Monthly Archives: February 2007

Self-mythology (1)

The first cab ride I ever took without my parents was with a woman I met at a dance club and one of her friends. They were both much older than me — 29 seemed very old — and I was out of my depth, to say the least. We went to an apartment on the west side of Center City in Philadelphia, on one of those handsome side streets that are more like alleys — Delancey or Waverly, I can’t remember now which it was. Mounted by the building’s front door was one of those cast-iron boot scrapers, from horse-and-buggy days. Inside the apartment we sat in the living room and listened to records: Various Positions by Leonard Cohen. I had never seen an actual copy of it before, though I had heard of it. I was very impressed by this, by a world of women out there with records I wanted to listen to. Maybe there was a metaphor in that for me, even then. But I was having a hard time figuring out what I was supposed to do next. Maybe it wasn’t up to me; it seems the friend was there to vet me, and perhaps the girl I had been dancing with was waiting not for a signal from me but from her, giving her the okay to be with me. But nothing happened. The record started over again, side one, “Dance Me to the End of Love.” A good-night kiss, by the boot scraper, and then I was walking, perplexed and dissatisfied, back to a friend’s apartment where I was staying. When I called the number she gave me later, it went through to an answering machine. This happened several times before I would let it go. When I remember this incident, I think of a different Leonard Cohen record, Death of a Ladies Man, because I see this night as the beginning and end of my career in seduction.