3:32 P.M.—East Village, 19 July 2007
Christopher had never been sick a day in his life.
It was a running joke in the family. There wasn’t one kid or parent they hadn’t carried to the emergency room in the middle of the night, at one time or another, except Christopher. They’d made jokes about his good health all through his childhood, had even accused him of bringing a few family pets back to life before they could be buried. They made jokes, the neighbors made jokes, teachers made jokes, but beneath all the laughter was something darker.
There was fear.
He could feel the shiver under the love, behind the smiles. His adoptive parents loved and cared for him, but the Ross family could sense the same thing he could. Christopher wasn’t one of them, even if they couldn’t pin down exactly how or why, different in a way no one could define. Despite his dark-blond good looks, his athleticism, the charismatic quiet that drew people to him, they were a little scared by how easy it was to trust him. It was like he was too good to be true, not their son but a confidence man with a practiced pitch they should beware.
No one tried to stop him when he announced that he was moving to New York to look for his birth parents and uncover his history. They’d said all the right things, told him they understood why he had to go, that they’d miss him and he should hurry back soon, but he saw the relief in their eyes, the way their bodies relaxed as soon they dropped him off at the Metro-North train station in Bridgeport.
Once he reached Manhattan, he took the Lexington Avenue subway downtown from Grand Central Station to see the first of the apartment shares he’d found on Craigslist. The layered music beats in his iPod headphones made his walking view of the East Village streets feel like a low-budget, independent DV movie instead of the real thing. People that crowded the streets around him were either tourists or locals. You could tell the difference when one stopped midsidewalk to shop, gawk, or take pictures as the others shoved past.
Christopher kept moving, blended in like a local. His clothing and short, shaggy hair were cool and casual enough that the big bag over his shoulder didn’t make him look like he’d just arrived. He moved down the crowded New York streets with what looked like purpose, as if he knew where he was going, when he was completely and totally lost, unsure of what he’d find now that he was here. He’d been to Manhattan only once before, on a high school field trip, and they’d gone no farther than the Museum of Modern Art, on West Fifty-third Street, after leaving Grand Central.
Christopher finally stopped at a corner store and asked the clerk behind the counter for directions, got back onto Second Avenue, and walked south across Houston Street to find Rivington. After the canyons created by towering high-rise condos being built along Houston Street, the neighborhood below Houston seemed smaller, more intimate. He walked past windows filled with hip clothes and small restaurants with free wireless.
The address turned out to be a rusty redbrick six-story walk-up on the corner, with storefronts on the ground floor. It was near a couple of places to eat and a market, not far from the subway if he’d walked here the right way. It would do. Christopher rang the bell and a buzzer let him in the front door without question. A male voice with a clipped accent spoke from the intercom as he entered.
A skinny Middle Eastern kid a little younger than him opened the door upstairs, grinned, dressed in hip-hop gear, a backward baseball cap worn over a fade with geometric stripes cut into the side.
“Yo, man. Check it . . .”
He receded as Christopher followed him into the corner apartment. Dance music filled the air, pumped from stacks of speakers on shelves that covered the rear wall of the living room. The rest of the space was filled with hard drives, computers, screens, and recorders—reel-to-reel, cassette, CD, DVD—a technological armory equipped for any audio need. It all framed a worn couch that slouched under the window, the only free space in the room.
“My gear,” said Spider. “I produce music, so that half is studio space, cool?” Christopher shrugged as he looked over the setup.
“Yours?” he asked, nodded at the pounding speakers.
“Yeah. My girl Vangie’s new band, Bitter. They play tonight at a gallery in Chelsea. Come; should be hot.”
“Want to see the room?”
“I’ll take it. You want references?”
The guy looked at him and grinned. “You’re cool, I can tell. Tag’s Spider Remix, call me Spider.” He held out a fist. Christopher punched back, felt like a liar even if he knew he was “cool.” Everyone thought so. Just once he’d like to meet someone who didn’t automatically fall for his fatal charm. “First month’s rent and half the deposit today, move your stuff in anytime.”
Christopher dropped his bag on the floor.
“Done. Where’s the party?”
Excerpted from Blood Pressure by .
Copyright 2010 by Terence Taylor.
Published in April 2010 by St. Martin’s Griffin.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.