” she asked Uncle.

“When in doubt, add a comma.”

“Sage advise.”

“It works for everything.”

Uncle Tom hadn’t much known his sister growing up, but he did become at least a known entity with his nieces and nephews. “He has money…” Lakisha’s third oldest sister told the twins years ago.

“Into incest?” Rakim  inquired.

The middle one shook her head, “Straight laced, he went from the streets to the army to bodyguarding…”

Rakim and Lakisha watched Uncle Tom in quiet amazement, they’d come armed with a dozen reasons why she might be a good fit to stay there for awhile (everything but Dangerous Dan info) but they didn’t need it. Tom  leaned back into his way over sized vibrating, rotating armchair and looked at Lakisha for the first time. He was used to being the center connection between Ian and the real world but he had never been close and what ever closeness there was got completely destroyed once Ian had control of his money, and once Alec game into the picture.  Alec’s friendship had bothered Tom; his entire working life revolved around the millions he was paid to keep Ian away from his father and his father’s family. Not to keep Ian happy, but to keep him a part of an extended family where Tom was the father figure. Alec pushed him out of the loop, Alec was what  Tom never really managed to be. Could Lakisha handle it? Could she become his friend? Given her upbringing, Lake was very middle class black woman.she had graduated High School and while she dropped out of CUNY, she did last 18 months. She was smart enough to work top strip clubs, you couldn’t do that as a hoodrat. And she was known to go to music industry parties, and not just as arm candy. Tom was convinced she could. “You can’t fuck around with Adelaid,” Tom  warned. “Just become he is partially paralyzed does not mean he is stupid, he isn’t, He has spent his life alone and he is intensely aware of how other people react to him, but… I think he would like you because… “ He trailed off…

“Because I’ll fuck him?”

“No, God no. No, don’t even go like that. He equates sex with business because it is all he has ever known. Sex is business, love and friendship are nonexistent. People, other people, are paid to be around, but when they are not paid they disappear.”

“Then what?”

“Then nothing, Ian isn’t stupid, he is 29, exactly your age, and for all his strandedness, he is as reliant as he can be. But he is painfully shy, except with girls he pays, and he expects, and gets, viciously ignored…. His only close friend just died as well…”

“And I’m to replace his friend?”

“The thing is, I was never the friend Ian needed me to be, never the father figure, always professional and always, always calm…” Tom  thought back to the beginning, to the handing over of responsibility. Carl Adelaid and  Tom, at the Townhouse where Ian lived to this day.

“He is yours now, my friend. You must help him grow up alone and use my money and power to keep him safe.” Carl had been crying, probably for his wife who had died less than a month before.Or from weariness at all it would take to keep Ian alive, and how Carl was going to have it both ways, both alive and dead to him.

Tom shook hands on it and for the following 29 years kept Ian as safe as he could. And of all the things Tom had done for Ian, what he hadn’t done was become close, all the time, all the years, every Christmas Tom spent with his family, every Thanksgiving Ian spent alone in front of a screen, Tom didn’t feel he was responsible for him.

When Ian was 18, Ian made his move and took control of everything, resulting in frantic calls from Carl to Tom and then, Carl’s first appearance at the apartment in eight years. Carl started by screaming at his son and warning that he would have Tom throw Ian out on the street if he didn’t return everything, the $200M in trust, the Town House, control of payments, salaries, employees, everything. Ian didn’t say a single word. “CAN HE HEAR ME?” Carl had thundered. “He can hear you,” Tom replied. “Then what.”

Ian sat by his PC console, punching in information and then stood back, then his security detail arrived and Ian spoke for the first time. “Throw that man out, he is no relation of mine” and as Carl sputtered in outrage two of his men took him by the arm. They looked at Tom  as of to ask “him as well?” Tom could feel Ian think it over, wondering if anything Tom had done amounted to treason. He couldn’t see it as a betrayal. Later, Tom  changed his mind about that day, his job (and his million plus and annual increases and bonuses) were saved not because he wasn’t a traitor, but because he was Ian’s only family.

“And my position…?” Lakesha asked.

“You don’t have one…”

“Alright, if I get one.”

“Your position is to be to Ian what I never managed to be, never bothered to be.”

“So not Sapphire?”

“Who or what is Sapphire?”

“Her stripper name,” Rakim explained.

“No, understand what you are to do. You are not merely going to hideout but you are also going to be his true friend, not fake. You have to open your heart to Ian because he will recognize anything less. You have to believe in him and look past his deformities…”

“That’s no problem for me,” Lakesha shrugged. “That is my upbringing, ignoring men’s deformities. But won’t he find out my past?”

“He will know your past before you ever meet him, absolutely and everything.”

“But he won’t care.”

“No, he won’t care. It is enough that you’re my niece, that, much the same way he didn’t get rid of me after throwing out Carl, he will accept you to a degree.”

“So what should I do?”

“You’ll get your own room, you’ll get your days off, and you will be his assistant and you will become his friend…”

“What if he doesn’t like me?”

“It seems that your choices are: Ian liking you or Daniel killing you…”

Rakim and Lakeisha looked at each other and nodded to their Uncle. It was June 1st, 2019.

 

 

 

Eight

After Alec’s death, Ian stopped writing, stopped fucking, stopped just about any connection at all with the world outside. Even by Ian’s hermetic standards he was left alone. Just people to feed him and clean him and not speak to him. He brooded. Ian didn’t realize it but he was in deep mourning for his only friend and it sent him back through his life, wondering whether suicide was a viable option. Memories flooded back in and he tried to keep them at arms length, lonely birthdays as a six year old with children brought in to amuse him and who soon left him. He sat before his gifts and cake and said nothing. The following year he disallowed a birthday party  and any thought of love and friendship was killed by Diana. Ian brooded and daydreamed and in his mind, year in and year out, he re-wrote his story as the poor little rich spastic, and then, when he hit his teens, he plotted how to become autonomous, and, because his father had so little respect for him, managed it, and by the age of 30  had become an only just billionaire.

