By Kelly Blake
She asked that we meet at a Starbuck’s near her apartment. Of course I welcomed the change of venue. I had been meeting potential roommates at their residences and thus far this had proved quite futile at best, and downright humiliating…or worse…at worst.
First there was anorexic Amy. She had black hair, black nails, black lips, wore black clothes, and the walls of her apartment were painted…well…black. There were no doors within her apartment. Beaded curtains hung to provide the illusion of privacy. She showed me directly into the living room space whilst explaining her terribly peculiar dietary habits. This was to be my space she offered with a sweeping motion of her bony hand.
I had already perfected a stock answer to such situations after my second unsuccessful attempt to find a place to live. ‘This is really quite nice. I have several more places to look at and I will definitely let you know. Thank you so very much!’
Then there was Joey. Joey could barely keep his hands to himself. He went on and on about how great a time the two of us would have as roommates. ‘Thanks…but no thanks Joey.’ Though I might look the part, my sexual orientation is NOT that well defined…if at all. I didn’t say that to Joey, but I sure did think it. Anyway, he wasn’t all that cute.
Dave was easy. I trudged all the way up to the Upper East Side of town to see his place. It appeared quite promising as I passed the doorman and then the front desk of the modern high rise. The building was less than ten years old and the appointments were truly dazzling. The gilt edging on nearly everything accented the crystal sconces and chandeliers. And the faux Persian carpet runners across the granite floors only added to the feeling of opulent sterility.
Dave proved to be a stark contrast to his surroundings. He answered the door with all of his burliness and alpha maleness held forth. He looked down at me in distain as he spoke.
“No fags need apply!”
He slammed his door in my face, fortunately before I had a chance to even darken his threshold. That is truly when I decided to come up with the generic reply to whomever, and whatever, else I might see. For my own self-esteem, I didn’t want to be caught in an unfavorable situation without having a reasonably thought out retort!
So, after two weeks of rejection, and rejecting, I welcomed Alison Mallory Morris’ suggestion that we initially meet at a lower Broadway location for coffee. I sighed with relief. I was being spared yet another adventure in wildly random futility.
Alison had asked for a picture so that recognition would be possible without offering one of her own in return. I understood her reluctance. After all, a woman alone in the Big Apple couldn’t be too cautious with a guy she had only met through e-mails, and IM’s, over the internet. I sent her the least threatening photo of my non-threatening personage I could find, making sure that I was attired in my ‘normal’ androgynous manner. I wanted no surprises or rejections prior to stating my case.
At the last moment, I decided to ‘butch up’ a bit for the meeting anyway. I wore white jeans, a blue jean shirt and my trusty black leather jacket. As a concession to my own sense of street style, I wore a crystal medallion given to me by my mother and my fave bracelet.
I sat drinking a steaming cup of the third choice down on the right side of the menu. Pointing and directing seemed to be far easier than attempting to correctly capture every descriptor listed. I was not a connoisseur of coffee and really had no idea of what I had ordered other than that it did contain caffeine. I sat facing the entrance, my eyes glued to the door and my right leg was jiggling nervously.
Fortunately I didn’t need to wait very long. No sooner had the clock’s hands arrived at six then she strode through the door. I knew this was Alison even without having her image in hand. If first impressions mean anything…I thought she looked absolutely perfect; the complete epitome of femininity.
As I gazed at Alison, she reminded me of one of those very expensive dolls with a hand painted porcelain face. She had these big expressive blue eyes set against her peaches and cream complexion. Her lips were pursed in a permanent kiss that exploded into the warmest of wide smiles upon spotting me. All this was framed by her naturally golden tresses carefully styled to her face’s shape.
Alison wore a cream colored dress that fell to just below her knees. It was a front buttoning cotton piece with a thin green vine pattern hosting small spring flowers in a variety of bright primary and secondary colors. She had cinched the waist with a bright red belt. I immediately thought how wonderful a pair of red pumps would accent her attire rather than the pink and white sneakers she wore.
Alison’s body type was what some people referred to as ‘hunky-chunky’. I preferred lush, plush, womanly and even curvy. She had broad hips and quite full breasts. Her waist, though narrow in proportion, was a bit stout and she did have a bit of a tummy. But, all in all, I would call her an urban fertility doll or even an anatomical invitation to procreation before anything else. That is if one happens to…’swing’ that way?
