Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Assmaster

I love the building I live in. It’s old and beautiful and cozy.
My neighbors are pleasant, interesting people and there are
many fine restaurants, coffeeshops, and bars in the surr-
ounding area. In the summer, I can sit out on my porch and
watch the traffic in my alley and, in the winter, the mice come
up from underground and serve as my adorable little pets.
I consider it a fine place to be, although there is one thing that
I would change if I had the ability to. You see, my windows
are about eight feet from the apartment complex next door, a
ragged and thoroughly ungentrified place that used to be home
to an impressive collection of miscreants and Jerry Springer
people. Now, I’m no class snob, but this was the sort of dwell-
ing to tax even the most tolerant urbanite’s patience. Mostly
the people there fought. They screamed at each other for
not watching their kids closely enough and then they scream-
ed at each other for being too nosy and then, after that, they
screamed at each other for never returning the money they
borrowed to buy lottery tickets and, finally, they screamed
at each other for screaming all the time. And those poor
children? They’d be out in the alley playing at one in the
morning, tossing rocks and cussing like stevedores until the
appointed parental figure appeared in the doorway and
drunkenly told them to shut the fuck up. In short, it used
to be a depressing place. And it seems I heard every single
thing that went on inside its paper-thin, badly-painted walls.

Including one particular episode that gives me nightmares to
this day. Let me explain...

Of all the people who lived in that building, there was one
woman who I resented more than the rest. I considered
her my nemesis. Her incessant hollering grated on my
nerves the most. She was bulbous and frightful-looking
and, in the warmer parts of the year, she generally chose
to wander around almost naked. With a cigarette dangling
from her mouth and her massive protuberances flailing
free of her insufficient clothing, she would bark commands
at her brood of children. She thought nothing of calling
them “fuckers” or “little bitches” by the way, just as she
thought nothing of inviting all her boozehound friends over
to shoot fireworks at other people’s garages. She socialized
a lot, but it seemed to me that she was never anything
besides pissed off. Seldom did a day finish without her
having a five-alarm meltdown in the parking lot behind
her place. When this happened, she reached a level of in-
coherence in which our language became just a series of
non sequitur profanities interspersed liberally amid a
steady, atonal ululating noise. She was, in a word, appal-

Now, I tend to sleep late. I work in the evening, so I generally
won’t wake up to around eleven or so. But one Tuesday
morning a few summers ago, I was rudely forced out of a
pleasant dream by this woman. She was having sex. She
was making a sound like some alien form of livestock being
slowly slaughtered. It was terrible to behold, and–as soon
as I understood what it was–my instincts told me to hide my
head under my pillow. I couldn’t blot it out, though. There
was no escape from her carnal bliss. It resounded through
my apartment like when they test the air raid sirens. Fe-
verishly, futilely, I struggled to avoid visualizing the scene
that was taking place NOT FIFTEEN FEET FROM ME!

But what was worst wasn’t her at all. It was her partner. He
wasn’t making a spectacle of his pleasure. No, no: he was cool
and collected. He was speaking with remarkable sang froid,
given the tumult he was a part of. In a velvety baritone, over
and over again, he was asking “Who’s the assmaster? Huh?
Who is it? Who’s the assmaster?”

That voice haunts me still, just as the question rings in my ear
even today. Who is this assmaster? Where did he come from?
Where did he go? What does he look like? Was he standing in
front of me in line at the drug store the other day? Did he
brush up against me on the bus last week? I’ll never know.
But I know that he’s out there. Going about his everyday life.
Going to work. Eating, drinking, sleeping and–in between all
this–assmastering. It is a sobering thought, to be sure.

Now that building is home to mostly Mexican immigrants.
They are much quieter and it seems that the assmaster finds
no comfortable harbor there anymore. He has vanished into
the wind, this assmaster, hopefully never to return. I’ll admit
it. I’m frightened of the assmaster. If you had been with me
that morning, you would be too.