I’m up to the interviewing potential realtors stage. A part of me feels guilty that I live in a place where my apartment seems to be coveted–my obsessive prepping seems to have worked. Another part thinks I deserve everything I get plus more
Thanks Bone for the words.
While this is fiction I have been working on versions of it for 20 years. Each time I start new. It’s rough. I’m not sure I did a great job in explaining that in 1969 cute suburban mothers didn’t expect to meet their eighteen year old daughter in the East Village at nine AM when said daughter was supposed to be in school on Long Island. Annie had obviously spent the night at her boyfriend’s and that was a very big deal then.
There are many little stories in it. Coming of age stories usually bore me. This is the prologue for a book of interconnected stories about six friends. It begins almost a decade later. Annie’s stories are all in the first person. The others are in the second or third. I would like Annie’s stories to have an urgency and immediacy the other stories don’t have. It’s called West of Broadway as the whole Upper West Side is as is much of Manhattan. Jordan, in this story, lives East of Broadway. This is very rough. I won’t be posting the other stories, but I welcome feedback on this one.
The East Village
My boyfriend’s building was typical of thousands of tenements in the city. As I walked up to the sixth floor I tried not to breath the usual smells; a commingling of pee, cat pee, cabbage,rancid gross meats, beer, Lysol, cigarette and pot smoke. Only the last was at all tolerable. I have an exceptionally acute sense of smell. It’s saved me, and some others, from falling into the deep sleep during a gas leak so I’m grateful for it. Then again I spend more time throwing up than most people.
By the time I reached Jordan’s apartment I would run to the bathroom. His two bedroom apartment was unexpected for a hippie apartment. It had the requisite mattress in the living room with an Indian print bedspread covering it and pillows, coffee table made of cinder block and wood and second hand chairs, but the large ashtray wasn’t overfilled with butts. There were no empty beer bottles, or garbage of any type.
Jordan had about twelve best friends, 30 next-rank friends, and we ran with a crowd that numbered at least 150.
Jordan’s room had a mattress that went from closet to windows. He painted the ceiling dark dark blue and pasted hundreds of silver glittery stars. Sometimes five of us would sleep on the mattress. Except for Best Friend # One, Fat Dave, we were all thin. The morning I woke up with Best Friend # Two Ian’s finger up my right nostril everybody but me found it funny. Some of Jordan’s best friends were girls; some of mine were boys. In the world we had made, everybody was equal.
The apartment was on East Sixth Street and overlooked an alley that faced McSorley’s. We weren’t drinkers. It was no big deal that they didn’t let girls in. It was important that The Fillmore East was down the block. When the windows were opened we could hear the music. Sometimes we would go up to the roof and listen. Other times we would go to the stage entrance and walk in with the groupies.
I had fallen in lust/like with Jordan my first month of college the previous fall. My Byronic ideal thought I was the hottest girl in school; he wanted me to be his girlfriend. It made me laugh when I thought how easily people were fooled. My clothes were different than the other girls. They were a mix of Carnaby Street, Paraphernalia the store, and East Village vintage. I felt as if I were all facade with no substance. It was a good facade. Luxe hippie/mod without a trace of Long Island.
Girls wanted to be me. The rare times I was in the dorm in the college in an estate on the North Shore of Long Island they would follow me around wanting to learn my secrets. I was nice as I hadn’t yet learned how to be cruel. I was and wasn’t intoxicated with my own aura. From the first hour at Freshman Orientation I was desired by many and hated by a few. I have never understood why some years I will be the most popular girl around, and other times nobody wants to know me. I can be pretty or very plain; lovable or not; funny as anything, and even more boring. I, Annie Roseman, am considered complex by all therapists. When a therapist tells you, you’re complex and/or interesting, run.
I hadn’t expected to meet somebody like Jordan. Somebody I would intuitively understand. Somebody who felt a part of me as if we had known each other forever. This couldn’t be real. I had to be dreaming it. It wasn’t ideal. By March we had broken up and gotten back together twice.
That night it was going to be just us. Jordan wrote poetry and articles for, and was an assistant at Chute, a sort of Rolling Stone. My Lord Byron really was a poet.
I had called him at work that morning and said I needed to see him alone. When I took the train in from Long Island that afternoon I rehearsed what I was going to say but really had no idea.
He looked scared when he opened the door. I could tell he had imagined all scenarios and came up with only one plausible one.
I missed two periods. You know how irregular I am, but…and I haven’t slept with anybody else.
I wasn’t saying….
You were possibly thinking.
This is a lot to take in
There’s a slight possibility. Probably is a false alarm.
But you could be?
I’ll go to Planned Parenthood in the morning and find out. If I am I’ll go to the nurse in Queens all the girls go to.
You’re having our baby
And play the violin strings. Jordan, if I am pregnant, it’s a tiny embryo.
But Jordan was in some dreamland I wasn’t privy to.
If it’s a girl, we’ll name her Isle–that’s I-S-L-E not aisle. If it’s a boy, Peace.