The Coach bag that hung from her shoulder was not an imitation. Alison grasped the strap of a hobo bag that hung from her other shoulder. She waved quickly to me and strode to the counter to get a cup of coffee. I watched her as she ordered and then received her cup, her back toward me. She turned and began to walk toward the table I was seated at.
I was mesmerized by the movement of her body. She walked with her hips thrusting forward, the rest of her body following in tow. The manner in which her body moved was amazing. It was as if her curves gently rolled like the sea’s waves. How totally feral and yet mesmerizing!
“Hi. You must be Andrew.” Alison’s said in a rich ‘contralto voce’ as she placed her cup down on the table and seated herself in the chair opposite me.
Alison held her hand out to me. I took it and immediately felt the warmth of her touch.
“Yes…I’m Andrew. And you’re Alison?” Derp…! I was very nervous and more than a bit tongue tied.
Alison was even more strikingly beautiful at this close distance. Her blue eyes twinkled with an innocence and yet a sense of play. There definitely was a fun loving child that lurked close to the surface within this very poised appearing woman.
“Well…it’s very nice to meet you Andrew. What do people call you Andie; as in…A-n-d-i-e?”
“Uh…no...” I had spelled it out. “A-n-d-y...” I smiled.
“Oh…” A very surprised look came over her face. I loved the way her eyes widened. “A-n-d-e-e…?” She smiled gloriously.
“Uh…no…A-n-d-y...” I giggled.
“Oh…” She grinned mischievously. “A-n-d-i…!”
My eyes rolled up and I smiled as I thought about that one. Hmmm… Well it did have a unique flair to it.
“Ummm… Okay…Andi.” I thought it was…cute? And…two could play this game. I would certainly find out if she had a sense of humor. “And what shall I call you…Alley?” I spelled it out.
“Nooo…people call me A-l-l-i-e.”
“Ohhh…Ali!” I giggled as my face lighted up. Alison giggled.
“No silly... Allie...”
After ‘Ally’, ‘Alli’, ‘Allee’, and ‘Alee’, we finally settled on ‘Andi’ and ‘Allie’. Allie was an absolute dream to speak with. She was so amazingly bubbly and…well…just excited about life I guess. I smiled as I watched her animated self as she spoke about her apartment in depth.
Allie owned the top floor apartment in a renovated loft building in Soho. The thirty five hundred square feet allowed for three bedrooms, each with its own bath. A portion of one side was devoted to being studio space. Allie worked as a stylist for an international food magazine but she was schooled in, and her true love is, ceramic arts. In other words, she is a potter.
Allie was amazed that I not only had a job, but that I had a job at a very prestigious advertising company. I explained that they had sought me out after one of their executives saw some of my drawings at a school exhibition.
“You went where? There…? Oh my Gawd! It’s almost impossible to get accepted into that school!”
“Well…? It was free…so I went.” I blushed and giggled.
I didn’t tell her I got an early acceptance. Okay…so I’m ‘gifted’…whatever the heck that’s supposed to mean. When other preschoolers were struggling with stick people, I was properly shading still life subjects. That’s not to say I didn’t work my scrawny little butt off. I wanted to leave home and go to another big city so badly that there was little I wouldn’t have done.
I mean it’s not like I even had a social life or anything even remotely resembling one. I always kept to myself and tried to be as invisible as possible. Whenever I was noticed, something crappy inevitably would happen. Even in a ‘special’ high school for the ‘gifted’ I was the odd one out. At least the abuse wasn’t physical. I’d had enough of that in middle school.
But such is life in the burbs. At least in the big city…any big city…I could fade into the scenery and be simply another bozo on life’s weird bus. I never dreamed I would fall into the middle of the universe… at least as far as I was concerned…of New York City.
“Okay…listen…” Allie drew closer to me from across our narrow divide as if to impart some secret. “I need to ask you this and I hope you aren’t offended…but I need to know.”
I couldn’t even begin to imagine what she wanted to know. But I could sense her discomfort with whatever it was she wanted to ask. I smiled and nodded.
“Do you always dress like this? I mean…you look more like an Andrea than an Andrew?”
O…M…G! And I purposefully ‘butched’ up this time. I felt myself turning vermillion.
“I know! It’s the locket, right? I knew I shouldn’t have worn it.” I looked at her with a pained expression as I fingered the crystal circle.
