"do you still cry? i mean tears when you are sad." - the six-year-old i babysit, to me, while i was putting his pajamas on him
snow, glass, mirror
snow, leaves, cigarette butts
styrofoam, string, snow
"circa december two thousand eleven"
when you ask someone in new york city for tips on how to find an apartment, they will invariably begin their advice with the phrase, “well, we got really lucky…”
my roommates and i did not get really lucky.
we start looking in march for an april-turned-may-turned-june move-in date. thousands of dirty, window-less, “true” three bedroom apartments later, i am sitting on the first floor of a six-story walk up. i’m holding a daisy and weeping. i am weeping because it is raining and for the last three months my nourishing relationship with my best friend with has become a torrent of guarantor information, skeezy craig’s list profiles, and broker-fee atm withdrawals. i am weeping because i had sex with a boy the night before, and when i asked him if he wanted to get together soon he said that we would have to “play it by ear.” i am weeping because i am twenty-years-old and the only way i can respond to any outside stimulus is to weep. i am weeping because, sitting in that stairwell, after seeing a true true three-bedroom apartment with a window in each room and an awkwardly long, charmingly yellow hallway at it’s entrance, i have finally found a home.
two-one-two avenue b is a “my-first-new-york-city-apartment” apartment. it is the size of a casket. there are exposed wires running up and down the stairway railings. these wires conceivably connect to some sort of electrical source, but that is hard to believe since there are only two working light bulbs in the apartment. the sink is perpetually clogged, the floors can’t stay clean. it is too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. the landlord is an enormous man that wears his button-down shirts unbuttoned so you can spy his unruly chest hairs jostling out near his collar when you go in to ask him to repaint the chipped ceiling even though you know he will tell you that he will and then won’t. the rent is too damn high.
objectively speaking, the apartment is a dive. but we don’t see that. because we are on our own in new york city and we are in college and we are not living in dorms and we can smoke weed and play music and have sex in a tiny apartment where it is impossible to do any of these things without the other two residents smelling or hearing or smelling.
we have three keys—one for the for the front door of the building that is always unlocked, one for the door to the apartment which is always jammed, and one for the mailbox which is always empty. even though we are living in the adult world for the first time in our “my-first-new-york-city-apartment,” we are still children and don’t receive medical bills or jury duty notices—only the occasional care package from my mom, full of homemade granola that i triumphantly run up the one flight of stairs to apartment four to show my roommates before we open a bottle of wine at two o’clock in the afternoon. in here, it’s always summer. even winter is summer.
the neighborhood is in transition. the mom and pop bike shop sits uncomfortably next to a high-rise luxury condominium complex with over sized windows. our deteriorating building sits across the street from both. my roommates and i sit on the fire escape and smoke weed and watch with our early-twenty-something eyes the late-twenty-something’s who live in those condos walk around behind their over sized windows. we watch them watch television with their serious significant others, and cook meals using more than three ingredients, and have intermediate level sex unlike the three of us who are still beginners. next to the luxury condos are housing projects and next to the projects is a subway sandwich shop.
it is a week after i moved into two-one-two avenue b, apartment four, new york, new york, one-zero-zero-zero-nine. it is evening and i am really alone in the apartment for the first time. i light incense that i bought from the mosque around the corner and sit by myself in my room on my twin bed that i have because my room is only big enough for a twin bed and also because I am still a child and so have no need for anything larger. i am playing my ukulele. holding such a small object in such a small space makes me feel enormous. i am learning how to play some james taylor songs because that is what my mother used to play when we went on car trips when i was growing up. i am going home soon to visit and i know it will make her happy if i can play them. i am practicing my ukulele alone in my tiny apartment and i hear loud noises coming outside. i peek my head out of my first-story window and i see that everyone on the street has stopped to see what the noise was. the corner of thirteenth street and avenue b is silent and still and looks like an old photograph. we all stay frozen and breathe for a moment, as if we can better asses the situation through our lungs. a minute or so of this pause elapses and the noise begins again. this time it is repeats itself several times over, and i can hear that it is gunshots. i pull my head back inside my bedroom as the shooting continues. i press myself against my twin-sized bed. the shooting stops. i hear sirens as the police and ambulance race to the scene. my building is near a police and fire station. i have learned in a week how to distinguish between nonchalant cat-stuck-in-a-tree sirens and more serious ones. these sirens are serious. i lie still in my bed and let their repetitious shrieks flow in and out of my ears as i turn off the light fall asleep.
i was looking through some old files on my computer, and i came across an video clip i took of an ex-partner sleeping. that is an odd thing to delete and an odd thing not to delete.
i am trying to embrace the asymmetry of my face.
if you listen to too much bjork in a day, you turn into bjork.