I am by myself in this New York apartment.
The people who own this loft have lived here since 1974. They’re friends of my friends P and P. One of the Ps is my dear friend P, who reads my posts and sends me useful links. The other P is a native New Yorker who grew up on the Upper East Side.
P and P and their kids were the ones we met up with in London last year. I’ve come to love them all like family.
This is hard for me to say: “I’ve come to love them like family.” Because I don’t love them the way I loved my family—much less the way my family loved me.
Here’s how our love works: I told P at a soccer game last year that we were going to London, and she said, “Why don’t we take the Chunnel and meet you?” This sounded exotic and impossible—something that never happened in my childhood. Could I make it happen in my son’s childhood? Would I give in to fear (of spending money, spending time; that they didn’t “really” care about us)? My family never went anywhere (my sister will confirm this), and we certainly did not meet other families for vacation anywhere, to say nothing of meeting in <gasp> “foreign” cities.
But they took the Chunnel and there they were!—in Kensington. We went to the Tate, the Design Museum, Tower Hill, Chelsea.
(If I could live anywhere in the world for a while, it might be Chelsea, London’s Chelsea, specifically Tite Street, where Sargent located his studio)
P’s husband has become a mentor to my kid, who thinks he may want to study what P’s husband does for a living.
Then when I told P and P a few weeks ago that I was planning on going to New York and was investigating places to stay, they said, “You must stay with our old friends downtown.”
I’ve never stayed downtown. I’ve always stayed in Midtown or on the Upper West Side.
The way this love works is, P calls his friends in downtown New York and says, “I have a friend who needs a place to stay.” Then I email these people and they say, “Great! Let us know when you get in.” And when I show up on their doorstep, they entrust me, a stranger, with the key to their house.
This is impossible without the key ingredient of love. The love that circulates between us and P & P, the love that has circulated for decades between P & P and their downtown friends. Only connect.
“It’s a little funky,” P said. “I was a bit concerned—”
“Are you kidding?” I stopped him. “It’s full of their personalities. It’s been lived in for almost 40 years. I love the fact that the piano is covered with their art supplies. The walls are his gallery.”
“It touches me so much that you’re saying this,” he said.
Then he gave me the address of his favorite record shop, around the corner, so I can pick up something for my son.
And he told me to eat at the sandwich shop across the street.
I could have stayed in the Midtown hotel where the meeting is. I could have afforded a room by myself; or I could have tried to cut the cost by looking for a roommate to share the fee with me. But being entrusted with the key to this place is special.
The word “key” is so old that its origin is practically untraceable. It can refer to a “metal piece that works a lock,” or more figuratively “that which serves to open or explain.”
Classic: I like the figurative sense better. Addiction and alcoholism isolate and deny access. I’ve often felt shut out. The key lets me in.
What a relief to be accepted.
Now: what can I give back?