Nobody Here Named Hank
Nobody likes a heartbreaking story.
That’s a lie.
Everyone around me lately has it pinned to their sleeve, heart like it’s made of paper mache, but if you poke them with a stick it’ll still trickle plenty. I don’t mind at all. It’s quiet up here. When they start talking, after the money has changed hands, I can tell they feel better, because I’m nobody.
She tells me she’s homeless. Or is about to be. She’s wearing Chanel I think. I don’t have the best nose for that, but I used to know a girl who told me it was her signature scent. Like Holly Golightly. My friend Charlie is that way with Brut. Like Joe Namath, I guess. She never asks for anything but an ear and I give it. I give it to most people too I guess.
I’m a parking attendant.
I doubt if anyone knows my name. She calls me Henry, but my parents named me Hank. Straight up. It wasn’t short for anything. I’m sure I told her that, but I take Henry as a thoughtful upgrade. Her friend Bill calls me Guy, probably more of a lowercase guy though. Bill’s alright.
They’re both hairdressers. I think. Or work in salons anyway. Bill might be a Massage person, what do they call themselves? Masseuse is out, I think. Therapists. That doesn’t make too much sense to me, but it’s fine. Really. It’s all the same to me and he seems like a nice person. Like I said. She’s never told me her name and it’s not my place to ask.
“In another week I’m out on my ass.”
So she says. Her car is old, but not quite vintage yet. Sure it will be. It’s one of the last of the first-generations VW Sciroccos. An eighty-one I think. I have to tell her that every few months for the last year, but it doesn’t seem to mean anything to her. The car was a hand-me-down from a gear-head brother. Joe she called him. Funny, I know her brother’s name. Beautiful paint, original interior even. Red plaid over red leather. She complains about it being a standard, but she can tell it’s nice.
“Driving stick makes you pay more attention. It’s safer.”
“You think so Henry? I think the drivers around here are awful. At least in New York, crazy as it was, you felt like everyone was in it together.”
Half the time I don’t get to talk to her or Bill or anyone. I’m driving.
There’s 2 of us and it’s all valet. One of us takes the money, gets on the walkie, and then the other guy drives it up. If I work with Anthony he always wants to drive and then I’m up top in the booth like a bartender. Sitting there after the money is squared, staring out and waiting for them to make conversation.
I always have a book and I’m fine with quiet, really.
“Hey Guy! Can I just put my bike in the corner?”
Her friend Bill has a motorcycle. It’s nothing like mine. I have an old Norton Altas that’s lost all its chrome, has some duct tape on the seat, but runs like a champ. I restored it myself and Bill says he likes the sound of the engine almost more than his BMW. His is a big bike. Sport Touring he calls it, but I’ve never heard anyone use that term but him. He’s a good egg though, really.
“Sure, if you can get it behind mine.”
I shouldn’t let him. It just gets him out of the way so I can talk to her. Most of the time, honestly, I don’t even give him a ticket. I wave him out as easily as in. He parks free more often than not, but it’s a bike and riders expect that sometimes. Even if it’s some 13 thousand dollar touring number. They think of it like some kid’s trike they can push in a corner and why should they have to pay for that?
I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
“They’re really going to throw me out.”
“Henry?! Weren’t you listening? The Co-op Board. They gave me a month, but I didn’t think they meant it. Like I’d buy that deathtrap.”
She’s going to be homeless then.
“Surely you have somewhere to go.”
“I don’t really. I just moved her last year and haven’t made friend one. Except for you Henry.”
She touches my hands sometimes like we’re old pals. Too much so I think. Like she’s cutting my hair maybe. I’m pretty much bald, for years now, so I wouldn’t know. Only 35. It came early. I hardly got used to hair before things went all Ben Kingsley. But I suppose I remember my childhood hair as well as anyone. Sitting in those barber chairs like a barber doll. So much patting on the shoulders and a strange intimacy. Grown people you hardly knew playing dress up with a kid wearing an apron.
“There’s not much room at my place, but you’re welcome to crash if you like.”
She blushes deeply and I know I’ve made a mistake.
“Listen to me would you Henry? That’s so kind of you. I complain too much! I’ll be fine I’m sure.”
“Where will you stay? A hotel?”
“I suppose a hotel, but really, Henry, you don’t have to.”
Jesus, I know that. What the hell is the matter with me?
“My place is clean and close by. You could even park your VW. Might help you get some money together for a new place. Are they shorting you a deposit?”
“Why? Because I’m evicted basically?”
I nod and she smiles a little without softening. She’s considering it now, but has to. I guess they don’t pay her much.
“No. Luckily. Are you sure about this Henry? You hardly know me.”
I don’t know her at all.
“You hardly know me.”
“Sometimes Hank I feel like you’re the only friend I have in LA. This is nothing like lower Manhattan.”
“Hey, you called me Hank!”
“I’m sorry, do you prefer Henry?”
I guess I do. How about that?