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CHAPTER 11

It was Christmas Eve the night Erin and Sean moved into the apartment in the Rosemont Building on Railway Terrace. They’d met at a party only three month’s earlier through a mutual friend who predicted they’d be slow dancing by midnight and living together by New Year’s Eve. Sean was an art school drop-out with wild raven hair that made him look like a cross between a young Robert Smith from the Cure and a Japanese Anime character. He had a lazy, effortless style, oversized grey sweatshirts worn with baggy indigo denim jeans, half-tucked into paint splattered boots which he scuffed and stomped around in like a moody teenager. Erin was definitely Sean’s type, a tall icy blonde of Danish descent with a 60’s vibe borrowed mostly from Edie Sedgwick. After the party Erin went home with Sean and never left, which irritated Sean’s housemates who felt she was living there rent-free. Suffice to say, this living arrangement didn’t last long, so Erin and Sean soon found themselves three month’s into their new relationship, unpacking boxes and drinking Prosecco from chipped china tea cups in their new home.

The lobby of the Rosemont was what most people described as faded grandeur. Dusty red velvet curtains framed large sash windows, chandeliers in dire need of a clean and polish lined the ceiling and the black and grey Terrazzo tiled floor had cracks so big that women often got their heels stuck inside of them. Some of the tenants believed the owner of the shoe repair store across the street was in cahoots with the owner of the Rosemont as those heel-destroying cracks gave him so much business. However regardless of its faded grandeur and slow descent into disrepair the Rosemont had stories to tell which is what Erin liked about it the most. In the 1920’s a famous writer and his wife lived in the Penthouse apartment, throwing decadent parties where guests would dance and drink martinis until they could no longer stand. In the Spring of 1955 a man wearing a shiny blue suit with a red rose in his lapel shot a Mob Boss as he walked out of the elevator in the lobby, you can still see a small hole in a wooden panel next to the elevator where the first bullet missed. Towards the end of the 1980’s a strange man named Dieter von Saturn moved into the Penthouse apartment with his entourage of five men and five women who believed Dieter was an alien being who would take them back to his home planet before the World ended on Tuesday September 13, 1988. On Monday September 12 Dieter mysteriously disappeared, leaving his believers heartbroken and a large amount of unpaid rent. Some say Dieter travelled back to his home planet and died there alone, while others say he is alive and well and living on the Island of Tahiti with a new entourage of believers.

A few weeks after Erin and Sean moved into the Rosemont Sean’s parents, still tanned from a Christmas holiday in Hawaii, stopped by with belated Christmas presents, a mountain bike for Sean (useful as he’d recently lost his driver’s licence due to a D.U.I. charge), and a DustBuster for Erin (which she thought the most condescending gift anyone had ever bought her). As Sean’s parents surveyed the apartment Erin told them the stories of the Rosemont’s past, the famous writer and his wife and their decadent parties, the Mob Boss assassination in the lobby and the strange Cult Leader named Dieter. Sean’s father nodded in amusement, his smile framed by a Tom Selleck-style moustache grown during his Hawaiian holiday while Sean’s Mother slurred out the words “rubbish” and “ridiculous” and rolled her eyes as she drank a large glass of Shiraz in two gulps. Erin noticed both Sean and his Mother were the type of people whose eyes would glaze over and speech would slur after only two glasses of wine. As Sean’s Mother opened another bottle and Sean’s father fell asleep upright on the sofa, Erin looked at the clock on the kitchen wall and wished they would hurry up and leave, she had an early start at work the next morning.

Erin worked on the perfume counter in a department store only a few blocks from the Rosemont. It was a store frequented by people of a certain age, wealth and plastic surgeon. Erin would have preferred a job in the store’s younger and more accessible sibling across the street however it didn’t pay as well. Most of Erin’s customers were rich business men who’d buy expensive perfumes for their mistresses, discreetly slipping a fifty dollar bill into the palm of her hand to keep quiet when she saw them back at the perfume counter the following week with their wives. Erin kept the money in a silver biscuit tin inside her locker, saving her participation in their deception for a rainy day.