“But I do nothing with it,” Ian worried without seeing what he could, or would, do with it. He could help other spastics, he could help the world. But fuck other spastics and double fuck the world, why would he even consider it? As a child, awareness came to him through instruments that appeared out of nowhere, and a cold efficiency of nurses and guards, who carried and cleaned him, while he lay in distorted pain and privilege. And all of it kept together so if, for one moment, there was an employee with a sadistic twist, they were out just like that. He never wanted love and he was not loved, and he lay there, eventually sat there, in front of screens, lost to his thoughts,  right through infancy. He was taught early, and learnt fast, and  was extensively smart, and he felt like artificial intelligence, as it slowly dawned on him that this was it. That he would live this life alone, he snapped out of self-pity and immersed himself in self-help: he knew it was money that protected him and so he was protected. When, around the age of twenty, he heard that his step-mother had died in a skiing accident, he felt neither happy nor sad, connected nor disconnected to the tragedy, he felt nothing at all.

This was the world that Lakeisha planned to infiltrate with nothing but a tight skirt and absolute honesty. It was June 17th, a Monday, and Lakeisha had spent hours talking with her Uncle and brother, “You can’t fake what is real, girl.” Tom  had told her. “Real is real. I know you, you are like your Grandma, you’re just waiting to be kind,” Lake had her doubts about that, “But you’ve never really had the opportunity to be kind and now you do. So do it. If you are unreal, Ian will know. If you are faking it, he’ll catch you out. But if you really grow to like him you will be a rarity and if Alec taught me something, Alec taught me there were things about Ian nobody really saw….”

Dressed in a pencil skirt, a white shirt, and heels, Lakeshia looked professional and yet hot as she showed up at the doorstep like Maria in the Sound Of Music. In fact, she felt uneasy. With Daniel she’d been a round money, but this was a different around money, a sort of lived in wealthiness. Tom introduced Lakeshia as his niece who would be assisting Ian and when she finally got in to see Ian what shocked her was not his twisted face and legs, not the way he looked at everything sideways, nothing physical, but how he was tied into automatons that moved and removed him, as though he was more machine than anything human. He sat in front of console after console, all connected to his main chair, though he had others. The room smelled sterile, it smelled like stainless steel, without heat or sweat orhumanity, the instruments of thought had taken over Ian’s little space of earth. The room was more than a room, it was half the block long, with a door leading to another room half a block long, and Ian looked small but in control of his environment. Ian addressed her, “Welcome to this laboratory that we call life,” he said in that weird vocoder voice. “I hope the job isn’t too taxing.”

And that is all he said to her for weeks, she would show up at 530am in the morning and leave at 4 in the afternoons, help feed him as necessary, but besides some business and salutations, for two weeks Ian didn’t notice her and Lakeisha did’t force the issue. Instead she sat and read, or listened with him to Ian Dury. It was the 40th anniversary of his album Do It Yourself, and the album was in heavy rotation. Sometimes so low, she wasn’t quite sure it was playing, sometimes so loud it was all she could hear. And that is what she would remember of those first two weeks. While she didn’t know Ian well enough to know that he was in mourning, she believed Tom  when he said that was one thing the matter with Ian. Even by Ian’s standards, he was hermetic and insulated and unreachable.

There hadn’t been a seconds doubt in Ian’s mind when Tom said he wanted his niece to work for Ian. But he had done his true diligence, noticed the coincidence of their birth dates, and always, the way they inverted each other a little in so many ways: mom dead/dad unknown, paralyzed/dancer, rich/poor, male/female. orphan/familied, white (though, of course, Ian was only half white) black (though, of course, Lakeisha could pass for white), and, last and not least motionless and mute/walkie and talkie. It appealed to the writer in Ian, though not as much as having an extended family, even if Ian hadn’t considered it in those terms. It seemed that Tom had a world outside the world that he shared with Ian, and it was invisible to Ian, Ian was not invited in at all. So to make his niece Ian’s formal assistant was to open Ian to something he had never seen at all.

Ian got his PI firm on it, and within a day they had everything there was to know about Lakesha in a private little file on his desktop labelled employee reports, and there was Lakes, in all her story and glory, a steady trajectory towards him through family, strip clubs, rap parties, escort services, and a violent boyfriend. “She is trying to go into hiding,” Ian thought. Also, he found her sexually attractive and he found her tough at the heart of her. He knew. And He knew her Uncle knew so he knew Lakeisha knew.

The two had this is common: they started from equidistance, and neither were willing to push it.

The quiet of the job relaxed Lakeisha in ways that a life of constant hustle never had, sometimes she read Toni Morrison and James Baldwin, sometimes she closed her eyes and daydreamed about her brutal boyfriend going straight, mostly she watched this strange riddle of a man writing and writing and writing and listening to Ian Dury whether she would or not. On her days off she stayed with Rakim and visited her family. Lakeisha wasn’t part of the inner sanctum of employees at Ian’s home, rather, she was a replacement for Alec who hadn’t been accepted, and she waited. Ian waited as well, Lakeisha was on more precarious ground than she was aware of.

