His name is Harry, but you could rightly call him Hirsute. We come to him on a brisk Saturday morning, when the rent is due.

Harry has rent money like he has cigarettes. And in this moment, he’d kill for a smoke the same way some men might kill for a righteous ideal. Julia was in his mind, like a weed, or so many termites. He’d better have been in love with her. Otherwise, she was such a waste of time.

He had some designs on how he’d get the 1,200 bucks, and he’d have to act on them sooner rather than later. But there were two million beautiful women in this city (the New York one), and each and every one of them was bearing down on him.

His loft-style room was spartan-nigh-ascetic. For sleeping, he had a double-sized mattress on the floor; for furniture, he had books stacked along one wall and some long-player records leaning against a corner further down. Harry had no record player. He had sold it, but couldn’t bear to sell the records. And nor the books; one day, providing a mass-extinction event which happens to spare him, Harry would get around to reading them.

Harry sold his record player because he lived in New York, and you don’t need music here so much as you need money. Incidentally, money can buy you music. In any case, Harry had neither.

All he had was time, and he barely had that; a roof over his head, sure—pending his ability to acquire twelve hundred clams by sundown. And of course, his body; a life, of which he was the experiencing subject. Harry imagined protesting, to some phantasmic figure in his head (perhaps an ex-girlfriend or a mother-father-figure), if you can’t say nothing else about me, you’d at least have to admit that I’m the experiencing subject of a life! And it’s true; he was.

You’d think he’d make more money at his job than what he currently has available for luxuries like rent, but then you find out his job is “writer.” Harry, yes, it’s true, writes, but a job has he not. Briefly, Harry was under the employ of a major real estate mogul (a dishwasher at the man’s luxury hotel). Harry found the avocation suitable to the writerly life. One can think up particularly lucid stories, clever little character details, while one whittles away at the crusty pile of pots, pans, trays, and boards. Harry, for his part, often thought of sex. Or, he thought of naked women. After an eight-hour shift there in that fluorescent backroom—the air perfectly muggy from the searing-hot tap, the near-palpable effluvia of dish soap, rotting compost—he did feel, however, refreshed enough to think up some plots for a novel (or a play) on his walk back home (all 58 blocks [give or take] of it). Subway tickets (it hardly bears mentioning) a needless expense to our young hero. Or, if he didn’t feel particularly inspired on a given day, he thought of sex.

Perhaps on his walk home, he might allow himself the indulgence of a beer or three, plus however many extra he could sneak on someone else’s tab or otherwise leave without paying for. And, what the hell, a fresh pack of cigarettes. Besides, he had earned it (don’t sweat the details here, he told himself)! And, more importantly, they go great with being drunk. Luckily, in New York, cigarettes are hardly a cause for financial concern, provided one doesn’t mind smoking them for breakfast as well as dinner as well (and with a light lunch consisting of the foil from the pack).

He had at this point also picked up an amphetamine habit to aid in his literary ambitions; this was subsidized by his predilection for dating college-aged narcissists with borderline personality disorder and an unlocked medicine cabinet. Yes, Harry was bereft (or at least disappointingly disendowed) in a great many respects—including where it really counts—but he still managed to—at the very least—as they say—“get laid.”

Harry was lazy; Harry was poor; Harry expressed hostility with the innocent aptitude of a prodigy. But he had a handsome face, in a squarish, sort-of Scandanavian sort of way. And of course he could carry on a decent conversation. For sure, it must have helped that he had read his Nietzsche, his Nabokov, and his Roth. But for the genus of woman he usually went for, all he really needed to be able to do—in all honesty—was fog up a mirror (by the end of the night, it must be borne in mind, even this was sometimes out of the question).

He met them—them being women—at bars (book clubs and literary events didn’t pan out, so Harry hadn’t even bothered attending them in the first place). Harry had learned to make first impressions the same way some people learn to make eggs sunny-side up: honed through extended periods of solitude. It was only the second, third, and up to, but not necessarily including, nth impressions that caused him to falter. “Falter,” here, being a polite term for the way Harry mucked up his relationships amongst the human species; socially, then, we can come to understand Harry, largely, as a caterpillar.

