by Chris Rostenberg
I’m good-looking, but I used to be damn good-looking and I had studied acting, so I was able to flirt with the cuties. I went into New Rochelle Public Library in Westchester, New York, and found this sexy girl researching bulimia. She reminded me of the pretty groupie on WKRP in Cincinnati who had a crush on the DJ who liked to play the Doobie Brothers.
I didn’t just walk in. I moved across the room. I didn’t just talk to her; I used my face, used everything. That’s what I do. I send out this vibe, and I have personally found that women do respond. I ran a bioscan on the sexy girl to see if she was normal. She passed the test. The bioscan was broken. There was a particle of preanimate matter caught in the matrix.
That night, the sexy bulimic and I were driving down Boston Post Road by Cook’s Video Arcade that had games like Tank Command, Marble Madness and Q-Bert, which are all gone now like real music videos, and I got irritated with the girl’s nonsense. When we were in Sal’s Pizzeria, she seemed to try to go out of her way to irritate me. I told her what I was going to do to her if she didn’t get her act in gear. She seemed to enjoy hearing this. She was like, “Really? You’d do that to me?” So I played along with this; we went into the supermarket and at two in the morning in the A&P, she was ripping my shirt off. I said, “Hormones, hormones, control your hormones. I left my handcuffs back in my mother’s apartment.” We went back to my bedroom where we enjoyed fudgesicles. Her father came over, towed her out by the ear, and everything fell into place.
Now, I’m a sentimental fool, so I got a job at that A&P as a seafood clerk. I had to rip out the fish guts, rip off the scales and fins, chop their heads off and sell ‘em. I noticed that some of the bigger fish had parasitic worms sticking out of their mouths. We didn’t chop the heads off these big fish but just sold them as-is. People would come in and say, “There’s a parasitic worm sticking out of this fish’s mouth.” My manager would say, “Don’t worry. It’s not unhygienic.” The people would say, “Oh,” and buy the fish.
We also sold live lobsters. I once read a great science fiction story about a man who tried to go back in time and his brain ended up in a lobster. The man came back to the present in his own body. He was sitting in a restaurant and saw people eating lobsters and had a break-down. So I bought a lobster at the A&P and freed it in the Long Island Sound, dropping it off a bridge down by the Tarry Lodge, which used to have great pizza but now sucks.
Long Island Sound was polluted and I got a job at Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment, which was working to protect the body of water. I worked as an environmental canvasser, where we would knock on people’s doors and ask for signatures and money, and we kept 52%. I was good at this job because I was no longer shy. We worked in all weather until 10 p.m., all year round. One night during a thunder-storm, I couldn’t find my way back to where the van would pick me up, and I had to wait for the lightning to read my map.
Then I met this hippie girl named Sunshine. In some countries, women get arrested for looking like she did in a pair of jeans. We went to Earth Day at Central Park together and saw the B-52’s sing “Love Shack.” Sunshine and the environmentalists and I drove out to Illinois to hear Jesse Jackson give a speech about his Rainbow Coalition. I never heard an orator like this. The whole crowd was under a spell. I thought, “Wait, am I black?” I wanted to shake Jesse Jackson’s hand, but everyone else was shaking it. I put my hand on top of everyone else’s, and shook all of their hands sideways.
Back in New York, I took Sunshine to the movies, but it was Driving Miss Daisy, so we left. In the lobby of the theater, there was this four-foot bag of popcorn, so I stole it. Sunshine and I were walking down the street and I asked her to carry the bag. We saw a cop, so we ran, and I pointed at Sunshine and said, “She stole the popcorn!” Sunshine and I went back to the environmental office on Monday and I donated the great, big bag of popcorn to the other environmentalists to eat. Free popcorn. Tuesday, the bag was gone. The manager told me a mouse had gotten in the bag and he had thrown it away. I have had two mice in my mouth at the same time. In high school, there was this girl, Colleen, who would put goldfish in her mouth and swallow them. There are videotape records to prove this. Colleen had been in my acting class too and taught me the first rule of acting: Insanity Pride!
In August, I left the job and went to a summer community acting group in Rye. I met this girl named Marta. She would just sit there with her red lips and blonde hair and stare into hyperspace. She was reading this fantasy novel and on the cover was a woman looking into a mirror with a different woman peering back through the mirror. Marta never talked, but when I asked her what the book was about, she went on and on. Then, in a normal tone, I asked her if the book was a true story, and she said “Yes,” got confused and said “No.”
I had just found a gorgeous comic book called, “Elfquest” in Anderson’s Bookshoppe. Elfquest is the product of Wendy and Richard Pini and featured this elf healer named Leetah of the Sun Village and when her mother was pregnant with her, Leetah, as an unborn baby elf, healed the broken arm of this guy right through the wall of the womb. Then she was born, grew up, and dated this guy (elves grow really old). Leetah refused to kill anyone. She married Cutter, Blood of Ten Chiefs, and they fought this evil elf with black hair named Winnowill. Winnowill was a “healer turned inside-out.” She had been ambitious, but relatively normal, until she had sex with a troll and gave birth to a baby. She killed the father, then tortured her son, healed him, then tortured him again. She did this to experiment on her healing skills, and she broke her son’s mind in two. Winnowill then set about to harvest the magical powers of all the other elf wizards. She threatened the children of Cutter and Leetah, and when Cutter nearly killed Winnowill, Leetah stopped him. Then Leetah found an elf who was mostly dead and tried to prevent him from dying, forcing healing magic on him against his will, which she realized was immoral. The funny thing is, Winnowill hates Cutter, but she is terrified of Leetah. She is scared Leetah will cure her of her damaged soul. I see what you’re up to, Wendy Pini. You think I can’t figure it out? I can figure it out.
The comic blew me away, so I stole it. I lent Marta the Elfquest comics and told her they were about a bunch of elves who ride around on wolves. When I asked Marta who her favorite character was, she responded, “the wolves.” What a space cadet. Marta, Marta, Marta. Years later, when my life was in hell, I called the acting troupe and asked, “If I send you a letter for this girl, will you send it on to her?”
And they said, “Sure. What’s her last name?”
I said, “I don’t know.”
They said, “Sorry.”
But I figured out a way to find her, which is the point of this essay…. Hey Marta, where are you?