I am in the loft on 28th Street, between 7th and 8th, on the south side. The ceiling is high – a tin ceiling, imprinted with a pattern, something from the 19th century. There is thick burgundy carpet under my feet. We take great pride in this carpet. Or Natvar does. I take great relief. The day it was installed, the months of construction were over. Natvar is proud because he says he got a bargain because he impressed the head of the carpet company so much. It does look beautiful. Before the carpet everything looked rough.
Now I wear skirts here, mostly a narrow navy blue skirt that reaches past my knees. It is a hand-me-down from Regina and made of light wool. Natvar approves of it. I wear a pink blouse made of well-ironed cotton. It has pleats down the front and buttons in the back. I bought this. I liked it. Some clothes make me look pretty and some don’t. I thought the blouse did, though it’s prim. It’s not the thriftstore clothes I used to buy, the army/navy surplus, the funny jackets.
I’ve always been very purposeful in what I wear though it doesn’t always look that way. I liked to look elegant by accident.
But I dress differently now. Natvar didn’t like my big ballooney drawstring pants. In the beginning he liked everything about me. He seemed to delight in me – we made each other feel good. But now I come up short all the time. I never do anything right. I am ugly, my clothes embarrass him. He wants me wearing clothes from Regina, wants me dressed up, even made up, and I try very hard. I do look ugly now. He’s right. And these clothes and this makeup only seem to emphasise it. But I don’t know how to see.
I am standing alone here, moving towards the front door. I am alone in the mornings. Tracy goes to work for Regina in her apartment. I guess I couldn’t be spared. I’m Natvar’s secretary. He says I’m terrible at it. But Tracy is our little one, my little sister kind of – about six years younger than me – pert, brunette, petite. She has left her home on Long Island and her young handsome, chiropractor husband who she looked so in love with when she first came to our yoga school – she’s left all that and moved in with us, to the loft bed above Mark’s desk in the cubicle we built called the office. It doesn’t have a window of course. None of the little rooms we built have windows.
The only windows are in the lobby, up at the front, big windows that swing open and look down from four flights – the top of the building – to the street below. The windows at the back are in the meditation hall so they are blocked off.
Mark has gone out to meet Natvar. He often does that. Natvar loves him to do that and I know Mark loves to get out. He can only do it if Natvar invites him. Natvar leaves every morning after breakfast. He dresses meticulously, taking his yoga clothes with him in a colorful cloth bag that he treasures, that looks still like new, that one of his clients gave him. His clients are rich. He goes to their apartments one by one, changes and gives them a private yoga class. Then he comes back for lunch.
And I have to have lunch ready when he arrives. As soon as he comes through the door we both know everything will go probably go wrong, that he has had a wonderful morning away from here, going to all these rich people’s homes, people who give him delicious cups of coffee on beautiful china, people who tell him what a wonder he is, and then he must come home to me, homely, unhappy me, who still can’t make the rice right, who can’t get a simple meal together – fresh and healthful, delicious and cheap.