Satan Stole Her Soul in Vain

Satan Stole Her Soul in Vain

I walked from the coffee shop in Ridgewood where I had been doing some work for my boss. They were playing this very bad dancehall reggae Pandora station I couldn’t deal with anymore. I walked back to my new apartment building three blocks away. As I approached the door I saw the old Irish lady from upstairs who lived with her daughter and the daughter’s two kids who might be five or six years old—possibly her granddaughter, but I’ll just say “daughter” from here on—I was pretty sure the old lady was Irish, but she yelled at me, in a Spanish accent, “Keep that door locked!”

Then I walked into my building. I’m not sure what she meant or why she yelled it at me. Did she mean that she didn’t need me to hold the door for her? But I hadn’t been holding it for her. Maybe she had noticed that one of my roommates tends to leave the basement entrance unlocked? Had the Irish (or Hispanic?) woman noticed all of this and somehow decided that I was leaving the basement door unlocked, and so when she saw me walking in the front door, she decided to yell at me? I don’t know.

But why did I think she was Irish? I thought there was an Irish flag hanging from her window—green, white and orange—but it’s an upstairs window so it’s kind of hard to tell. Is it even an Irish flag? I’m not sure anymore. I remember now, one of my roommates said something, a few weeks before this happened. He said there’s an actual Irish couple living upstairs who smoke and argue in front of the building at six in the morning. My roommate can hear this because he occupies the front bedroom on the first floor; I sleep in the back bedroom, which is connected to the basement apartment where our other roommate (the girl one, who leaves the door unlocked) lives. So perhaps this old lady and her daughter and grandchildren are all Hispanic.

I’ve exchanged a few polite words with the daughter. She doesn’t speak with an accent. She’s friendly to me but very angry to most other people. I once heard her say to her mother: “What? You think I can’t walk around with my nose in the air, stuck up like my shit don’t stink too? I’m not a violent person, but I will fuck that bitch up.”

On another occasion this guy, who, I think, was her uncle, came by in a pickup truck, saw me and said, “So are you Tommy?” I figured Tommy might be the daughter’s boyfriend, but I didn’t even know if the guy in the truck was her uncle, so I didn’t know what to say. Then the daughter came out of the building with a guy, and that guy was Tommy, and her uncle met Tommy, and they talked about me and about the confusion that had taken place before they came out. After that, I saw her with Tommy a couple of times.

The daughter has children of her own, and her children aren’t biracial, so I figure Tommy isn’t their father (Tommy is black). The kids actually look kind of Irish. But probably they aren’t. Once, I remember the old lady speaking with an Irish accent, but now I’m starting to think maybe this was all in my head.

Once the old lady saw me helping my roommate (the girl one) move some stuff into her apartment in the basement, and the old lady said, “So you’re moving in here? Good luck. Good luck to you.” And she said “Good luck” over and over again in various permutations. And I wasn’t sure what to make of that. That was when I thought she was Irish.

I think perhaps the landlord tried in to force her and her daughter and her grandchildren out of the apartment before we moved in, as I believe he did with the other former tenants. When we moved in, he had freshly renovated every apartment except for theirs, so I have a feeling there was some hostility between the old woman and the landlord and by extension everyone who moved in after the renovation (my roommates and myself &c).

In 2005, I was in Edinburgh at the Fringe festival where my father was appearing in a play, and my father and I got caught in a conversation with an affluent looking middle-aged white man while waiting to see the just okay Persian-English stand-up comedian Omid Djalili. I thought this white man was an American tourist, but after a few minutes of getting into complete sentences, I realized he was from London, which he later confirmed. So what I’m saying is, in all likelihood I merely imagined that the old lady had an Irish accent because I thought she lived in the apartment from the window with the (possibly) Irish flag. And that was all it took for her to sound Irish to me.

One of my roommates (the boy one), who’s a year older than I am (I’m 29)—the one who told me about the Irish couple, not the other roommate (the girl one), who leaves the basement door unlocked—seemed to think that the daughter of the old lady is around forty, simply because she has kids and looks around forty. But I’m fairly certain that she’s young. Having a kid ages people, and even though she looks old, she doesn’t seem old. To me, I mean. It’s just a feeling I get.