“It’s just that…I really love it? I was told it was my grandmother’s. It’s kind of good luck.”
“Well…let’s see…” Alison’s fingers went to her mouth to attempt hiding a giggle. “I saw the very same jean blouse in the ladies fashion section of a Macy’s ad. Your low rider jeans are cuffed and cropped…the latest style I might add?” Okay…so maybe her giggle was warranted at this point. “And those shoes…oh my God!!! How did you find them in your size?”
“I have small feet?” I felt like disappearing into the ether.
“Oh please…” Allie chuckled. “You do have amazing eyes.”
Alison reached across and clutched my hand in hers. Her expression was so sincere that I would have believed anything she told me.
“I honestly don’t care what you wear? And I really need to tell you I do love your street style? But you’re not into drag, are you?” I sat there stunned! “It’s just that I really don’t want any drama queens in my home life…at least not any more than the one that already exists.” She laughed; a lovely lilting open and honest and totally disarming laugh.
“No. I’m not into drag or anything like that.” I couldn’t help but giggle.
I mean she was being open in a non-threatening manner and I felt I needed to honestly explain myself to someone I might be living with for a while.
Women’s clothing always had color to it. I loved color. After all, I am an artist and color is my stock and trade, particularly in graphic arts for advertising. So it’s kind of natural for me to reflect this in my life. Women’s clothing also tended to have a closer and tighter knit to the fabrics which made them softer feeling and more comfortable against the skin to wear. And men’s clothes simply do not come in a size four for someone six feet tall.
I loved vibrantly colorful prints or solids and women’s blouses provided these elements. And the shorts and pants I wore followed suit in an androgynous way. Certainly the clothing was colorful, comfortable, and stylish but nothing was overtly femme; or so I thought. There was no sparkle or glitter. Well, none except for this one pair of jeans that had swirling electric pink and blue designs on the rear pockets. Oh yeah…and this one sweatshirt with a rose color beaded pattern across the pastel pink front.
Anyway, though I was more conservative in high school, I was able to fully express my tastes in college. Everyone wore things that were…eccentric? There were Goths and Emos and every shade of dressing style and then some. Nobody really noticed me in that kind of environment. And, living in the East Village, nobody even spared me a second look…at least not for my attire.
“Look… I’m inviting you into my world…my life really…and I simply want to know a little about you and…” She waved her hand at my manner of dress. “…understand.” She smiled warmly and spoke in a soft and calm voice. “It’s really okay if you’re a drag queen or something. I simply don’t need any performances in my home.”
After I explained my manner of dress, I told Allie that one of the main reasons I was interested in her advertisement was that she seems to value the calm and tranquility and the sense of sanctity of her home life. I had more than enough of dorm life and all the lack of privacy and peace that was denied to me. I truly sought a quiet refuge from the madness of big city life.
We spoke for quite a while longer. Every so often Allie would reach across the table a gently touch my hand to emphasize one thing or another. I enjoyed speaking with her immensely. She was very comfortable for me to be with. I actually became quite involved in conversation with her, which was very unusual for me. It was generally hard for me to warm to most people.
I suppose I was able to alleviate any misgivings Allie might have had because she finally sat back in her chair, smiled, and spoke.
“I think you’ll do. Would you like to see my place now?”
My beaming smile was all the answer she needed as she got up from her chair. I got up and before anything else offered to carry her bag. Allie cheerfully handed it to me and, much to my surprise, it weighed a ton! She must have read my expression because she giggled.
“I have today’s life in there. My planner and my shoes and my…everything…”
With a giggle she took the bag from me and sat it upon the table. She rummaged through it and pulled out a drawer stringed sack. Upon opening it she removed a red leather pump with a three-inch heel. Its color matched her belt. Looking at me, my wide opened eyes glued to the shoe, she spoke a laugh.
“I wear these at my desk and anywhere I need to walk whilst I’m at work. They come off when I’m at my desk…and the very second I start for home. Otherwise…” She held her sneaker-clad foot up. “…I live in these.” As Allie put the shoe back in its sack, she continued to speak. “I also have my lunch in here and whatever else I need for the day.”
I took the bag once Allie completed resettling everything within it and, after taking the remains of my coffee, I followed her out the door of the shop. The day’s light was beginning to fade in the cavern known as lower Broadway as we turned the corner and headed into Soho.
