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Andrew’s Apartment II: Come As Your Favorite Whore

[Note: this is the second part of “Andrew’s Apartment” and can be read separately, but they work better together].

My roommate in East Hall was a “townie” who had graduated at the top of her class from Oberlin High School, headed to a prestigious womens’ college on the East coast, and transferred to Oberlin for reasons never entirely clear to me. Her family was conservative politically and socially, and reminded me of characters from a 1950s sitcom; her father with a flat top haircut and large glasses with black plastic frames, her mother in a dress or what could only be called “slacks,” reading glasses on a chain around her neck, sensible shoes and no makeup. In the early 1980s her parents were a trope; going to their house for dinner was like turning a corner and finding oneself at the home of Aunt Bee’s dowdy, bookish neighbors.

Betsy, their daughter, my roommate, was smart, and funny, and earnest. A good friend, a hard worker, a runner, she washed her face every night with Noxema and a washcloth, and returned to her half of the room smelling of eucalyptus and virtue. I knew she was a better person than I would ever be, and while part of me slipped easily into our domestic routine of breakfast together, dinner together, mutual respect for quiet study and Saturday nights eating blueberry whole wheat doughnuts from Gibson’s and maybe drinking a little “near beer” at the Rathskeller, I sometimes longed for something darker. I often longed for something darker. I smoked, I pined for gay men, I bought every black, vintage garment I could afford, and still I knew that beneath it all I was really the same kind of nice girl in jeans and a Fair Isle sweater that Betsy was. I loved her, I really did, but I also had the need to make myself separate, as if she were my surrogate parent there in the cornfields of Ohio. Every good thing she did made me want, just a little, to drink straight gin until I threw up, and have sex with strangers, and smoke unfiltered Camels. Unfortunately, no one was offering me any of those options.

When Andrew invited me to the “Come As Your Favorite Whore” party at his apartment over the Taproom, I was ecstatic. Then terrified. We were in Modern American Novels, Andrew and I, and on my other side was Max,Β  the guy who lived across the hall from me, a tall, lanky English Major type who would eventually become an artist of some reknown. Professor Gammon rustled papers at the podium, and I asked Andrew what one wore to such a party.

“Oh,” he answered vaguely, “I don’t really dress for it…lots of drag, the girls dress up in fishnets and heels…you know.” I had no idea. Honestly, I did not have a favorite whore; I wasn’t sure I had ever actually seen one, even when I lived in Boston. Sweetheart that he was, Andrew saw the panic in my face. “It’s okay, doll; you’ll figure it out. Borrow. Borrow from your roommate, and look at all your stuff. You’ll find things.” On my other side, Max snorted.

“Her roommate is, like, the dullest person in the entire world.” He said as Gammon cleared his throat. Half of my brain was on the lecture, he was talking about A Modern Instance by William Dean Howells, I was thinking about my clothes, what I owned that could be worn by a whore, what did whores wear, was Betsy really that boring, if she was really that boring, did people like Max think I was just like her, but no, because if he thought that he wouldn’t have said she was boring in front of me, so clearly, CLEARLY he was saying that she was dull but I was not, and that felt so good that I warmed, and then so bad and disloyal that I felt a stone grow in my stomach. I loved her, I loved the cozy, safe warmth and predictability of having a best friend living in the other half of my room. Couldn’t I also have fishnets, and gin?

The night of the Come As Your Favorite Whore party was cold and windy. I had cobbled together an outfit which included a black skirt rolled at the top to make it short, a black cardigan unbuttoned low enough to show cleavage, and black tights with a couple of holes in them. I didn’t have high heels, and could not have walked across the cobbled Quad in them anyway, so I wore black flats. I had dangly earrings, teased hair and what I believed to be a whorish jangle of makeup bought cheap at the Ben Franklin – red lips, blue eyelids, glittery pink cheeks. Betsy, about to be abandoned by me on a Saturday night, helped me get ready. I noticed that she looked bemused as she cut a little hole in my stocking, and tried to hide the giant bulge at my waist caused by rolling the top of the skirt. Maybe I was my favorite pregnant whore. I was mostly terrified; I had not been back to Andrew’s apartment since the day in the fall when I had met Amy and found her mouton jacket. He said she had specifically told him to invite me. I could not imagine what this party would entail, and if I would know what to do. I chain smoked which, oddly, Betsy didn’t mind; her father was a smoker and she said it reminded her of home.

With my vintage tweed overcoat over my whore ensemble, I left the safe plastic lounge chairs and carpeted halls of East, and headed across the Quad into town, to the Taproom. I could hear it from the street, and I could see silhouetted in the second floor windows, bodies moving. Walking, dancing, bottles in hands. I had very little experience with parties; I had avoided them in high school, there hadn’t been any during my brief tenure at the Conservatory. At Oberlin I had hung out with groups in dorm rooms or lounges, but I had never been to a party off campus, and certainly not with the Persons in Black, who wielded all psychic power in my 20-year-old universe. I pushed the buzzer, and was allowed in. I smelled smoke, beer, perfume, sweat, wet wool, burnt coffee, and old books; as I climbed the stairs, I heard music I didn’t know, loud, percussive, a singer with a flat, nasal voice. At the top of the stairs there were people everywhere, seemingly impenetrable, and I could not see a face that I knew. No Andrew, no Amy, not even any of the roommates. I started to push my way in between a tall, beautiful man in drag, and a small, pale girl wearing what seemed to be a bikini and white vinyl boots. I stepped on her foot.

