I lie on the bed in the front room our apartment. Our home is a long narrow railroad Victorian flat from the late 19th century. To call one room the bedroom and the other the living room is arbitrary. Even the kitchen wouldn’t be a kitchen if it weren’t for that fact that someone once plugged in a stove and refrigerator in the backmost, 3rd, room of the flat. The sink is in yet another, though much smaller, room that may or may not have always been a pantry. But perhaps it was once a part of the back porch. Maybe someone slept there once. It’s hard to tell. The place hasn’t been renovated since 1939.
So it is in the front room we placed our bed on which I lie. The sounds of San Francisco’s busy 24th St. echo in. We are on the first level of a 3-story walk-up. The wood frame of the building and the single-paned windows do little to keep the city out. We hear the motorcycles and the ambulances, of course — St. Luke’s is only 3 blocks away. And we hear the dogs and the children running around and the parents and the owners chiding them. We hear the drunken hipsters of course. They wax a discourse on the cool art project they are building for the next Burning Man. The stoned hipsters are quieter. More reflective. But we can hear them too as they wax poetics about what they saw at their last Burning Man. And we hear the lovers. Always the lovers. San Francisco is the American city for love and romance — despite what the money-grubbing, bubbling, vaporwaring Web 2.0 dot-com booming and busting venture capitalists and engineers and their related PR agents and advertising executives might tell you as they place yet another ad on Nerve.com, Match.com, Yahoo Personals, EHarmony and CraigsList never realizing the love they’re looking for is in the city itself.
And so the words of lovers trickle into our home as they make their way to or from the BART or MUNI stops, each synchronized step is a moment of foreplay for what will unfold once they reach the privacy of their home. I lie on the bed, in a slightly-fevered state from a mild summer cold. The Ukrainian is next to me, sitting in a red chair taken from the kitchen that isn’t really a kitchen. He has unfolded a card table that someone once gave us as they left San Francisco to return to the East Coast. He is typing and staring at his little 13″ white MacBook on which he has long-since removed the pre-installed Mac OS X and replaced it with Windows Vista because…because that is just the sort of thing the Ukrainian does.
I drift in and out of my fevered consciousness. The Ukrainian types and stares and moves the cursor around the MacBook. He is working on a balance sheet for his summer internship at a small financial firm here in the most romantic American city that once hosted the idealistic Summer of Love. He is doing a Merger and Acquisition. Some company somewhere I want to to sell to another. Somebody somewhere wants to love another. And the lovers outside want to be alone together so they can express their love.
And the Ukrainian and I? We are in love. In between each calculation on his Excel spreadsheet, he looks over, wanting to know if I need anything. Is there anything he can do to relieve my fever, he asks. Should he go, he wonders. Should he leave this room that intersects so perfectly with the lovely city outside and work in the kitchen that isn’t a kitchen so that I can sleep. No, I tell him. Stay here. With you here, I am happy. My fever will be ok.
I drift to sleep anyway. But in that moment before I lose consciousness to the world outside on 24th St., I remember Edward Hopper’s “Room in New York” where he depicts (what I presume to be) a husband and wife idling time in the front room of their flat. He is reading the newspaper. Her fingers are tinkling the piano. They are doing their own thing together. They seem at peace with each other and with their world. This poster hung on my wall throughout college. Someday, I thought, I want that. I want “Room in New York” with someone.
I take one last look at the Ukrainian — my husband. He is too intent on his work to see me watching him. Please, I say silently in my head. Please, never let our lives be anything but this. This peace, love, and harmony I feel with you right now.
And I sleep.