Smoking With Peter DeMarco

by Beth Thomas Read the Story December 20, 2009

Who are these guys? What lives are they on vacation from?

Henry is the narrator. I’m working on a series of stories around him, some of which have been published. He’s a suburban guy who lost his parents at a relatively young age, and has never been away from home. He keeps that life with his parents alive by maintaining the family house and continuing the routines that are inherent in suburbia. Dwight is a local, someone that Henry doesn’t quite trust.

Why did the narrator choose Amsterdam? What was the draw?

There’s something about choosing a woman in a country where prostitution is legal that might appeal to a person who lacks confidence and experience. I visited Amsterdam in 1999, and that was my first time out of the U.S. My cousin frequented a few of the windows in the Red Light District but I just waited for him. I had a girlfriend, and didn’t feel right about going with a woman. But even if I didn’t have a girlfriend, I’m not sure I could’ve. It was more of a fantasy for me. I’ve had this fascination with prostitutes ever since I worked with my Uncle Charlie on his 7-Up truck in New York City when I was 14. I worked as his helper whenever I had school vacations. This was in the 1970s, when you’d see the hookers walking around during lunchtime. I’d sit in the truck with my uncle and watch them in their mini-skirts.

The narrator lives a life of temporariness. He gives the impression of someone shiftless, restless, aimless. Is he missing something? Looking for something specific in Amsterdam?

Henry’s life is one of waiting. My stories are autobiographical fiction. I lost both of my parents by the time I was 20, and ended up staying in my childhood home until I was 35. In therapy, I was once told that I stayed in the house because I was waiting for my parents to come home. The therapist told me that the subconscious dies hard.

The prostitute lures him in with promises of no more loneliness. He pays extra to lay with her for a while. Is he looking for a resting place? Somewhere to be still? Will he find it here?

He might stay for awhile, but the emotional connection to home is too strong. It’s stuff that I’m still dealing with at the age of 48, even with a family. That connection to the past, to home, to losing my parents before I had a chance to really know them.

What are you currently reading?

The Moment of Psycho: How Alfred Hitchcock Taught America to Love Murder

About the Author:

Peter DeMarco teaches high school English in New York City. His stories have appeared in Cinema Retro, Sunsets and Silencers, Pindeldyboz, Verbsap, and Cadillac Cicatrix. Before teaching, Peter did a fair amount of acting and stand-up comedy on the amateur circuit. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two boys.