Sure, we had to hopscotch over lamb's blood to get to the club, but that was just a normal Tuesday night at Jackie 60, where a dose of house never came cheap. We were dressed in Y2K chic to mark the year the lights were supposed to go out, as if we needed a glitch to produce chaos, as if the Meatpacking District weren't already dripping with it. I lived in a tiny room in the Bronx, so naturally, I was always hustling for places to sleep in Manhattan. That's how I met Brock. He was 24, a year older than I was. Six foot, jet black hair and blue eyes, a smile that squirmed off his face and confessed mischief. I stared his clothes up and down. What exactly is this? Obsolescence, he said, and gave me one of his two beers. I tongued his dimples while we watched the performers flog each other in haute couture speckled with the rainbow shrapnel of smashed iMac G3 computers. Millennial angst was new, and it looked good in vinyl. Our night crumbled a little more perfectly at Brock's place in Gramercy Park, where I laid him down and inhaled his intoxicating odor, a mixture of shaving cream, hops, and a type of overconfidence I couldn't specify. His brow cast a most gorgeous shadow over his face at sunrise, eclipsing a calm frown. I wrote my pager number on the inside of a Heineken label and left while he was still asleep. Why he was peeling the labels off, I had no idea.
I noticed the trouble right away: There was no direct way to get home to the Bronx on public transit. I had to walk two long blocks to the Lexington Avenue IRT. A subway on Second Avenue would've made the trip quicker by about 20 minutes. I wondered why the grid was missing a line, a question every naive, thrill-seeking Canadian eventually asks after landing in the city. [End Page 97] I understood that the subway wasn't merely a place of vast subterranean pigeon migrations, token-sucking and card-bending scams, secret stations and flash mobs, magicians and Michael Jackson impersonators. It wasn't only the place where the NYPD, acting on orders from Mayor Giuliani, choked kink to a gasp and smothered all evidence of non-vanilla life. It was also a giant disconnect: the gap between the train and the platform, the noise that cut off conversations, the maintenance work that forced unfamiliar routes, the bad directions that could get you lost for hours. A missing line seemed to fit right in, and the potential for heartbreak was everywhere.
At last, a few days later, my pager beeped a Manhattan number. I would have to take the long way back, and that's when our trouble officially began.
Brock lived in a ritzy two-bedroom that was five times my rent. He shared it with a roommate who was almost never there. Most nights, I arrived at the apartment the minute Brock got home from Lord & Taylor, a department store where he was a buyer for baby clothes. Laity, he called it. I would strip his suit off at the door, my baby's clothes. When we got bored of the new high-speed DSL, we ordered DVDs and other items from Urban Fetch, who promised to deliver anything in under an hour: beer, PEZ, wood-fired pizza, cigarettes. The dot-com era was messing with the order of things. The neighborhood was already gentrified, but it still managed to take white privilege to new lows. Pete's Tavern had to compete with new boutique gin bars, while luxury condos went up, and no new affordable housing was being built. The keys to the locked gates of Gramercy Park—one of the few private parks in the city—were mythical. Neither of us had ever seen one. We lived in our bubble of ignorant happiness, eating takeout until we had killed the last of the sit-downs.
I loved Brock because he wasn't trying to change me. He knew I shucked pants...