The crowd parted to make way for a 23-year-old redhead with a headdress of peacock feathers, a cigarette holder in her left hand, and an American Spirit package tucked into the right side of her low-cut black dress. In a thick Russian accent, she introduced herself to me as "Madame X" and waved an arm toward the young women behind her: I could have any one of her girls give me a private reading in a makeshift bedroom on the upper landing, she promised.
My weak excuses tumbled out awkwardly: I'd never done anything like this before, I explained. I'm a good man. It's just that my life of verse at home had recently grown predictable, arid. I tear through every new issue of The New Yorker like a teenaged boy, ignoring the cartoons. I subscribe to Brick and Poetry magazine - for the articles, of course - but that's not doing the trick, either. Could she help?