Ian appreciated her quietness without quite knowing what to do with her. She wasn’t annoying him, there was a concentration to her face that made Ian think Lakeisha was thinking deep thoughts,  and a refusal to suck up, something just about everybody did whenever he said (typed) a word to them. In a way, to a degree, he began to look forward to seeing her in the morning. Her cup of coffee, her tight look at him, the settled in day, the hours drifting by with just the metallic hum that Ian was not aware of and Lakeisha’s lingering perfume that defined the changing days of his life. It relaxed Ian as he broke through his novel, writing 1000 words a day and watching the story fly past him and, tellingly, his Diana character, based upon that ten year old girl who had called him a monster, was slowly being given other sides to her. Ian began thinking about his Mom,Rosalia, about a family he must have, but never even thought of, in Puerto Rico. And in dreams, suddenly Lakeshia began to appear at the very side of them, just sitting there watching.

On July 4th, there was a skeleton crew at the house. The same as all national holidays, something that interested Ian not in the slightest, everybody disappeared for the holidays, and only the meal, turkey for Thanksgiving, ham for Christmas Day, steak on New Year’s Eve and Bar-B-Que for Independence Day, made him a part of them.Lake was meant to have the day off, there was the annual block party at the Marcy Projects and , really, it always ended in trouble even if there wasn’t any -the police could be more than expected to stir some up, and Lakeshia felt as though she’d be better off in the confines of Ian’s Fortress Of Solitude, away from Trump’s America.

So there they sat, Lakeshia sifting through her instagram, Ian thinking of Alec, and thinking of his mom, wondering how hard it would be to piece together her short life, and whether he should: Ian blamed her for dying and cut her out of his narrative as hard as he was driven out of his father’s narrative. Ian felt as though he was born in a test tube, an experiment gone very wrong.

Neither of them believed in signs and Ian didn’t consider it a sign but it worked as one. “There Aren’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards” came on, a centerpiece of the 40th Anniversary Do It Yourself, it isn’t on the original album at all, and subconsciously Lakesha sang along  and not to the lucky bleeders hook, she raised her voice at “probably got help from their mum who had help from her mum”  and Ian noticed it and noticed her completely for the first time. Ian knew something that Lake didn’t, neither did Tom, he knew who her father really was – a white Irish business man from London, in New York to make a deal that would never come through, had noticed an ad in the Village Voices classified. Her dad, Neil, usually had something going on in the background when travelling. His wife didn’t know. His family didn’t know, Neil himself barely realized what he was doing as the desire tour him down entirely and he sleep walked to the phone in his hotel room. Here, Neil made a mistake he had made before though this time there was a cost, a cost he had no idea about. He paid Lakeshia’s Mom an extra $100 on top of the $300 and went bareback. Perhaps, somewhere in her DNA, Lakesha was a Londoner.

Ian said, “Dury was being very difficult when he wrote it,”

“Not unlike you?” Lakesha sassed. Then seriously, “What is dicky bird?”

“Eh?”

“Dicky bird, he sings ‘have a dicky bird with your self esteem…’ what is he talking about?’

Ian laughed, not loud because it hurt, but inside, “Rhyming slang, he is suggesting you have a word with your self-esteem.”

Lakesha said nothing and neither did Ian but twenty minutes later he printed a paragraph  he had been working on and handed it to her. “Read and advise,” he said.

“I’m not Alec, I’m neither an editor nor a writer.”

Ian didn’t reply at all. So she read it.

‘Like a scene out of some goth romance, Upminister stared down from the cliff to the roaring sea below, the wind blowing, his wheelchair had its break on yet still it moved precariously from side to side and seemed about to roll over the cliff, and Upminister didn’t mind, he wished it away, wished it deep down to fall to his death. He turned to Diana and DIana barely even turned to him, her blonde hair, wet and straggling, covering her forehead and down her thin, face, all make up removed, all make up gone so Diana looked like a ghost, pale, translucent, a transparent, vampire of horror and when she smiled, which she did now, her lips were raised so her too white teeth glistened at the strike of lightening during the brutal afternoon thunderstorm. ‘Have you had enough, Upminister? Can things get worse or can they not get worse?’

“What do you want me to say?” Lakesha asked, and it was a real question though she framed it rhetorically. Still, Ian didn’t reply, he didn’t say a word.  So Lakesha thought fast and came up with Uncle  Tom’s first and last words of advise, be honest. Alright, but how do you frame it. “You know about me, right? You know all about me. Possibly you don’t know I was in a couple of porno movies when I was twenty. I stopped because the money isn’t enough to bother with the aggravation. But, yeah I did that. The big discussion was, do you add a plotline? Amateur porn lives on its realness but pornstar porn? It needs more than realness, if you are going to put me in bed with three guys there better be a back up to it, a why. So, not amateur vs pro, but no story vs story. I did both and story was always hotter. The paragraph you showed me was non story, it exists in a vacuum, and in a vacuum, who cares? And out of a vacuum, if this is the important, work on your language.” Lakesha had been pacing as she spoke, and then she sat down sadly, her hands shaking a little as she grasped the armrest.

“Thank you,” he replied. “Please take the rest of the day off, go and enjoy your Independence Day.”

Lakesha could feel the tears well up and she sounded chokey even too herself. “Am I fired?”

“How do you mean fired?”

“I mean, have you fired me?”

“I am giving you a half day for the holiday to share with your family. I am guessing your Uncle is having a blow out.”

“So I’m not fired.”

“No, not fired.”

“Then, no thanks. I’ll stay with you.”

“You don’t want to be with your family?

Lakesha shifted in her chair, she didn’t mind telling Ian she had been a porn movie, but family, that was different. And she was really not certain how she felt about it, about where she was, it had been two and a half weeks so Lakesha didn’t feel at home but she didn’t not feel at home either, certainly in a life that.. she opened her moth and closed it and opened it again. “There is a lot to be said for the world in which you live, the problem with your world is you can’t quite leave it: you can’t, as I can, say, OK I’ve had enough, I’m going to a show. You’re stuck there. I wouldn’t want that. But…”

“I don’t blame you for not wanting it…”  Ian had typed the words and they came out of he voice box in that strange and artificial way. He had been offered different voices, there was a cottage industry in them, but he preferred the Stephen Hawkins distancing while being what people expected him to be of this voice.

