Grace and Johanna on Pleasant Avenue

Grace and Johanna moved into the apartment on Pleasant Avenue in 1981.  They liked it because no one they knew knew of Pleasantville.  It was their escape.

Grace drank, and hated the local liquor stores.  Johanna drank, and loved the local bars.

They bought alcohol downtown.  They shopped downtown too, sometimes.  Sometimes they went to bodegas.(“Ludicrously expensive!” – Johanna – “How can the poor live?”)  Sometimes they went to local fish stores and butchers (“Huh.  Interesting cut of meat.”  – Grace.  No, they didn’t care if was kosher).  Once Johanna went to a live chicken place.  (“Just nope.  I’m not talking about it.”)

Clothing?  Well, stores on third avenue, or their usual: levis and shirts, available in the department stores.  (“Why don’t you ever go to the consignment stores Grace?”  “Because: 1 ” holding up her pointer finger – “I don’t wear dresses. 2 ” her middle finger now “I’m the wrong size, and finally I hate shopping.  You know that.”  “Nonsense,  you love shopping but only with me, because then you can pretend you’re doing it for me even though we both know / hate shopping except for food, but you love it.”  “Fine, we’ll go to consignment stores.”  Grace smiled.  Jo was right, she loved shopping.)

Shoes?  Well Shoes had always been an issue.  Neither Grace nor Jo wore heels.  Both claimed it was impossible to find the shoes that would fit.  Jo had big solid broad(ish) feet that went with her solid broad(ish) hands. Shoes weren’t hard to find, but some sales people were snarky.  Most weren’t.   Grace’s feet were impossibly narrow. (“How can you walk?”  “One foot in front of the other my dear, just like everyone else.”  “You know what I meant.”  “No, really?”  “Damn.”)

Stockings and pantyhose.  (“I’m only wearing tights.  If I have to wear dresses.”  “You don’t Grace, look at me.”  “Your ass looks better in pants than mine does.”  “Nonsense, you just like looking at my ass in pants.”  “True.  True.”)

They festooned the apartment with flowers.  They grew roses on the fire escape.  Bonsai pines and cherry trees peeped out beside the roses trailing over everything.

They planted marigolds, some years they had enough sunlight.  Other years even the petunias didn’t come up.

Basil always worked.  Tomatoes rarely.  That’s one reason they were part of the community garden.  Another was to be friendly with the neighbors.

The neighbors – well there had been a little trouble at the beginning.  Not because they were lesbians, actually it took a while for that to sink in.  Simply, because they were young women living away from their families.  This didn’t sit so well.  Some people thought they were whores.  Again, the garden helped.  So did finding out that Grace was a teacher.  

(“A math teacher.”  “Why don’t you get married?”  “I like living with Johanna and teaching.”  “You could teach if you got married.  Lots of teachers are married.”  “But I couldn’t live with Johanna”)

(What is Johanna?  Not a lawyer.  Maybe a seamstress?  Maybe a secretary?  Not a doctor.  An architect! )

(“Architect.  You make houses right?”  “I wish!  I design how pipes will work in skyscrapers.”  “Why don’t you marry?”  “I like my work, and I like living with Grace.”  “Wouldn’t your husband let you work?”  “I don’t know, but I don’t think he’d like me living with Grace.”)

After a few years, it was clear they wouldn’t marry.  The youngest Reynosa girl had gone to Grace’s school.  She raved about her as a teacher.

The youngest Reynosa girl also didn’t marry.  But she moved to Brooklyn, and lived with a friend there.


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