The east is social. I dont like it out west, Peter informed me.
Peter was from Prague and, like us other particles of dust, had been vacuumed up by the addiction of New York City. He rented the apartment across the hall on the fifth floor of the 9th Avenue walk-up. We all paid rent to Bobby, our Greek landlord, who could only be tracked down at the Galaxy Diner up the street. Two phone numbers (one a cellular), a beeper, AND a secretary...and it still took days to find him. Well, unless you had an itch for some late-night apple pie.
Everybody has their own car out west and stays in their own space...it is very anti-social.
We nodded at one another with squinted eyes as I put my keys in the lock and said goodnight. Anti-social out west...social in the east... Hmm! I thought in the temporary quiet. Then, why is it eyes shift downward when they meet another pair on the subway? And, when you emerge from your underground flight, you cease to see all the people because there are simply so many? What you see, rather, is an atom called Manhattan. A mass of individuals, bumping neutrons and electrons, within the island's cell walls. And, nobody talks to strangers.
"He was so handsome," she told me when she got home, "sooo good looking. I totally noticed him right away. Slick suit, sunglasses, skin and hair - dark. From the corner of my eye I saw that he noticed me too. Then 86th Street came so I had to get off...oh well. But suddenly there he was, walking next to me."
"So, ya live around ere?" As he continued to speak I thought, Oh no, NO! Damn. Seriously, it was one of those moments that you just want to put your fingers over the lips and say, No. No. Dont speak...no, shhh. Just stand still and let me look at you.
One of Lisa's many. We put him on the shelf labeled The Male Betty Boop © 1996 - an absorptive figurine complete with a vocal misfortune. She shook her head and looked down at her salad dappled with sushi rolls from the deli on the corner of 55th and 8th. After 5 o'clock, the salad bar-by-the-pound price dropped to $2.99.
"So, we talked," Lisa went on, "Where ya heading, this and that, and after we stood on the corner for a while he asked if I wanted to go out sometime...He was just so hot...I mean, bee-yoo-teeful man...gorrrrgeousI couldn't help myself. And, wealthy. Name's Mark, a trader on Wall Street, originally from New Jersey...he told me all about it. Anyway, I wrote down my phone service number so he would not be able to track me at home, just in case. In the midst of handing him the used gum wrapper on which I had written, I said, 'Ok, but prrrromise me that you are not some kind of subway-stalker-psychopath.'
And he chuckled. And they giggled. And he promised.
It only took Mark a few days to not only track down our home phone number, but our address and where Lisa worked. Once he proceeded to roller blade to both locations due to a string of not-returned phone calls, our eyebrows raised. But he persisted bi-daily and Lisa agreed to a date with Mark, the Wall Street Trader. To shut him up. Inevitably, she couldn't go through with it.
"Look, Im a sensitive guy," he convicted when she excused herself moments before Happy Hour. For twenty minutes he yanked her ponytail with club in hand while proclaiming everything he thought a woman would want to hear. She said maybe another time.
For the following thirty-six hours, Mark left message after message... "Cmon, I am a really sensitive guy so if you don't want to go out wit me, just communicate that...I'm all about communication. I really just want to get to know you, ya kno? So, if you dont want to get t'getha, just say so. I can tell when someone's dodging me, ya kno. I mean, I don't mean to sound paranoid but I am really in touch wit my feelings. I am a really sensitive guy...annnd, I need to express myself openly."
And nobody talks to strangers.
Jenny Lorant is a writer, editor and teacher living in San Francisco.