As the year went by and the cracks in the black and grey Terrazzo tiled floor in the Rosemont’s lobby grew bigger, so did the gaping holes in Erin and Sean’s relationship. There would be no stories at the Rosemont worth remembering them by, just tales of Erin and Sean’s growing disenchantment with each other. Every Tuesday at 6 o’clock Erin’s favourite Aunt would meet her after work to take her out for dinner. Her Aunt lived in a five bedroom townhouse in a more affluent part of the city and spent most of her time carving statues of peculiar people out of pale pink stone which she sold in small galleries and antique stores owned by her friends. She was the sort of woman who dressed in Yohji Yamamoto and wore large resin bangles that stretched from her wrist right up to her elbow on both arms. She liked to tease her hair into a bird’s nest style bun on top of her head and was never seen without her favourite shade of cherry red lipstick which over the years she had become an expert at applying without the need for a mirror. At the end of these evenings Erin wished she could escape to her Aunt’s townhouse than go home to an uninterested Sean, drunk and asleep on the sofa, a glass knocked over on the coffee table and red wine spilt all over her Vogue magazines. As a child Erin stayed with her Aunt every weekend while her Mother spent time with another new boyfriend. Erin always stayed in the same room, one she helped her Aunt decorate with luxurious yellow velvet drapes that stretched from the floor to the ceiling and silk cushions with elegant line illustrations of fashionable women sipping coffee and eating Macarons in a Paris café. These were the only decorative pieces in Erin’s room apart from the large flower bed on view outside the windows which were full of the most vivid yellow daffodils in the Spring. The thought of being picked up by her Mother on Sunday evening and leaving her Aunt’s stylish townhouse for the long subway ride home to their dreary apartment always gave Erin a terrible feeling at the pit of her stomach, much like the thought of going home to Sean after dinner with her Aunt every Tuesday evening.

It was Christmas Eve, a year after the night Erin and Sean moved into the apartment in the Rosemont Building on Railway Terrace. It was a rainy day so Erin emptied the silver biscuit tin in her locker on her lunch break and bought two Christmas presents, a tub of Chanel hand cream for her favourite Aunt and a green cashmere roll-neck sweater for herself. As she walked home after work Erin smiled at the Christmas lights adorning the streets and people rushing home with bags full of last-minute Christmas gifts for their families and friends. When she arrived at the Rosemont a rotund woman in her sixties, a long-term tenant who held raucous bridge parties in her apartment every Wednesday night had managed to get both heels of her two sizes-too small, red patent leather shoes stuck deep inside the infamous cracks in the Terrazzo tiled floor. By the time Erin arrived the woman’s eyes were coal-black like a panda where her mascara had bled from crying and her feet had swollen so much that two Firemen had to cut her out of her ill-fitting shoes. As the woman sobbed uncontrollably and other tenants of the Rosemont looked on horrified, some dressed up to the nines and on their way out for Christmas drinks, others dressed in fancy dress costume it reminded Erin of one of the ridiculous, out of control scenes from the film “The Party” starring Peter Sellars.

Back in the quiet and solitude of the apartment Erin found a note on the kitchen table from Sean: “I’m at my work Christmas party drinks. Don’t expect me home until the morning. Sean.” Erin kicked off her shoes and tried on her new cashmere sweater. Then she packed her bags and wrote Sean a note:

“Dear Sean, do you remember Moloko, the band who sang ‘Sing it Back’ where the lead singer dances around in the music video in a 1920’s flapper-style mini-dress made of tiny square mirrors? Lately I feel as if you and I are starting to resemble another one of their songs called ‘Bankrupt Emotionally’, so metaphorically speaking I am filing for Chapter 11 on our relationship and moving on. I’ve left my half of the rent for the next two months on the kitchen table in a red envelope. Oh and your Mother can have her DustBuster back too. Erin.”

Erin stuck her good-bye note to the fridge with a magnet Sean’s parents had bought them from Hawaii which said “ike’ oe mahope”, Hawaiian for “see you next time”.

Image: Steven Meisel, Andy Warhol Museum, Vogue Italia 1996. Visit: warhol.org and vogue.it

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