Friday, February 12, 2010

my bedroom is 40 degrees

When I wake up this morning it’s too cold to get up. I know what will happen if I break the seal of the covers but I have to do it. I whip the covers off, scramble into the kitchen, open the oven and turn it up to 400 degrees. I go in the living room and turn on the space heater. I fill a kettle with water and turn it on to boil. I run back to bed.

I do this almost every morning. I don’t know why my Guyanese landlord doesn't turn on the heat past 3am, but this can't be legal. My first alarm clock of the day is my phone which wakes me up. My second alarm clock is the tea kettle. I turn on as many heat sources as possible including the stovetop, and then I get back in bed. Every day. By the time the kettle whistles and I get up to turn it off I'm able to stand in my room with full PJs and a polar fleece bathrobe because the oven has raised the room temperature to from 40 to 47. It's like getting up on the wrong side of the bed EVERY DAY.

After half an hour the two rooms are starting to feel habitable for human life, so I take two cupcakes to the living room for breakfast in front of the TV. I watch the clock as it approaches 1:45p.m. the time I need to leave for class. Under many warm blankets on the couch I envision my journey: suiting up in my toughest winter gear, shoving enormous skiing gloves over my hands, fully covering my head, strapping my heavy backpack with laptop onto my tired back, fumbling in the gloves that are too big for my hands to unlock my freezing bike, chaining the heavy frozen lock over my waist and enormous coat, and finally fighting freezing wind all the way to school. My iPhone tells me it’s 21 degrees out.

I make a decision I had promised myself I wouldn’t make this semester. I’m not sick or out of town and I’m skipping class anyways. The apartment is finally warm; It feels like a cocoon. How could I leave now when it’s just gotten warm enough to relax my shoulders and breathe normally? Class can wait until spring.

A few hours later I force myself out into the frozen concrete to go to work. At nine I get off and decide to go to the gym. Astonishingly, I’m able to run 3.3 miles and end up burning 400 calories. I feel proud. As I’m pushing through my last mile and acute dehydration, all I can think about is getting home, having a hot shower and sleeping like a baby for hours. What actually happens was different. After the shower I’m preparing to take out my contacts when Josh gets home from work and rushes in, “Ok we don’t have much time, but put your pants on – Rustik is having a karaoke contest!” Rustik is the bar next to our apartment. Josh is a fantastic singer. “No way.” I say, thinking of my plans with my bed. “The winner gets an iPod touch!” I reconsider. Watching Josh sing karaoke at 11p on a Wednesday night in a bar in the projects of Bed-Stuy might be too good to miss. If I don’t go, what’s the point of me living here at all? I might as well move back to the Virginia suburbs and pay cheap rent if I’m going to pass up magic like this. “Give me 5 minutes.” I mentally note that this will mean I get only 7 hours of sleep but it’s still the right decision. I’ve never heard Josh sing real karaoke, only belt stuff out around the apartment so I’m excited for this.

When we arrive at the bar seven minutes later, there’s a woman singing a soulful song I hope will end soon. She has an amazing voice but the song is uncomfortably sad and she’s really too loud. Josh asks the co-host if she has room for one more singer. She has the most amazing ass I’ve ever seen. I literally am amazed. I mean this thing is noteworthy. It’s straight up – the biggest booty I’ve ever seen on a woman – black, white, Puerto-Rican, whatever, it’s like half of her body mass. Anyways Bootylicious gives us a sideways look and says she’ll try to fit him in. We’re the only white people in the bar, as usual, but tonight the crowd seems easygoing. We endure another monotonous song by a man with a pretty good voice but the song is just way too long and he seems to get bored in the middle of it. When he finishes, Bootylicious takes a popular applause vote to determine the finalist who will be invited back on Feb. 25th to compete in the final contest for the iPod. The woman with the loud voice wins. I wonder if Josh is disappointed. If he is, he doesn’t show it – a true performer. “Now that the finalist’s have been chosen, let’s resume karaoke night.”

I’m confused by this and wonder why anyone would sing if not to win an iPod touch. Apparently Josh would! She calls him up and his song’s instrumentals start up. A song I haven’t heard since high school begins. Josh belts out the first line and I’m sold. He’s really good. Heads whip around, mouths open and gape at the tiny white boy in purple-striped cashmere singing the shit out of “Back at One” by Brian McKnight. If you close your eyes, you would think the voice is coming from a sassy, three-hundred pound black woman. All of a sudden people erupt with applause and cheers. Even I get loud. People at the bar turn to Juan and I and give us a look that says, “Are you with him?” I smile really big in return. Yes. I’m with him. And I’m really proud.

He gets applause louder than any of the previous contestants when he finishes, and BootyBooty invites him back on the 25th as a finalist. I can’t wait.

(To be continued.)

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