We had friends, we had jobs (most of the time), we had each other. On top of it all, we had a really great apartment. 600 square feet of efficient cosiness which, thanks to the “open” layout, had the illusion of being much larger.
The irony? The more comfortable your apartment, the less likely you are to leave it, especially in winter months, and the less you get out of the city. We were getting a lot out of a friend’s Netflix account. That was the growing conundrum.
A great night out was slowly becoming a rare thing and great nights in were about stuffing as many of our friends into the apartment as possible. Out-of-state visitors would come and, depending on how many times they’d visited, have no problem sitting on the couch or at the dining table after a long homemade brunch to chat for hours. The last time Tom’s parents visited, we asked them after dinner one night what they’d like to do. Comedy club? Jazz club? Cocktail bar?
“What do you guys usually do?” they asked.
Tom and I looked at each other. “We usually go home and watch an episode of Midsomer Murders until we fall asleep.”
“That sounds fine to us,” they said. So we did that. Two nights in a row.
The easy answer, when people ask what we’ll miss most about New York, is of course: “Our friends.” But finding a great apartment in New York – a one bedroom apartment to share with Tom – turned out to be much harder than finding great friends. I got lucky with making new friends, meeting Tom, and finding my first studio, all accomplished with that “just arrived in New York” luck. But Tom and I looked at over fifty apartments – fifty! – before we came back to an apartment we thought we’d lost. We saw it listed online again a month after it was supposed to have been taken. Tom messaged the broker, asking why it was still listed even though we’d emailed before and met him at the first showing to state our interest.
“Oh,” said the broker, just one of tens of thousands good-for-nothing clowns who exist to make life in New York harder than it needs to be. “Someone beat you to it with the application but their financials didn’t check out so it’s available again.”
Idiot brokers aside, the apartment and us were meant to be. From 2015 to 2018 we were two very happy dwellers. We hosted countless visitors and a handful of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years parties. We made roasts and curries and cakes, drank many bottles (and more than a few boxes) of wine, ate probably over a hundred bagels and spent many a drunken night scarfing down Crispy Krunchy Chicken from the not-so-aptly named New York Pizza just down the street.
From the apartment’s many windows we watched Black Lives Matter and Not My President marches below, listened to the same bald, toothless bum call out over and over to buy him a “cup a cawfee,” and smiled, dry and smug in our second story bubble, as people got soaked on the sidewalks below during sudden downpours. We heard many drunken early AM fights and knew, when the lights in Mickey Spillane’s sign changed to red and green, that the holidays were upon us again. From the couch we listened to cars blare their horns whilst stuck in the futility of Friday afternoon tunnel traffic and to the sirens of hundreds of fire trucks and ambulances.
We had blowout fights lasting hours and stony silences lasting less than five minutes. We got engaged on that couch and planned weddings in New York and Taiwan, and talked about the future.
We watched a lot of British mysteries.
There were the quirks we grew accustomed to, and the straight downsides that not even the “character” of an old building could make charming. The floors were so slanted we had to prop two of our bed legs up with stacks of old magazines. The bathroom was in the bedroom, which made it awkward for some of our guests who needed to pee in the middle of the night (an issue we tried to remedy by placing folding Japanese screens – our “sex screens” in front of our bed) and the apartment’s designated garbage cans (outside, around the corner) were outfitted with lids so heavy I could not take out the garbage unless Tom was there to help. Often, other tenants (and students from the neighboring high school), just left garbage out on the curb. And while we luxuriated like cats in the ample natural light, the avenue-facing windows would dirty again almost immediately after we washed them, giving the day – as seen from within – a hazy quality even if the sky was absolutely clear.
But the past is a place to hold fond memories, and the further away from New York we go, the fonder my memories of our little haven in Hell’s Kitchen grow. There’s a way that places – like people with their hair a certain way, wearing their favorite dress, mid laugh or on their way somewhere – are meant to be remembered. In my mind, the apartment was cosiest in the evening, but it was most beautiful during the day, even on a cloudy day, when light seemed to beam directly from the wood floors and white walls. I can still smell a hint of eco-friendly cleaner lingering in the air and hear the gentle whir of the air filter. It didn’t matter if it was winter or summer or spring or fall – the apartment was always warm inside. It was always a treat to come home, it was always wonderful to stay in.
Can you blame us?