Her apartment was, to say the least, amazing. It would have no doubt rivaled any within the city. The building itself was quite unassuming; a typical old small industrial space of the very early twentieth century that had been renovated into open loft space.
From there Allie had the entire space reworked again constructing actually rooms and creating a lovely four bedroom, four and one half bath world of her own design. The ceilings were twelve feet high and she created loft areas as well as several ‘pit’ sections. There was a totally modern kitchen and a laundry room.
There were two master suites opposing each other and Allie offered me the unoccupied one. I was thrilled! It was huge; perhaps over three hundred square feet. The bath was amazing. Not only was there a good sized shower with numerous nozzles, but a tub with a Jacuzzi. I was in the virtual lap of luxury!!!
The closets were unbelievable. I could easily have lived in one of them. They ran the entire length of the room, the other side having large windows that allowed for amazing light. I could easily envision my own little studio area within the room…as well as maybe a swimming pool?
I felt like…OH MY GOD! Where do I sign my life away? And…if that wasn’t enough to entice me…she had art work scattered all around the place; paintings and photos and constructions and line drawings and watercolors and more than I could take in at a quick glance. And…if that wasn’t glorious enough…it was all new! I mean young artists known and unknown. People like me!
“When can I move in?”
“Well…there are a few things we must go over first. Let’s have another cup of coffee.”
I was stunned, floored, scattered, shocked, disheartened… But she was still smiling and she did invite me to stay at least a little bit longer. We sat at the island in the midst of the kitchen as coffee brewed on the counter.
“Okay…first of all…I am not a maid.” But I already knew that. Allie was a stylist. “I have a service come in once a week, on Friday, but that is it. You are more than welcomed to use the kitchen and everything else but I do expect you to clean up your mess.”
“Sure…of course.” I smiled but I felt like…who wouldn’t.
“And I don’t mind an overnight guest? You know?” Overnight guests…as if… “But not every night and not every weekend, okay?” I could see that this was not an easy subject for Allie to broach. “It’s just that I have had a bad experience in the past with guests.” I could only imagine having been in a roommate situation for four years. “Do you have any questions for me?”
“Yes…” I grinned from ear to ear as I could barely contain my excitement. “When can I move in?”
The entire process took two weeks. I needed to buy a bed; king-sized…of course. And I needed several other pieces including a really cool full sized drawing table. My belongings didn’t amount to all that much; a few boxes and suitcases. But it was a bit much for a cab so I hired a man and a van which turned into two men for some unknown reason.
The final move in of my personal stuff occurred on a Saturday in the late morning. Allie answered the door in a fleece hooded pink robe to let me and the movers in. I spent the remainder of the morning sorting my things out and settling in. Allie offered to assist me if I needed help but there wasn’t enough to really bother her with.
After hanging up my clothing and shelving what needed shelving, I sat and made up a list of things I would need in addition like window shades of some sort and throw rugs and such. I had an idea of where to go and buy these things but I wanted to consult with Allie first in the event she knew of a good cheap shop.
“Well…if you’d like I could go with you. There are several good places around here and a few in China Town. Why don’t we grab a bite to eat and then do your shopping?”
“Uhhh… Sure...” I liked the idea of the company. And lunch was totally a great idea. I was starving. “I just need to do a quick wash and change, okay? About…ummm…ten minutes…?”
“Fifteen for you...” Allie laughed.
I quickly washed and dried myself. A shower cap saved me a great deal of time so I simply brushed out my hair and put it in a ponytail. I chose a simple white sleeveless cotton blouse, a pair of rust colored pants with a slightly flared leg and color matched skimmers. I put out a clean panty…okay…Jockey’s for her…in cotton bikini cut…if you really must know…in powder grey. And white cotton knee highs.
A necklace, little gold studs in my ears, a woven string bracelet and three rings and I was ready. I grabbed a sweater jacket from my closet…MY closet…my hobo bag and I was out my bedroom door and into the kitchen to find Allie sitting and having her last sip of coffee. She turned toward me and smiled.
“Oh my God…!!! You look…lovely.”
“Thanks.” I blushed. God only knows what shade of red... She continued to gaze at me.
“You know something? You could be a model.”
“What...?!” What...?! Me…?
