Location: Upper West Side
Rent: $750 (rent stabilized)
Square Feet: 355
Occupant: Rachel Kerr (theater director; voice professor, Long Island University and CUNY)
We have been talking two hours and here is what we know.
One day last June you came to live on the top of this gray stone building where there is a famous documentary filmmaker’s office downstairs, a screenwriter neighbor who plays his guitar on the roof, and your studio so spare with your embroidered pillowcase, a large gold picture frame without a picture, and cool air that comes through the windows.
You came here after moving 16 times since you left San Francisco in 1994. Your first New York apartment was the one with the lobby that looked like it was in Double Indemnity with stucco walls and black iron curtain rods and then came the one you sublet from the dancer in Hell’s Kitchen with the candles and rocks and the place on Convent Avenue and 145th that was beautiful but there was a leak in the ceiling that ruined your bedclothes and an insane woman in the hall shaking herself into a trance.
Your last 10 moves were in one year after you fell in love with, uh, we’ll call him X as they do in French novels, but then the relationship did not work and you said it was the oldest story in the book because it was his apartment and you had to move out and you started subletting because you were not yet in a financial position to get your own place but you could not bear living with other people’s smells, other people’s things.
The most memorable sublet was the East Village one— that was during the time you were “conned out of $1000” by professionals on the street, the wallet scam, which you said the police told you is the oldest story in the book and your friends could not understand how it happened because you are no dunderhead but you said the woman who approached you looked like women you knew in Berkeley and you were so vulnerable from all the moving. Then you sublet more places, lived with your Aunt Johanna in New Jersey, and one day a man who, oh, we’ll just call him Y, told you his sister, who is an actress in a famous
sitcom, was giving up her charming studio and he would like you to have it. So, for the first time, you had an empty apartment to fill, though you did not have much because you had been living like such an ascetic, and you told me how exhausting it was to always be saying I cannot buy that because I do not have room for it, I cannot carry it, I have to save my money to get another place though in San Francisco you used to have a very big apartment.
Now that you’re finally here in one place, you have become very homebound and are happier, though I told you about this psychiatrist, who I sat next to at a film dinner, who said New York is about going out. People who stay home get depressed. But you disagreed and said New York is also about artists who stay home to work. Then we discussed your stolen bed and how one morning you decided that you absolutely had to have an iron bed and you found one in an antique store and during your sublet travels the bed ended up on the set of a play in a loft building on Hudson and l4th Street. After the play closed, the bed mysteriously disappeared. Your good friend had also bought an iron bed, only she thought yours was cooler, so you thought she had taken yours out of spite because you had had a problem over the summer when she was directing you in the play, which was called Betrayal. Then months later someone tipped you off that a woman in the tango studio downstairs in the loft building had taken the bed and put it on her fire escape to grow plants. Just last week your good friend went with you to pick up the bed. You are speaking to each other again, and you decided that you are going to do a show together on the roof with the two iron beds. It will be a play about jealousy between two women. One last thing, it seems there is no room left for you to talk as I’ve stolen your voice. The oldest story in the book.