“Wait, because I think I prefer it to my life, to the constant, endless hustle. The world I live in is completely transactional and I want a place where I am not being pressured to do something for someone all the time.” she moved her chair closer to where he sat without really realizing she was doing so. “We sit here all day and you write and I watch you, I look out the window onto Central Park but I can’t hear the cars, you listen to Dury when you’re writing, pop when not, and classical when you are brooding, and I cross my legs, a little unsure of what you want and just guessing I’m doing it right. I hear you have girls who come up here but I’ve never seen them, Uncle Tom says it is in a different part of the house, a different entrance, as though to keep your sexuality apart from your daily life. So here all there is is two people connected through time and space, waiting in an endless now and… it comforts me. If I went home I know what is waiting, if he comes to the BBQ drunk, there will be a scene. He thinks I’ll be there, he is looking for me. If not, well, other guys, other people, the gangs, the police, everything pressuring down on me. I don’t want it anymore, I want to stay here where I’m safe.”

 

 

 

Nine

That’s how Lakesha and Ian became friends, first slowly, then in a rush, Lake started having lunch with him, stayed late, read “Lucky Bleeder” and made comments, listened to his music, and slowly brought him up to date. First with Chance The Rapper, whom Ian took an immediate shine to, and then to the harder Atlanta trap stuff, and Ian connected the dots for her, through classical music all the way to early jazz, blues and rock and roll.

Mostly Lakesha would enter to Ian Dury, listening to Dury’s voice as though it was a conduit to Adelaid’s soul, to everything the man didn’t say as he sat all day long like the villain in a James Bond movie, as though his secret power was mass murder when Ian’s secret power was making money and more money as the US tumbled through the summer of 2019: a nightmare world of intense, political fear. The way many other countries lived but a horror the US hadn’t had, a horror George Washington saved them from.

In the quiet between them something stirred in Ian, the strange, bewildering chance that love might, in fact, be possible, as the hours passed between them, and as the world narrowed and narrowed to only two people, the troubled duo seemed to be falling somewhere. Ian knew that Lakesha knew that he could hear just about anything going on in the apartment, what she didn’t know was that even outside the building he could pick up voices and one weekend, as Lake and Tom  left he heard Tom  say, “Are you getting closer? You work later…”. Lakesha didn’t answer so Tom  grabbed her roughly by her arm and snarled “Are you getting closer?”

“No, we don’t talk much. And who cares if we are?”

“You could make more money, much more. He could buy you a house, a car, take care of your family… and me…”

“You don’t need anything and I don’t want anything. Leave us alone…”

“Us?”

“Me…”

“Be careful girl…”

“Oh give it a break, Uncle, there is…”

And they had walked out of range.

“It could be a set up,” Ianmuttered but he knew it wasn’t.

Back on Monday, and in the middle of a heatwave, he waited impatiently for Lakeshia’s arrival. For the buzz on the metal door of the entire floor laboratory where he and Lakesha spent their days. He buzzed her in and he could hear her footsteps, the clicking of her heels on the steel floors, he knew she was near, he could smell her perfume, he could feel a different vibration in the air, and he closed his eyes to make the moment of anticipation last longer. Of every single feeling Ian had ever had, he had never had one like it. It was so immense he felt breathless and scared, it was like his love of  Alec on steroids, his love of Alec plus his sexual attraction to Lakesha. Ian, who, for the first time since his father’s meltdown when Ian took over control of his financial  life, found life surprising. More than ever.

Ian knew Lakesha liked him, he could tell and he couldn’t be fooled. Now, that didn’t mean she wasn’t setting him up for something, money, security, something worse, and it didn’t mean he particularly cared if she did want something, except in one way: it would taint what he saw in her eyes.

Lakesha would not have named it love, though the closer she got to Ian, the further away she was from her ex, as she tried to explain to Rakim when he asked:  “Does it bother you that he looks like a metal machine monster?”

“After some of the guys I’ve fucked? That isn’t a factor.”

They were at Rakim’s girlfriend on the Lower East Side, drinking and arguing.

“I could never fuck him,” his girlfriend Maria said.”He is ugly, I mean, obviously… I can’t imagine his dick… I couldn’t fuck him because he’s white,” she said to laughter all around.

“His Mom was Puerto Rican…”

“Alright, I’ll suck him off but that’s it.”

The three laughed more  and then Rakim got serious. “I’ve never seen you like this, Lakesha.”

“How?”

“Happy…”

“You’ve never seen me secure and with money in the bank…”

“When do you think you’ll get a raise?”

“I don’t know, I don’t care. Just leave me in the lab forever, reading, listening to music, editing Ian’s manuscript.”

“You know I googled Ian, there is nothing there…”

“I know, Uncle said he had himself wiped clean…”

“He doesn’t exist.”

“Neither of us exist, we live in a vacuum…”

“What do you do…”

“In the afternoon, we smoke weed and watch old movies, and I lie down on a sofa bed, and he moves next to me, on a mechanical one, and just sit and watch and react. Time stands still, everything stands still. We are just lost together in a moment, eating chinese food, his struggle is charming … he feeds himself in a mix of elbow and chin in a way I know he never lets anybody else see. It is a perfect mix of extreme fragility and extreme power. And it is a secret, you can’t even google it, it just exists in a deep secret between us that beyond the scowl and the pain, the weak legs and dexterous hands, the ugly twisted smile as though it was thunderstruck, and the heart that beats so far away, so completely alone from the world, is something only for me.”

