Tama Janowitz

author (fiction)

from Slaves of New York, “Physics,”

(originally published in The New Yorker), Crown, 1986

TamaJanowitz2“I was in a good mood . . .” Stash said. “Then when I got home I found you still hadn’t defrosted the refrigerator. Not only will I never be able to get the money to buy a loft now, I don’t see the point anyway. If we did have a decent place to live, it would always be a complete mess.”

“Didn’t you ever hear of a self-defrosting refrigerator?” I said. “You were just looking for an excuse. Don’t you try and punish me, Stash.”

“How am I punishing you?”

“Because you promised me we’d start looking for a bigger space to live in, and now you’re going to try and weasel out.” One half of me had known all along we would never move—we were too uncomfortable here. Low rent (subsidized housing for artists), and a nice river view—we were used to it. . . .

I went out into the bedroom—anyway, the end of our apartment where the bed was. “Listen, Stash,” I said. “I’ve been thinking. You’re middle-aged, and I’m not so young, either. It would be a good time to have a baby. . . .” Looking at him, I knew our baby would be cute, though if it inherited Stash’s chest hairs and my head hairs it
would practically be a gorilla. There wouldn’t be one hairless inch. . . .

“You can’t bring a baby into this world. At least not in the city . . .”

“I’m taking the dog out,” I said. . . It was late at night, and I didn’t bother to put him on the leash. He sniffed the stunted trees and the metal signposts with the utmost of delicacy, as if he were rooting for truffles. A fishy wind blew off the Hudson. . . .

The elevator was broken and we had to walk up seven flights. I’m not in such great shape. Believe me, I’d like to be one of those women with all the muscles, but frankly I don’t like the idea of doing all that work. . .

When we made it back to the apartment Stash was standing near the window with a funny look on his face. “You wouldn’t believe what just happened,” he said.


“A transvestite and a john came over to the bushes under the window. . .”

“You should have . . . called the guard.”. . .

I saw how emotions caused objects to go whizzing about. If I had gotten into the limousine earlier that evening I’d be in the same mess, only in a different neighborhood; at least in this place I had love, a feeling that came at a person like a Dodgem car in an amusement park, where the sign says PROCEED AT OWN RISK.

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