But say Harry, being as he often is at some bar that sells Keystone Light from a can for a cool five bucks, meets a woman: from this point there are several (exacting) criteria the (surely quite charming [in a Lovecraftian sort of way]) young lady had to fulfill…

Firstly, they had to like his answer of “writer” upon their asking of what exactly it is that he “does” (responding with “dishwasher” also briefly became a viable strategy during the height of Bernie Sanders’ campaign).

Secondly, she just needed to be nice. Just kidding; everyone’s nice.

So, this is to say, Harry veered towards a cosmopolitan sort of woman: well-read and with large breasts. If she made it past his guarded admission—that of not being published, per se, necessarily, in point of subjective fact—without abruptly mentioning a boyfriend who must have gotten lost on his way to the bathroom, and who she suddenly insisted on excusing herself from their conversation to go and find, then Harry knew he had a decent shot at a phone number, probably insemination.

…But say a conversation has been successfully struck; like a match, so on the third or fourth try. It went, usually, like this: the two of them discuss Godard or some other venerated arthouse curio for some minutes (the more makeup she wore, the more likely they’d discuss novels; vain people stock their repertoire with lofty books, while more down-to-earth folk go to Film Forum). Then—powerfully yet ever so casually—Harry would grasp the young woman’s hips, promising her a lifetime (one evening, two if her friends were alcoholics) of childlike glee, domestic felicity, and serviceable cunnilingus. If they don’t rebuff him at this point—that is to say, if they happen to be art students—Harry would offer (chivalrously) to accompany them to their Chinatown walk-up, or else a single-stall bar restroom with stickers (compassionately) covering the whole of the mirror, for the (an) act of passion. Then it’s like Balzac once said: there goes another novel. (Though in Harry’s case, truth be told, said novel would have, in all likelihood, suffered [as did his sexual performance] from the fallacy of imitative form—Harré de Ballsack [or, rather, vice versa]: “Here goes nothing.”)

Some of these women (these art students), Harry had truly fallen for in the past. But then again, Harry was the romantic sort; he fell in love as if compelled by gravity. Like all romantic sorts, his main preoccupation—indeed, his decided vocation in life—was coming to terms with the (cruel) schism between movies and life. The art students he courted, invariably, moved on; Harry never did. On the plus side, these women managed to cure, by way of brute force exposure, his natural (and really quite unnecessary in the final analysis) affliction of romantic jealousy. Antibiotics cured the rest.

This is all to say that when chanced with the occasion of buying a drink, Harry usually accepted. He was rarely invited, sure, but he always had a personal hankering and he couldn’t say no when asked as politely as he asked himself. Besides, if Harry had learned one thing throughout the course of his measly (meagerly) life, it’s that money comes and money goes. One can even stave off hunger for a surprising amount of time, like some perverse, exceptionally shallow Gandhi, especially with the salutary side effects of prescription-grade amphetamines, one feels inclined in asserting. So hunger, too, comes, and hunger, too, goes, as any writer worth his or her weight in sodium chloride could probably tell you. Women, on the other hand, come, then go, and not men, as the popular misconception would dictate.

Harry, not being one to make statements in broad strokes, always in the habit of qualifying them, even within the comfortable confines of his own mind, he might feel obligated to add: this has been his experience, as he himself had experienced it. For what it’s worth. Alas, he could only speak for himself; perhaps that’s why his writing is so misshapen, so flummoxed. Anyhow—

One day, the axe just fell when he forgot to show up for a few weeks to his dishwashing gig. A blessing in disguise, really, because now the fire was really lit, and now he’d have to write, to come up with something to show for himself, or starve.

Harry, by the way, was famished. He subsisted solely off wedges of fancy imported cheese, which he pocketed on the sly from a national grocery chain located 34 blocks (give or take) away from his house (his room). Harry was not too proud to steal. Pride: never an obstacle for our hero.

…All these thoughts, and likely one or two pennyworths more, were swimming in the primordial stew of Harry’s mind like so many geese (or perhaps some other species of fowl, one more annoying). This is not to say that Harry could recall, if pressed, even a single cogent sentence just performed by his internal monologue (although he couldn’t help but notice how the foregoing performance did indeed evoke some dullified sense of dread, and in a manner quite commendable, near Stanislavskian in vigor). What it all amounted to—all that time Harry spent “just thinking”—was a wallowing in consciousness; no more, no less. And then the occasional flings, of course, with self-pity; casual (verging terminal) flirtations with shame. Harry knew that if he wanted to get anywhere in life—the race to the red—he had to knock this habit (and cigarettes).

