Hours after 2012 becomes 2013, I carry boxes four flights up, walk into my first New York apartment, share it with a friend who decorates our living room with inflatable outdoor cushions. We have no money for furniture and call our makeshift couch “Pillow Town USA.” The first week, we have a housewarming where we both get too drunk and fall asleep while everyone is still here.
After signing the lease, I am given a printout with phone numbers for Con Edison and the building’s Super, allegedly named “Grudge.” I call him to turn on our heat, referring to him as Grudge several times, only to have him eventually tell me, “My name is George.”
The third night I’m here, I watch the sun wake up Brooklyn while talking about bulldogs, Camus and trumpets with a beautiful boy, laying inches from him but barely touching. Still fighting sleep, we eat Mexican food at 10 AM, then kiss on my windowsill for the next three years. We dance in my kitchen to Stevie Wonder. We buy black curtains, turn off the daylight so we can stay in bed to sleep, to share stories and bodies and watch documentaries about the mafia. We lose track of time.
The power goes out and out and out and out. We sit in the dark and watch as the electrician looks at the burn mark where my power box is, gives a blank stare, says “no good” and without warning, smashes a hammer to my wall, making a hole I live with all summer.
The door to the roof lights on fire. I run back and forth with bowls of water, throwing them against the skyline. Smell ash for days after.
We become family, not actually, but in all the ways that matter. We drink beer while perched on each other’s beds and talk about everything we want out of our lives. We call them our conferences, like we are professional working women who do not pay for dinner in quarters.
We say things we do not mean and she moves thousands of miles away and we barely speak for two years because we are too confused or too proud or too far away. We do not know how to fill the space an ocean occupies.
One morning, a raccoon scales the building’s air shaft and climbs into the open window of our first floor neighbor, who lets the raccoon into the building at precisely the same time my new roommate moves in. Him thinking perhaps, the raccoon would just see itself out. I call animal control, I eventually laugh.
I break someone’s heart for the first time. I sleep alone. I am alone now. I spend a lot of time cleaning. I find his hair curled around the nails of my floorboard. Some things do not know how to leave.
I call Grudge when my oven breaks and he tells me he’ll send one of his boys to fix it, which I discover he means literally when a 12 year old with a lighter knocks on my door.
Back in Brooklyn, in a place that only I live in now, we watch illegal fireworks on the 3rd of July from my rooftop, hold each other’s faces and say I’m sorry without any apologies. Only I love you’s, I missed you’s.
The night of the election, my friend Cherry and I watch the Goofy movie in my bed, fall asleep trying not to imagine anything burning.
My radiator leaks into a neighbor’s apartment. They replace it with a new one but leave the old metal piece outside my door for two years. Some things are just too difficult to carry.
I fall in love with a new boy with kind eyes. The third time we wrap our bodies together, he rolls over, picks up a bug, says “Lady, you don’t want this in your bed.” He comes over the next five nights, peels off his clothes in the hallway, leaves them there double bagged in plastic, sprays clouds of rubbing alcohol, traces my collar bones, puts everything soft in black garbage bags.
I spend months shedding all I have accumulated, things I never thought I could let go of. I try to master the craft of downsizing, which is perhaps, knowing what is worth holding on to.
I learn how to fix a toilet, spackle a wall, take up space, how to maintain and repair that space. How to fill it with joy and living things.
I sing in my kitchen. I drink coffee. I watch the first snowfall while sitting on my radiator. I keep plants alive. I make lasagna. Every morning, I time my commute by watching for when the M train passes my window, know that it is now time for me to leave.