The summer after college, I worked briefly as a shoe model. By briefly, I mean that I was fired after one day. I had sublet a basement room somewhere in the hundreds on the West Side of Manhattan, and my belongings, mostly books, remained unpacked, in duct-taped boxes stacked around the bed. I had to crawl over them when I wanted to lie down, which was most of the time. I slept 14, 15 hours at a shot.
The modeling agency — in a dubious closet of an office, up six flights of rusted metal stairs — sent me to a gleaming Midtown spire for a go-see. I sat in a sun-soaked conference room with a conqueror’s view of the city. Across the table was another, better candidate for the job, a woman with gold-lidded eyes and mouth ajar. She sensed immediately that I knew nothing of the world.
Recipe: Chocolate Fondue
“Beautiful girl in New York,” she said. “Never buy a drink. So many men buy for you. Help you get a green card.” She leaned forward. “But,” she added sternly, “never forget,” and out of her tiny handbag she pulled a column of condoms and held them high, the packets dominoing down.
Her wisdom was wasted on me. I was not interested in New York and its promises. After graduation, the boy I’d have done anything for told me, “I’ll see you later in life,” which sounded like never. Now I wanted to learn what it was like to live without committing yourself, leaving as little impression on the universe as possible. I would not make it here; I would not make it anywhere.