The house is cluttered with cookbooks and vinyl records. The sparest space is my room. The boxes I had mailed on Wednesday from the Uptown Station sit atop the bureau. “Yer gonna have to give Tony a bottle of Vodka for him hauling your stuff up here. Joking. Joking.” I am given the grand tour, given my keys, sign my rental contract, and within minutes we’re eating olives, goat cheese and downing shots of Johnnie Walker. Tony pours me a whiskey with one cube of ice. He stares into my eyes for a few seconds revealing a boyish character that I know I will come to love. “Nazdrave,” he says, and I repeat, “Nazdrave,” quickly learning the Bulgarian toast. I had said the German prost, but he politely informs me that in Bulgarian prost is derogatory. He clinks my glass a little bit too roughly. “You’re going to break the damn glass, Tony,” Becca says. “It’s good. Becca. It’s good.” Lonnie stands against the refrigerator. We’re changing places. I’m the new roomie. He looks me up and down, sizing me up, to make sure I am a decent enough replacement for the 8 X 11 I’ll be inhabiting.
“So, you’re a teacher, huh?” I nod and mention something about English. Absorption mode is what I call my mental state at this point. Chrissy and her sister had just left. We ate a Reuben on the steps of the branch of the Queens library. They saw my room. “Good luck, Greig.” “Thanks,” I said. “I’ll need it.” I am comforted my name is printed in stencil beneath the doorbell. "Roselli." Words gather like dust. I memorize what I think I’ll need later. “Brave. He’s brave.” “Buy a month Metro card and don’t lose it.” “This is his first day. July first. 2010.” “Don’t let ‘em knock you down.” “You’re family.” “If you lose your keys, you’re locked out.” “Whatcha gonna do?” “Find out for yourself.” “Maybe you can water the plants when we’re gone.” “You live in Queens but you’re a New Yorker.” “Nazdrave.” We sit around the kitchen table and talk about why the W line has been discontinued. Lonnie says goodbye. I stand up to shake his hand. “I gotta go see my sister in Brooklyn,” he says, his accent a deep Long Island tone. Tony offers another toast. The two men hug. Becca hugs Lonnie. We shake hands again. He gulps the last of his Johnnie Walker, grabs a mouthful of cashews. “Lonnie, we’ll keep your stuff here. No problem. Keep in touch.” Becca straightens her hair. Tony pours me another drink. “If you don’t want any, Greig, just tell him. He’s like a little kid.” I feel like I am living in my head even though I am surrounded by people. I am not used to this at all. I ask to be excused. In the bathroom, I look at my section of the medicine cabinet. A subway map bathroom curtain attracts my attention. I find our stop. I look in the mirror. “Is this real?” I ask my reflection. My reflection laughs. I smile. I am a New Yorker now.
I tuck in my shirt and join the fray. Donovan walks in, the other roommate, donning what appears to be a seersucker suit. After introductions, Tony pours him a drink too. “Nazdrave.” Glasses clink. “Goddammit, Tony, don’t break the fucking glass.”