When I first moved to New York City I had a job at Harper’s Bazaar that paid a salary in the pitiful peanut range. But thanks to miniscule living expenses, I had plenty of cash to splash around on eating out, weekend trips and all around fun stuff. I shared the rent on a two room, kitchen-in-the-living-room, fourth floor walk-up apartment with two, sometimes three, roommates in Greenwich Village.
So stoked was I about landing a plum job and finally moving to the big city that I slept every night without complaint on a rickety cot beneath a window with a wide open shade. With the torpid heat that summer, we only pulled down the bedroom window shade when dressing. We had no air conditioner and the coolest spots in the apartment were at the windows. But sitting in a window seat facing the street had turned into a tricky proposition. Directly across the street from us lived a pale, shadowy, hard-to-guess-age-guy who rarely left his small one room. Dressed in frowsy, shapeless old shorts, he always seemed to be fluttering around his windows so I thought of him as Moth-man. He had taken an acute interest in our apartment to the tune of flashing one of my roommates when she had been home alone. Not wanting a repeat performance in my memory bank, I rarely looked in his sleazy direction.
With everyone in the apartment now pretending he didn’t exist, the flasher, bereft of attention, started printing poster board signs with juvenile salutations and his phone number and flapping them in our direction. Still new to the city and all its dazzling enticements, my roommates and I barely noticed, rating him pretty much at the bottom of our interests.
That changed, however, when we arrived home one evening and discovered he had crossed the street, entered our locked lobby without a key and somehow got a note into our mailbox. On it was his name, phone number and a super-sleazo invitation to get together. Now having entered Creepy-land, we called the police. That night two amiable young detectives showed up and informed us that there was nothing they could do unless he was caught committing some unlawful act. As for the flashing — they needed witnesses for an arrest. Perhaps, they suggested he could be enticed into flashing while they were there. Our most outgoing roommate jumped right in and offered to stage the scene. A few minutes later, she strolled into the bedroom and started opening drawers and removing clothes from the closet as though preparing to undress, leaving the shade wide open to give Moth-man an unobstructed view. With the detectives hiding below the windows, my other roommate and I checked Moth-man’s reaction out of the corners of our eyes. Though clearly interested, he made no move suggestive or otherwise. As a further enticement, the detective suggested our femme fatal remove her shirt. Which she did. Still no action from across the street. Then, for the first time that summer, as though somehow alerted the police were watching him, Moth-man suddenly pulled his window shades down.
On their way out, the detectives said they were going to pay him a quick visit on their way downtown. Conveniently for us, Moth-man hadn’t lowered his window shades all the way down so we had a ringside seat of his bare white legs nonchalantly walking across his room to answer the detective’s knock at his door. Four trousered legs advanced into the room as Moth-man’s legs, stiff and tense, suddenly backed quickly away. We couldn’t see anyone’s face nor hear what the detectives were saying, but whatever they were saying was causing Moth-man’s movements to get jerkier and more agitated by the second.
A few minutes later the detective’s legs vanished from the room. Almost immediately the shades were slammed down all the way and the room went dark. The next day when we got home from work and looked across the street, Moth-man’s room was empty. We never saw him again.
Have you also had an offbeat first apartment situation? I’d love to hear about it.