Oh good for a second I thought we were going to have to spend a lifetime explaining she wasn’t conceived in a store. Jordan, you just turned 20. I’m eighteen. You make like two cents an hour. You’re dodging the draft–wait you don’t want a baby so we’ll have to get married and you won’t be drafted?
How could I have a baby with a man who wanted to name a girl Isle and a boy Peace? I wasn’t into traditional names like my parents, but I wasn’t even into spice or season names.
He did look shocked that I could even think such a thing.
Annie, we’re going to get married someday. It might as well be now.
Jordan your parents aren’t speaking to you. My parents will die. They’ve met about 40 of your friends but never you.
I’ll meet them. This time I won’t park near their house and throw up.
Did you ever find it strange that our reaction to almost everything is to puke?
Don’t say “puke.”
I smiled. We were sitting on the living room mattress smoking cigarette after cigarette and drinking grape juice. Donovan was playing in the background. Donovan, Melanie, “puke” was a four letter word, drugs were an abomination. I was in love with the straightest* draft dodging hippie radical in America. And he hadn’t met my parents who would have loved him.
Jordan was living under a cloud. He had been thrown out of school for “associating with known drug dealers.” In reality he had been arrested at The 67 Moratorium. An honorable arrest even my parents would have appreciated. His parents would have treated him like a conquering hero. Jordan made a face every time I smoked weed. Some of the best friends were as straight as Jordan. Others smoked and tripped, but Jordan didn’t mind. It was just me who was supposed to be the Madonna who slept around, but not recently.
Jordan and I stayed up all night talking. Usually we found it difficult to converse when alone and kissed or told soliloquies but that night we spoke. Jordan couldn’t understand why I as an adoptee could so easily have an abortion. I didn’t see where my being adopted was an issue. He was fascinated by my adoptee status. I was bored with it. My family was my family. I hadn’t had birth mother fantasises since I was twelve.
I wasn’t a great student as I didn’t go to most of my classes. My English teacher would see me and and practically accost me:
You were such a great student last semester. You’re so talented. Why can’t you just come to class? Or do the work? Don’t come to class. Do the work.
My teachers seemed to have fallen under the Annie Roseman spell. Everybody knew me. Most people forgave me my bad habits. I had forgiven the Resident Assistant and roommate who tried to get me expelled. They had my cigarettes analyzed for weed. The school security director made sure that I got my own room in the basement and was exempt from Freshman curfew–10:30 PM on week nights and One AM on weekends. My night was just beginning at 10:30.
I liked having fun. I loved going to Chinatown with 30-50 kids from school, concerts at the bandshell in Central Park, being in The East Village, hanging out in houses on Long Island Sound towns, in the lawn on campus, outside the cafeteria where Jordan and I had first arranged to meet each other after The End of The World Dance. I resisted going out with out him. He wasn’t a student and after Senior Year in high school when my boyfriend was a “former student” now activist in a more radical/SDS faction, I had resolved to date only students.
Every day for 22 days Jordan worked his charms. He would buy little presents for me; kaleidoscopes, sparkling anythings, neon yoyo’s. It didn’t feel like a courtship or I didn’t see it as one and yet…..When I caved in, I fell all the way. I had no choice. He was the boy I had dreamed about all my life.
Why was I saying:
Jordan if I am pregnant and that’s a big if, we can’t go through with it. We like to have a good time besides everything else.
Annie, if you go through with it, I’ll throw myself down the subway tracks.
You have vertigo, and can’t even look at the tracks.
I knew he was being melodramatic and wouldn’t go through with it. It was a lie. Jordan specialized in “slight lies.”
Jordan was on time for work the next day. That was a first. I took my time dressing. I had an elitist edge and didn’t want to be taken for just another hippie girl. I wore a purple velvet jumpsuit, silver parachute material boots, and a silver velvet coat. When I left the house I walked near The Cooper Union Museum. I saw a group of middle aged affluent housewives get off a bus. One looked a bit too familiar. She never would have seen me if I hadn’t screamed:
Every woman turned around. One ran toward me. I wanted to tell her why I was there but she screamed as she pounded me, then grasped me. I was six inches taller than my mother but she had the strength of the madly angry.
You’re supposed to be in school—on Long Island
Don’t mommy me.
Her friends, who all knew me, got her off me.
You will call tonight. Your father has to know and I can’t be responsible….
My mother, my adoptive and only one I had ever known or wanted to know, knew there was no way in hell I had come in from Long Island that morning. Her good fantasy daughter was gone. In her place was an East Village hippie who was obviously coming from the “unknown” boyfriend’s apartment.
I never made it to Planned Parenthood but went back to the apartment and cried. That night I got my period. I looked in the toilet and stared at a huge clot. Was it? By the next morning I had stopped wondering.
*I’m using “straight” in the 60’s sense of not being cool. It’s different than being a nerd. There weren’t any positive connotations to the word. Not in my world.
This is dedicated:to the boy who
was 19 and perfect and the man who is an amazing friend. Still ironic
you were born on my father’s birthday–in a good way.