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Beforeby Irini Spanidou
Synopses & Reviews
SoHo was dangerous then. Most buildings still housed working factories, many stood empty, and only a few had been turned into living lofts. Late into the night, pockets where new bars had sprung up were boisterous with life, light streaming out onto the street like iridescent mist and rock music blaring as one walked by. But the surrounding areas, often stretching for blocks, were all but deserted and the scattering of solitary rows of lighted windows did little to assuage a passerby's fears. Every day came new reports of robberies, muggings, a shooting or a rape. Just that week, unable to force open the police lock on the door of a loft, the robbers had taken an ax to the adjoining wall, hacking a four-by-five hole.
The eight-story building where Beatrice and Ned James lived had only two other tenants. One lived on the floor below. The other, a man named Perkins, lived on the same floor but had been in prison since before they moved in and they had never seen him. That morning, as Beatrice came out of her loft, he was standing at the opposite end of the hall, locking his door. His back was turned to her and he could not see or hear her through the loud music coming from downstairs, yet his body perceptibly stiffened.
Beatrice waited for him to turn around so she could introduce herself but when he did, no word would come out of her mouth. His eyes stayed on her with intimate persistence, and he too said nothing. In a moment, he tossed his keys up in the air, caught them in his fist, put them in his pocket-each movement deliberately slow—then he pulled the watch cap he was wearing lower down his forehead. Though he was standing close to the stairs, he waited for her to go down first then followed, keeping a steady two steps behind.
For five flights, she had no room to breathe. When she came to the ground floor, she rushed to the door and let it slam after her. Turning, she waited for him to come out so she could apologize, but all he did when he reached the door was bring his face closer to the wire-mesh window. There was a tense alacrity in the stillness of his gaze, like a sex-dark glance that blindly knows its aim, but there was no desire in it-none she could feel.
She walked away. After she had gone halfway down the block, without forethought, she turned around a second time. He had come out of the building and was standing on the sidewalk close to the door with his peacoat unbuttoned, legs apart, gently shifting his weight. He had taken his cap off and was holding it between his palms, folding it up in a roll, unfolding it, eyes down, intent on the task. He was aware she was staring-there was something too alert, too inexpressive about his face. That he had known she would stop and look back at him she was as sure.
She didn't know what he had been in prison for. All she and Ned knew about him was his name, which was scrawled on the mailbox next to theirs with jagged characters that did not connect, in the manner a child first learns to write. Still, knowing his name had lent some substance to their thoughts about him. And they had thought about him a great deal. The two lofts were connected by double glass-paneled doors, which were blocked with an armoire on their side. The armoire did not clear the overhanging transom, and this chink in the dividing wall annulled any sense of privacy and safety that comes from a solidly delineated interior space. It was like living on a stage
In 1970s New York City, beautiful, twenty-five-year-old Beatrice is married to a talented but volatile painter whose obsession with her has turned to hatred, all the while dealing with a seductive childhood friend, a charismatic and lonely Vietnam veteran, an aspiring musician, the older man she meets in a bar, a young addict, and Perkins, the enigmatic, menacing man next door. Reprint. 10,000 first printing.
Irini Spanidou is the author of two previous novels. She lives in New York City.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
\Irini Spanidou is the author of the novels God's Snake and Fear. She has taught at New York University, Brooklyn College, Sarah Lawrence College, Bennington College, State University of New York at Purchase, Cooper Union, Parson's School of Design, and the Poetry Center at the 92nd Street Y. She is the recipient of a New York State Foundation for the Arts grant and a Civitella Ranieri Fellowship. She lives in New York City.
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