“Hey, #4, this is Nikos.” Nikos nodded his head somberly. He’d clearly seen enough, that to him, #3 was just another character. “Hey man, I’m really sorry about last week,” apologized #3. “I was just pissed off because somebody called the cops and I thought it was you.”
We’d pretty well established that point the week before, but I’m conciliatory to a fault, so I just said, “Hey, don’t worry about it. Just ask me next time instead of accusing me.” We shook hands, and he agreed that [next time someone called the cops on him when he was doing prostitutes] he would give me the benefit of the doubt. Then I headed to McSorley’s to meet a bunch of dudes, because it was Valentine’s.
A few hours later, I was enjoying six very small beers with an equal number of very large guys, most of whom I knew from college in Texas. Who walks in but #3, with his old, friendly, sideways-waddling black lab in tow. He was clearly a regular (his dog put its paws up on the bar and nobody seemed to care), which surprised me, because even though I knew he’d lived in the East Village since before people called it the East Village, I imagined him only hanging out in vans doing drugs with homeless guys. Mostly because he owned a van, and one time I ran into him walking his dog, and as we passed said van on our way back towards our building it was filled with expectant looking homeless guys, to whom he said “I’ll be back later.”
Did I mention that he always had a fat stack of hundreds on him, and every Christmas he’d peel one off for everyone in our building and try to force it into our wallets like some kind of cut-rate Nino Brown?
Anyway, I wasn’t about to give him a shout out, but I was kind of hoping he’d notice me. Having the biggest nutjob neighbor is the New York equivalent of having the best lawn in the neighborhood, and I wanted to show off my 1st Prize ribbon. Of course I got what I asked for when he walked up to our table, leaned over and put his hands on it with a familiarity that alarmed even my friends who had no idea how volatile he was.
“Hey #4, I just wanted to apologize again for the other day. I’m getting some more hookers tonight if you want to join me. It’s Valentine’s!” Amazed expressions on all faces.
“I’m all good,” I demurred. “I’m just going to hang out with all these dudes.”
“Okay, but you don’t know what you’re missing out on!” he said, more manically happy than I’d ever seen him -- he seemed to genuinely want to bond over a shared experience with a sex worker. He looked around the table. “Maybe some of your friends want to get some hookers?”
That was kind of rude. Was he implying that my friends were cooler than I was, and that I shouldn’t let my lameness get in the way of them having a good time with an awesome dude such as himself?
“No, bro, we’re all good,” said one of my friends, the warning in his voice diluted by uncertainty. These guys hadn’t seen me in a while, and for all they knew, New York had changed me enough to where I actually would hop into a 3- (or 4-) way with an old weirdo with a ponytail. #3 shrugged his shoulders, told us it was our loss, and left to go spend his hard-earned money on some girls who had to work a whole lot harder than him.