Dark City


Basement­First Floor Apartment in Row House

Location: Park Slope

Rent: $1575 (market)

Square Feet: 1200

Occupants: Jason Vernon (accounting
cashier, Carlyle Hotel); Yeshwant Kulasekaran
(chemistry teacher, Packer Collegiate Institute, Brooklyn Heights); Nancy Schwartzman (temp, British Telecom; film producer; photographer)

I hear you’re all leaving this huge two-story apartment soon because you’ve had to live like moles, since you hardly have any sunlight in your bedrooms. The situation is so bad that Nancy is going to leave the country. [Nancy] I’m going to Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean, where you can rent a Bauhaus apartment for $250 a month with three balconies and windows everywhere.

Your kitchen and living room are ok, but Jason has no window at all in his basement bedroom, even though it is big and looks like a party pad with the carpeting and the sound system. Jason can’t get out of bed in the morning. [Jason] I open my eyes and I see nothing and I say, Oh, well, I’ll sleep just a little bit longer. I’ve been here a year. I work 3:30 to ll:30 p.m. at the hotel, so I sleep till noon. The only time I see the sun is when I walk a few blocks to the subway. You do this five days a week and you see people who will get to go home at a normal time and . . . [Yesh] Jason, I had no idea how bad it was for you. [Jason] I had no idea either. [Nancy] I’ve been going craziest because I’ve been here the longest. [Yesh] Her bedroom’s like a dungeon. [Nancy] My window’s one by three feet.

Well, sun may be fine for some. But for others, it’s not such a picnic— the sun is too much, it presses in and forces cheerfulness and strangles a person. Like the light coming in the pink room in my Aunt Pearl’s house in Alabama in the early ’60s, pushing through the white nylon curtains, light like death, like the emptiness of nothing. Also, when the light lasts longer in the summer, like around six or seven, it is the most melancholy time, the sound of children laughing and the wop wop of a ball. Perhaps I was traumatized as a child, but do you really think Ibsen would have written Hedda Gabler sitting in a pool of sunlight in Ft. Lauderdale? Though maybe he would have, but it wouldn’t be the same, and where do you think the greatest screenplay in the history of the cinema was written, yes in L.A., but in a darkened basement— “my sister” (slap), “my daughter” (slap), “my sister” (slap)— you know, Chinatown. And also, I can’t stand all these people who like the light, those morons, the minute they see a bit of sun they throw their books away and go skipping off with beach balls. They’re so stupid. But I guess that’s mostly everybody. [Nancy] You’d like my friend Alan. He’s like a bat. We lived to-
gether at Columbia. There was one tiny room, a closet. He leapt for it.

What does Alan do? Public health. No, he’s not like a little mole. He’s really handsome, but he has these big glasses and he’d hole up for hours. [Jason] I used to live on the 12th floor of the Pace dorm that’s in the old St. George Hotel in Brooklyn Heights. I had to put tape around the closed curtain because there was too much light.

Maybe it’s not about liking light or not liking light. [Yesh] It’s about options. (Jason’s friend Robert Magara, who’s visiting, pipes up) I live south of Fulton in a studio with a small office area with two roommates. I live in the small part with no windows. [Nancy] No wonder you’re always here. [Robert] Then I go to night school.[Nancy] In Israel the light rises golden and it sets rose. You get all these fanatics talking about the light and how it’s God’s land and I said sure, but then I was crossing the street in Jerusalem and I saw it, the light was reflecting the entire city and . . .

As we talk the room is getting dark. It’s so calming. You and Alan.

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