“I mean seriously. You’re so tall and slender and you have really unique features.”
“Yeah…a big nose and a sqwooshed face and…”
“Don’t forget one of the top women’s fashion models was a male.”
“Yeah…but I don’t look anything like that.” I laughed.
“And you really look quite lovely…” Allie got up and walked to me. She reached out and took my chin in her hand, turning my face from side to side. “…and with a little help from the ole’ cosmetics box…you could look devastating!”
“Yeah... My face could end the war in Syria!”
“No Andi…seriously…” Allie walked to the counter and grabbed her purse and her hobo bag. “Maybe one day you’ll let me shoot you.” Yeah… Like between the eyes? She suddenly turned toward me. “You know I do know how to use a camera and film.” She giggled as we left the apartment and headed down for the street.
I had, without any doubt, one of the loveliest days I could remember…at least in the past few years. Allie was an absolute delight. She took my arm and virtually held it captive the entire afternoon. We walked around the neighborhood and I got to see it as never before. I was always only interested in the many galleries and what they had to offer. Allie showed me everything else.
“My hair stylist works here.” She said as we stopped to gaze through the window. “You should pay her a visit. After all, you have a real job now and looking good starts from the top down.”
I nodded. My hair was way long at this point and I really needed to do something with it. A perennial pony tail only went so far. But a hair stylist…?
“Hmmm… I don’t know. I’d feel a little…out of place?”
“Don’t be silly. Everyone in the area comes here for a cut. I’m scheduled for next Saturday morning. I could make an appointment for you if you’d like.” I guess I had one of my ‘are you fucking kidding me?’ looks on my face. “Oh come on…it’ll be fun. And I’ll be there for moral support.” I could tell there was no getting around this and so I acquiesced.
We had a wonderful brunch at a local bistro. Allie was so comfortable to be with that I didn’t see her as…a landlord? She paid with the understanding that we would alternate this kind of thing. In essence I was suddenly a…’suit’…but without a suit?
I asked Allie why she wanted to have a roommate. I mean she seemed to have all the money. Everything she owned was top shelf, even her coffee machine. And no expense seemed to be spared in her apartment’s fixtures and furnishings.
“I’m trying to live within my salary? But this apartment set me back quite a bit and its upkeep, and my upkeep, has me stretched to the limit. And, to be perfectly honest, it’s a really big place. I feel better knowing that there is someone else there with me. You know what I mean?”
I knew, understood, and nodded with a smile. It could be somewhat lonely being by oneself in the city. I didn’t understand why someone like her should be alone though. Allie seemed to have everything going for her; a great gig, a great apartment, and she’s totally a hottie. That answer would have to wait for a later date though. I’m the last one to pry.
We returned late in the afternoon totally exhausted and completely sated from our outing. I thought that there was enough commonality for a very pleasant relationship to form and, in fact, we had already bonded to some degree. Doing retail therapy with someone as easy going as Allie seemed to have that effect.
I went to my room to begin assimilating my new acquisitions. More often than not Allie’s sense of style seemed to overlap mine and everything seemed to simply slip into place like a piece of a jig saw puzzle. I rested on my bed and soon fell into a deep sleep.
Upon arising, I went into the kitchen where I found a note on the island counter top. It was from Allie and it explained that she was out on a date with a “friend”…her quotation marks…not mine, and she wouldn’t be back till morning. She mentioned that if I wanted to stay in there were several containers of different, but relatively fresh, foods and I was welcomed to any that might appeal.
After snacking I showered and changed into my traditional bed clothes; a panty and an oversized tee shirt. I sat upon my bed, propped up by a pillow against the wall, and opened a new sketch book. I began to sketch in pencil.
This was something I had developed into a habit at a very young age. I would try and empty my mind and, when the feeling struck, begin to sketch whatever might appear. I managed to keep most of my sketch books through the years and I would, from time to time, leaf through them for inspiration and ideas.
This day was quite unusual though. I seemed to be sketching curves; very organic but way diff than a usually well-defined object or theme. I sketched curved lines and combinations of curved lines for some time. I even developed the lines into curved objects; the pear and hour glass shapes being foremost amongst the drawings. I eventually created a few that were very pleasing to my eye. I considered this a good productive evening to crown a very fun and productive day. Setting my pad and pencils aside, I rested my head upon the pillow and fell asleep.
To be continued
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