He was jamming his things in black garbage bags, rushing around the apartment like a fugitive about to be apprehended. I walked to the kitchen window and looked down onto East 10th Street. Two men were sitting furtively inside a pickup truck—his getaway. If I hadn’t passed on that after-work dinner, he would have made a clean escape. “It has nothing to do with you. I’m really sorry, I’ll miss you,” he said, leaning in and holding me in a tight embrace. I closed the door behind him,twistingthe deadbolt.
It was the holidays, and he had given me one week’s notice that he was splitting. No, this was not my lover, not my boyfriend; this was one of my roommates. But Dustin was more than just a flat mate; he had become family in a city that isn’t known for its nurturing qualities. We had lived together for six months, sitting at outdoor cafés in the summer, listening to live music approving and disapproving of each other’s dates.
What I failed to factor in was Dustin’s age. At 21, his immaturity eventually dominated. Taking on the role of the 30-year-old big sister from the start, I realized he didn’t see me that way. Our third roommate, Lindsay, a 23-year-old real estate broker grew jealous of our closeness, and she often muttered to me, “Dustin’s so in love with you, don’t you see it?” She started spending less time at home and more time at her boyfriend’s apartment. Whenever she did come home, she and Dustin argued.
“I don’t know who the hell you think you are! That was my deal to close,” she hissed at him. The fact that they worked at the same real estate office destined the home situation to never feel like home. He used her erratic, emotional behavior as his reason for leaving. I was hurt that I wasn’t reason enough for him to stay.
What began as a cold-sore-inducing, stress-soaked panic led to one of the most natural matchmaking events I’ve ever participated in. Within hours of posting on Craigslist, my email inbox was flooded with prospects eager to see the open bedroom in my East Village apartment. I booked appointments with the ease of a broker, allocating half hour slots to interview each candidate.
A 20-year-old NYU student, who summered in Paris and wintered in Switzerland, twirled her shiny, perfectly straight hair around her finger as her long eyelashes fluttered, mocking my own mascara-smudged lids. We carried on with her for over an hour like we were instant best friends, but as soon as she left; Lindsay and I looked at each other and simultaneously blurted out, “Too pretty!” What a relief; I thought Lindsay had really liked her.
“She’d steal our boyfriends,” she muttered.“She’s too educated, too rich, too worldly. For god’s sake, she speaks six languages and is a size 2!” I added.
“She’s the girl for me, and we’re meant to be together. And I’ve found a place on the other side of Tompkins Square, so this is perfect for her. I’ll only be two blocks away, and I’ll be here, and we’ll get back together, and everything is going to be OK. She’s it. She’s the one. We met in college and I knew…” he blabbered on, while pushing his greasy black hair behind one ear. I eyed the fire escape.After that episode, we decided it was best to go for a male roommate. There were enough female hormones raging in Apartment One. When I opened my front door the following night, I was stunned by the amount of tall, good-looking, educated contenders. Who knew there were so many hot, apartment-less men in New York City?
When Jarett called to say he was on his way, we snuck a glance out the window facing First Avenue. We saw a cute guy in beige cords and a green hoodie jog across the intersection. We prayed it was him. It was.
“So it’s $1,275 a month, and one month’s security,” I said, gauging his interest.
“Yeah, that’s cool, that’s cool.”
“Tell us about yourself. You said you played for a team?” Lindsay had said he was a professional football player. I knew it was highly unlikely that an NFL player wanted to live in a former East Village tenement, but you never know.
“Yeah, I play professional lacrosse—not football—for the team in New York. We practice in Jersey, but play at the Garden.”
We were hypnotized by his shaggy, brown hair, blue eyes and chiseled jaw line; he could have been reciting the ABCs for all we cared.
When I saw his number on my cell the next day, I got just as excited as I do when a new love interest calls. But I quickly reminded myself that he was calling about the apartment status—not about my dating status.
Although Jarett was hot, professional lacrosse players do not make loot. The fact was that his hotness was not going to be able to pay the rent. And even though the thought of having his equally strapping teammates lounging on my couch was appealing, unless they stuffed a collection jar with each visit, Jarett still wasn’t going to be able to foot the bill.
With Zack, the crazed financier, funds wouldn’t be a problem. But when he let it slip that he snacked on meds like candy and had seen 25 apartments and no one had called him back, the red flags looming were too large to ignore.
Lincoln, the bartender/aspiring writer/perpetual night owl, towered over us at 6-foot-3, with wild brown curly hair and piercing green eyes. He put his feet up on the coffee table and I eyed him curiously. “Is Lincoln your real name?”
“No…no, it isn’t.”
“Why, would you ask him that?” Lindsay said, flashing me a raised eyebrow.
“Because I have an unusual name, and people always ask me,” I said.
“It was my grandfather’s name, and I took it because he raised me,” he said with a southern drawl, cutting us both off. His eyes said there was a lot more to that story, but he wasn’t sharing.
An hour later, the suave Romain sailed into the apartment. He was a French import who worked for a leather company. I resisted the urge to run my fingers through his dirty blond hair and asked if he always wore a suit when going to look at an apartment.
He gave me a half-cocked grin. “I like jeeenz, I likez them a lot, but no today.” My knees buckled as Lindsay and I giggled like schoolgirls. Could we really live with someone that we both wanted to pounce on? I Googled him the next day at work and found he had been a model in Paris. No surprise.
Eager to get someone in by Christmas, we chose the one with the most stable job—Romain the Frenchman. But when I called him a few days later, he said, “Sorreee, I found zeh notha place.” Why do the French have a way of even making a rejection sound sexy?
I weighed the other prospects. Is this what settling felt like? Knowing that it would take a night owl to sync with Lindsay, I chose Lincoln the bartender, and she agreed. He moved in the next day.
By Christmas, I had a new roommate and a new playmate. Romain, the Frenchman who chose an apartment three blocks away, wanted someone to join him for tapas and flamenco dancing at Xunta on First Avenue. I stamped my heels in delight and flew down my stairs to meet him.
After my birthday party, I invited him up to see the apartment a second time, with a slurred “Do you want to see my Christmas tree?” Although I suspected he was gay, he proved he wasn’t when he threw me down on the bed, slamming my bedroom door behind him. “I want to make love to you,” he whispered in my ear. Maybe he didn’t know how to say, “I want to have sex” in English? It wouldn’t matter, because I was out cold 10 minutes later. Two pitchers of sangria can do that to a girl. But there’s always next time. And maybe when the dating pool runs dry, it will be around the same time Lincoln is eager to move out.