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Herbert Huncke's America - Edited By Jerome Poynton Literary Executor - Cat and His Girl - December 2019

CAT AND HIS GIRL



Several years ago – when I was comparatively new on the scene involving most of the people I’ve come to know since then (and their activities) and when I was still unable to recognize or distinguish who comprised the hardcore group from those similar to myself who had just fallen on the scene, or had been part of it only a short while – I met a very beautiful young girl who, at the  time, was one of the people I saw regularly.

She was coupled with a cat whose reputation was of a questionable nature insofar his relationships with women was concerned and I recall distinctly wondering how it was that anyone as apparently hardened as himself could find the patience to spend time with anyone as completely unskilled in the ways of living in this particular type of environment as the girl.

I observed and watched both of them closely.

It was soon evident that his interest was at best superficial and – instead of possessing any deep regard for her – he held her in contempt and was merely using her as a means of keeping himself in pocket money – since she always had money that she supposedly obtained from her parents which she promptly turned over to him.

They lived in my apartment for a while and I got to know both of them.

Frequently he would disappear for a day or two at a time and she would sit around waiting for him to return – watching and listening to the innumerable other people who were either permanent residents of the place or who came and went constantly.

Most of these people were engaged in some creative endeavor or another and possessed, in  most instances, a full-scale temperamental nature usually associated with the idea of the typical artist which they seldom made an effort to curb or control, and I remember thinking she was amazingly calm and seemingly undisturbed by the constant flare-ups of temper and erratic behavior of her acquaintances – especially if (as I suspected) she came from the ordinary middle-class background of present-day society.

Much of what was happening was certainly unconventional and extreme and I couldn’t help but wonder at her not being obviously shocked.  But if she was surprised ever, she succeeded in effectively keeping it to herself, never in my presence revealing the slightest degree of anything being other than what she had been accustomed to most of her life. 

Her personal conduct remained shy and unassuming – retaining always evidence of nothing more than what one might expect from any ordinary, conventionally raised young girl.

Her appearance was striking mostly because of her very vivid coloring. Her facial features were very finely moulded and impressed on with their delicacy of line. Her eyes were a deep rich brown – a trifle sad in expression.  Her hair was a rich chestnut brown – slightly unruly and falling to her shoulders in length and accentuating the cameo quality of her face.

Her skin was very pale except for her cheeks which were always slightly flushed and tinged with pink. Her mouth was full-shaped and red. She seldom smiled but when she did – her whole face lit up and one felt one’s self-gladdened just seeing her.

She was not very tall  and although at first glance seemed thin, was in fact full-figured with rather large breasts and well-rounded hips.  She had long legs – beautifully shaped – and was perhaps a bit vain about them, because one of the few times I saw her lose her composure was when she discovered a run in her stockings and refused to leave until someone got her a new pair.

Occasionally we would find ourselves alone in the apartment and it was then I got to know her a little better and began taking a personal interest in her. Prior to the first time we talked together I had accepted her along with the rest of the scene as charming to look at but hardly anyone I might become more intimately involved with.  There were any number of beautiful girls around, and besides, I didn’t much care for the cat she was making it with and therefore, other than observing her, I made no effort to get to know her.

The first time we spoke, we had been in the apartment about an hour and I was busy straightening and sorting a stack of drawings that someone had done and left in a pile and scattered around my room. She approached me hesitantly and asked me for a cigarette. I gave her one – extracting one from the package for myself – and while I was lighting it she leaned over and took a light also, then drew back and said, “I think I like you. You don’t seem mean and selfish like most of the others around here. Tell me, do you like Gore, the fellow I’m with?

I was a bit startled by her directness and since I didn’t care much for Gore, hesitated a moment before replying. She noticed my hesitancy and spoke again saying, “I don’t think you do like him. I’ve noticed you seldom speak to him.”

“No, I don’t,” I said. “Frankly, I don’t think I trust him – not that he has done anything to me personally – but somehow there is something about the manner in which he speaks to people that makes me feel he is false.”

She sort of bobbed her head up and down in agreement as I was speaking and when I had finished she said, “That is how I feel, also. I don’t know exactly how I became involved with him and I want to get away from him – but I like all of these people and this place. You see, my mother and father think I am insane. They have had me locked up twice. The last time I ran away, they caught me and I had to go back and now I am out on probation. My parents hate me and I hate them and I am willing to do almost anything to get away from them. When I was twelve – I’m seventeen now – they caught me having sex with a neighbor boy and they raised a lot of hell. My mother said I was depraved and my father called me whore and beat me and I fought him with a knife and he was cut. Now they don’t leave me alone for one minute and I have to sneak out of the house, and when I do I stay away for days and they look for me. They have reported me to the probation officer – and when they catch me – I’ll have to go back into the hospital again. They give me money and sometimes I steel it from my mother’s cash box or my father’s pockets. Gore wants money and I can’t get him any right now. He said I should try turning tricks and maybe I will.”