“Ouch!” she said, both of them looking at me as if I had only recently been removed from the bottom of a shoe. “Fucking look where you’re going.”

“Sorry,” I mumbled. This was not a good start, not a good start, not a good start. To my right I saw a guy I knew from the radio station, not a friend, exactly, he being a spinner of Social Distortion and Circle Jerks, and I being a spinner of Mozart, but he knew who I was. He sat in a large armchair with a Sherlock Holmes pipe in his hand, not in costume as far as I could tell; on his lap was a famous Person in Black, granddaughter of a prominent art gallery owner in Manhattan. She had a flapper bob with straight bangs and a fluff of black curls breaking out at the end of a smooth curve of hair, her skin was bloodless pale, her eyes heavily rimmed with black and her lips filled in with matte burgundy. She wore fishnets and impossibly high heels, and a small, tight black dress with no sleeves and a neck that plunged down and was gathered around a metal ring between her breasts. She was staring into space, and did not look at me, still wearing my coat, as I approached. “Nick,” I said, “have you seen Andrew?” He looked at me and squinted, as if focusing.

“Andrew….?”

“Andrew who lives here. He invited me, I can’t find him, I don’t know anybody here, and-”

“Haven’t seen him.” He took a puff from his pipe and buried his face in the black curls. Dismissed, I looked around, wishing desperately that I could move away from Nick and his lady friend after having been completely and totally snubbed, but unwilling to give up my inch of floor space until I had a clear plan. Finally, finally I saw Andrew at the kitchen table, talking to Amy. I maneuvered across the room, bumping into arms and bodies when I looked down to avoid stepping on feet. When I got close enough, Andrew could see me, and beckoned me over.

“Annie!” he was genuinely delighted. “Let’s put your coat in my room.” I followed him; the sea of black, patchouli-scented cigarette puffers parted for him as it had not done for me. An arch of irony formed. In his room, I took off my coat and modeled my attempt at whoreishness. He smiled, benevolent as always. “You look absolutely cheap” he pronounced. “Let’s get you a drink.” I followed him back out into the party, silently pleading with him not to leave me, don’t leave me, don’t leave me, don’t leave me. The kitchen table was set up as a bar, covered with bottles of vodka, gin, mostly clear things, littered with plastic cups, and featuring a large, clear glass bowl filled half way with a variety of pills. They were quite beautiful, actually, like candy. in the corner was a keg, and sitting in a chair at the table was Amy, resplendent in a too-tight, bright blue dress with sequins and matching eyeshadow. “Amy, you remember Annie, right?” Andrew asked, gesturing to indicate that I should pick something to drink.

“Uhm, vodka and orange juice would be good” I said, smiling at Amy. We did, after all, have a bond; I was her “favorite friend of Andrew’s.”

“Why’d he come to my fucking party if he was bringing her, piece of shit fucker” she mumbled into her hand. I looked at Andrew, alarmed.

“The guy she likes came with his girlfriend” he explained. “Amy, baby, come with us and see who’s here” he tried, touching her bare, pink arm. Tears started to run down her cheeks, carrying with them a black trail of mascara.

“You’re always so nice to me, always so nice.” She stood, wobbling on pointy-toed black heels, and stepped towards Andrew. “You too,” she said, finally looking at me, “you’re so nice too. You’re Andrew’s friend. and you are soooooo nice to me. Why did he bring her, mother fucking sonofabitch?” There really wasn’t an answer to this; I stood by Andrew, he held Amy, Persons in Black, in drag, in fishnets, in clouds of smoke, broke around us like waves as they moved in for another drink, or to fish a pill out of the bowl. No one spoke to us, even the roommates, who appeared to pull another bottle out of a cupboard or pitch a few discarded cups into the trash; they smiled at Andrew, he smiled back, he kept patting Amy’s sequined back like he was burping a baby. I wasn’t really sure this was fun, I was pretty sure it wasn’t, I was under-dressed, anonymous, sad for Amy, thinking I would like either to get out and go back to my room or be drunk enough that it all seemed normal. I took a long drink of my vodka and made a second cup full.

“Can we do something for her?” I whispered to Andrew. He shook his head. He reconsidered.

“Her sister’s here, somewhere – if you can find her, maybe we can get her into bed.”

“How will I know which one is her sister?”

“She’s wearing a fur coat, a long one, with a black dress under it and black boots. Her name is Patty.” I noticed the black smudges on the front of his white button down shirt. Andrew was not dressed as his favorite whore; he was dressed as a tax accountant on a Saturday.

