Johnny America


Some Beds I’ve Slept In, Part One



I moved to Brook­lyn with twelve neat­ly-fold­ed hun­dred dol­lar bills and a crum­pled pack of Marl­boros in my front pock­ets. In my seat pock­et I car­ried a wal­let and in­side that a promise scrib­bled on a nap­kin, the invitation:

“Come vis­it. Bet­ter, MOVE! Stay with us when­ev­er you get here. XOXO Jess (and Martin).”

Their phone num­ber was scrib­bled in blue across the back. I bare­ly knew them, but it was a free place to stay. Two months lat­er I was punch­ing the 718 area code in­to my phone: “Jess, Your of­fer still good? I’m go­ing to need a place to stay.”

“Here’s where you can sleep,” Jess told me as she point­ed to­ward an in­de­ter­mi­nate mess in the cor­ner of the liv­ing room. I could dis­cern a pair of re­frig­er­a­tor box­es hug­ging the con­crete floor. Above them, half an inch of yel­lowed copies of the Vil­lage Voice served as bed springs over the card­board frame. Over the news­pa­pers was a lay­er of ragged bath tow­els. There was a navy blue sheet crum­pled in the corner.

“Thanks, Jess,” I stam­mered, “this is great.”

“Wait,” she screamed, “pound­ing out of the room. Her voice car­ried from her bed­room: “I’ve got you some­thing.” She ran back in­to the liv­ing room, stum­bling over a box of mag­a­zines next to the pi­ano. She was beam­ing as she threw a large block of egg car­ton foam on­to my new cot. “You can use it as a pil­low,” she said, delighted.

Jess and Mar­tin were kind but filthy. I’m glad I bare­ly got to know them while they were pass­ing through my home town of Cincin­nati on their way to meet Mar­t­in’s fam­i­ly in Kansas — I nev­er would have stayed with them and I’d still be stuck in Ohio.

“Where’d you get this jam,” I asked Jess as I peeled at the la­bel. It looked qual­i­ty — too good for Key Food. I watched Mar­tin spread the apri­cot treat over his toast.

“Dump­ster,” chimed Mar­tin, an­swer­ing for his wife.

“It’s still good,” said Jess, de­fen­sive­ly. She caught me ey­ing Mar­t­in’s toast. “Re­al­ly, it is,” she insisted.

I ate my whole wheat dry.

A week in­to my stay Mar­tin and Jess took in an­oth­er lodger-friend. His name was Ja­cob and he slept stark naked; his bed was the so­fa across from my floor. It was Au­gust and swel­ter­ing, so Ja­cob slept with­out a sheet.

I found work as quick­ly as pos­si­ble, and spent my evenings drink­ing, con­vinc­ing girls to share their beds. They did­n’t have to be pret­ty or smart, so long as they had their own place. When, af­ter two nights with her, one ut­tered those mag­ic three words — “stay with me” — I ran to Jess and Mar­t­in’s and packed.

Filed under Non-Fiction on August 19th, 2004

Care to Share?

Consider posting a note of comment on this item:


Previous Post


Next Post


Join our Irregular Mailing List

For very occasional ramblings, word about new print ephemera, and of course exciting investment opportunities.