“And Daniel?”

“I’m over him.”

“He’s looking for you.”

“You spoke to him?”

There was something Rakim had never told even his twin, Rakim was very attracted t men, he never did anything about it but he couldn’t hide it from himself. And he was very attracted to Daniel,  and when Daniel had approached him the previous week at a club near Yankee Stadium, his first urge was to kiss him. Daniel had been down that road many time, he was so sexual he brought out latency with ease. And the thought had flashed through Rakim’s brain “What if I tell him, would he have sex with me? Would he kiss me? Rub me? What would he do…?” and his cock hardened as Rakim pushed him against the wall and stood too close, intimidating and a turn on.

“Where is she?”

“I don’t know, exactly. She said she’d been offered a job in Atlanta working at a big time joint. Raking in dollars. I don’t know, I don’t know.”

Daniel smelled of hard liquor and barely controlled testosterone based rage and he looked angry and nasty and hot and Rakim put his hand on Daniel’s shoulder, in the dark, just the tiniest of pressure and Daniel  just smiled and pushed him closer. “Little faggot,” he said, and put Rakim’s hand on his crotch, “make sure you tell me when you hear something”.

 

 

 

Ten

In the far future, as Ian began to see the end of life nearing, and he sat back and thought about what had happened to him, what he though of most was July and August of 2019 -the happiest days of his life. Daydreams are not life, and imagination can’t take the place of reality, and those days of summer when Ian and Lakesha worked side by side, working the stock market, editing “Lucky Bleeder,” working on payroll, casual conversations, the normal transfer of energies between two close friends where Ian was so much Ian who no longer seemed like a disabled person to Lake  and Lake was so much Lake, there was no place where she was just an escort hustling him. And, if you had asked either of them, what made those days so special, it would be hard to explain if you hadn’t lived in a world where such things didn’t exist. Ian had had many, many employees, at any given time there were 100 people in the apartment complex, between cooks and bodyguards and physical therapists, maids and human resources, and overseer Tom Brown, and in 27 years none of them, and nobody, had really cared for Ian and so to have somebody he cared for care for him back was like a revelation, that this world of ease between two people was something that existed all over the world, everywhere, but was completely alien to both of them.

Ian was very well attuned to how people reacted to him, and if at the beginning he could sense Lakesha’s awareness of his deformities, after awhile he didn’t feel. it at all. One Monday, Lakesha arrived at work and Ian was at his console, and she came in, looked around, saw him, ran towards him and hugged him and then stepped back, confused.

“What was that for?” he asked.

“I don’t really know,” she said. “A tough weekend, hiding at my Mom’s house with Rakim. I wasn’t very happy and… well, I guess I missed you.”

The drift of time meant more to the two then either could admit or even, really, understand. It seemed untrue, a fictional thing where, somewhere, things could be safe and successful and happy. Ian began rethinking “Lucky Bleeder” -it had always been seeped in a negativity, in a paranoid horror, and so much so it didn’t seem quite real. He built an Ian Dury stand in closer to his father than even to himself, a vision of a man named Damian willing to throw away his family over anger from being paralyzed in a car accident that killed his wife. Damian was a novelist (Ian had been thinking of Alec, obviously) and as the Dury character got angrier he withdrew further and further from the world around him, abandoned by everyone, until all that was left was an empty man typing a short story called “Lucky Bleeder”. The heart of the matter was Damian having a seance to reach his dead wife to discuss Ian Dury, scary stuff.  Lakesha, having read a very rough copy of the story, thought there was something not quite right about it, it didn’t have the ring of real experience to her and it is possible that it was so close to the way Ian really saw life, and the way Ian saw life was so completely unique, it missed empathy. She didn’t say that exactly, but it was what she meant. But for Ian it was beyond real because it spoke directly to his experience in life.

That changed. When Lakesha rested her feet on his knee and chewed her finger, studying a rewrite of a page, Ian no longer felt as though the only truth of his life was as a half man, half machine thing lost inside his mind, without a friend, without an exit, he felt part of something else, Lakesha and more, a world where people supported each other, thought about each other. For Ian, it was complicated but real, “she’s my family like Alec was but even more so: she is somebody who likes me, and hangs out with me, and when she could be anywhere, after the workday, she is still here” he would write and then delete.

After the day was over, they’d close the lights and move to the side where a 20 seat movie house was set up and they watched early cuts of movies that wouldn’t be arriving for six months to the public. She would help Ian onto the sofa and then sit next to him, sharing popcorn. Lake didn’t have to be there, Ian never even considered giving her anything for her time, or asking her for sex, or doing anything but basking in her glow of affection, of a feeling he thought didn’t exist at all.

For Lakesha, it was simpler. He treated her with affection and respect, listened to her opinion, was always happy to have her nearby. She never bored of him. Simpler still, she liked Ian a lot and could imagine loving him. Daniel was gorgeous but Lakesha was done with him, she preferred Ian in every way. She preferred him to everyone but Rakim and her Mom.

 

 

 

Eleven.

And then one day in mid-September, Lakesha didn’t come to work, didn’t phone, didn’t anything.

It was Monday September 16th and Lakesha had been gone all weekend and that was weird enough in itself, she spent almost as much time at the Town House as Ian did, but it was her mother’s  birthday party and Lakesha, with money in the bank for once, was wanted to make an appearance and GoFundMom as much as she could, so she decided to spend three days at Uncle Tom’s home and then one go to a big party on Saturday, and be back on Monday but when she hadn’t made it back by noon on Monday, hadn’t even called or anything, Ian knew it was a problem, it was obviously a problem. So he called in Tom, , and Tom,  who had expected the cal, l came in.

