Mar 16, 2015

Perils of Life in the Village: My Roommate Tries to "Make" My New Boyfriend

I thought apartments in the Castro were difficult to come by, but when I moved to New York in 1997, Manhattan turned out to be a hundred times worse.

Not just the gay neighborhoods.  Anywhere in Manhattan.

300 square foot studios with cockroaches and no hot water started at $2000 per month.

There was an infinite variety of apartment sharing arrangements: during the week but not on weekends; from 6 am to 6 pm every other day; alternate Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays; the couch in the living room; a walk-in closet in the bedroom.

Some guys lived in an ingenious jigsaw of two-day-a-week or three-nights-a-week rentals in horrible apartments with crazy roommates.

I was interviewed by a dozen or so bizzarre and insane guys in horrible apartments before I landed the dream roommate: Edward, an art appraiser who spent most of his time in Europe: in his 60s, tall, husky, white-haired,  slightly feminine.

 He had a beautiful three-bedroom, two bath apartment on East 13th Street, on the border between the East and West Villages, at the heart of the gay community.

It was rent-controlled, and cheap by New York standards: my share was only $700 per month, less than half of my take-home salary at the time.

Besides, the living room was almost entirely occupied by floor-to-ceiling bookcases, filled with everything from the complete works of Plato to Mommy Dearest.

Of course, Edward had a few crazy rules:

1. All guests must be introduced to the other roommates, even if it was late at night and they had to be woken up.
2. There was to be no nudity in the common areas of the house.  Always wear a bathrobe.
3. No food or beverages could be consumed in the living room.

4. No porn movies could be viewed in the living room.
5. It was rude to have one's own food in the refrigerator. Everything anyone brought home, including doggy-bags from restaurants, was up for grabs.
6. The first roommate up in the morning must make a pot of coffee, even if he didn't intend to drink any.
7. The toilet seat must be left up when not in use.

It was worth it.  I stayed for three years.

Edward was not very active romantically. Sometimes he flew down to Florida to visit his partner of 30 years: "But by now it's more about our business endeavors.  We haven't been physically intimate in forever."

He never brought home a date or a hookup, and he never asked to "share" Blake or Joe. "That custom is for you young, randy hipsters!  In my day we were faithful to one person for life!"

You mean the 1970s, the heyday of the St. Mark's Baths?

In the fall of 2000,  I started dating Avi, a 25-year old Israeli studying biology at Colombia University.  He was newly out -- in fact, I was the first guy he had actually dated.

 He lived in a university dorm, so when it was time to spend the night together, we went to my place, and of course I had to wake up Edward for the introduction.  He grunted an annoyed "pleased to meet you."

But the next morning Edward was all smiles, making breakfast (a rarity) and peppering Avi with questions: "Where did you and Boomer meet? How do you like America?  Are you out to your parents?"

When I returned alone that night, Edward was gushing: "Your new boyfriend is magnificent!  Like one of those beautiful boys in a Wilhelm van Gloeden photo, or Caravaggio's Cupid in Amor Vincent Omnia.  Wherever did you find him?  How long have you been dating?"

"Last night was our third date."

"Then you're officially a couple!  We should celebrate!  Bring Avi around Friday after dinner, and we'll have champagne and cake!"

When Avi and I arrived, Edward was sitting on the couch in his underwear, a violation of Rule #2.

"Radiator malfunction, I'm afraid," he explained. "I called the superintendent. But until he gets around to fixing it, underwear will be de rigueur.   Or commando-style, if you like."

I didn't notice that it was particularly warm in the living room, but I gamely stripped down to my underwear.  Avi just took his shirt off.

"Now you lovebirds just get comfy on the couch, and I'll take care of everything."  He vanished into the kitchen and reappeared with a bottle of champagne, a soda for me, and three glasses.  Then he brought out slices of lemon cake with white frosting, a violation of Rule #3. 

"Today I picked up a quaint little video on Bleecker Street," Edward said.  "It's a bit on the risque side, but we're all adults here.  I'm sure we can handle it."

He slid A Carnival in Venice into the VCR. Porn!  A classic, but still, a violation of Rule #4!  Then he squeezed into the left side of the couch, so we were all clumped together, with Avi in the middle.

What was going on?  It was too early in the relationship for "sharing"!  Besides, you always talked about it first -- you didn't just squeeze in!

But that wasn't what Edward had in mind.  It was becoming increasingly obvious that he wanted to "make" (seduce) Avi, whether or not I participated!

But even if Ari wasn't spoken for, older never cruised younger; you always waited for the Cute Young Thing to approach you, lest you be labeled a Creepy Old Guy.

In retrospect, I could have deterred Edward.  I could have moved between him and Ari on the couch, or I could have suggested that we move to the love seat "to see the movie better."

But I didn't want to offend Edward, and maybe get kicked out of a dream apartment in the heart of the Village.

So I put my arm around Avi's shoulders and kept my eyes glued to the tv screen, ignoring Edward as he touched Ari's knee, rubbed his hand against his chest, squeezed his nipple, and finally kissed him on the neck.

I didn't think of how Avi would feel, newly out, dating for the first time, cuddling with his boyfriend and being "made" by a Creepy Old Guy at the same time.

Until it was too late.

Suddenly Avi bolted to his feet.  " have to get up early tomorrow," he stammered.  He grabbed his shirt and practically ran for the door.

"Wait -- let me take you home!"  I called.

"No thanks, I know the way.  Thanks for the cake."  The door slammed behind him.  

When I emailed Avi the next day, he explained that he would be very busy every night for the rest of his life.

See also: The Night I Became a Creepy Old Guy.