She said all this in a rush and sat looking at me as though she expected me to immediately solve all her problems. I was startled by her sudden outburst and her story had made me sad. There was nothing I could say or do to reassure her or perhaps help her. I did suggest she think about tricking a little longer before trying it – telling her she should wait and – if she was going to do anything of that nature – she would be wiser to wait until she found someone to make it with and I was sure Gore would only cause her pain and unhappiness.

After that she remained around the place a few more days and then disappeared. I asked Gore about her and he said she was a dumb broad and had probably been sent back to the hospital again and he hoped to fuck he’d never see her again.

Several months passed and one day, walking on Avenue C, I ran into her.  She was looking very well and seemed glad to see me. We sat in a little restaurant and drank coffee and talked. She said she had gone back but out again had met some other cat  whom she liked and who she guessed liked her although there wasn’t love between them. She was happier than she had been. She said she had turned on junk several times and liked it. She had apparently managed to come to some agreement with her parents and she was now allowed more freedom of action. 

From then on we would occasionally meet and she kept me posted concerning events in her life. Once or twice she had obviously been straight on schmeck and once she asked me to cop for her. And then one day she met me and told me she had fallen in love. He was a spade cat and beautiful, she said. I wished her well and said I’d like to meet the cat.

I didn’t see her again for almost six months, and when I did, I was unprepared for the extreme change in her whole personality. She had grown sharp and somewhat hard. She had changed her hairstyle and was wearing more makeup. She said she was tricking regularly and doing very well. She had a habit and wanted me to cop for herself and her old man. I copped for her and we made a meet for later when she would have some more bread and I could cop for her again.

From then on, I saw her steadily, and although I heard of her love from others and from her, I never met him. Then again she disappeared – and that was the last I saw of her until about six months ago. Again she was taking junk but this time alone. She and her old man had parted. She had grown visibly older and was seemingly reconciled to her loneliness.

Meanwhile, I had met her ex-lover. I had heard that he was a mean cat and had treated her badly, so I was a bit reluctant about developing his acquaintance. But gradually, after we had become better acquainted, I liked him. He is quite handsome and has never given me cause to mistrust him. We have never become close friends but I have learned to respect him over many others.

We had never spoken for any length of time until the other night – when he began speaking about how they had first met and how deeply in love he had fallen for her.

“You know man,” he said, “I really wanted to make a go of it with her. I guess it was mostly her family that messed us up. In the beginning, we both had jobs and were getting along really great until her father discovered I am a Negro. Man – he really came on – at one point saying ‘I know how to handle niggers.’ He took her home, and as soon as she could, she ran away and came back.  From then on we stayed more or less in hiding. She had become disgusted and started going out on dates some girl she knew would arrange for her. She began making money and would come home sometimes with two or three hundred dollars. Whether you can believe this or not, I have always disliked the idea of a chick hustling or of my living off the bread she’d bring in. But at the time, there seemed to be nothing else to do. Anyway, our lives became hectic – we were using junk, and twice she Od’d and I thought I’d lost her. We had managed to avoid her parents for a while but they had hired detectives, and one Sunday afternoon, they came in on us and she was dragged home.

Again, the same routine took place – she came back, we hid, she hustled, and we shot junk. By this time, we were beginning to get on each other’s nerves and our little affair was strictly on the skids. At one point, we thought maybe if we could get married, we still could make it. I called her mother and father and made an appointment to see them. I kept the appointment and talked to them, asked them to let us get married. Her father almost had a stroke and swore he would see her dead before he’d allow her to marry any black-assed son of a bitch.

There was nothing to do but accept the situation as it stood, but we both knew it was almost over.  Finally one day, during one of the panics, about two hours after she had left on her dates, I got a call from Harlem Hospital – she had been rushed to the emergency ward after being severely beaten and found unconscious, but was doing alright and wanted me to come and pick her up.  She had been worked over badly and her face was almost frightening to see. I took her home with me, and during the four or five days of her recovery we decided to call it quits.  And that was that. Once in a while we run into each other, and she is doing OK but somehow she has changed. She stays high most of the time and makes it first with one, then another. All she really wanted was love but I guess it is the one thing she least apt to ever get.”

I had listened to him quietly, and when he was finished I could only think of how tragic the story was and of the vast amount of stupidity and cruelty inflicted on the two of them and how little chance she ever had of discovering any kind of happiness.

January 19, 1965

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