Manhattan Melodrama by Dan Morey



Photo by Tom Darin Liskey


‘Manhattan Melodrama’ by Dan Morey

I needed to find a bathroom fast, so I went into a random building off 9thAvenue.  There was a janitor in the atrium, slopping a mop around.
“Which way to the toilet?” I said.

“Where do you think you are?” he said.  “A bus station?”

I ran back outside.  Stiv was waiting.

“They have one?” he said.

“No,” I said.

“Where to?”

“Where to?  Well, gee, I thought I’d pop over to Broadway and see how much Phantom of the Opera tickets are going for.  I need a bathroom!  Now!”

Pretty soon 9th Avenue turned into Columbus Avenue and we came to a square with three museum-like buildings.  The central one had five enormous arched windows, all lit up from within.

“Jesus,” I said.  “It’s Lincoln Center.”

I was standing in the heart of the city I’d always loved but never visited—a city whose noisy streets and lofty skyscrapers were more romantic to me than all the mysteries of the Nile.  This should’ve been a misty-eyed moment.  Woody Allen movies and Salinger stories and Gershwin tunes should’ve been dancing in my head.   Instead, I looked at the famous fountain, glowing and gurgling in the night, and nearly crapped my pants.

A man in a maroon vest was stationed at the entrance of the Koch Theater.  Lots of well-dressed people milled insouciantly around the lobby.  I swung the door open and said, “Can I please use the bathroom please?”

“Sure,” said the vest.  “Just need to see your ticket.”

“It’s an emergency.”

“No tickee, no laundry.”

“Who do you have to be to take a dump in this town?” I said.  “Donald Trump?”

I found Stiv lounging beside the fountain.

“You better hurry up,” he said.

“There’s nowhere to go,” I said.  “I’m in the middle of the largest metropolis in the United States—supposedly a civilized country—and I’m going to have to shit myself!”

“Squat,” said Stiv.

Not a bad idea.  This was New York, after all.  People did that kind of thing all the time, didn’t they?  As I headed for the sanctuary of the theater’s backside, something happened that nearly made all of those ridiculous guardian angel movies seem plausible.  My angel wasn’t winged or glittered, or smeared with the Lord’s honey-hued rays—she was a Park Avenue socialite, with sensuous smiling lips.

“Would you like to see the ballet?” she said.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“I’m leaving early.  Take this.”

She placed a ticket stub in my palm.  I stared at it for a second, unable to comprehend, and when I looked up, she was gone.  I was about to run after her and thank her, but my intestines had other plans.  I burst into the theater, clenching my cheeks in desperation.  The vest okayed me, and I staggered across the lobby, splitting clusters of ballet buffs like a tranquilized bull.  There were at least ten men lined up outside the bathroom.  I bounced them out of my way, cutting short conversations with shocking abruptness.

“Assets without growth potential—oof!”

“I’ve never seen Tosca done better—oh!”

“Can you believe the Yankees—sonofabitch!”

I cut around one last fat man and leaped into a vacant stall.

Ah.  When it was all over, I drifted out of the bathroom and into my newly acquired sixth row seat.  This was really unbelievable—I’d arrived in New York without plans and without a penny, and now I was about to watch a ballet at Lincoln Center.

“Who are you?”

It was the gentleman behind me.  I swiveled around and spoke with utter spontaneity.  Anything might have come out.

“Mordaunt Saunders,” I said, clasping his hand.  “Theater critic for the Times.  I’m afraid our ballet man came down with a terrible case of the gout.  I’m filling in.”

“The gout?  Listen here.  I’d like to know what happened to the lady who was occupying that seat.”

“She told me this was the most tiresome ballet she’d ever been subjected to.  Said she couldn’t wait to hit the Waldorf and get a few Sidecars in her.”

“The hell she did.”

A rotund woman in a ludicrous hat sat down beside him, terminating our chat.  As the performance recommenced, my eyelids began to sink.  I anticipated a placating orchestral score, one that would lull me into a dream-filled slumber.  Unfortunately, the ballet was especially frisky, and I couldn’t sleep a wink.

“Where the hell have you been?” said Stiv, when I finally came out.

“Taking in a little culture.”

We walked on, and the city thrummed around us.  I could hear a jazz band blowing in a club, and for a moment it seemed like 1925.  I was on my way to the Plaza to meet Daisy Buchanan.  We’d make love under a ceiling fan and she’d say, “I don’t care about Tom.  Or that old Gatsby sport either.  It’s you, I want.  You, you, you!”

“Hey!” yelled Stiv.

A cab whipped up to the curb and nearly flattened me.

“Jesus,” I said.  “Maybe we better get some sleep.”

“No way.  We’re going to 42nd Street.”

I was about to respond, when an ominous shadow descended on us.  We froze, and looked up to find a towering black man planted belligerently in our path.  He wore sandals, camouflaged shorts, and a mesh tank top.  His hair looked like it had been cut with a Bowie knife.

“You little queer,” he said to Stiv. “Give me a dollar.”

“I don’t have any money,” said Stiv.

The man stared lasciviously at him.  “You ever suck a big black cock, boy?”

This was too good.  I had to laugh.

“You laughing at me,” said the man.  “I’ll cut you to pieces.  I’ll cut you up and throw you in the river!”

I kept laughing.

“What the hell are you doing?” said Stiv.  “Are you crazy?”

I laughed and laughed.  Restaurants and lounges and sweet concrete were all around me.  This was my city now, and I had nothing to fear.  A guy came out of a pizza shop and stood beside us.  He reeked of liquor and his tie was stuffed in his shirt pocket.

“This asshole messing with you?” he said.

“Who you calling asshole, you spaghetti-eating fuck?” said the black man.  “You want cut too?”

“Yeah, go on and cut me.”

He shook his head and walked casually past the aggressor.  Stiv and I followed.

“I’ll take the crease out of those fancy pants, you wop faggot!” said the black man.  “Come on back.  Come on!”

The guy from the pizza shop slapped me on the shoulder and said:

“Only in New York, boys.  Only in New York”.

Did you like the story? Opinions? Praise? Please leave a comment below



Dan Morey lives in Erie, PA where he relentlessly pursues the longnose gar, great northern pike and mighty bowfin in the weedy waters of Presque Isle Bay. He’s worked as a book critic, nightlife columnist and outdoor journalist. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in many publications, including Giant Robot, Sein und Werden, Ducts, The Eunoia Review, Eyeshot, The Big Jewel, Vagabond City and Smokebox.

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4 Responses to Manhattan Melodrama by Dan Morey

  1. Nicely written Dan with great humour throughout, this was a total blast. Hope to read some more.

  2. Dan Morey

    Thanks, Garry. Enjoyed yours as well. The couples walking with the champagne glasses along the river was an image that stayed with me. Here’s another one that might be up your alley, if you want to check it out:

  3. garreth keating

    really enjoyed this, just makes me what to keep reading on. Do you write any longer stuff?

    • Thanks for the kind words, Garreth. Liked your addict piece as well. I do write longer stuff. Am working on a couple books now and there are some longer published pieces on my website:

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