January 2008-October 2009
270 Broadway, #3
Growing up outside of New York, I had a filmic sense of what my future life in the city would be like – bleak, somewhat vacant, and shoddily constructed. But also gloriously devoted to artistic pursuits. I would own ironic poodle skirts, prepare my own fixer, and draw on the walls. At night, I would wear a chinoiserie robe and de-cat-eye myself with dozens of kohl-soaked tissues before crawling into my cold bed to sleep alone. Even in fantasies of a future life, I was alone. I imagined myself drifting between boyfriends and lovers, but my dreams were those of the spaces filled between those days. Of who I was going to be.
More than anything, I wanted an artfully decaying apartment in a questionable part of town. But life took a very different path and the plans I made to fulfill this childhood prophecy steered me towards attempts at writing and spates of joblessness. At least I got the alone part right. Grad school proved to be a temporary respite in the downward trajectory of my “career” before 2007. I slouched towards Long Island and hibernated in bitterness. Then, an awful job reinvigorated me in its awfulness – in its paychecks and plethora of wounded boys to moon (and more) over. But it was a distraction from the sure course of a more interesting devastation. After quitting the job and finally getting some sex, I began interning at a production company and house-sat at an apartment that met the requirements laid out in my fantasies.
When I first met my future roommate, we were drunk on the roof of the building we both worked in. She told me my life and I hated her for it – because she was right. She was trying to shake me up. I declined plans to go dancing later that night because I wasn’t ready to embrace the abandoned ideas she was trying to get me to re-invest in. After a tumultuous few months, a birthday and my first one-night-stand, I gave two weeks notice at the awful job – when I was about to be offered a promotion. Comedian John Mulaney has a bit about the instant gratification derived from canceling plans. The socially-awkward woman sees him and raises him walking out on a job with no clear plans on supporting yourself.
Quitting opened up a new chasm of unknowns. I decided to move to LA (more on that later) and try my hand at writing for real. The last week at my job, the woman from the roof asked me to house sit for her while she was away. Her roommate was also going to be away, so I’d have an entire Williamsburg apartment to myself. After the job wound down, I spent a few days not talking to anyone, eating tacos and alternating between too much coffee and too much wine – a pattern perfected in grad school. I wrote a lot and bought some good CDs – one that changed my life. It was something I didn’t know I needed. An assault of poetic lyrics and jangly drums only loosely connected to the rhythm of the words. It was art. That weekend, I brought someone back to her apartment, emboldened somewhat by wine but mostly by the artful life I was glimpsing again.
Months later, out walking along dark streets after my internship, my phone rang. I was offered the smaller room in the apartment. In January of 2008, I moved in. At the same time, I was upgraded from intern to assistant, finally in the industry that used to feel faraway-so close. It was exactly what I needed. Saved from the frozen hell of craiglist, I began a distorted version of the life I lusted after as a kid. I drunk dialed an ex for the first time, uncomfortably went out to bars in borrowed dresses, poured wine down my throat and vomited up truth, cried a lot, started to fall in love with a friend (again), wrote sporadically, ate roast chicken with my fingers and leaned on my roommate. And cried more. I acclimated to the aggressive click clack of the J train outside my window and welcomed a band of cats and other wildlife into my path. My job transformed into something meaningful, and took me out of the country for about 3 months.
When I came back, my room was waiting for me, and the rent checks uncashed. The confidence I built up in Toronto manifested itself in pretty extreme mood swings, and the odd cab ride home from a dive bar were a tear-streaked window into my past and future self. One time, at a red light outside a totally different dive bar, a pretty cute, pretty drunk hipster boy told me not to cry. The unwarranted advice the old me would have shrugged off in annoyance this time opened me up. Part of me regrets not getting out of the cab at that point and buying the boy a drink. At the time, part of me regretted not staying in Canada despite a lack of visa or job prospects. But I stayed in the cab and came back to NY to meet my future self. Near my birthday, a strange kitten wandered into our apartment. I let the friend back into my bed a few days later and we realized things had changed. We jumped in to something different, new, great. The kitten lives with us in LA now; I moved five years after I intended.
Now and then, I get emails to an old hotmail account from an even older college board, offering me sublets to apartments on the Upper West Side for the low low price of $2000 a room. That life was never going to be possible for me, and neither was the fantasy life I crafted in my youth. The apartments of Moonstruck, Something Wild, After Hours, and Desperately Seeking Susan were never attainable. The New York I moved to in my late 20s only barely resembled the New York that was, at the time, a $9 LIRR round trip away. Moreover, I was nothing like who I thought I was going to be. Tougher in a lot of ways, but less committed to my own destruction. When I moved into the Broadway apartment, someone had puked on the doorstep the night before. When I moved out, I left a lot more behind.