Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Hiding his canoe, still afloat, among these thickets, with its prow seaward, he sat down in the stern, paddle low in hand; and when the ship was gliding by, like a flash he darted out; gained her side; with one backward dash of his foot capsized and sank his canoe; climbed up the chains; and throwing himself at full length upon the deck, grappled a ring-bolt there, and swore not to let go, though hacked in pieces.

In June and July, 1991, between our sophomore and junior years in college, a friend and I sublet a loft apartment in Little Italy for the summer. She worked at an internship near Times Square, and I worked at an internship near Union Square, and in the evening we came home on the N/R and cooked free pasta we’d gotten from my boyfriend, who had leftover boxes from the Friday night dinners he organized at our college, and ate raw whole carrots.

The building was at the corner of Mulberry and Broome. To get to the third-floor apartment you climbed a long set of stairs that rose to a landing, and then, when you expected it to turn, continued on up in the same direction. Night after night, we ate our little meal and watched Perfect Strangers reruns on the tiny television. I had previously hated that show, but that summer it revealed its hidden charms. We weren’t watching it ironically: We enjoyed it, and I remember laughing at the jokes.

There were limited seating options in the loft, so we took turns sitting on the day bed and lying in the hammock. The hammock was better, because, since it was so difficult to get in and out of the thing, whoever was in the hammock would be served by the person who was not in it. The phone, with its lengthy cord, would be brought to her, the remains of her carrots would be taken away, floss would be delivered, etc.

We did almost nothing. We did nothing inside the apartment, because the apartment was unrelentingly hot. We left the lights off. We took cold baths in the dirty tub. There was a ceiling fan, but it was very loud, and eventually you couldn’t stand the sound anymore and had to turn it off, until the heat became ridiculous and you had to turn it on again. My boyfriend came to visit and I thought, Why do people think hot summer nights are sexy? No one wants to be touched.  I don’t remember him visiting the apartment again.

We didn’t take out the garbage for a month, and when we did it was as heavy as a person, and left a wet stain where we dragged it, together, down the stairs. 

We also rarely left the apartment.  Once we went to South Street Seaport for a free outdoor concert, and were asked to dance by strange men, and refused to dance with them. Once we went downstairs to a bar in our building and drank with a friend who was in from out of town. We went up to Central Park for a concert and were rained on. We went to the Angelika and watched French films in the air-conditioning. I had a shiny rough silk jacket I liked to wear, and walking home from the Angelika one night a guy shouted, “Nice jacket!” as he and his friends passed us.  Once I took a taxi back from something because it was late and I was by myself.  Once I saw my uncle on the subway platform but he didn’t recognize me and that made me doubt that I had seen him. On the weekends we generally went home to our parents. 

My friend’s work took her to a public library where she was supposed to do research, so she brought back the newest romance novels, and we talked about writing a romance novel together. How hard could it be? There was a place nearby that sold cheeseburgers in pita bread and we loved eating those, sometimes, for a change. The loft’s owner made pastels she sold to artists and I liked to open the drawers and look at them. I mean, we cloistered ourselves. We didn’t really drink, we didn’t take drugs, we didn’t make friends, we didn’t fall in or out of love. We didn’t do anything but hang out with each other in the heat.  The story of that summer is almost not a story, except that it ended, and everything in it—the place, the time, the friend, the friendship, the boyfriend—is changed, or gone, or both.

1 comment:

  1. This is such a beautiful, evocative piece. It calls to mind the summer I spent in D.C., which has a similarly languor-inducing climate, eating boxes of spaghetti coated in olive oil and sprinkled with dried oregano. My friends and friendships and boyfriends from that era are likewise gone or changed. But I still have my favorite jacket. I take it out and look at it once in a while, but I never wear it.