The Sewer Rat: Queen of the Damned
ms. jean kang
A few days ago I met Italo Pompa of Pescara, Italia, at Dam Square in Amsterdam. According to this Tunisian I met on a bus, Italo Pompa is a fake name. It is somehow vulgar. We hung out for a day and when he left for Italy and I gave him 20 euros for the train. We parted at Central Station. The night before we slept outdoors at the docks where the houseboats float on the water. Morning came and I was supposed to leave for Italy for the Venice Biennale, but I never made it there. Instead I walked around the city some more and I ran into Henson, this kid from Senegal who has an intelligent face and deals drugs because he’s an illegal immigrant (though he’d rather be a musician). He gave me some ecstasy and wanted me to go to his home and hang out but I wanted to stay free and keep moving.
I decided to take a bus to Venice since it would be cheaper. The bus station was in Utrecht, so I hopped on the night train and slept in the station.
That morning at Amstel Station, I met a man named Rudy from Surinam.
I must have looked pathetic to him. He told me he watched me wake up and wander over to the kiosk where he was standing in line for coffee. He bought me a coffee and a pastry, and asked me if I’d join him for a smoke. I was out of cigarettes, so I followed him through the station, which was part of a large indoor mall.
He handed me a cigarette, then said: I will buy two bags of coke: One for me, one for you. I like you. You are my queen.
I’m not making this up.
Outside the air smelled like piss and there were all these junkies scurrying about in the back parking lot. We were in the loading dock and somehow the scene looked post apocalyptic in a biblical way, with all these dirty lepers sitting on the stairs getting high and these fat crack dealers holding up baggies for sale. The scene seemed too staged for my taste. It was a gritty marketplace for people with open sores.
I wanted to head back to the station, but Rudy asked me to stay with him for just one smoke. I agreed because I had time to kill, and, I suppose, because I didn’t mind having a hit of crack just before a 31-hour bus ride. He took me up a hill behind these trees overlooking the town and I was scared but only mildly so. He seemed harmless and was too enamored with me to really hurt me.
I love you, he said. You are mine.
I told him I was married and he asked me if he was a good man. Oh yes he is I said.
And your man, does he smoke?
Only the good stuff.
Good, said Rudy, then we will smoke together and you and your husband both will come live with me and I will show you my family, my mother and sister, and if you want I will whore you out for lots of money and buy you the best heroin that money can buy, and if your husband shoots, I will let him shoot and I will buy you a clean needle and cotton and fuck you both. Your husband, I hope, takes it up the ass.
I think he does, I said.
Good, he smiled. And now, I will fix you a big hit but you must take it from my mouth.
This I refused and made up a story about how I believe in monogamy.
But I love you, he said.
I love you too, and if I were with you I wouldn’t be with anyone else.
But as for me, he said, when I smoke I need to play with somebody so you must take it from my mouth.
I forgot to tell you how, just before all this, the conversation turned, and he was telling me about being in prison for seven years for killing a man. I was afraid he’d rape or kill me so I went along with him. But since he kept insisting he was in love with me, I was sure I had the upper hand.
I need this to be happy, he said.
I remember thinking how strange it was to look below and see people riding by on their bicycles. It was a regular workday. These were normal people leading regular lives. They were immaculate visions of health and normalcy, something that I craved.
But I was high and feeling like Oprah. I was no longer afraid, though I did want another hit off his pipe. All the same, he had my sympathy: He was so addicted.
I ended up counseling him: You don’t need anything to be happy, at least not crack. You’re better off without the drug, I said. It’s okay if you’ve killed a man. That’s all in your past. Just don’t do it again. But this business with the crack cocaine must stop.
He gave me his mother’s phone number and told me to call him as soon as I can. He was hugging me, crying. For you I will do anything. You are my queen. I was embarrassed for him, this 50-year-old man. And so I held his hand and cradled his head as I took the smoke from his lips. He wanted to buy two more bags, but I told him I had a bus to catch. He insisted he walk me to the station and sit with me while I wait. I told him this was unnecessary. He bought me a bottle of water. I remember turning around as I entered the bus station: He was standing at the gate of the parking lot, bawling.