At some point, as the evening heated up, Richie Klein would burst in on stick figure legs, a speed freak among acid heads, and override the music and the talk with a shouted encomium to his latest mind-blowing discovery.
"Einstein! Relativity! Time is space, man! Time is space!"
He'd meanwhile pace back and forth in a tight line, declaiming in spasms, pivoting on high-heeled boots. Amphetamine-driven, manically, wildly askew, the madman as genius was his voluble excuse for obtrusiveness, his every shouted conviction irrefutable. And then, before anyone could pin him down, Richie would bolt back out, into the night.
Charlie Wu would pop in too, but without flare, on his way home from the nine-to-five job he despised, wearing a cheap, rumpled suit, his tie a loosened noose.
Arnie always greeted him as a special guest, to demonstrate, it seemed, that it was okay with him that Charlie was Chinese. "Wu!" he'd shout across the room. "What're you up to?"
A vision of tired normalcy, the sardonic Wu would stand near the door shaking his head, clearing it of the fumes on a midtown street at rush hour. Snatching the joint held out to him, he'd smoke it like a cigarette, puffing away. But instead of smoothing his worry lines, the grass would set him off.
"The city sucks!" he'd begin, and from there escalate his rant against the world, indicting everyone in the room with his anger: "You lazy fuckers! You lay around, smoking dope, contemplating your navels, blathering about the meaning of reality … You don't know shit about reality! I'll tell you about reality …" And he'd spout the story of his day, a grim tale of a Pavlovian dog responding to an alarm, putting on a uniform, dashing through streets filled with other dogs in order to shoehorn itself into a crowded train so he could get to a desk and sit there hour after hour, doing meaningless paperwork. They let him eat lunch, the bastards, but the food was lousy no matter where you went, processed shit, and after sitting on his ass all day, it congealed in his stomach, which accounted for his chronic constipation. Or else, what with all the coffee he drank to stay awake, he'd have a case of the watery shits.
Once, driving himself to a delirious peak as the daily story built to a crescendo, Wu broke off, turned the radio on full blast and stomped out.
It was the news in full throat. Casualties in Indochina, an explosion in London, a stabbing in the Bronx. The room sat stunned. This was the other world, whose reality depended upon acquiescence. A shared revulsion rippled within the concrete walls of our cloistered shelter. And then someone turned it off, for why would anyone want to know what was happening out there? What was the benefit of it?