In the winter of 1988, I saw New York City for the first time. I was nineteen, a freshman at a small, private college in Connecticut—expensive, but generous with scholarships—where I’d chosen, to the dismay of my hardworking parents, to study theater. I’d told them about my trip to the city, but not how I’d get there or with whom: a man named Alex Pappas, an associate professor of Dramatic Arts, who’d been my teacher for Stage Movement.
Alex was the thing I most wanted to be, an actor. At my age he’d already appeared on a TV soap opera, a minor part that later turned into a major one. Film roles followed, though they weren’t films I’d heard of. We watched them together on videocassette, naked, in his bed.
If it happened today, our affair would violate a half dozen statutes in the University Code of Conduct, but in 1988—three years before Anita Hill—the rules had yet to be written. Still, Alex was cautious. He was about to go up for tenure, and his path was booby-trapped with human explosives that might go off at any moment: scheming colleagues, a crazy ex-wife prone to jealousy and unpredictable rages. He thought it best to keep our relationship quiet, and I agreed, though this hurt my feelings and was difficult to do. Even more than I wanted to sleep with him, I wanted to talk about him, to make known to the wide world that he had chosen me.
We drove into the city on a Friday afternoon. We’d be staying at his friend Christopher’s, Alex explained as we idled in traffic, a huffing bolus of cars and trucks crowding onto the Triborough Bridge. Christopher was out of town—for three weeks each month, he performed in a cabaret show on a Carnival Cruise ship—but Alex had a key to his apartment on Mott Street.
The address meant nothing to me. “Is it near Central Park?” I asked stupidly—the only New York landmark I could think of. I had visions of Alex and me walking hand in hand, beyond the reach of campus gossip.
“Not even close. Motherfucker,” he growled as a taxi swerved in front of us.