In February 1981 I lay in bed, 23 years old, in the tiny studio apartment that belonged to my friend Thea on Sixth Avenue and 9th Street. I lay in the dark, on my back. I had just called Jeffrey, my boyfriend whom I’d just that day left behind in Los Angeles. He’d been my boyfriend for five years. No one else I knew had had a boyfriend that long. We were practically a married couple by the standards I knew, one good reason to break up. There were many others and in fact we’d been breaking up over the past year and staying together at the same time. I was in New York because my job had moved me back, a move I leapt at: a return to my favorite city and a way to leave Jeffrey.
And then, that night, it felt awful. Thea was away on a modeling assignment for Vogue in St. Bart’s. I didn’t have other friends in New York City. I hadn’t thought that would matter. I hadn’t had friends since I was 12. At least, I hadn’t felt at ease with people since then. But I had thought that coming back to Manhattan would turn me into Annie Hall instantly, that instantly I would be in a different movie. But that night in Thea’s tiny unfriendly hip apartment, it felt like the same movie, just emptier.
So I had called Jeffrey, the distinct gravelly sound of his voice, coming from one side of his mouth as he leaned his head back on the brown couch and watched the TV screen, helped. Just to talk to someone who knew me. I wanted a new boyfriend, but one who knew me like this one did, one who loved me like this one had. But a different one. One who was interested in new things. Like maybe yoga and meditation that I had just started learning about. Or astrology and tarot, like my sister liked. Or health food. Jeffrey was rare steak and Coca Cola all the way. With drugs. That part was fine with me – the pot, the coke, the acid. We hadn’t gone beyond the pale into the really hard stuff. I wanted to drug myself as much as I could, but there was always some mysterious force that held me back from going completely over the edge.
I knew exactly where Jeffrey was when I called him. I knew he was sitting on the brown couch we’d bought at the Salvation Army exactly three years previous, when we’d first gotten to L.A. after spending a month driving cross-country with his black Manx cat, in his uncle’s old Mercedes Benz with Jeffrey’s mix-tapes going the whole way, smoking joints tightly rolled for us by Buf, Jeffrey’s younger sister who was two weeks older than me, and not with us.
I knew where Jeffrey would be because Jeffrey was pretty much in the same place at a certain time as he’d been the day before and the day before that. So I knew he was on the brown couch, that the TV was on, that he was cooking and getting high with the long blue ceramic pipe shaped like a wizard that he had bought in San Francisco. Part of me wanted to be back there with him, and part of me knew I had finally escaped and that I had been desperate there and could never go back.