At length, Lesli had made the transition from L.A. to NYC in fairly fine shape, getting her legs beneath her once she’d decided to accept the gig running the research library at the American Museum of Natural History.
Her next step had been to sign a lease on some digs downtown. She didn’t particularly care for the Upper East Side. “All these damn snobs,” she had groused one morning as they sat poring over the N.Y. Times classifieds to find her a crib.
Keith had to agree that his neighbors — for that matter, everybody he knew of in this part of town — thought their stuff didn’t stink. He also couldn’t give a flying figure-eight. It was nice and quiet, and the crime rate was nil.
When she picked a spot in the West Village, he wasn’t the least bit surprised. For all her pleasantly officious demeanor on the job — indeed, considering that her chief career aspiration was to be “the best organized and most efficient librarian known to bookdom,” as she’d once joked — the lady was, at heart, hardly a stuffed blouse. Truth be told, he thought her something of a bohemian.
In Vegas, when she and Lola met, Lesli had walked in the apartment and was blown away by how the place was decked out. If, back in the ‘60s, he thought, Rolling Stone had had a better housekeeping section, Lola’s crib would’ve made the front cover. You could call it immaculate funk. Faded posters in expensive frames of Jefferson Airplane at the original Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. A leg-length bong made of crystal. Leslie’s eyes were big as a kid’s in a candy shop. “Is the whole house like this?!” she’d squealed.
Lola had happily answered, “Yep. Wanna see it?”
“Yes!” Keith had wished Lesli a fun visit with Lola and beat it the hell out of there, dropping downstairs and hailing a cab, asking the driver, “Any good movies playing around town?”
Where else in Manhattan would she want to live except Greenwich Village? Two blocks from, it turned out, the old location of the Fillmore East. She could live in a cardboard box if she wanted, so long as there were strong locks on the door and a reliable security staff on duty 24-7. Which, Lesli being nothing if not sensible, there was. You can’t be casual, she knew, about safety in a big city.
So, the lady had a gig. She had digs. “And,” she had cooed, sitting around the corner from her place in one of those cool, not-too-flashy Italian restaurants, giving him that wolfish grin of hers, “last, but not least, I have my man.”
He’d grinned in return. Being last wasn’t bad. She hadn’t, after all, relocated all this way just to run behind him. The job had materialized with an outrageous hike in pay and she’d’ve been stupid not to jump all over it. That it had moved her to town, at the museum’s expense no less, had been a very, very nice plus for them both.
Over the past year, they had gathered solid ground under the relationship. Funny, he mused, how much better you can get to know someone when you live within a reasonable distance of one another. Familiarity, an old saying went, breeds contempt. Familiarity, a playboy quip went, breeds consent. In this case, Keith observed, it’s a godsend.
So, he wondered, staring out the window like the answer was waiting out there in thin air, why am I scared? The shower stopped running. He reached for another cigarette. Heard her bustling about in the bathroom and nervously lit the thing. Looked at the full ashtray and, going to empty it in the kitchen, spied Lesli crossing to his bedroom, toweling off, massaging her hair, wearing the slippers and nothing else.
He had a moment or so of grace. She’d go in there, blow-dry her hair, brush it, and not bother with a lick of makeup except, were she in the mood, lipstick. Then, it being a knock-around, late summer, early Saturday afternoon on which they planned to, at the most ambitious, find a movie to go see, she’d probably scrounge around in his dresser for a tank-top to wear and then in his closet for a thin, long-sleeved shirt to pull over it.
Without doubt, she’d wriggle her hips into some raggedy cutoff jeans (he always thought it was the same pair until he saw one morning at her flat, helping with her laundry, that she had at least three, identically threadbare skimpy pair), then step barefoot into sneakers, tennis shoes or sandals.
Wrong. He turned as Lesli sauntered in. Wearing his robe, naked beneath. She gave him a bright smile. “Well,” she said cheerfully, “am I moving in or not?”
Next week: All hell breaks loose.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.
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