I am friendly with the office manager/receptionist/whatever she is at Sam’s speech therapist’s office. Lori. At last week’s appointment—
Lori: How old were you when you moved out on your own?
I’ve given that answer for literally half my life and it occurred to me last week that it isn’t actually true. At seventeen I moved out of my mother’s house and into a sublet apartment with my father. We lived as roomies for most of a year.
The apartment was kind of horrible. It was essentially one room–you entered into an anteroom, bathroom off to the right and a typical New York kitchenette at the end; that room was filled with boxes and things of my father’s that move from one temporary apartment to another.
Then the main room, a large square that held my futon in the corner against the wall shared with the kitchen; a low table with our stereo on it (receiver and record player to start, with large headphones at first and later a pair of good Bose speakers that I still have and can’t quite part with, and even later a Denon single disk CD player that I also still have but would love to be rid of); across from that, my father’s futon folded up to sit on; next to it, a table with two chairs in front of the window overlooking a courtyard.
He brought me an African Violet from the Bronx Botanical Gardens and I kept it on that windowsill. That violet moved with me everywhere that I went until I came to California. You cannot bring flora of any kind into California. I’m not sure what happened to it then.
There was another window too, the one with the fire escape. Sometimes I’d climb out and just sit on the fire escape. My friend Nell lived in the attic bedroom of a big house in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and she used to climb out onto the roof below her window (it must have been over a porch or something) at night and smoke and feel dangerous. My fire escape was basically the same thing, I guess. My solitary version of the escape I usually took daily, to the coffee shop around the corner.
Just before my 18th birthday, my father moved out of state. I stayed with friends for a week or two, Paul and Stefan and Paul’s girlfriend Kyra. Stefan let me have his room, overlooking Tompkins Square Park. Paul took me to his little brother Johnnie’s wonderful garden apartment for dinner on my birthday. Spaghetti and red wine. A year or two later, long after I’d moved out of the city, I visited John’s apartment again for a brunch party. Bagels and mimosas.
(Paul and I have been in and out of touch over the years since. I emailed him in a panic after the World Trade Center fell, as Johnny had worked in building 5. I think it was five. He was long gone from that firm, in Europe when it happened. Thank god.)
I will be 35 in twelve days.
I miss that apartment on West 21st Street. The diner is no longer there, around the corner on 8th Avenue. I wonder what happened to Anna, the Greek woman who ran the place. She was always there, whether I came for coffee in the morning or coffee 11:00 at night. I took cream and sugar back then. I’d stopped eating eggs before I moved there, but I think I started again because what else would I eat at a diner? She didn’t butter the toast unless asked to.