There is a building on Greene Street, exactly one block away from my boss's converted loft, you wouldn't notice that there was a door necessarily, if you weren't looking for it, it's green I think, heavy and wooden and in need of a paint job, like it was made from the top of an old picnic table. I know someone who lives there. His name is Eliot and he has been living in the same apartment since the mid-seventies when he ran a nightclub called Reno Sweeney in the West Village. He is an old friend of my mother's.
Before Saturday, Eliot and my mother had not seen one another since 1973 when she was younger than I am now, but not by much, and she was exceedingly beautiful. "Whenever we wanted anything we always had Debra ask for it," Eliot said, "because she was so lovely nobody could say no to her."
"And you paid for it, didn't you!" my mom responded, laughing broadly, showing off the gap between her teeth that accounted for some of her power to bewitch, "I never had a cent!"
Eliot's apartment is on the top floor, and there is no elevator. There isn't even a proper stairwell. The stairs stretch directly up from the door, like they might if they led to a monument or to a court house. They are worse for the wear; I seem to remember the stairs sagging in the middle, giving the impression of a resigned old hag, guarding the stubborn inhabitants who refuse to give up their insanely affordable living accomodations for modern conveniences like an elevator.
"I just had a hip replaced," he told us as he took the last few stairs. "Go on in, its open."
The walls are real wood paneling and there are shelves everywhere for books and CDs and DVDs. Everything is custom designed, custom built, not that it's fancy, but it shows forethought. Its bespoke, I suppose you could say, down to the specially made file cabinets where Elliot stores packets of original printings of the posters he designed for the club. There is one of Edith Beale, "Little Edie" from Grey Gardens that I have to show you because it is amazing.
A lot of the people that Eliot and my mother knew from back then have died of AIDS.
It didn't seem at all strange to Eliot that I was there with my mother, with the black hair and dark eyes she gave me, not as beautiful as she was but comparably quirky. On Saturday we'd even dressed similarly: she in a long white blouse with an antique onyx pin at the throat and matching earrings, me in a white blouse and an oversized shapely summer hat. He chatted on about his life, his parents and siblings, his career in the music business. He talked about the club.
There is an old dumbwaiter near the windows. A support beam in the kitchen is covered in buttons, the pin kind, and there's a bowl filled with matches. The DVDs are organized by year. There is an antique stove in the living area and a bed covered with boxes.
"I've given my life to this apartment," Eliot said. "I am going to die here." And it didn't seem sad. Nothing about the place was sad or lonely at all. It was full of life; full of a life. Or lives. The place practically teemed with the past.