“Where is Lakesha,” Ian asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied.

“What do you mean?”

“Couldn’t you hear me, I don’t know” A bad move, Tom didn’t hear a thing but suddenly he was surrounded by a troop of security.

“Let me make it simple for you. Either tell me where she is or I’ll have you fired and thrown own. Right this second. All I want from you is where she is, anything else out of your lips and we are done.”

She was hiding out at a small boutique hotel in Soho. Ian turned to his security team. “Get me there, right now.” The entire team stood there dumbfounded , till Ian snapped “Now”. Ian hadn’t left the house since his ill-fated trip to London ten years prior. “Sorry, Sir. Let me set it up, give me ten minutes,” his head security guy said.

“I’ll handle it,” Tom said.

Ian looked at Tom  with a glower and a true anger, the only anger he had ever shown to his manager. “You go to your office, you’re not needed.”

The second stretch limo was in the garage, and in working order, they got Ian locked down, and in the back, locked in, and Ian could feel his heart beating so hard as he looked out the window, released from the prison of his own making. The limo was fitted just for him but it was the first time he’d ever used it (in his last trip he used the other, this one was only two years old). Lap of luxury stuff and he was looking at the world through a huge window that let him see out from a 180 degree. “Open the window, I want to hear them,” Ian said, and the sound of Manhattan was all around him as they drove down Madison. To Ian, who lived in a world where music was the sound of the world, the cacophony of motors and horns, was alarming, and also invigorating, like listening to Lamb Of God or something.

He stared about him, it was both like the view from his wall length window and also a completely different angle, from the birds eye view out the window of his Townhouse where everything was seen from a distance, the refurbished home a series of elevators and moving stairs from the ground where operations, to about five floors above where Ian lived, to the ground level humanity of the limo riding backwards down the avenue.

Ian had sent a detail before him, they secured the floor, and surrounded her room, “Intimidating,” Ian knew, but it made sense. He was put on a stretcher and lifted to Lakesha’s hotel room, then placed in a motorized wheelchair cum hi tech world, one of many he owned, and then he knocked on the door. “Lakesha, it’s me.” Ian said and waited, half decided to knock the door down, but slowly the door opened. Lakesha looked a mess, her eye bruised, her lip cut, her arms bruised, and her face a swollen scare. Even in the state she was in, Lakesha was shocked to see Ian out of the house. He followed her through the door, and the door was closed behind him. Lakesha dropped to her knees before Ian, put her head in his lap, and cried and cried.

 

 

 

Twelve

Rakim had struggled with his sexuality all his life. To those around him, even Lakesha, he was a frisky het. To himself, he was a baffled bi. But somewhere else, he was a homosexual. In the intense world of gangs and drugs, hip hop and projects, being gay wasn’t a very good option, and if it was something that Rakim felt,  it was also nothing that In school he’d have crushes on boys, get jealous when they hung out with other friends, , and he’d wonder, even from a very young age, why he felt so much for just some guy friend. It made no sense to him. And as he slowly dawned on Rakim that his feelings were romantic, he hid it inside himself.

Daniel was different. Daniel drove Rakim crazy with desire and he did about it what he had always done about his desires. Nothing. But Daniel lived on his wits and on his body. Daniel wasn’t a prostitute or a pimp, he was a sponge. He sponged off people  and kept them in line through violence and love, through a hit or a kiss: whatever they wanted, it was alright with Daniel.

In many ways, Daniel considered Lakesha different, better, than those girls. She passed white when she wanted, she was model gorgeous, well spoken, and the hip hop crowd loved her. Plus, she was smart enough not to fuck around so Daniel  was never embarrassed by her, and when she escorted in was all mid-western business men, and the occasional woman, with no connection to anyone. If Daniel didn’t love her, he still loved her more than anyone else in his world.

The sad thing is, Daniel  had one of those lives that had you quoting William Blake, “some are born to sweet delight, some are born to endless night”. No father, his mother a crack head hooker with a constant flow of punters because, at least when Daniel was young, she was very attractive. She loved the little boy but she was negligent and addicted and left him home alone all night all the time. Before he was ten, he hung out in the streets, hustling old perv guys, and robbing and stealing, mugging, murdering. Daniel, like Rakim, stayed away from the gangs, would rather kick back money than get involved. By the time Daniel  was in his teens, he was rapping with projects based posse’s, and hustling anyone at all who might want to fuck him, young, old, white, black, men, women: whatever, you had to pay to play with Daniel, till, by his early 20s, he was kept by the producer and Daniel was refining his pitch, and  though that ended badly, he soon found  Lakesha and continued to reinvent himself even as he tripped himself up.

It had always seemed to Daniel, and in this he was much like Ian, that everything he heard and saw about families, was lies. The truth of the matter was, in his world, nobody cared and so what if they did? It was a terrible way to llive and really hurt the guy who could be as charming as he was handsome, but was too venal to hide his true nature. Daniel hadn’t realized Rakim was into him, but as soon as he did he began to wonder how that might help him to find Lakesha. Daniel waited outside Rakim’s building till Rakim’s girlfriend had left to work, then, after wasting ten minutes on an elevator that wasn’t going to be showing up, he walked the seventeen floors to Rakim’s apartment. In considering what to wear, Daniel had no idea whatsoever what Rakim was into and after trying on and discarding hip hop bagginess, and expensive looking suits, decided his best bet was to wear the jeans and white tee that had forced Rakim to drop the mask two weeks ago. He put his finger on the buzzer and when Rakim opened the door, pushed it and stormed in, pushed Rakim on the sofa, and said, “I don’t want to hurt her, I just want to see her…”

“I don’t know, i don’t know…” Rakim murmured to him.

