Sterling Place

Clarice, my landlady, lives downstairs with her daughter, Veronica. Veronica is twelve. Every day I forgive Veronica for caterwauling R&B tween ballads first thing in the morning, and for screaming while she gets her hair combed out. I’m not sure what she forgives me for, but we have managed to become great pals. When she’s happy she cackles like a banshee. She took Ranger Tim aside on his July visit. “Are you her boyfriend?”
    “I don’t know,” he said, “You’ll have to ask her.”
    She shook her head. “I don’t know, Tim. That sounds baaad.”

I’ve lived here since May. It’s the top floor of a beautiful, ramshackle brownstone, and the first place I’ve lived in that’s been mine alone. I love it. I love its airy rooms, its picture rails and pocket doors, its scuffed oak floors and enormous bathroom. I love the light that streams in to wake me every morning, and the view of the Williamsburg Savings Bank flipping Manhattan the bird. When friends visit I force them to admire my walk-in closets, a great prize in New York, and gloss over the fact that my galley kitchen requires snake-hipped cooks.

There’s a blizzard outside today, “from Canada”, say the newscasters with a note of blame. The north wind is spraying fine snow into banks that look pillowy enough to dive into from my third-floor window. The radiator in my bedroom isn’t working, and the old sash windows whistle with Canadian wind, so I’m bundled up in the living room, playing with my new Mac. Outside, my neighbors are smudges of New York black shovelling clean snow.

It’s a mistake to fall for a rental apartment, I’ve found. I’ve loved four: one in Dublin, one in London, and two in Brooklyn. Those are the four I’ve spent the least time in. Last week I called Clarice to tell her I’d taken a job in San Francisco, and I’m packing up once more. Yesterday she came to sit in my living room.

    “How long are you going for?” I told her it’s a permanent job. She thought for a bit. Then she said “I want you back. I’ll sublet for a year. You mightn’t like California. They’re kind of flaky out there. Not like Brooklyn people.”

I wanted to cry. “I have to think about how to tell Veronica,” she said. “She’ll be so disappointed Miss Dervala is leaving.” We called her upstairs, and Clarice cleared her throat. “Ronnie, some bad news. Miss Dervala found another opportunity, and she’s going to California. That means she won’t be living here with us any more. But she’ll be here for another few weeks, and you can visit with her and hang out in the meantime.”

    “Oh,” said my sweet Veronica, and shrugged. Whatever. “Mommy, can I try your lipstick?”

2 thoughts on “Sterling Place”

  1. “my galley kitchen requires snake-hipped cooks.”

    What a brilliant feed back system-you do too much cooking and you can’t fit back into the kitchen until you lose some weight. Maybe you should patent it.
    Congratulations on the new job and city. I confess to finding NY scary and SF more on the lines of a European city.
    And yes, I too resent the way you negleccted your blogging duties while you were off gallivanting and ENJOYING YOURSELF.
    Best of luck with the move.



  2. See, Brooklyn to me is almost like a medieval European city. Everybody walks. The buildings are on a human scale. We still go to the butcher, baker, and candlestick maker rather than to big-box hypermarket. There are lots of public green spaces, independent cafes, and libraries. It’s very old-fashioned and very humane.

    Those aren’t values that people outside New York associate with the city, but they’re what make me feel at home here. Far more than the in-your-face energy of movie cliche, which isn’t my style at all.


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