voting for Abe Beame's the closest I ever came to an honest day's work. I'm thirty-seven years old and the only time I ever had a Social Security card was in Green Haven.
They had me working in the laundry there for whatever it was.
Thirty cents an hour? Something ridiculous like that, and they had to take out taxes and Social Security, so you had to get a Social Security card. Up to then I never had one, and after that I never used it."
"You're working now, aren't you?"
He nodded. "Little get-well jobs. Sweeping out a couple of joints after closing, Dan Kelly's and Pete's All-American. You know the All-American?"
"Talk about a bucket of blood. I would duck in there for a quick one, but I never stayed any length of time."
"Like making a pit stop. I used to love that, walk into a bar, have a quick pop, then out again to face the world. Anyway, I go into those two joints late at night or early in the morning, sweep the place out, take out the empties, put the chairs back around the tables. And there's a moving company down in the Village gives me a day's work now and then.
Everything's off the books, you don't need no Social Security card for those jobs. I get by."
"My rent's cheap, and I don't eat much, I never ate much, and what am I gonna spend my dough on?
Night-clubs? Fancy clothes? Fuel for my yacht?"
"Sounds as though you're doing all right."
He stopped walking, turned to face me. "Yeah, but I'm just shooting the shit, Matt." He put his hands in his pockets and stood looking down at the pavement. "The point is I done stuff I don't know if I want to tell anybody about. Admitting it to myself, all right, like I already know it, right? So it's just a matter of getting honest and facing up to it. And admitting it to God, well, man, if there's no God it don't make no difference, and if there is a God He already knows everything you done, so that part's easy. But coming clean with another person, shit, I don't know, Matt. I done certain things that you could go away for, and in some cases there's other people involved, and I just don't know how I feel about all that."
"A lot of people take the step with a priest."
"You mean like confession?"
"I think it's a little different. You're not seeking formal absolution as much as you're attempting to
unburden yourself. You don't have to be a Catholic, and you don't have to go through it in a church. You can even find a priest who's sober in AA and understands what the program's all about. But even if he's not he'd be bound by the seal of the confessional, so you wouldn't have to worry about him saying anything to anybody."
"I couldn't tell you the last time I was in a church. Wait a minute, did you hear what I just said? Christ, I was in a church an hour ago. I been going into church basements once or twice a day for months. But the last time I went to mass, well, I went to a couple weddings over the years, Catholic weddings, but I didn't take communion. I'm sure it's more than twenty years since I made confession."
"It doesn't have to be with a priest. But if you're worried about confidentiality--"
"Is that how you did it? With a priest?"
"I took it with another person from the program. You know him.
"I don't think I know him."
"Sure you do. He comes toSt. Paul 's all the time, he was there tonight. He's a few years older than I am.
Hair's mostly gray, wears a beat-up army jacket most of the time.
You'd know him if you saw him."
"He wasn't at the Flame, was he?"
"What is he, a cop or a detective or something?"
"No, he's a printer, he's got his own shop over onEleventh Avenue
"Oh, Jim the Printer," he said. "Been sober a long time."
"He's coming up on nine years."
"Yeah, well, that's a long time."
"He would tell you he just did it a day at a time."
"Yeah, that's what they all tell you. It's still nine fucking years, isn't it? No matter how you slice it, divide it into hours and minutes if you want, it still comes
Ann Shelby Valentine, Ramona Fillman