“Yeah, you know, bitch, don’t you?” Daniel  sat down next to Rakim, too close, their legs touching. “What do you want, Rakim?”

“Nothing, I don’t want anything…”

“Yes, you do. And I’ll give it to you, you fag, but where is she… I won’t do anything to her”.

A week later, the call came from Rakim that Lakesha would be on her way home. She left the house and walked down 5th Avenue, with Daniel following, till she crossed over to Central Park, and he  jumped in front of her, grabbed her and pushed her into the park, throwing her into the grass and leaned her up against the tree. He hit her hard across the face, once, twice… “If you raise your voice it’s the last noise you’ll ever make. “How do we get to the cripple, this could make us rich forever. How do we do it? Can he fuck? Can he fucking fuck?”

“Go to hell,” she replied. And that’s all she said as she was hit again and again, till she mustered all her power kicked him the balls, and ran as fast as she could.

 

 

 

Thirteen

“Ian let her cling to him till he said, “Get your stuff, you’re coming home”.

“But, what if…”

“I’ll deal with what if, you will deal with recovering…”

Back home, Ian got in touch with his doctor and had him come right over, no permanent damage. He also contacted a company he used in extreme cases, a man with money can find people trying to hassle him and they need to be sent on their way. The next day, he met with them.

“So Daniel did it and Rakim played Judas…” one of the men said. “What do you want done?”

“Does Daniel know he is in trouble?” Ian asked.

“Not a clue.”

“What do you have in mind?”

“We have contacts with all the gangs,  we can stage it completely, nobody will ever know.”

“And me?”

“You had us stripped searched before we got in, your name is invisible, no audio, no visible.”

“Do it…”

“And Rakim?”

Ian thought about it but only for a moment, there is no way Lake knew her brother set her up and no way would she appreciate the info and having him killed would hurt her much, much more than just letting it drop. “Nothing at all, leave Rakim alone”.

It took a day to set it up, and as Daniel  walked through the courtyard of the projects, he didn’t know why he felt uneasy, but he felt uneasy. There was an eerie quiet, and he could hear his footsteps. he heard a clicking noise, and stood stock still, looked around, and walked again. “This isn’t working, not anymore. I have a good woman who loves me, a potential career, and all this violence and hustling is leading me nowhere. There has to be a place where Lakesha and I can be safe, where we can raise a family… all that cliche shit. I want it. I’m tired of what I have, I want to win her back. I could. She loved me once and she is smart and… I proved I loved her by hurting her and I real-“, ten steps from his car,  the afternoon erupted into gunfire and merely a step away from his car two shots took him out, one through the forehead and the other through the back of his skull. His last thoughts were of Lakesha, not angry, not love, just a missed opportunity that his upbringing had forced on him. Daniel wasn’t yet thirty.

 

 

 

Fourteen

Rakim waited in the lobby of the floor that Ian kept solely for his own  private use. Summoned by Uncle Tom, and with the reverberations of Daniel’s death rumbling through the hood (only the police didn’t realize it was a hit), Rakim was scared, nervous, if Ian knew about Robert he might well know about Rakim and if he knew about Rakim, then Rakim had reason  to suspect his life would soon be over. He sat for over an hour, getting more and more scared,

When he was finally allowed in, he saw this twisted half man with a scary smile, thin as rail legs, and a frozen sneer on his lips that was stuck on his face, and made it very difficult for him to speak without a vocoder. A state of the art thing, sometimes it picked up his half words, sometimes he typed them in. There was no one else in the room, a small waiting room near the lobby, and still Rakim felt very uneasy. Ian wasn’t making Rakim feel at all comfortable either.

“Why did you do it?” Robert asked.

“Did what? I’ve never done anything that should reflect upon you at all.”

“You have seen what I can do, Rakim. There is nowhere for you to hide. I might just get rid of you for the exercise, to teach you and myself about ultimate betrayals. Why?”

Rakim was going to continue denying it, but with Daniel dead he realized that Ian was a bigger danger to him than Daniel ever was. “I love Lake, she is my closest friend. I wasn’t thinking, I should have realize he would hurt her and I didn’t. I was blind to what he might do. If I had known…”

‘BUT WHY?”

“I think I’m gay and I wanted a relationship with him I would have done anything but what I did: hurt Lakesha. I lost control and…: Rakim began to cry. “I can’t be gay,” he wailed.

“And I can’t be a cripple but guess what?”

“Lakesha is the most important person in the world to me, I didn’t mean to betray her or you or anyone, I just, imagine hiding from your desire all your life and then it suddenly happens with the person you’ve spent years dreaming about. then it is within reach and it doesn’t feel real: it was like a daydream come to life and I just convinced myself that he wouldn’t hurt Lake, he completely promised…

“I don’t know when I realized I was gay. I’m not bi-sexual, I know that now. It has never been so great with women and over and over I would fantasize I was with another man… In the black community, you can’t be gay. Not where I am from. I just couldn’t do it. I had to hide… and now I have nowhere to hide. What are you going to do?”

“Me? Nothing. And if I was you I certainly wouldn’t tell your sister. But you have to do one thing. You have to come out as gay and live your life as a homosexual, if you do that we can pretend it never happened.”

“Why? You had Robert killed, why not me…?”

 

 

 

Fifteen

Lakesha and Ian were lying on Ian’s bed, listening to the new Lana Del Rey. Summer was over and Daniel was over and Lakesha felt happier than she ever had, never so sure as to what would make her happy even if what would make her happy was spasticus autisticus, a man whose middle was a riddle yet had gotten through to her and… “I don’t like the ending,” she said.

“What’s wrong with it?”

