Down and Out in Gramercy Park
Too drunk to remember Paulie and Evan’s apartment number, while she buzzed every tenant’s residence, her bare legs shivered, knocking together.
“Hello?” a tenant answered.
“Evan Smith? Evan?” she drunkenly slurred.
The tenant disconnected and on she went to the next, demanding Evan. Light flurries swirled out of the white snow clouds and disappeared onto the street. The graying evening carried promise to warm up the city’s stinging cold. Arm and arm, two men walked past the screaming diminutive drunk and insisted that she stay off the crack and get out of Woodside. Ignoring the cold and the taunts, Nora continued to buzz apartments and holler Evan’s name.
Sara lay on the tall bed while Nigel pressed an ice pack on her scraped bruised knees and listened to her lament of the late morning.
“I’m just glad you were able to get away,” Sara said relieved.
“Well, he needed to rehearse; Dirty Herberts are playing Madison Square Garden in a few days,” Nigel revealed.
He adjusted the ice packs and promised his wife that everything would be okay but she would need to be patient. Sara abruptly popped up onto her elbows and claimed that her patience had been worn thin.
“She’s in-love with a man who beats her! How in the hell am I to understand or accept that?”
Nigel cleared his throat and spoke slowly, “I didn’t say you were to accept it only that you be patient with her. She’s just been through an incredible ordeal and she needs us right now.”
She pushed him and the ice from her knees and got off of the bed. From the bar, she poured herself a straight scotch and watched the flurries dissipate outside the window. Her reflection in the dark window, revealed her mussed ponytail and tired eyes. She pushed hair behind her ears and with her fingers combed her bangs. Giving up, she tore the rubber band from her hair and finished her scotch.
“You weren’t there Nigel, you haven’t seen what she’s become,” Sara said.
Not convinced, Nigel reiterated that she be patient and joined her for a drink. He noticed Sara’s long thin neck, a feature he had always found attractive, and stroked it with his fingers. Brushing him away she went on to explain how Nora had purposely destroyed her phone and that her not eating was an age-old trick she used to grab at attention. Sara insisted that Nora didn’t need friends, she needed a bloody head shrink.
“Do you hear yourself?” Nigel asked, “Jesus shitting Christ you can be so- ”
“Practical. I’m only being practical,” she interrupted and continued, “you don’t know her like I do, you never lived with, that. Nora can be a black cloud that loves to rain on everyone else’s parade. Well, you were there; you remember when we first started dating. Oh God! She would become so gloomy the moment I mentioned your coming over or us going out or whatever. It got to the point that I felt I had to invite her on our dates! Surely you remember.”
Nigel disagreed, “Well, I don’t know about that, but she was a foreigner in England and from what I recall, she was always working.”
“You bloody men see a gorgeous face and it can do no wrong.”
“Oh c’mon, that’s not fair,” Nigel offered.
“Fair or not, it’s bloody true. Look, I’m to meet my Auntie Judy in less than an hour, I have to get ready,” Sara said and started for the bathroom.
Finishing his drink, Nigel asked if she wanted him to join her and his in-law. Sara insisted that Auntie Judy would certainly frown upon the fact that he had obviously been drinking. Rather than argue with her about his tolerance for booze, Nigel refilled his tumbler and got comfortable on the couch.
Pulling up his collar, the cold flurries, now a light cold drizzle, dripped down his neck. He hurried up the sidewalk and was met with Nora’s screams.
“Evan!” she yelled, “where is he goddamn it! You have no-“ she noticed Evan and stopped.
Wiping the tiny water drops from her face she marched towards him and asked softly, “Evan, please tell me where he is, please?”
He walked passed her and went to open the apartment’s security door. Nora quickly put herself between him and the door and insisted that he tell her of Ian’s whereabouts.
“Shut up!” he hissed, “he’s gone and he wants nothing more to do with you!”
“That’s not true and you know it,” she said, “Please Evan, don’t do this.”
“Go to hell!”
He tried to grab onto her waist but Nora struggled causing him to stumble off of the step. Unable to secure her footing, Nora tripped over him and landed on her butt on the damp sidewalk.
“Stay away from my family,” he warned and slammed the door.
When they had first arrived to New York, Sara complained that the large hotels made her miss England and didn’t make her feel welcomed or comfortable. She and Nigel had spent the first week looking at boutique hotels until Sara finally changed her tune and they settled on 450 square foot hotel room at the Gramercy Park Hotel. Nigel thought of that now as he sat buzzed in the second out of four rooms of their deluxe suite.
Wrapped in a white spa robe, Sara, combing her wet hair, emerged from the bedroom. She joined him on the couch and kissed his cheek.
“What was that for?” he asked.
Sara shrugged and replied, “I dunno, can’t I kiss my husband?”
Nigel kissed her neck and slid his hand inside of her robe and played with her small nipples. He loosened the sash on her robe and felt her legs open up slightly. He tried to lift her onto his lap but was stopped.
“Nigel, not right now, I’m already late,” she claimed and jumped off of the couch.
Nigel sipped his drink and switched on the television. Curious, he watched, Phineas and Ferb work their genius on a coffee-making contraption. Overhearing Nigel’s laughter at the animated series, Sara asked what on earth he was watching.
“Nothing,” he answered and topped off his scotch.
“Okay, the cab is probably already downstairs,” she said entering the room.
She kissed his cheek, promised him a rain check and hurried out of the room.
