I lived above the bodega on 9th avenue at 51st street, the one with the twinkle light sign and the bulletproof glass — a remnant of the days when Hell’s Kitchen was a tough neighborhood. It was summertime. The apartment was a slim railroad with the toilet locked in a closet outside in the stairwell. The kitchen window faced an airshaft and had a pigeon’s nest. I saw pigeons, but never a pigeon chick. I still haven’t seen one after 11 years in Manhattan.
He invited me to live with him after he tried to breakup with me over coffee and dessert but couldn’t. He was a ballet dancer and I was his stage-door Johnny, waiting for him after performances and then hand-in-hand we would walk down Columbus Avenue. When I wasn’t waiting tables or for him, I wrote poems about our small apartment and locked myself out frequently. I made dinner shirtless in a kitchen the size of a table for four, and he would come up behind me and put his arms around my waist and kiss my neck. He smelled like good cologne and sweat. When I did dishes, he would do them again. We went to a barbecue in Brooklyn, ate corn on the cob and sneaked off together into a dark room and fooled around. He introduced me to Aretha Franklin’s early work. When he took showers I watched him from the kitchen table. I planted magenta geraniums in terracotta pots and set them on the windowsill in the living room. He admired them three times.
I called my mother to ask if I could borrow some money. She called back angry that I couldn’t afford to pay my rent. She said that I was being irresponsible and a bad roommate. I told her it was fine. She insisted that it wasn’t. I told her to relax. She asked why I thought I could get away with it. I told her I could because he was my boyfriend. There was silence on the other end of the phone. I sat at the kitchen table above the bodega and cried and cried.
Our bedroom was the size of a double bed. It was cramped and sexy. I’d never had a boyfriend before. I fell in love so quickly. Once he left a trail of rose petals from the front door, down the narrow hall, and into the double bedroom. He was lying there naked and waiting. After we made love I noticed the petals on the floor were yellow and that Dolly Parton said yellow roses mean goodbye.