My teeth were chattering from the icy cold, yet greeting me on this frigid December eve was a 58 year-old Jewish man, richly tanned, wearing a tie-died t-shirt with a large peace symbol on the front. He seemed to have recently returned from a Grateful Dead concert in the Bahamas. David — pronounced dah-veed — had a room for rent in his apartment in midtown Manhattan. I was there to check it out.
We shook hands and I entered his apartment. He immediately announced: “Excuse me while I kiss a girl,” then bounded off to an adjacent room. The object of his affections seemed to be a 20-something female sitting on a couch or bed, although I didn’t get a good look at her.
“By all means,” I replied sympathetically.
I waited in the living room while David did his kissing. His dog, Arthur, a giant black poodle, leapt up to plant a wet one on my lips. Kissing seemed to be a popular practice in David’s domicile.
David returned and invited me to follow him down a twisty stairwell to the subterranean part of the apartment where he and Arthur lived. Arthur and I ended our embrace and followed David into a dimly lit, Bohemian bomb shelter of a room that had the bittersweet smell of a place where dog and man had lived too long without fresh air.
David wasted no time showing me to the boudoir, where he instructed me on how to get to the toilet by squeezing myself through a narrow passage between his bed and the wall.
“Women don’t have a problem with it, but men don’t like it,” David said, pausing for a moment to let the irony of his statement sink in. “My current roommate just walks by the bed while I’m fucking some girl and says, ‘Ciao, David.’ She’s from Italy.”
The next stop was the kitchen area, where he introduced me to Isabelle, his “favorite girlfriend.”
“I have three or four that I sleep with,” he explained, not reluctant to confess his infidelities in the presence of Isabelle. She seemed unfazed.
After a brief exchange of pleasantries, David and I proceeded to the room for which I was being asked to pay a grand a month. To call it a room didn’t do justice to the word, which is normally associated with a door and four walls. It was a 6’ X 10’ space partly separated from the rest of the living area by a dividing wall and open to viewing by anyone in the nearby kitchen. A single bed took up most of the available space.
“Where would I put my clothes?” I asked, surveying the modest space. I could see no storage at all.
David stepped down into an adjacent room that contained a tanning bed and a large piece of nondescript furniture. “We can get this thing out of here and put in a dresser,” he said, pointing to the tanning bed. I was not impressed, but relieved to solve the mystery of his mid-December tan.
We returned to the kitchen area to join Isabelle sitting quietly on the couch. She was younger than David, yet seemed a good match for his hippie persona, dressed in black athletic pants and a beige wool sweater. She wore no makeup and had a smooth, elliptical face and full brown hair that hung straight down to her shoulders.
David sat next to her and motioned for me to take a seat in a comfy cloth-covered club chair. It was time for the interview, I thought, as I relaxed into the chair waiting for questions. The questions never came.
“I usually live with women,” David informed me pointedly. “I like women, I like to look at them. My current roommate is beautiful, she has a great body, beautiful tits, which she’s always showing me. The only thing is that her ass is a little flat, but she’s a beautiful girl.”
“David, don’t be mean,” Isabelle chided. David seemed unapologetic. He didn’t like her ass and there was no denying it.
“But I haven’t fucked her,” David said, assuring me of his common sense. “I have never fucked a roommate. But I sleep regularly with three or four women. These are committed, long-term relationships.”
“He dates,” Isabelle said with a giggle. “He dates.”
I had to give David high marks for honesty. He may have been a licentious superannuated hippie, but he didn’t hide it. On the contrary, he seemed quite eager to discuss it, at least with prospective roommates.
“You’re polyamorous then?” I asked, using the formal term for his amorous proclivities. Polyamory, for the uninitiated, is the practice of having multiple, long-term romantic relationships in an open and ethical way. I wanted to let David know I wasn’t freaked out by his behavior. I was from California, after all.
“Yeah, I am polyamorous,” he said, as if he weren’t quite sure.
“Have you ever been to California?” I asked. It seemed a logical question.
“I lived in Berkeley once, but I took so much acid I don’t remember it.” That explained the psychedelic t-shirt.