The loud pounding on the door startled Nigel awake. He had fallen asleep in the bedroom watching a marathon of Phineas and Ferb. The pounding continued. He groggily crossed from the bedroom through the large living area, down the long hallway and opened the door. Shivering, with bleeding scraped knees and chattering teeth, like a child, Nora stood on the other side and asked to see Sara.
“My God, what happened to you?” Nigel asked and by her arm, led her into the room.
“Is she not here?” she asked trying to resist him.
Nigel shook his head and asked that she please come into the room. He watched her long legs wobble across the beige carpet and noticed how thin she had become. Her dark curls were brittle and frizzy against her sallow skin. He offered her a cup of hot tea and insisted that she change into some of Sara’s clothing. Nora insisted that she needn’t be long and that she would take a cab home.
“Your lips are blue. There isn’t a chance in hell that I’m letting you leave this hotel until you’ve had a chance to warm up. You got it?” he threatened playfully.
He offered her his complementary robe and let her take a long hot shower. Donning Sara’s slippers, Nora returned to the empty living area and noticed on the small bar, a white teapot and cup. While she poured herself some tea she called out for Nigel. He quickly returned explaining that he had made up the extra room in case she decided to stay the night. Insisting that she would be out of his hair shortly, the hot tea burned her tongue.
“You’re really no bother, my wife has run off to spend the evening with an in-law that loathes me and I’ve resorted to falling asleep in front of cartoons. So you’re company may in fact redeem my loathsome evening,” he said smiling.
Finding comfort in his familiar charms, she sat on the couch and relaxed. Nora watched him fumble with the bottle’s cap and noticed as he approached her, his slight stagger caused much of her drink to spill onto the carpet. Surprised at her feeling a tinge of shame, she laughed nervously.
“Your room is larger than my studio,” she spoke quickly, “I adore Gramercy Park. It’s always been my dream to own a townhouse here or something.”
“It’s a little large for my taste but Gramercy is lovely,” he muttered and sloppily seated himself.
“So, Robbie Johns doesn’t have you slaving tonight? Sara said that you are constantly working,” she asked taking her glass and setting it on the table.
“Oh yeah! He’s an over ambitious tyrant! I mean…he’s brilliant…but Jesus he can be a prick!” he blurted.
“I’m sure Sara gave you the low-down on our tiff this morning,” she said changing the subject.
He nodded then burst into a loud laugh. Confused, Nora sat quietly and finished her tea.
“I’m sorry, but I’d have killed to be a patron at that café. Simply priceless.”
She slapped his leg and insisted that it was not funny. Sara, she was sure hated her and because of the fight, her tights had been ruined and that probably had cost her, her job. Interrupting, he explained how it had been difficult for him to take his wife seriously as all he could imagine was she on her knees dragging Nora down the street.
“Oh stop it!” Nora ordered half-smiling.
“Wait. What do you mean you lost your job?” Nigel asked.
She shrugged and joked that the fashion world was apparently made up of conservative right-wingers rather than the God-hating, flag-burning liberals that everyone had thought it was. Apparently, according to Ms. Eva St. Claire, her lifestyle was too controversial.
“Your lifestyle?” he argued.
“I don’t know, it’s been a crap day,” she said, “and I have no idea how I ended up at Evan’s.”
She clarified for Nigel, Evan’s role in her daily sagas. Trying to salvage her self – respect, she joked how she had become the lead character of a Lifetime Movie drama. A joke wasted on a straight male, she rose and asked if she could borrow some of his wife’s clothing so she could go home.
“Are you leaving already?” Nigel asked.
“I need to sleep or this pity party is gonna get much worse,” she admitted.
“Here, at least have one drink and then we’ll call it a night,” he suggested.
They sat on the couch in a comfortable silence. Nigel rose to the window and reported that the snow had officially turned to rain.
“I didn’t have any dinner, are you hungry?” he asked
Before she could answer, Nigel was on the phone with room service, ordering burgers, fries and another bottle of scotch.
“Nigel, I’m not that hungry, I’m going to go, okay?” she asked standing.
“Please Nora, you are practically skin and bone,” he observed.
Embarrassed, she quickly scurried off into the bedroom. Vanishing into the gaping walk-in closet, her head spun wildly at the amount of clothing Sara had acquired. Many of the items, she noticed, still included their price tags. Settling on an old Juicy Couture tracksuit, one, which Nora was certain, had belonged to her at one time, she reappeared from the closet. Pulling the pants on, underneath the robe, she nearly fell over on her face. He entered the room and set her drink on the bureau, she turned her back and allowed the spa robe to fall to the floor. The tight velour jacket barely stretched over her large breasts – probably the reason she had given the jacket to Sara. He pressed his body against her back and wrapped his hand softly around her neck and unzipped the jacket. His large hands quickly covered her body and held her to him. Too weak to struggle, she allowed him to kiss and feel her. Feeling her listless malnourished frame, he stopped.
“Jesus, I’m sorry,” he said and as if at gunpoint, he held his hands up in the air and backed away from her, “I threw you away like you were nothing. I let you murder our child. How is it then that when you see me, you can manage a smile?” Nigel asked and offered her the drink.
The warm scotch soothed her achy fatigue and caused her head to swell. The large hail, beating against the windows, was deafening.
Facing him, her jacket still open, she answered, “I said it then and I’ll say it now, I’d do anything for you.”
A knock and a strong voice sounded at the door, “Room service.”