Right now, my working hypothesis is that all of them, and my roommates (and I’ll even include myself in this), are both Hispanic and Irish—full-bloodedly both, at the same time. I sort of think we are all everything, or maybe we’re all nothing. I’m also Jewish, though, which is something else.


Someone I don’t know very well recently asked me if I like to “go out a lot.” I thought, what a strange question to ask. “No,” I said. “I work most of the time. I’m a busy guy.” I work on my job-job (marketing for a publishing house); I work on the literary magazine I run; and I work on my own creative writing. And when I’m not working, I’m sitting around watching Netflix, reading, or playing my guitar, and I pretty much only “go out” to meet women from OkCupid; I don’t even go out to see my friends anymore. I only “go out” these days if I’m trying to have sex with someone, which I know might seem shallow to some people. Honestly, I don’t have much of a response to that.

I’ve had a few pieces of short fiction published; many of them drew on real life experiences. In fact, one of the pieces I wrote was just a series of descriptions of interesting things that had happened to me over the course of a few weeks last year. In other words, I took a few weeks’ events, and distilled the most interesting parts into a brief narrative, which created the illusion that I, once, had an interesting day.

I’ve been published in seven literary publications: Gadfly, Paper Darts, and/or, The Santa Fe Writers Project Journal, Quail Bell Magazine, Defenestration and Reunion: The Dallas Review. I hear people actually do read these publications, though I’m not sure the exact number of people. I mean, I really don’t know anything about these types of literary publications because I don’t read any, nor do I read any contemporary literature unless I have to, like for the various kinds of work I do.

I once had a story published in the online humor publication Defenestration. In it I make reference to one of the women I met on OkCupid, and I refer to her by a number, #89, and not by her name, or even a made-up name. I called her #89 because she was the eighty-ninth woman I’d met from OkCupid.

But I already wrote about #89 in that story, so I won’t talk about her here. The story about #89 is called “This Has Mammary Sex in It” and it was published in the contemporary online literary magazine Defenestration in their “fake non-fiction” section. But what you’re reading right now isn’t fake and neither was that story (truth be told). You have my word on that. However, if anyone from Defenestration is reading this, then this is fake and that was also fake, and sorry but I’ve just been pulling your leg.


OkCupid girl #10 is one I never really got over. This story is about her. I was sitting in a laundromat—this is actually all in the same day as I was yelled at by the old Irish (Hispanic?) lady—I was reading The Rise of David Levinsky and waiting for my clothes to dry. That’s how this story starts.

Though (since I’m getting more honest as I go) I did make up the part about walking home from the coffee shop to then immediately getting yelled at by the old lady. She actually yelled at me when I was coming back from dinner at a Mexican restaurant, which was later that evening. And she didn’t even really yell at me. She sort of said what she said loudish so I could hear her clearly. But in the book I was reading at the laundromat, The Rise of David Levinsky, the poor Russian-Jewish Talmudist who comes to America to seek his fortune, mentions that he’s reading Pendennis. I haven’t read Pendennis but I’ve read Vanity Fair, which is one of my favorite novels. I had to Google Pendennis though, because, although the name Arthur Pendennis was familiar to me, I didn’t know it was anything to do with a novel by Thackeray. Probably I’d heard the name in something idiotic like a film or television show, since, while I have read hundreds of books by dead white men, all of that reading happened in adulthood. Prior to the age of eighteen, I watched a lot of television. As a result, my mind is a graveyard of entertainment mediocrity.

I’m not sure why I’ve mentioned this thing about Abraham Cahan’s protagonist reading Pendennis at the beginning of a pivotal chapter in that author’s most famous and successful novel. I suppose I liked the idea that at one point in this story, I’m sitting in a laundromat reading a section of a novel about a poor Russian-Jewish immigrant, like some of my ancestors must have been, in which the protagonist mentions that he’s reading a novel about the life and times of an English gentleman.