Changing the subject to more practical matters, I asked how many people lived with him in his apartment. “There are two people living upstairs, and me and one other person down here. They are two separate apartments, with their own kitchen and bathroom.”
As an afterthought, he added, “And I have two young daughters that come to visit me on weekends, one at a time.” He pointed to a mural-sized photograph in which he and an attractive blonde woman lay together on a beach with two small girls, the waves curling up behind them. They looked like a traditional, happy family but David didn’t say anything more about them.
I need to get to the bathroom at 8 AM two days a week, I told him. Would this be a problem for him or one of his girlfriends?
“I get up every day at 5 AM, so that’s no problem. And next week I might be starting a job as a stewardess, so if I do that I won’t be around much.”
“As a stewardess? Are you having a sex change?” I asked. He ignored my smarmy comment, but Isabelle chuckled.
“Or I might be starting a job as a used car salesman,” he said. “I also have an interview with one of the top commercial real estate firms in the city. I’ll have to break out my Armani suits. They really want me.” I briefly imagined how he’d look with a tie-die under his Armani threads.
“And I might be doing presentations on relationships and intimacy for a cruise line. They really liked my proposal for that.” I wondered how he was going to keep up all his relationships if he started flying around the world or traveling on cruising ships.
“Such a free spirit,” Isabelle remarked, a tone of admiration in her voice. She gave him an affectionate look. “I am a therapist, a physical trainer, real estate salesman…”
“Your Craigslist ad said you were an author and lecturer,” I said, referring to the roommate ad that brought me to his apartment.
“I have just published a book. That’s it on the kitchen table.” He pointed to a paperback with a little cartoon man evading a woman chasing him with a net. I picked it up and began to thumb through “Escaping Capture.”
“It’s a book about relationships and intimacy,” David informed me.
“Who published it for you?”
“It’s self-published. You can find it at Barnes and Noble or Amazon. My business agent and everyone else hates the title,” he said.
Isabelle excused herself to smoke a cigarette, leaving David and me alone to kibitz. He took the opportunity to talk freely about the various women he was seeing. I was all ears.
“There are three or four women that I sleep with on a regular basis, and I am working on one or two more,” he said. “One’s Greek, one’s black — she’s my favorite.” Funny, I could have sworn he had reserved that status for Isabelle.
I had all but given up on the apartment and was now primarily interested in hearing about David’s hyper-amorous lifestyle.
“How do you meet women?” I asked quizzically, looking for pointers.
“I’m shy,” he said, surprisingly. “I can’t walk into a room and go up to people and introduce myself. I am too bashful. So I meet women online.”
Isabelle returned and David went on undeterred by her presence, describing the promiscuous sex life of his Italian roommate and her preference for uncircumcised men, his rule against bringing someone home whom you don’t know, and his refusal to let girlfriends stay with him for an entire night.
As the conversation continued, one minute Isabelle attested favorably to David’s sensitivity, decency, kindness and compassion, the next she threatened to withhold sexual favors after graphic descriptions of his sexual doings with other women.
“We’ll see what you don’t get tonight,” she said, with a flicker of resentment behind the sweet pretense.
“I shouldn’t have to apologize to you, of all people,” David said, following his remark with a playful spank on the butt.
Sensing the need for a new direction in our conversation, I asked, “Is there anything you’d like to know about me?” David looked at me blankly and thought for a few seconds, shaking his head from side to side.
“You seem quiet,” he said. “And you seem skeptical. The person I am looking for is someone who wants to live in this kind of environment.”
David’s place had a cozy, communal feeling, but it wasn’t an arrangement that could work for me, David’s relational activities aside.
“You’ve got to go now, I have another person coming,” he announced abruptly. I said good-bye to Isabelle, and David and I ascended the staircase, Arthur the poodle leading the way.
“I am interested in learning about polyamory and connecting with the poly community in New York,” I said outside the door, as I shook David’s hand. He reached in his pocket and handed me a business card.
“Give me a call. It really isn’t about swinging or anything like that,” he said with a tone of parental warning. “It’s about committed, long-term relationships.”
I hope that when we meet again, David can explain to me what he means by committed and long-term.
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