THE END OF YOUTH by Peter Nolan Smith

Subletting your apartment is tricky in New York. The supers are snitches for the landlords, so subleasees have to live with utter discretion in your flat. Swedes are the best, since they are respectful of property unlike Americans.

In the early 80s I moved to Paris. Actuel Magazine offered me a job at their nightclub. $150/night and an ocean away from the Internal Affairs unit investigating the police pay-offs at the Jefferson, an after-hours hot spot on 14th Street. I told the publisher ‘oui’ and I sublet my apartment on East 10th Street during my stay in Paris to a Swedish male nurse.

Sven moonlighted as a bouncer at Danceteria. Everyone like him and he liked black chicks. I had no trouble with Sven. He paid the rent on time and helped the super with the plumbing. When I informed him that I was coming back to New York in 1986, he moved out three days before my return. The place was cleaner than I left it. Nothing was missing. Not one of my books or records or clothing. Even the old lady next door, Mrs. Adorno, said good for Sven.

“He good man. He like chocolate ladies.” The old witch was in love with the young Swede. She was only 4-10 with chronic pains from a spinal injury. “He help me with my back. I miss him already.”

“What about me?” I had been gone six years.

“Not miss you long time.” The bruja waved a hex sign. “You old man.”

“Old man.” I was 34.

“I old. I know old. You old.” Senora Adorno slammed shut the door.

I had never thought of myself as old and I asked my friends about this. They were mostly my age and we suffered from the Peter pan syndrome. We never wanted to grow up. In my heart I was 25. in my head I was 15. I was going to be young forever, despite the old bruja’s curse.

My college friends were employed as lawyers, realtors, bankers, and doctors.

Real jobs weren’t me.

Arthur Weinstein got me a spot at the door of the Milk Bar. The club on lower 7th Avenue was decorated like the Malchek Bar in CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Scottie Taylor the owner hid in an egg chair. His manager ran the bar and hired the help. She had good taste in funny people and in late-September we had a new bargirl. Shane came from the UK. Her ambition was to be a pop singer. She had dreads and a cute body. I never hit on her and she asked if I had anything against black girls.

“You’re more high yellah than black.” More Chinese than African too.

“So why don’t you take me home?” Shane was forward and I couldn’t think of a single reason for not taking up her offer. I was single. She was over 18. We rode on my Yamaha 650 to East 10th Street. As I parked my motorcycle on the sidewalk Shane looked up at the building.

“What?”

“I’ve been here before.” The declaration wasn’t based on deja vu.

“Let me guess.” There was only one explanation. “With Sven.”

“Yes.” She followed me upstairs without any danger of her disappearing my Orpheus’ dead wife. I had a joint and she liked smoking weed. All Rasta girls do. Once inside the apartment she picked up an LP. The Mothers of Invention’s FREAK OUT. I put it on the stereo.

Hearing HELP I’M A ROCK Shane laughed.

“I was here more than once. I would look at the records and wonder who lived here.”

“Who did you think it was?” My apartment was cool. All wood like a rural shack. Bathtub in the kitchen and water closet in the back. It was a museum to the past.

“Seeing these LPs I thought it was some old hippie.”

“Old hippie.” I had long hair in the 60s. Mrs. Adorno was right. I was old. It was the first time anyone said that about me. I couldn’t bring myself to make love with Shane. No newly old man could even to resurrect his youth in a young woman’s flesh. I didn’t have such a problem later in life, because old can get very old without the young.

One Comment

  1. Rob
    Posted May 8, 2011 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I remember that bartender – she had somewhat of an overbite – really long dreads and was light mocca colored – I remember she hooked up with a dude, can’t remember his name, they’d been a couple for many summers thereafter – believe it or not I think I saw her not long ago in Chelsea, 22nd and 6th – I LOVE THIS Web-a-zine!!! You’re amazing Pete!

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