They found his body in a dumpster behind a strip club on Dundas. He’d been shot up a bunch of times. Now Eli and I are hiding.
Potzi wasn’t my best bud, but I can tell you for real I would have done anything for the fucker and he would have done the same for me. Some of the other guys didn’t like Potzi so much, on account of his past. See he used to be a homo, then he got saved by a big fucking church out in Milton and he became straight again. I asked him once when we were drinking down at Paparella’s what it felt like to be an ex-gay. Did he still get a hard-on for other guys? Did he still have fantasies of going down on another bro, of sucking off some dude in the backseat of the guy’s Jeep, in a parking lot by the edge of the woods at a filthy rest stop somewhere?
Did he still dream of cock?
Potzi, as usual, only smiled in that mysterious way that made his eyes glow like diamonds, then he swallowed back his Scotch.
Jesus saved me, he said. Jesus helped me get rid of my dirty past.
But I could tell from the look in his face that he was horny. I knew that if I pushed things I could get him to go back to the place I shared with Adele and give me some decent head. Fags are the best at giving head. Adele’s little brother’s a fag.
Eli used to ask me why I spent so much time with Potzi, when I knew Potzi was queer. Why did I like to hang out with the queers so much?
Because he’s good at what he does, was all I said. Meaning, here’s a dude who knows how to grow the market. In just a few weeks, Potzi had all the hipster kids from Ossington and Parkdale and all the fuck over Little Portugal eating right out of his hand. He brought in good money. And the man had class.
I respect a guy who brings in cash, I said. I don’t care whose dick he sucks.
But Eli—Eli had it in for Potzi. At the end of the night, when the three of us would be in some skanky east-end diner drinking coffee that tasted like ass and watching the sun bleed over the street and the pigeons whore around the sidewalks like little KGB agents, Eli used to try to get Potzi going. I always ordered the steak and eggs, eggs over easy, and at that bloody hour, just kept my face in my food. But Eli would say shit like, Hey Potzi, how is Jesus today? How’s the fucking Saviour? I didn’t know you had a thing for dudes in dirty robes.
Potzi, though, would only flash his mysterious smile, calm as a monk, and would look the waitress over sideways, with those small sad eyes, as if he could tell what kind of shit life she was living. He had a way of looking at people in this super direct way like he actually gave a fuck how they were feeling.
More coffee, boys? Beth-Ann would ask. Her name was written in big block letters across the front of her chest.
Yes, ma’am, Potzi would say. And he’d leave her a real good tip.
The guy sure loved his coffee.
Potzi used to poke fun at me. He knew I liked to fool around online. I tried to start a blog once about old cars from the 1940s but no one paid any attention. So I shut that shit down and switched to a site about old guns and soon I had some interest. I went to this workshop at the library at fucking Jane and Dundas about increasing your traffic and they told me Twitter is the thing, Twitter will do it. So I set myself up on Twitter and while it’s been pretty slow, I’ve been posting some links to some of the shit I keep in storage around the city—contraband stuff like my dad’s sawed-off shotgun and a vintage Desert Eagle, sometimes in places that would make people go crazy, like out on a beach on the Islands with the skyline in the background or near the big Jewish graves in Mt. Pleasant. Shit like that and I get tons of new people showing interest. Guys—and a few crazy ladies—from all over the fucking planet. One dude from Belarus has been posting stuff with Uzis from the Soviet-Afghan war. And there’s a chick—she can’t be more than seventeen—who takes pictures of herself in a bikini riding a Russian rocket launcher. Her name is Abigail. A real twenty-first century entrepreneur.
If I could get a girl like Abigail, I might think of settling down. I might move out to Vaughn and buy a goddamned palace. The city is cruel. In fact I was joking with my littler bro (his name is Beau; he’s a big-shot in the adult entertainment world) that maybe I should start my own reality TV show. But what would you call it, he asked. I said Perfect Destiny. It would be about a guy like me, just an average guy with big dreams, looking for love in the jungle. There’d be shots of the clubs and maybe the roof of the Drake or on a farm in the country or at the Zoo with the polar bears. Me and my lady, making our lives into something real.
Eli said I was fucking full of shit. The night Potzi died, before we heard about what happened, about how his stomach was torn open and his balls blown off, we were at one of the massage parlours in Chinatown. We go there now and then, near the end of our shift, just to blow off steam. There’s this one place we like with real sweet girls and no talking back, and when we go in, they know how to treat us and they let us take our time. I mean why rush? And because we’re regulars, after we’re done, they let us sit on the saggy couch in the waiting room, as long as no one’s waiting. We drink tiny cups of green tea and the girls laugh and joke in Vietnamese until we’re ready to go back out into the world.
