“Mitch, Irv knows a guy that’s got a whore at his place and she’s only charging two bucks a fuck. And Irv says there ain’t supposed to be too many guys there.”
“A whore?” He glanced at Marsha, who was talking to a couple of girls.
Though wanting to have intercourse for as far back as he could remember, Mitchell had never wanted—had never even considered—having intercourse with a prostitute. “So?”
“What do you mean, so? Come on, let’s go! Irv’s going there now and says we should follow, and you’re the only one with a car!”
“Nah, I don’t know, Ron.” He looked at Norman, “You want to go?” who shrugged his shoulders. “You don’t want to go, do you?”
About to speak, cutting Norman off, “Sure he wants to go! Don’t you, Norm? Come on! She’s supposed to be real pretty! Ain’t she, Irv?”
“D’know.” Starting to walk away, “Wadd’a’ya want for two bucks?” Irv said over his shoulder.
“Hold on, Irv!” Grabbing Mitchell by the elbow, attempting to steer him out of the courtyard, “Come on, Mitch. I ain’t been laid in weeks!”
“Yeah, sure, Lurey. I’ll just bet you ain’t been laid in weeks.”
He looked for Marsha, but by then she was nowhere to be seen… And being a guy, and being with guys, Mitchell Lipensky, very stupidly, allowed himself to be led away, and astray.
In the DeSoto—following Irving Steinberg’s black, ’52 Chevrolet—with Ron in the middle, “I don’t know why I let you talk me into doing this, Lurey.”
“That girl I was talking to back there, you know her?”
“I see her once in a while, but don’t know her. She’s just a skinny broad that hangs around. What the hell difference does it make?”
“We used to know each other when we were kids. I think she’s kind’a pretty, and was enjoying talking to her.”
“Forget her,” jabbing Mitchell in the side with his elbow, “we’re gonna get laid.”
Far from enthusiastic, knowing he made a mistake by leaving the J, and Marsha, “Yeah, Lurey, we’re gonna get laid.”
They followed the black Chevy south on Kimball, east on Montrose, south on Western to Waveland, where they turned right, went two blocks and turned left, where, double parking, getting out of his car, walking to the DeSoto, “This here’s where the guy lives.” Irv said, motioning to a long, two story building across the street. “Don’t know why it’s so fuckin’ crowded here; ain’t hardly no place to park. The guy, my pal, he tol’ me to go ’round the back so’s the neighbors won’t notice if there’s a few guys comin’n’goin’. He’s on the second floor an’ said we’ll spot his place ’cause he’ll have a red light burnin’ on his porch.”
Leaning across Mitchell, “A red light, Irv?” Ron said. “And the guy, your pal, don’t want the neighbors knowing he’s got a whore there! Kind’a’dumb, don’t you think?”
“Hey, I don’t know. That’s what he tol’ me! Anyways, I’m gonna find a place to park an’ I’ll see you ’round back.” Going to the Chevy, peeling rubber, Irv pulled away.
“Ron, how the hell do you know this guy? Who the hell is he?”
“I’ve got a class with him. He’s a law student.”
“He’s a law student? Jesus Christ! And I dropped out of college!”
Cruising slowly, finally finding a place to park, goaded by Ron, running the two blocks back to the building, rounding the corner into the alley…
“Holy moly!” Norman said.
“Holy shit!” Mitchell said.
“God damn!” Ron said, because…
There was a line of men snaking from the entrance of the alley, into the back yard of the second building, up two flights of stairs to a porch that was well lit, sure enough, with a bare-bulbed red light.
About ten men up the line. “Hey, Irv!” Norman waved to him and, as they stood, three more guys fell in behind them.
“And that idiot,” jerking his thumb towards the red light, “doesn’t want his neighbors knowing that he’s got a few guys coming up? I don’t know about you guys,” Norman said, “but I’m sure as hell not that horny. And to be honest, I don’t want my dick anywhere near any whore who’d just taken this mob on! Come on! What say we get the hell out of here?”
“I didn’t want to come in the first place!” Mitchell said, glaring at Ron. “Yeah, let’s get…” Stopping, he listened to the wailing of nearby police cars. “…the hell out of here!”
Ronald needed no coaxing, however, and within a few minutes, laughing over the absurdity of the “unnoticed,” red light whore line, hoping to find Marsha still there, speeding back to the J…
“I didn’t have a chance to ask before, but how long are you in for?”
Glancing at Ron, “Four years, but only have two and a half left.”
“No. I mean how long are you going to be home?”
“Oh. I had three weeks leave coming, but the skipper, that motherfuckin’ cocksuckin’ son-of-a-bitch, would only allow me two. But Mac… McDonald’s the yeoman on base… Mac rigged it so I’d be able to take off on my liberty weekend, so even though I’m here for fourteen days, it’ll only count as twelve.”
“Sounds like you don’t care much for your skipper.”
“Care for him, Norm?” he said angrily, “If the fucker fell into the props of one of our crash-boats and got ground into little pieces and they put him into a can I wouldn’t feed the asshole to a fuckin’ rat… Then again, I probably would, so he’d end up as rat shit.”
Knowing him, Norman knew that Mitchell rarely held a grudge. Taken back by the vehemence in his voice, “Mitch, I’ve never heard you talk about anyone like that before.”
“Yeah? Well I’ve never been the resident kike, sheeny, Christ-killer before, either.”
“It’s like that, huh?”
“Yeah, Ron, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it!”
“That’s bullshit! You can’t ask for a transfer?”
“Yeah, I suppose I could, but he has to approve it, and I think the fucker likes torturing me too much to let me go. And beside, my alternative is probably a weather ship, and I don’t know if I’m quite ready to spend four to six weeks at a time freezing my ass off bouncing around in the Atlantic Ocean.”
Anxious to get back to the J and, hopefully, resume his conversation with Marsha, speeding through an amber light, God, he thought and prayed, let her still be there!
…But she wasn’t.
He knew that Marsha was, physically, not the type of girl that he had ever been attracted to. Yet, in bed that night he lay awake thinking about her because there was something about Marsha—her sense of humor, her personality her face, that evening in the far past—and it haunted him.
The next day he asked Norman and Ronald if they could think of anyone who might know Marsha.
They could not.
Opening the Chicago telephone directory, What did she say her last name was? Goldstein? Goldman? Golden? Goldblatt? Goldfarb? Goldbloom?
“No!” Slamming the book shut. “Jesus!” There’s a million names like that here!
The first week of his leave passed quickly… so quickly.
On Saturday he went back to the J to see if Marsha was there.
She was not.
Describing her, he asked a number of kids if they knew her.
They did not.
…Talking to the friends that she had come to the J with, waiting a minute or so for Mitchell to end his conversation with Norman and the other guy that she’d seen once in a while, but didn’t know, and that guy that looked like a hoodlum, Marsha went to the washroom to check her face, and when she returned he was gone.
Marsha’s first thought was that Mitchell—he’d never said and she’d never asked, so she had no idea what his second name was—had ditched her.
The wedding of her cousin had kept her from the J on the following Saturday, and two weeks after meeting Mitchell again…
His leave over, Mitchell had flown back to New York City the day before, and…
As Marsha looked for Mitchell in the courtyard of the J at 8:00 p.m….
More than eight-hundred miles away, in the tower again, on the twenty- to twenty-four-hundred watch, because he knew that he would not be home again until… God knew when… Because he had no way of contacting her, he had, once again, given Marsha up as a lost cause and, with a one-hour time difference, at 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 3, 1954, Marsha Goldman was the last thing on the mind of Mitchell Lipensky.
(A "Becoming" Excerpt)