“It becomes a fantasy as the character dances to Dury, but surely the point is that he doesn’t need a fantasy. Love and life is real, isn’t that what we’re proving?.”

Ian was quiet, absorbing the though. “My mom,” was his reply.

“What about her?”

“Who was she? She was nineteen when she died giving birth to me, what was she liked. Are you like anything at 19?

“You had taken over your life from your father at nineteen.”

“I know but I didn’t become me till you made me, me.”

“I don’t understand the…”

“If I could just get a grip on who my Mommy was, if I just knew for sure who she was and why she did… why didn’t she abort me? She must have known it was dangerous, she must have been warned and yet she had me. Why? Why did she love me so much…”

“And if you knew the answer…?”

“If I knew the answer I could understand the line between reality and fantasy.”

“So I could be a fantasy…?”

“Could? You are… you are the greatest daydream that ever happened to me but…”

“What would root it?”

“If I could just understand what happened before I was born, if I could just ask my father…”

“So ask him.”

“Maybe, maybe I’ll put some guys on it.”

Lakesha snuggled next to Ian, and she felt a wave of tragedy roll through her and she hid her face in his shirt and began to cry and cry and cry.

 

 

 

Sixteen

Rosalia Gonzales was a tempestuous, bad tempered girl, the youngest of a family of seven, who spent her days between San Juan and Spanish Harlem. A scrappy youngster, used to the battles of family life, and exerting what control you had always. Until 8th grade she had had zero interest in school, and not much interest in boys, but back in Spanish Harlem, she’d taken an exam for a charter school that her parents certainly couldn’t afford, and won a full scholarship. Apparently, the world had missed that the pretty, feisty youngster was a pocket genius.

Rosalia was torn between wanting to excel, loving numbers, and wanting to play. She steamrolled through Charter and was top of her class and aiming for a transfer to MIT when she was sat next to a new boy, four years her senior, and she fell in love. Rosalia didn’t get it, and couldn’t express it. Carl Adelaid was white, rich, and handsome, he never lost his cool and charm, and thought everything was funny. Which just infuriated her. But it also made her laugh very much and that’s what the two did from the moment they met. They laughed. And Carl was tall, and had a toughness you don’t expect in a rich kid, and he always seemed to be watching her.

The slow giveaway of love tugged them together, and it was a love soon consummated and from then, to the day she died two years later, they were together always. They married at a civil ceremony, no friends, no family, government provided witnesses.

“I can’t get rid of him,” she had told Carl when the perils became clearer. “I won’t. I love him.”

“You have to, your life and his life is in danger. What if I lose you both?” Carl said through streaming tears.

“Then that is God’s will, be I won’t force God’s hand. Let it play out…”

“No…”

“You can’t stop it, Carl. It has to be, he has to be. Carl Adelaid IV… my son… why would you even consider it?”

“Because I love you more, I love you more than me, more than money, more than anything. All I want is to be with you and if you die because of him…”

 

 

 

Seventeen

Both Ian and Lakesha’s birthday was February 8th and Lakesha knew what she wanted.

“I don’t do dates.”

“You will for me?”

“How? What a nightmare, all those people looking at me and wondering what this horrible thing was, no… just, I can’t.

 

 

 

Eighteen

“I hate this,” Ian said, as he was maneuvered into his huge stretch limo, another newer one, not the one he went in to find Lakesha in. Lake sat next tom him and there was nobody else in the back. They sat closely together, whispering, “Chance, Chance, Chance, Chance…” Lakesha muttered, as though it was a mantra. “I’m so excited…” She opened the tickets, special passes at the side of the stage. “I can’t believe we are gonna be right there… Our first concert together…”

“My first concert ever, I can’t believe you conned me into this…”

‘We are twenty-right…”

“We are…”

“Ian, it’s just beginning. All the bad stuff is done and now, today, Ian… I can’t wait till we’re married… I can’t wait to be Mrs. Adelaid. Look at it!” She showed him her engagement ring.

“I’m aware of it, I bought it,” he said and Lakesha smiled and then laughed and then hugged him, and looked at it again. “I am so happy, Ian. I can’t believe there is a feeling that feels like this.”

“I’m with you on that one.  I thought I’d spend my life in total solitude and I would have, you saved me.”

“We saved each other…”

“No, that’s wrong. You would have found happiness anywhere but I never stood a chance until you gave it to me.” Lakesha cuddled him, “You are one big mush,” she said.

They were elevated up to the side of the stage as Chance came on, and watched quietly, astoundingly, at how close Chance The Rapper was, and how how good and loud, it sounded, and then came “All Day Long” and finally “Blessings” and the couple were enthralled and addicted, and Lakesha began to dance in front of Ian, then she drew his wheelchair towards and began to twirl him forever forward, forever on, round and round and round.

 

 

 

Nineteen

Thanksgiving: Thursday, November 22nd, 2029

 

“You will be happy to learn that I will not be carving the turkey this afternoon,” Ian said to general cheers.

“Let me daddy, let me,” said Alec before getting swooped up by his nanny. Rosalia just settled onto her daddy’s lap and put her head on his shoulder, ignoring her twin brother.

“I think we will use the pros for that, what do you think Lakesha?”

The long table was filled with family. Rakim and his husband, and two daughters  were there, Carl Adelaid III and IV, and  Carl’s third wife, Ian’s mother-in-law, Lakesha’s mom and sisters and their significant others, and Ian’s grandmother, visiting from Puerto Rico for the holidays. Tom  and his family were there. Alec’s wife and her new husband… everywhere Ian looked he could see people who mattered to him, who believed in him. And who he believed in.

And somehow he could imagine Ian Dury joining them. And somehow, he could see his mother everywhere, the lucky bleeder.

 

-The End-

 

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