J. was supposed to meet me in front of the Garden -- it was getting late and people were already beginning to gather for a concert that night, Robbie Robertson and a whole host of legends were on the marquis for the night. I sat on a bench and waited for J., the sweat inside the Gorilla had pooled at my feet, I was glad the sun was going down, "Hey man you got tickets?" This kid, with jet black hair that hung down over one eye, poked at my napsack, "I'm not a man and I'm not a scalper kid." The kid backed away, alarmed by my reply, he tripped over the curb and just before he fell into heavy traffic, his girlfriend caught his arm and pulled him back onto the sidewalk, she held him tightly and gave me a look . . . the look said, "Hey, gorilla, what's your problem?" And she was right, I was grumpy.
The crowds of old hipsters were gone now, they were in the Garden digging Robertson and hoping for a surprise appearance by the man, you know, Dylan. But I was only interested in one man showing up and that was J. -- the clock on the Garden crawl read 9 p.m., I decided to catch a cab, no easy feat for an ape in the city on a Friday night, but finally a cabbie pulled over. "There's a costume shop on 36th near 8th Avenue, can you take me there?" The cabbie swung out and hit the gas, my head hit the back of my gorilla skull and seemed to exit the rear window of the cab. Minutes later the meter read $12.00, I took off my napsack and handed it to the cabbie, "Go ahead, fish my wallet out of there and take a twenty, keep the change, okay?" He tilted his head, he was confused, "Look man, I can't open the napsack with these ham hands okay? You gotta do it for me, go ahead, I trust, you." He opened the napsack, got the money and held up my phone, "Your phone is blinking, you gotta message."
"Okay, let's listen to it." The cabbie pressed the okay button on my phone, and all that came out was one word and some static, "Pistachios!" it was J., he sounded as though he was ordering Italian Ice. But I would never know.
"You want to call back?"
"No thanks." The cabbie shook his head and put the phone back in the napsack, zipped it up and handed it back to me.
"I think that's the costume shop you want over there -- be careful now."
"Yeah, that's it. G'night."
The cab screeched off into the night. I was alone again and a soft rain was falling, I was desperate to feel the rain on my skin, but instead it beaded and dripped and mixed with the gorilla's fine llama hair. I tipped my head back and let the rain come through my eye holes and the little opening for my mouth, I stuck out the tip of my tongue and a single rain drop fell and ran down my throat. It was so cool and left me wanting for more.
There was a single light on in the costume shop but the door was locked -- I pounded on the door with my ape fists, "Please, anybody!" But nobody came. I peered in the window and there on the counter were my clothes and my sneakers, neatly piled on the counter by the register. J. had left them there -- if only the little man were there, I could be out of the suit, in my clothes and on the train back to Connecticut.
I heard footsteps, and the rain began to fall harder. I turned and saw woman walking up the street, she was bent against the squall, "Hey, hey can you help me?" I called out to her.
She stopped, and I could see her eyes widen in the blue neon light coming through the costume shop window, she turned away and then back, and I realized that the sight of a gorilla on 36th Street at night was not exactly her idea of a good thing. She darted across the street and I called again, "Look, I'm helpless, please!" And she was gone. The rain stopped.
I leaned on the costume shop door. I seriously considered breaking the glass. So what if the alarm went off, so what if the police came, they're going to arrest a gorilla for breaking into a costume shop? I looked around for something to smash the window with, but there was nothing, the street was clean. And just when I was planning to throw my body through the window, a man came around the corner. I was crouched, readying myself to launch through the glass, he stopped and laughed. "Geezus, you're not going to break into the costume shop are you?"
"Well, I was thinking about it -- I'm in a bind here"
"Maybe I could help?" He came closer and held out his hand, "I'm Brad, and you are?"
"Jane -- me Jane. Look, I'm not going to shake your hand. I need you to make a call for me, my phone is in my napsack." I handed him the napsack. He unzipped it and rifled for the phone.
"Here it is, but it seems to be dead." He held it up, and indeed it was dark, no little lights came to life when Brad hit the buttons.
"Dammit, I didn't charge it up before I came to the city."
"Who do you need to call? I have my phone." And a horrible realization came over me. I didn't know J.'s number. It was stored in my phone, not in my head.
"My friend, but his number's in the dead phone. I'm fucked."
"Well, what do you need?" Brad was so calm, so logical in the face of a troubled girl in a gorilla suit, obviously he'd been raised right.
"I need to get out of this gorilla, into my clothes, and on to a train back to Connecticut. But my clothes are in there . . ."
"Ah yes. Well, I bet my wife would lend you something."
"Hmmm, that might work. Listen, I'm burning up in here, could you undo the zipper so I can at least get my head out?"
"Sure, then we can walk up to my apartment." I bent my head and Brad fumbled for the zipper. I felt him tugging and tugging, "Wow, there must be some trick to it, it's not budging."
"Please, keep trying, I'm suffocating in here." I was beginning to panic, I told myself to stay calm, this nightmare would be over soon. Brad kept at it, wiggling the zipper this way and that, pulling up, pulling down.
"Nope, it's stuck. Say, I know a man who might be able to help . . ."
"Really?" I turned to see Brad was dialing his cell phone.
"Yeah, he's out on Staten Island. He's real handy with zippers and things."
"Yeah, he's one of those Renaissance men. Wait, shhh, it's ringing."
"But I don't want to go to Staten Island Brad . . . "
"Hey, Xavier? Is that you? Yeah, it's me Brad, you know, Brad and Helen? Yeah that Brad. Listen, I gotta nice lady stuck in a gorilla suit over here on 36th Street . . . what? You could? Great!"
"Brad, I don't want to go to Staten Island tonight. Thanks all the same."
"Listen, the ferry is only a few blocks away. Xavier will meet you right there at the station, he'll have you out of this thing in no time. And he'll loan you some clothes -- he has lots of ex girlfriends . . ."
"Guess he's not so handy with women."
"Ha, okay, here's a couple of dollars for the ferry, the last one shouldn't be leaving for another twenty minutes, so you got plenty of time to get there."
"Thanks Brad, but maybe I ought to just spend the night here and wait for the costume man to come back in the morning."
"But you can't"
"Whaddyamean I can't?"
"Look at the sign on the door . . . " And there it was, the sign that I hadn't read earlier; Closed til Labor Day -- Gone to Budapest.