Harry harrumphed. He could use a smoke.

With all the ornery heroicism of a much more accomplished, more rugged man—certainly, one less pervious to the cursory presence of the finer sex—Harry lay and wallowed some more. Fat and happy like a pig in the mud, he thought. Perforce, he flipped through a catalogue of shame. Then, setting that down, he picked up—to peruse—a certain porn mag: Anal Monthly, it appeared to be called. Starring Julia, a friend from college, and, very briefly, his aunt. He couldn’t put it down; he read it for the articles.

Let there, ahem, be light; all of a sudden, Harry’s surroundings deigned to rush into his sense perception, and with what he saw as undue violence. Somewhere just outside his window, either a bird was singing or a plastic grocery bag had caught the business end of a draft.

Harry finally came to feeling like a coma patient, in his loft-style room in the city that never sleeps (Harry, for his part, rarely did anything else). Like an encore performance or an inside joke between close friends, Harry then un-came to. Some minutes passed.

By the time he finally arose from his indolent stupor, his books were still there, piled across the floor, making something like a mountain ridge against his wall: Harry’s own Mont Blanc.

Somewhere, perhaps even hundreds of miles away, a seismic shock must have rippled slyly through the Earth’s crust and eventually deigned to strike Harry’s one-room apartment. His stack of records toppled as if by their own accord, or perhaps out of disdain for their owner. Encouraged by the discrete task—replacing the fallen records to their upright (and just) positions—with a sense, finally, of being in the saddle, so to speak—Harry alit from his floor-mattress. He wearily discerned his kitchen, through his periphery so as not to look it directly in the eye. Harry experienced hunger.

It was—let’s see—circa twelve noon. As a late breakfast, he decided, he’d go down to the grocery chain and steal a wedge of camembert, for the protein, and a plastic container of salad, for whatever macronutrients are to be found in salad. He lifted the now-scattered pile of records and arranged them haphazardly to ensure their future retoppling, a gift to Harry’s future self.

As we have already covered, but may as well cover again, Harry had designs on how he could conjure up some rent money. At the very least, he knew how he couldn’t. (If he had learned anything from his [useless] Jewish Studies degree, it was this: that what something most assuredly isn’t, is just as powerful as what something is—or something. Harry, then, had de-signs.) All things considered (all trifles partway skimmed), Harry stopped to take stock:

He couldn’t ask his parents; they thought he had a job. What’s more, they were never the new-age-y style of parents who indulge their children with such newfangleties as monetary allowances, birthday gifts, or emotional closeness. Harry’s parents were dependable for one thing: monthly phone calls—God, make them less so—regarding their respective (never shared) autistic fixations du jour (never failing to fascinate no one). These calls were mercifully cut short by their merciless bickering. And they probably didn’t have much money, anyway.

He couldn’t ask a friend; he didn’t have any. Well sure, he had friends, but—Harry expressed a characteristic squeamishness upon the arousal of the thought. He was shy with himself; he was shy with women, aphasic with men.

He couldn’t rob a store; something about Harry’s face—or maybe it was merely his entire personality—didn’t lend itself well to being taken seriously. With his luck, the bank teller would start ridiculing him.

He also had the in as a precarity laborer on an app-based service for dog-walkers called Yip; they should have called it “YUP,” what with the young urban professional (Harry would have thrown in a few more choice adjectives) clientele they tended to service. If he spent the next 24 hours trundling cocker spaniels owned by guys with Macklemore haircuts and blonde women with nepotistically procured internships at media conglomerates, Harry could potentially earn enough dough to pay—let’s see—a twelfth of his rent.


So what was Harry to do? The possibility, of starting afresh at a rural commune somewhere in Vermont, was speaking to the Tantalus in him. Heifers and hay-bales danced in his mind’s eye.

Already halfway out the perennially unlocked door of his deciduous, loft-style single-room, he decided to do what he always does in times of pressing necessity: hope, desultorily, for a miracle. Harry already knew not to insult God by praying.

Harry went out for a walk.


For all installments of “Out for a Walk,” click here.