Today the streets on my way to work suddenly got a lot more crowded. It was the first day of school here in New York. There were children, mostly in uniforms, all over the place today, where they’d been invisible in the previous weeks. I watched the Presbyterian children walk solemnly up to the school next to the church across the street from Elephi’s house. I saw children in school-crested polo shirts walking down Fifth Avenue. Everywhere there were children admiring their new shoes and twirling on the sidewalk.
On my way home, all the children were gone,replaced with shopping women, fashion models and paparazzi. Tonight is “Fashion’s Night Out,” the official start of Fashion Week. I work a few blocks from Bryant Park, where they’re displaying the spring lines under tents, so it’s not hard to find signs of the festivities close by. I am not at all interested in spring fashions — let me worry about winter first — but I did manage to find a couple of dresses for the wedding I have to attend in a few weeks. In the store where I bought them, as in most of the 5th Avenue shops, all the clothes were half price until 9 p.m. and where they were serving cosmos to anyone who wanted one (I passed). Fifth Avenue was like one big colorful party mixed with a hint of desperation. It was a little more than I could take. I got in, got out, and headed to my apartment, where I discovered that my street was in the process of being turned back into a street after serving as a movie set. Every where I turned, there were tall thin women in fancy dresses posing in doorways and draped over fences and trees or trying to pick their way across the cobblestoned street in their stiletto heels without breaking an ankle or a nail.
I ducked into my building and walked up the 5 flights of stairs to the apartment — my own brand of desperation brought on by the desire to be less flabby before I have to wear these dresses in public in a couple of weeks. The building has an elevator, though. It is tiny and royal blue inside with wood moldings carved in a Greek key design at the top and has a gate that closes and lets you see the doors of each floor whizzing by as you go up or down. It’s like riding inside a slightly shabby Faberge egg. I’m still recovering from last night’s marathon yoga class, in which we undertook a kriya which had us doing squats for 11 minutes. Ow. But for some reason, this didn’t stop me from taking the stairs.
When I was in this apartment 15 years ago, when the painter who lets me use it was still living here, he had a girlfriend who refused to get into the elevator. She sprinted up and down every time we went in or out. She once told me she had an Italian greyhound for a pet, which seemed perfect for her, since she was always running. She eventually ran away altogether and embarked on a quest to touch every state capitol building. I haven’t seen her since. I don’t know if she achieved her goal, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised. I never knew her especially well, but I find myself thinking of her in this building, particularly when I stop to think, “Do I take the elevator or the stairs?”
It’s been a good week here. I’ve been working hard, but getting places. Today I had a meeting that I was kind of dreading because I was afraid it wasn’t going to go well — I had to lay down the law. But it went much better than expected. And while everyone still needs to follow through on what we did there, I left feeling very competent, which is nice. One of the biggest struggles for me as a graduate student was the constant wrestling with feeling incompetent, mainly because I have so little feedback. But here, I can constantly see the fruits of my labor. It’s nice to feel like you know what you’re doing every once in a while. It makes it easier to get through those days where you feel like you haven’t got a clue.
And now, while the fashion models lounge on the front stoop, I am schlepping my sheets and towels down to the basement to wash. Because somebody has to do it. And because I’m leaving in the morning. Next time I’m back, Mr. Spy and AJ will be with me. I can’t wait.