Something in my coffee was suddenly very interesting as I avoided her eyes. I’d been sharing an apartment with Jackie for a little less than two months, but already I could see she had an unhealthy love for what she saw as the “New York City Lifestyle” – developed with precision while watching too many episodes of Sex and the City. Jackie had grown up in Brooklyn (No, not Park Slope.), so the stereotype of “midwestern girl gone wild” didn’t apply. She’d told me once that she wanted to “be the fire, not the coal.” Whatever that means.
I couldn’t care less how many nameless bodies she smushed up against. (Yes, she called sex “smushing.”) It wasn’t my business, and since she didn’t bring these guys to our apartment, it wasn’t an inconvenience. What did bother me was that I knew this character she was playing was fake. I knew that Jackie wasn’t okay with any of that. For some reason, she wanted me to be shocked, but very little shocks me anymore. For some reason, because I was holding down a job that had me up and out of the apartment by 6 am, she thought I was mild-mannered and innocent. Funny.
Or maybe it was because I wasn’t from The City. Jackie did hang onto that “Oh, you must be from Ohio” attitude that so many native New Yorkers ooze. I’m not from Ohio, but if I were, I still wouldn’t be shocked. There are women who smush up against nameless bodies all over the place.
“So anyway, he works at that bar on Avenue B we went to a couple of weeks ago. Remember?” She stuck her head out like a turtle, widening her eyes, trying to get me to look at her. I raised my head to focus on the wall behind her head. I pursed my lips, as if I were trying to remember.
I stirred my coffee. “Right. With the watery sangria. Boxcar.” I remembered friendly bartenders and sticky floors from the time we’d stopped in after a Sunday brunch across the street.
“Yes! Well, let’s just say we can’t go back there again.” Jackie’s hand came down with a thud on the counter, and her laugh sounded like a wheezing hyena unable to decide whether scavenging was her destiny or her curse.
For the first time, I was glad that Jackie had insisted the lease stay in her name only. Sipping my coffee, I knew I’d be spending the afternoon starting the search for a cheap studio apartment on a high floor, with a window facing west.