Those are the times I feel closest to Eli, though I would never say it.
Fuck you, Eli said. You and your fucking reality TV show.
Once, when Potzi was still alive, we all hauled our asses near the end of the night to El Convento Rico. Potzi knew the bouncer and so he let us right through. Potzi and I knew Eli liked the fake tits on the big Colombian drag queens. None of us danced—we just hung out at the bar doing shots—but the salsa and the happy mood made it seem like we were a team, all in the same headspace.
It made me feel less alone.
If you could live your life over, Eli said, in between Jägerbombs, what would you do different?
I’d move to New York, Potzi said. As soon as I got out of high school.
Why don’t you go now?
I’m too old, he said, looking sad.
But you’re not even fucking thirty!
That’s too old.
I’d fucking buy stocks in Facebook, Eli said. He was always thinking of money. I’d make my cash, fucking pound Mark Zuckerberg in the face, and scram.
I tried to think of what I would do different, but nothing came to mind.
The way I looked at it, life is always something we’re right in the fucking middle of. The past—what can you do with the past? The past is shit.
Potzi went out to the dance floor to shake his bones with some skinny-assed drag queens. Even though he was ex-gay, he still liked to party with homos.
Let’s go for dim sum, Eli said.
But I’m not hungry.
I don’t fucking care, Eli said.
So we left Potzi alone with those queers, and we went out to get some dim sum. That’s the last time I saw Potzi alive.
One of the things that happened after Potzi died, and before Eli and I went into hiding, was that I went to see a fortuneteller. I’ve never believed in magic before but there was a lot on my mind about Potzi getting shot and the way it all went down so when I saw the lights on upstairs in that place along Queen, with a photo of the psychic’s fingers in blinking blue neon, her hands looked so warm that they made me think of Potzi, like he was sending me a signal from the dark side.
So I fucking went in.
The fortuneteller’s name was Belinda. After I paid Belinda she took my palm in my hand and looked it over. Her fingers felt so soft, so sweet, that I felt myself getting horny.
Then she looked me in the eye. I wondered what she could see there. She looked around deep, like she was fishing for something. Her own eyes were big and brown, the eyes of a gypsy. It made me feel like I was a kid again, going to see the queer priest down at St. Anthony’s.
You’ve suffered a loss, she said. I can see it in your line.
There was something eerie about how she said it. Her voice went low and I wondered if she was channelling Potzi. She laid out some cards on the table and one of them was the hangman—card of death.
Seeing that card upside down gave me the fucking creeps. She told me in that throaty voice that a friend had a message, that this friend had travelled a great distance and wanted me to be safe. From her little shop I could hear the horns and drunkenness from Queen Street and could smell incense and candles and old sweat from Belinda’s neck. She was wearing a low-cut blouse and I wanted more than anything to undo the buttons on her blouse, pull off her bra, and bury my face between those fat gorgeous tits, inhaling and rejoicing and sucking.
Are you listening? She said.
I told her I was. But I had missed most of what she was saying.
Always remember, she said. Your friend wants you to remember.
I wanted to ask more. What was I supposed to remember? Could she write it down?
But I was too afraid.
Anyway, Eli was outside, so I said goodbye, and Belinda gave me her card.
Before I left, I asked her about Twitter, if I was on the right track, what she could see in my online future. It seemed random. But if she was truly channelling Potzi, he would know.
She looked up at me with Potzi’s eyes, those sad little diamonds, the eyes of an angel, and a long fucking chill went up and down my spine.
Get to a thousand followers, she said, in that raspy voice, resting one of her palms along my neck. She squeezed my throat slowly and gave me that coy look so I knew for certain that Potzi was operating though her flesh.
Make it to a thousand followers, she said. Through whatever means necessary.
Once you get to a thousand, everything will be okay.
Trevor Corkum’s writing has been published (or is forthcoming) in Little Fiction, Joyland, The Malahat Review, Descant, Event, Prairie Fire, PRISM international, Grain, Plenitude, The Dalhousie Review, and others. His work has been nominated for The Journey Prize and was long-listed for this year’s CBC Short Story Prize. He lives in Toronto and is online at trevorcorkum.com.