New York City says be nice even though you don’t mean it. It’s all about the money after all.
March 14, 2015.
I ask her if this is the window where the sun normally comes in.
“I hate the light”, she says with a frigid air, “that’s why I put that mattress behind the window. Now there’s no more sun coming in.”
I try hard to relate to that. Or her. This girl is a German jewel designer. Her nose is wrapped in bandages because of “some surgery”. This is my third day looking for houses. Her loft in Greenpoint is on street level and the room she’s renting out has an old Chinese bed in which “people usually relive experiences from previous lives.”
“Yes.” Previous lives in China? There’s no windows.
We sit down at the table.
“So the price of the room is one thousand four hundred?”
“Yes, but you have a girlfriend coming, right?”
“In that case I just ask three hundred per week extra”, she says with astonishing ease, “living with one other person is already hard enough.”
In silence I do the math. With Jo being here for three weeks in April, this three by four meter room without windows would cost me two thousand three hundred dollars.
“Okay”, I say and stand up, “can I have another look around?”
“Of course, take your time.”
Contrary to what she just said, she stands up and with her left hand she gently pushes me toward the door. “The next people are coming in five minutes. Bye.”
This room business is wearing me out. I am getting desperate. A Bushwick room with a bursted window at street level next to the noise of the train bridge is one thousand two hundred dollars. Another loft room without windows but with venomous roommates is eight hundred for two weeks. The more fashionable or interesting the landlords, the less nice they turn out to be.
Alone on the empty street, I cough hard. I am getting sick. Three out of four landlords I’ve shaken hands with were sneezing and coughing. The temperature outside sways from minus fifteen to plus eighteen and back. I am feeling dizzy and cold.
In a last-ditch effort, I take the train to the Williamsburg-Bushwick McKibbin lofts, a hipster hotspot. Though dangerously close to an infamous social housing project, the last written reports of violent muggings at gunpoint date four years back. David, a Paris-born French kid, is renting out rooms in his loft at almost ludicrously low prices. I am one of more than ten people coming to see his place tonight, which is coincidentally also David’s birthday.
Coughing, barely standing, I look for the bar David told us to meet at. There is no bar. There’s nobody else around looking for it. From the distance, I see a girl walking this way. Blonde. As in suicide blonde. Despite the frost, she is wearing an ultra-mini skirt with stay-up stockings under a four-button babydoll black wool-blend coat. I wander in her direction but she suddenly steps into the entrance hall. A chubby guy in a blue shirt is awaiting her. He caresses her hair, moves his hands up and down her back. They embrace and kiss. Passionately but slow.
I walk on and try to call David, to no avail. The blonde comes out of the entrance hall and comes my direction.
“Excuse me?”, I ask.
She ignores me.
“Excuse me”, I ask again, louder.
“I don’t know where I am”, she says, cold as the night, and she walks on.
David is not here. I call. Shortly after he sends me a message, changing the address of the meeting. It turns out he’s not renting out rooms at all. He just wants to have a lot of people at his birthday party in Manhattan. The next morning I am too sick to get out of bed.