Anyway, I was sitting in the laundromat, and I remembered that on the first night of my second attempt at a relationship with #10, I accompanied her to a twenty-four-hour laundromat in her neighborhood, after which we returned to her apartment where she forced me to bathe and brush my teeth, and then we “made love,” or whatever you like, amid which, I sweated profusely upon her, and then came unusually quickly, much to my humiliation. The former, owing to the un-airconditioned bedroom in which we were doing our “lovemaking,” or whatever you like; the latter, to my being generally out of shape. Right now I’m in slightly better shape, though still not great.

But before we “made love” (or whatever you like) we went to the laundromat, and before that, we were in a bar, which was the same bar we’d gone to on our very first date—during which first date we had met by chance an acquaintance of mine from college, with whom neither she nor I had anything to talk about, so we sat there in silence with him for nearly an hour until I was impolite enough to convince #10 to leave with me under some or another pretext. In that same bar, by the way,—our second time there,—she revealed something else which was extremely surprising, important, interesting: which was, that she had amassed a huge amount of credit card debt and was thinking about becoming a call girl to manage her monthly payments, which were cripplingly large. And that’s what she ended up doing.

So we were in this bar and she said she needed moral support to move forward with the being-a-call-girl project. She wasn’t a prude (she’d had upwards of sixty partners, many of whose names she didn’t know) but still, she couldn’t help but agonize over what her Jewish mother might think. Another point worth mentioning was that she was, at the time, engaged in a sugar daddy/sugar babyish relationship with a software billionaire, a guy who probably could have solved her credit issue. I mean, he’d bought her gifts, plane tickets, he’d helped finance a documentary she was making. It was practically money for sex because there was money and there was sex, and I don’t think she was infatuated with him, and he was a software billionaire &c, which made this entire being-a-call-girl project a tad more suspect. But I supported her because I believe in personal choice.

I am not writing all of this out of spite for #10, by the way, even though she did recently tell me to not contact her anymore, which was very painful and depressing since, as I said, I am still obsessed with her: she’s no longer with the sugar daddy software billionaire, but is currently in a relationship with an investment banker who sort of looks like a real-life Jay Sherman from The Critic with the same hair, or like he has FAS.

#10 is half-Jewish, and I’m whole-Jewish. Abraham Cahan and David Levinsky were the same kinds of Jews as I am, and #10’s mother and grandmother are the same kind of Jew as well. I’ve always been secular. But, for reasons I don’t completely understand, I recently started carrying around on my key chain a little Hamsa with the Hebrew word for Luck and the Tefilah HaDerech (Traveler’s Prayer) engraved in it. The latter is in Hebrew, so I can’t read it.

A few months after #10 (initially) broke up with me via text message, she and one of her friends got picked up by three Italian guys and an Italian girl, and they went back to these Italians’ hotel room to group-fuck, except one of the Italians didn’t find #10 attractive, so he didn’t want to fuck her, so I guess she had to be satisfied with fucking only two men and one woman that night, not three men and one woman.

#10 and I tried dating for the second time when she started being a call girl. I gave her the moral support she said she needed because I don’t judge sex workers, and I’ve always been (and still am) obsessed with her. The second attempt lasted less than a week from when we met in the bar to talk. A few days after, she turned her first trick as a call girl and told me about it. I saw her, and we “made love” (or whatever you like) and she spent the night, and it was fine, but she ended it when I didn’t feel like sleeping with her the night after she turned her second trick. That night, she came directly to my mother’s apartment where I was living at the time, and she told me that she’d just sucked this elderly john’s cock without a condom and also sucked his balls and he came all over her face, and I told her I didn’t feel like “making love” (or whatever you like) and she left in a cab, and that was the end. If I’m being honest, it wasn’t what I’d hoped for.


About the Author

Zak Block's short fictions have appeared in Paper Darts, Big Bridge, Quail Bell Magazine, Potluck, and Gadfly, among others. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of (the) Squawk Back, an online literary journal of transgression and alienation, baptized by fire in May of 2011.