Mambo Sun, 14th and A, Fall of 1989

It’s about 4 p.m. on a warm fall afternoon in Manhattan, in 1989.  I’ve just visited my last client of the day at his apartment in Stuyvesant Town, the apartment complex across 20th Street from Peter Cooper Village, where I’d lived as a child.  I’m free for the rest of the afternoon, and all night, and I have no plans to go home to my own apartment in Hoboken, because I’m falling in love with David, and I don’t want to be anywhere other than his studio apartment on Suffolk Street, where I’ve recently started spending most of my nights, against anyone’s better judgement but my own.

So instead of walking up 14th Street to First Avenue to catch a bus across town, I cross the street and start south on Avenue A, toward David’s place.  The afternoon light is orange and gold on the sidewalks and windows and storefronts, and I smell the East river, and pizza and Dominican food and bus exhaust and cigarette smoke. I have my Walkman on as I head downtown through the East Village, and I’m scared to death of what I’ve been doing with David and at the same time incredibly happy because I will be spending another night with him.

And my Walkman is playing the album Electric Warrior, by T. Rex. Whenever I hear the song “Mambo Sun,” that afternoon, and that intersection, and the way everything looked and smelled and felt, and the fear and joy of realizing that I was falling in love with a man who had AIDS and who was also my client, and that no one would ever be able to understand why I would take such a risk, all come back to me.  It’s a memory I never want to lose.

Here’s the song:

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