Forget That Crowd



RENT $583.19 [rent stabilized]

SQUARE FEET 730 [one-bedroom in walk-up]

OCCUPANT Geraldine Estrada [human resources]

Victor’s Sportswear has these large brassieres in the window. They’ve been open since 1928.

A tough-looking woman was outside smoking near the bakery with the miniature cannoli. I go to the Woodside Beauty Salon. It’s great. They’re Dominican. I get my hair trimmed for $9.

It occurred to me for the first time ever while I was staring at the ornaments in the 99-cent Paradise store—aqua-blue icicles, pink swans, chandeliers three inches high, fuzzy stars, and Santa Claus playing a saxophone—that Christmas is just this two-month show with props and actors going on about the joy of giving and later they have sickening fights about who’s going to inherit what and after being reduced to a pea, everyone crawls back to their jobs, which they’re also worried about. It used to affect me but this year I’m not going to let a few snowmen get me down. I was born in the Philippines. Christmas was big there—Midnight Mass, big color parasols. It’s a Catholic country. It was like trick or treat. We would go and get all this money. When you go to St. Sebastian’s here, it’s filled. That’s when you see all the Irish come out. We go to the bar later—Donovan’s. Now, I don’t think I need to go to church. I can pray in my apartment. I’m Catholic. It’s all recitation. It’s one hour and we all know what’s going to happen in that hour.

I saw the NYU diploma on your bedroom wall and the Columbia master’s in public health. Do you come from an academic family? My father works for the Flushing post office. My parents are divorced. My father reminds me of Archie Bunker. He looked like Al Pacino when he was younger. I grew up in Elmhurst, then all over Queens.

You mentioned a pervert. I moved into an apartment, in the house of a friend of the family. It was a basement. I only had like one little window. High school graduation was my moving day. I didn’t go. I knew it was just a ceremony. I came out of the shower. I was standing there naked holding a towel. I opened the door. He was standing there. I asked him what he wanted and I gave him a tough look.

You never wanted to get stuck in Queens, you said. I always wanted to live in Manhattan. I got an apartment at 101st and Broadway. That was the one with the roaches. The dead rat in the bathroom broke the camel’s back. At first I thought it was my roommates playing a prank. The rat was huge. I was trying to, like, lift this thing up with the dustpan. I spent like seven minutes, psyching myself—You can do this. You can do this. During my college years, to go back to Queens was like going backward. I had these superficial friends. The one said, “Gerry has, like, all the qualities—except that she lives in Queens.” I was hanging out with the Sex and the City girls. I got myself out of that stupid crowd.

You came back. The lease on Broadway was expiring in one month. The landlord was jacking up the rent. I was going to get an apartment with my roommate. But she was in a wheelchair. She got hit by a car while protesting on the Brooklyn Bridge. She’s OK now. I was looking in the ads. I saw $419.59. I thought this has to be a dump. As soon as I came in, I wanted it. It was so big though I wished it looked better. The kitchen was brown, the carpeting . . . I didn’t like the neighborhood, so working-class. I’m a snob. Moving back to Queens was a necessity. I didn’t have money or a job. I paid for my tuition to both schools. I’ve been able to spend money on travel.

You’ve been here 13 years. Will you go on forever? Holy shit. I don’t want to end up like an old woman with 57 cats.