Eileen Myles

from Chelsea Girls


In this final chapter of the book, Myles recalls a fling she had at the Hotel Chelsea, where her charge, James Schuyler, also lived…


Ten o’clock. I came into the world of 625. I was squinting. Hello Dear boomed Jimmy.  O shit I forgot the papers. I see. I’ll go down. It’s okay you can get them later when you go out. Are you sure? I’m quite alright. Jimmy was so big. He was like an enormous sunflower lying on the bed of his long skinny room with French windows that opened onto clanging noisy twenty-third street. The Chelsea was a myth loaded with old denizens, Europeans from the 60s, rock bands and then Jimmy and Virgil Thompson. He was so skinny when I met him and now he was so fat. You look a little weathered dear. I do! Well, I put the pan of water onto the stove. I’ve got a girl upstairs. A friend staying in the hotel. No we’re having sex, I met her last night. I was with Chris in this bar, she kind of forced me into it. I’m sure she did. Actually standing in Jimmy’s kitchen such a regular thing felt strange in a way that fucking in the Chelsea didn’t. Now I felt I was doing the wrong thing. Well, maybe you want to get back up there. Well, she’s waiting but I’ll make you some French toast. That would be fine. I could still taste champagne while the buttery smell of french toast filled the pantry. I opening the apple sauce and examined the dry stuck apple sauce coating the rim of the glass. I was wanting normal now and normal was tawdry. What’s her name, your friend upstairs. Mary. She was our waitress. Whose? Me and Chris. You girls lead quite an exciting life. Yeah well I’m she’s home breaking every glass in the house or selling my books. Oh I don’t think Chris would act that way. I’m sure she’d do something better than that. Right. The light flooded in through the windows as I placed the dish down next to Jimmy on his bed. There was a little chair, salmon colored, next to his bed with several packs of Export “A”s, old coffee,  and rings on the orange seat from other coffee cups. There were pennies, two prescription bottles of pills. Oh god I forgot the pills. Now this really was bad. I was standing in his room on the old green rug. The floor was covered with books: Firbank, Virginia Woolf’s diaries, John Ashbery As We Know. He was like a music box. As you flashed each to him he was bound to respond in his type of quip: He’s writing in columns now. It’s pretty good. Oh she’s much too interested in typesetting to really chase pussy. The phone rings. Hello Dear, I think that would be very nice. He has big lips. His lips are like some kind of fruit he squeezes his words out from. I wonder if the drugs do it. Make him slow and careful. The silences here in the room, the spaces that linger and fill the air when we speak are what I know about Jimmy more than the things he says. The room is yellow. I come in babbling every morning–Oh god what a night. But I must take care of him first. Once I do–he’s finished eating, when he’s lying on his bed with the soles of his bare feet facing me and I’m sitting in my chair by the window reading a book I found on the floor–I wait for a break–Christine’s really mad at me because–I would throw her out, he advised solemnly. You would? Read my new poem, Dear. It’s on the desk. If you like. Jimmy was gay. He went to dyke bars in the Village in the forties. The butches would rise and bow when the femmes came in. The first day I stood facing him, a thin man with long curly hair rigidly lying on his bed I blurted out I love your poems. He said thank you. His friends, a painter and a dealer were standing nearby. The needed someone to spend some time with him and give him his drugs. Say your favorite poet in the world is lying there. Who you’ve always been told is unmeetable, has nervous breakdowns, is a recluse into SM. Just out of a hospital, almost killed himself. Jimmy Schuyler was my new job. Slowly I moved his possessions to the Chelsea from an 8th Avenue flophouse where on the final day among the dry cleaned clothes still in plastic bags, charred bits of poetry on papers, art prints books–I masturbated because it was a filthy and interesting place and he found out because I told one person who told someone else. It’s all right dear I don’t need anything. Go have fun.

From his bed he ran the show. It’s a talent a few people I know have, mostly Scorpios which he was. You’d be hesitatingly starting your story, or like a cartoon character running right in when you realized the long wharf you were taking a short run on, his attention was not there. It was hopeless. The yellow in his room became brighter, the air became crinkly your throat became parched–you felt you had simply become a jerk. The presence of his attention was so strong, so deeply passive–such a thing to bathe your tiny desperate words in that when it was gone you had to stop and hover in the silence again. Then he might begin, or perhaps you could come up with something else once the brittleness, the void passed. You had to stay silent for a very long time some days. He was like music, Jimmy was, and you had to be like music too to be with him, but understand in his room he was conductor. He directed the yellow air in room 625. It was marvelous to be around. It was huge and impassive. What emerged in the science was a strong picture, more akin to a child or a beautiful animal.

Hello Dear. Sometimes I came in and he was sitting on his chair by the bright window. He got up early. He told me that, but I could also surmise it from the number of cigarettes in the ashtray which he never dumped, and how much spilled Taster’s Choice was on the kitchen counter. (John says Taster’s Choice is the best. The emphasis on John meant both that it was a funny thing to have an opinion on and a useful tip that one should take. ) I saw his dick a lot. Probably more than any other man’s in my life. It wasn’t small, it was kind of large. As I would narrate my nightly voyage he would tell me about all his affairs in the forties and fifties and invariably  these often very famous men who were practically myths now would be rated: He was like sleeping with a reptile. Really icky. Edwin. He had a lovely dick. I’d be standing over him holding a dirty dish and figured to leave the silence alone. Well yours looks pretty good I might say as it nudged out of his boxer shorts.

I ran up the two brown staircases to Mary. The firehoses were there, The Europeans were coming in and out of their rooms. I crawled back into he blue bed with her. She was slightly asleep. Not entirely. I don’t love you I thought. I kissed her. I kissed her again. I thought  of that big sunflower man downstairs. He was not sex. It was something else. I hugged her. She was everything else. It was blue. She was Mary the mother of god. Till check out time I sucked on her tit.

I returned around 3 with his pills. I knock. Jimmy I yelled. I had the key. He was sound asleep. I put the pills on the chair. Here’s your paper I said to no one. He’d been up making coffee. The kitchen was a mess. I stuck his change between his classes and this morning’s coffee cup. I kept 3 bucks. I stuffed the bills into my orange pants and I felt something damp. It was the poem I wrote on a napkin last night. The ink was kind of smeared but I could read it. Want to hear my new poem, Jimmy, I wrote it last night. It’s called “Under My Umbrella.”

the old are very ugly.

You know what I mean?

When you see them

smoking a cigarette, it’s

like the tip of the iceberg.

And their boozy wrinkles

under their eyes. You

know I like this evening.

I really deserve the leaves

in the trees

around this restaurant. I’m

kind of overwhelmed by

the beauty of things

like a fascist. Your

beauty, mine,

our drinks, I wonder

if I should catch

up, you’re drinking

faster than me, Oh

I guess I’ll get

another vodka tonic

and see how the evening

goes. Clink-clink.


He woke for a second. Nodded. I’m leaving now. Did you have a good time? Oh it was alright. Bye Jimmy. Then I opened the door and stepped back out to the fall which I’ve mentioned was brown. It was a hot summer day in 1979.