On Calling for Gentlemen

In the photograph of the mansion it looks perfect and mysteriously haunted by beauty. If Stepford wives decided life was just too bleak sometimes to trim the hedges. You know it looks beautiful when not manicured, it looks real this way, authentic. In the photograph there is an indisputable charm about the mansion, an obvious way in which the clarity of the image is an aftereffect of a DSLR. It is cozy, in high-def.

I heard from ___ ____ that you were looking for someone, I wrote.

You've heard right, he replied.

When I arrive at the mansion at night it is raining. I cannot see the cheerful yellow in the darkness, my face is soaked with rainwater and edged by the bite of the wind.

He opens the door and I ask if I should take off my shoes; I'm wet.

He brings me to his room and asks if I want to take off my coat. Wet again.

He is anticipating that I will want to move into his room. I look around taking inventory, his grey bed covered in white crosses, the suitcases he converted into shelves and a minibar, hung on the walls. The books above the desk are mostly in French. Empty glass bottles collected from a secret island of deposits. Plants with an oil diffuser. Lots of lightbulbs individually powered.

I stand in front of a mirror and put on his headphones, the ones made of two conch shells wired together in gold, and I open my mouth in a gaping awe to mimic the sea I can hear on either side of me, closing in, in close quarters, wave after wave. He watches me staring at him in my silent ocean face, part smile, part scream.

"Do you ever go to sleep while wearing these?" I ask, excited.

"No," he replies, flatly.

He is either amused or he is being patient.

I look at his grey bed covered in white crosses and imagine myself falling asleep without silently screaming. The ocean is a soundtrack that does not need batteries.

I tell him about my fantasy of being shipwrecked on a deserted island.

He takes me through the rest of the mansion and there are so many rooms, and floors, and stairways up and stairways down and doors opened and doors closed and rooms that have low ceilings and rooms that have high ceilings and bathrooms that are bigger than most apartments and quiet reading rooms with couches cozily tucked into a space the size of a closet. I lose track of which floor I am on, which direction faces the backyard, the street, the way we came in from. 

Back in his room we receive a visitor with one eye and no name. We laugh, and I imagine myself in the grey bed covered in white crosses, wearing the ocean around my head and being visited by the one-eye with no name. I would move over and make space on the bed. For a little while.

It is still raining when I leave the mansion, someone sorting mail as I am on my way out, past the piano and the organ on either side of the main entrance. The porch in front is closed in, with odd siding. He tells me it is nice to sit there when it is warmer, just like on the stoop outside his room, just like in the backyard behind the kitchen with the two refrigerators and six burners.

My face is flushed but not from the cold.

I can hear the ocean or the screams of Brooklyn gutters.