Back in the throng, I looked for a fur coat; it seemed that every time I was in that apartment I was looking for fur. I saw more men in drag than I had ever seen, noticing, absently that many of the men were far prettier than the women. It occurred to me that all of these people seemed to have, at their disposal, complete and upscale wardrobes of hooker-wear. I did not know a single person who owned fishnet stockings, a sequined dress or white vinyl boots. I was pretty sure I didn’t know a man who owned womens’ clothes, much less a whore outfit, but I didn’t know for sure. It was too much, too fast; wasn’t there middle ground between Betsy’s Noxema and these arch, privileged aliens?

I saw a flash of brown fur and pursued it, pivoting sideways when I need to get though a tiny opening in the crowd. I was getting better at it. The wearer of the coat fit Andrew’s description, and resembled Amy on a smaller, more slender scale. She was standing with her back to the wall, with a tall, nice looking guy in checkered slide-on shoes leaning down towards her. “Patty?” I said. She looked over, clearly annoyed.

“Yeah?”

“Um, I’m a friend of Andrew’s, and he said to find you because Amy’s having kind of a bad time.” She rolled her eyes.

“And Amy is not having a bad time exactly when….?” She took the cardigan-ed arm of the tall guy. “I’ll be back.” She turned towards me, turned back to him, grabbed the front of his sweater with both hands and pulled him down for a kiss. I willed myself invisible. “Okay,” she sighed, stepping away from him as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, “where is she?” I led her into the kitchen, where Amy was back in a chair, a cup in her hand. “What’s the problem?” Patty asked Andrew.

“Paul’s here. He brought his girlfriend.” She rolled her eyes again.

“Jesus fucking Christ. He doesn’t even really like her, either; he’s in love with Michael Porter.” She squatted in front of Amy until their eyes were level. “Amy, babes, you’ve got to stop drinking. You know you can’t drink with the meds. I don’t want to have to tell Daddy again.” Amy looked away like a baby avoiding a spoon full of Gerber squash. “You don’t want to have to go home, do you?” Amy turned her face back.

“No, but I’m so fucking sad, he brought that girl.”

“I know, babes, I know…what’s in that cup?”

“Water” answered Andrew. “We made a deal that she could have a real drink in a bit if she just had water for now.” He winked at Patty, barely perceptible.

“K. Let’s get her into bed.” Patty rose and walked to one side of Amy, Andrew to the other. Amy smiled at me as they took her arms, licking a gray tear from the corner of her lip.

“Where’r my manners. You want something?” She nodded towards the bowl of pills, “I like the blue ones. Have a blue one.” They were raising her, gently, and she turned back to me as they led her from the room. “You found my mouton!” I smiled at her, feeling wet heat stinging the back of my eyeballs.

“I’ll be right back,” Andrew told me, as they walked her, slowly, down the hall towards her room. I was an island as they swirled around me, all of the cool people, only briefly deterred by my inexplicable presence between their lithe, ironic selves and the bottles and pills on the table. I wondered, briefly, what a blue one would do for me. Andrew came back, looking tired. “I’m so, so sorry” he said, “she just takes things really hard.”

“Is she okay now?” He smiled at me, his eyes so blue, with crinkles at the corners, like everything good in the world. I loved him so much, I was so terribly sad that he was gay, I felt terrible about Amy, I wanted to go home.

“She’ll be all right. We’ve done this before. Patty put a fan on in her room so the noise isn’t as bad, and she’s sitting in there for a little while.” I nodded.

“Andrew, thanks so much for inviting me, but I think I’ve got to go back to the dorm.” He made a funny, crumple-lipped face that conveyed regret, but no surprise.

“I’ll get your coat. Hang on.” Alone in the room, waiting, I stepped towards the bowl of pills and put my hand in, enjoying the feeling of the tablets and capsules under my sweaty palm, between my spread fingers. Between my thumb and forefinger I grasped a blue pill, and held it as Andrew came out with my coat, helped me into it, and kissed me on the cheek. I slipped the pill into my pocket and threaded my way out of the kitchen, down the stairs, and out into the dark, cold and empty street.

Photo Credit

Blue Pill: http://www.flyingsnail.com/Dahbud/images/bluepill.jpg

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About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

14 responses »

  1. Holyshit! That’s the way I felt at parties for most of my life. How did you know?

    Reply
  2. omg!…our heroine is going to take that blue pill…what happens next? Then what, then what, then what?

    Reply
  3. Fly girl……Beautiful

    Reply
  4. oooooh, cliffhanger……loved this!

    Reply
  5. Wow, flashback! Do you still have the pill stashed somewhere? I wonder what happened to all the PIB’s once they reached their thirties?

    Reply
    • Uhm, no, because I took it.

      Many of them live in New York and have lots of money…I still occasionally see them in the wedding announcements in the NYT. Although they feigned great street cred, my belief is that most of them came from BIG money.

      Reply
  6. loved loved loved….(I think 80% of the people feel that way at parties). That’s why everyone asks, “who’s going to be there?” πŸ™‚

    Reply
  7. Ann,
    What else I like here–not that you were “goody two shoes” back in Okemos, but I love your naughty side…a lot.

    Reply

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