“Sorry I’m late. I got a little lost, which is sad because I used to live around the corner,” Vijay explains. “I love this area,” I reply. “Why?” he asks and sips his water. “Because I would live within blocks of Kemia, Yum Yum, Afghan Kebab House, Sosa Borella, Empanada Mama…” He does not blink or react as I run through restaurant row. Meanwhile I am nearly salivating at the mere thought of these places whose menus flash before my eyes like a vacancy / no vacancy sign.
“It’s food. You eat, you’re hungry. It’s fine.” The cruel words, “you eat, you’re hungry, it’s fine,” begin a repeating relay through my mind, wounding my inner foodie. New York is a TOUGH-ASS place to live. If you survive the first year, more or less intact, bravo! But the restaurants and Broadway shows make getting jacked on taxes palatable for me.
“Did you like living here?” I ask changing the topic, hoping he says something interesting. “It was fine. I sublet from a woman who was in shoes.” Hello salvation --- a story about a woman and her shoes? “And?” I ask. “She was nuts,” Vijay replies.
Ooooo. Better! A nutty woman AND her shoes! Perhaps there is hope for Midwestern Vee-Jay.
“Not sure if she was a buyer or supplier, but there were boxes ALL over the living room. It was a revolving door of deliverymen comin’ and goin’, takin’ and bringin’ boxes. And she’d be gone for weeks at a time so me and the other renter would be stuck dealing with the deliveries,” Vijay shares.
“Are you sure it wasn’t a cover for drugs?”
I ask this is New York after all. “No. There were too many shoes and invoices.” “Was living with her annoying?” “When it was Shoe Girl and me, it was fine. The bathroom could not handle three of us.”
I cannot imagine sharing a shower with strangers. Ever. Hotel bathrooms skeeve me out. “That wasn’t as annoyin’ as the price gougin’. She was rippin’ us off in rent,” Vijay says flags down a waitress and orders a beer.
“How did you know that?” I ask. Why does he keep “droppin’” his “g”s?! “The lease came while she was gone and I read it,” he explains. “It’s definitely an art to live in the City by passing your burden onto someone else,” I reply and smirk. When I learn how shysters operate, I am reminded that New York is like New Delhi in SOOO many ways. “That wasn’t the worst part. She went away for months at a time and started rentin’ her room out. We had random Germans, Chinese and Italians stayin’ there.” “What about safety?” I am a complete freak about precautions (though it’s not evident from how much I drink and date, or in my case, attempt to date).
“Nope. But I got the hell out when my lease was over. Where do you live?” he asks. “Washington Heights.” “You live way up there?” Vijay says with disdain in his twangy Midwestern accent. “Where do you live?” I ask, irritated by his tone. “Battery Park.” Okay, Battery Park is as far SOUTH from Hell’s Kitchen as Washington Heights is NORTH. And he just earned his third strike. One was showing up late (it’s ironic since I tried to be tardy). Two, his refusal to pronounce my name. Three, mocking the Heights.
It would be easier to be a contestant on Jeopardy than desi date!