A Disturbance in One Placeby Binnie Kirshenbaum
Brazen and given to transgressions, the narrator of this mordantly witty novel is an aloof, tough talking, married Manhattan woman who carries on three affairs simultaneously, blithely breaking seven of the Ten Commandments in her search for a safe place to land. Rootless, bouncing from bed to bed, she knows she is pure of heart. If only she could find where her
Brazen and given to transgressions, the narrator of this mordantly witty novel is an aloof, tough talking, married Manhattan woman who carries on three affairs simultaneously, blithely breaking seven of the Ten Commandments in her search for a safe place to land. Rootless, bouncing from bed to bed, she knows she is pure of heart. If only she could find where her heart got lost. Irreverent and achingly honest, she points to the small but infinitely deep cracks in our masks, drawing the reader into her world of misadventure -- erotic, comic, and deeply unsettling. Juggling four men -- her husband, "the hit man," "the multimedia artist," and "the love of her life" -- she can't decide whether she is out to prove or disprove the Talmudic wisdom: If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there.
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A Disturbance in One PlaceThe Way Frankie Sings
I want to run, take up running for sport, maybe runmarathons. With this in mind, I buy an outfit: gym shorts,Lycra tank top. I also get a pair of Reeboks and one of thoseleather pouches to wear around my waist, to carry the essentials,like money and a lipstick.
Washington Square Park is where I choose to run. Notactually in, or through, the park but along its perimeter. I gothere at dusk when the purple sky, ushering in the cool of thenight, offers reprieve from the August heat.
He's leaning against the post of a street sign at the park'snortheast corner. He's dressed in black, but not like theswarms of young punks straining for decadent in rippedT-shirts and shredded denim. His clothes are snazzy, sharp.Lightweight gabardine trousers, a double-breasted linen sports jacket, like an old-time hood, a thug, a shadow cast. Abriefcase rests on the ground between his feet, and I assumeit's filled with packets of crisp money, or heroin, or a pistolwith a silencer the tool of a paid assassin. As I near him, Iwatch him watching me. His eyes follow me, and when I pass,I feel him checking out my behind.
On my second lap around the park, he is prepared. He's gota cigarette out, unlit, between his lips. His glance catchesmine, and he gestures the striking of a match. As a rule, runnersdon't smoke. Two steps away from him, a pair of teenageboys are smoking reefer. He could've asked them for a light.But it happens that along with money, a lipstick, and a pack ofPlayers, I've got a book of matches.
He looks on while I unzip my leather pouch as if it were mydress I were unzipping, as if I were doing somethingsexy. Ifork over the matchbook, and he looks at it, both sides.
I might as well take a cigarette break too, and he strikes amatch for me, cupping his hand around the flame. We stand there smoking, sizing each other up, but we don't speak. His steady gaze from beneath heavy eyelids leaves me somewhat unsure of myself, off balance. But I keep my chin raised, tilted a degree upward. I hold my eyes steady, firm like his, and I blow smoke rings because I don't want him suspecting I am a little bit afraid.
My cigarette is nearly done, and I drop it, snuff the emberwith my sneaker, and wait. I wait for him to say something,andhe lets me wait. Another minute of that, and I think the hell withhim. I'm about to take off, resume running, when he says, "Yourmatches." He holds them out for me to take. "Thanks for thelight. I appreciate it." His voice, his diction, the way he enunciates his syllables, punctuates his consonants is unmistakably Brooklyn, elegant. He speaks like Sinatra sings.
Running, I concluded, was not the sport for me. As something to do, I didn't care for it. The outfit is unattractive,and the experience of running around and around the park, with no destination, was all too reminiscent of a dog chasing its own tail.
Nonetheless, I return to the park at dusk. Not to run, butto prowl. I go looking for that man, that hit man, to find him ifI can.
That he should be exactly where I left him the night before,at the northeast corner of the park, is farfetched. Yet I am notat all surprised to find him there, leaning against the streetpost, hands behind his back. "Got a match?" I ask.
He brings his hands around, not to light my cigarette, butto produce a bouquet of flowers, the way a magician bringsdoves from a silk scarf or thin air. The flowers are red. "I neverdid anything like this before," he confesses.
The sun slips below the horizon. Night falls, and we walk. Itseems as if the city were deserted, as if he and I were the onlytwo people, alone together, out on the streets. Our footstepsecho.
We ask no questions.
"I've been waiting for you," he says. "My whole life I'vebeen waiting for you."
I hold the red flowers by the stems, and a wind rises uparound us, a warm wind, a summer wind.A Disturbance in One Place. Copyright © by Binnie Kirshenbaum. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Binnie Kirshenbaum is the author of An Almost Perfect Moment, On Mermaid Avenue, A Disturbance in One Place, Pure Poetry, Hester Among the Ruins, and History on a Personal Note. She is a professor at Columbia University's School of the Arts, where she is chair of the Graduate Writing Program.
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