Before Anthony Rienzi was married with two daughters and working for a marketing startup in North Carolina, he used to steal girls’ underwear.
Rienzi was the panty-pilfering bandit of Louis Pasteur Middle School in Little Neck, Queens. His heists started in the seventh grade and ended—as far as I know—when Corinne K. died in a car crash on Little Neck Parkway.
Read the rest in Gadfly Online
My bank notified me that someone had made an unauthorized transaction with my debit card today.
I’m in L.A., but I wonder if there’s even the remotest chance I was in Saint Charles, Illinois at some point this 15th of April.
More than anything I wonder what person attempted to buy $109.77 worth of product at Target. What did they try to buy? How did they handle the rejection? Who’s restocking the shelves?
Pretty boring way to try to spend my money, Saint Charles! But it’s the most exciting thing to happen to me in months.
When I was in the first grade I lied about kissing Cynthia Medina. Even though technically we were boyfriend and girlfriend, we had a first-grade relationship. We didn’t call each other on the phone. We didn’t hold hands. And we definitely didn’t kiss. Being her boyfriend basically meant that I was nicer to her than I was to the other girls.
We were only together because her best friend, Natasha, and my best friend, Reggie, were boyfriend and girlfriend. So it made sense that Cynthia and I would be together. (Sometimes I think Reggie and I were best friends only because we shared the same birthday.)
The kiss didn’t happen at my birthday party—even though that’s where I said it had taken place. Reggie was at the party. He helped me blow out the candles. And sometime after that I was alone with Cynthia for maybe a minute in my bedroom. We sat next to each other on the bed in silence. She was wearing a long frock with ruffles around the collar. She had these plump adult-size lips on her round, chubby face. She looked like a Garbage Pail Kid who had cleaned up for a party. She made the thought of kissing seem extra scary. But I was brave enough to lie about going through with it.
I told Reggie and that got him upset. My Cynthia had put out (a kiss) but his Natasha hadn’t yet. His indignation spread the word. Eventually it got back to Cynthia. She was bound to find out about the kiss that all the first-graders were talking about—it was mostly her kiss after all. I told Reggie that she had given it to me for my birthday.
"How could you do this to me?" Cynthia said. "Didn’t you think about my reputation?"
I wasn’t thinking about her reputation. I was in the first grade. I was thinking about everyone thinking a girl had kissed me on the lips. I was thinking about everyone thinking about my lips.
That was the end of our relationship and I never got to kiss Cynthia. I think Reggie and Natasha worked things out and stayed together a while longer. The two of them really liked each other—even though they weren’t kissing about it.
I wouldn’t kiss a girl for real until the sixth grade. Five years! Nearly half my lifetime up until that point! Her name was Alison. She was Korean and an Amazon. Kissing her was all the best parts of scary. And there was no need to lie about it, because we did it everywhere—and always within view of the other students. The first time was near the handball courts in the schoolyard—and with tongue! After that every possible location was scouted and smooched in. The stairwells between classes were particularly hot and heavy and quick. So much so that Abigail (Ham)Burger told on us.
I cried in the guidance counselor’s office—even though he wasn’t trying to make me feel bad. He called me “Don Juan” and I believe he totally meant it. Alison’s father and her violin instructor were disappointed in her. Not only was she sucking face with a boy during her studies—but a white boy! The kissing was over. And Alison and I would go on to treat each other badly.
I wonder why I cried so hard in the guidance counselor’s office. I think it was because for the first time I didn’t feel like a liar.
The man with two black tears tattooed on his face and I have the same dentist. I’m at the office for a cleaning when Black Tears walks in. Sweatpants, puffy winter coat—he looks like he was a fat kid back in the day, but a stretch of time spent in the clink has hardened him some. Opposite the tears, on the other cheek, he has what looks like a hanged man, the black stick figure etched into his skin like the tears. On his hands—one on each fist—he’s tattooed grenades. They’re green, the only other color I imagine you can get in prison.
This is gonna be good, I think. Whatever this guy does in this dentist office is gonna be good. I pretend to read a book.
He stuffs one of his grenades into his puffy pocket…
I hold my breath.
He pulls out… His phone…
To play a video game. A loud video game—probably called Annoying Sounds. Every now and then he curses in Spanish, upset with the game in his hands.
I feel like cursing too. You have black tears tattooed on your face, dude! You can’t find an original way to be a dick? Playing your video game too loudly in public? Really? That’s all you got?
He receives a text, which interrupts his game. He answers it. Pauses. Looks up at me. Speaks. “How do you spell ‘operate’? Like to operate on somebody?”
I spell the word for him. I get my teeth cleaned, X-rayed. No cavities. No tears. No dicks.
When I’m back home in Brooklyn I like to sit in my living room and listen to the man who lives in the apartment above mine yell. Sometimes I’ll get up from my couch and follow his shouting into my kitchen and cock my ear to the vent of the airshaft we share. Most of the time I have no clue what’s going on up there. I’ve never met the man. I have no idea what he looks like. And I really hope he’s physically incapable of carrying out the threats he makes.
But I do enjoy the man’s voice nonetheless. There’s so much anger, insecurity, and impotence in it. Whether he’s yelling at his son or the son’s mother (I’m not sure if the man and the woman are even together) I find it cathartic. Not for him. That man’s damned to go on yelling. But for me there comes a point somewhere along the airshaft where the man’s voice fades out—like I’m catching the tail end of an echo—and the voice could very well be my own. Then the argument ends (to be continued) and I feel much better for having gone through it.
In Los Angeles I’ve traded the man upstairs for a creature that riots in my attic. Like the man, I’ve never actually seen the creature, so I’m praying it’s a squirrel. About once a month it tricks me into believing it’s in my room. I pull the covers over me—making sure my feet don’t show—and try to muster the strength to jump to the floor and scurry over to the light switch across the room.
I don’t wish the man upstairs any harm. But I do want the creature dead. The other day we had an earthquake in Los Angeles—I hope that got him. And if my wish seems cruel, what can I say? He’s not the kind of monster I can relate to.
(There’s a vent in the ceiling of my L.A. bedroom. I’ll let you know if I smell anything.)