Alphabet City, 1985

Tony kissed the ground he walked on. He said this one morning when we were in bed and my landlady was pounding on the door, saying, “Lorraine! I see that van of Tony still here!” They were Ukrainian, my landlord and lady, and their daughter had died young, so a lot of their attention during my tenancy went to ensuring I turned into a good woman, Ukrainian style. Tony wasn’t the only problem, there was also the cat’s litter box, which I only scooped when it stung the eyes to get near. “Lorraine!” said Mister on his daily visits. “Clean dot litter box!” and so forth. I didn’t live there very long.

Tony, or Anton, to use his real name, was from Sarajevo, and a gangster. A small-time gangster, neighborhood stuff, although he’d done “enforcement” for some guys he said were big, one of whom I met in a seafood restaurant in Sheepshead Bay and remember only because he gave both of us cigars. We met through my former boyfriend, Bobby, a chef from Mott Haven who’d escaped the Bronx by means of the CIA—Culinary Institute of America. Bobby took me to Montauk on a scuba trip that included Tony and another couple. In the evenings we camped out and Bobby joked with the couple while Tony acted gallant in a Brooklyn way, making sure everyone had drinks and food, and dipping into his tent for gadgets everyone else had forgotten—corkscrew, tiny flashlight, high-tech flint thing in case the matches got wet. There were jokes about Boy Scouts and he said, “Yeah, we didn’t have that in Sarajevo, and by the time I got to Brooklyn I was eight years old, which is twenty in American years.”

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