“After almost eighteen years of The Letter People and cursive lessons; miles and miles of parental signatures on permission slips and report cards; passing notes and barely passing chemistry; faux graduation ceremonies and real graduation ceremonies; cool first days of school in CT and hot, sticky mornings in NC; searching for familiar faces in cafeterias and classrooms and eventually campus buildings, I’ve found myself here, in Brooklyn, New York, sitting on a roof.”
–Me, two days ago, trying to be poetic
Yeah I just quoted myself, which is pretty pretentious. And I’m not sitting on a roof right now, not anymore. But I felt like I should keep the quote anyway because that’s what finally made me sit down and start writing this.
When I first went up on the roof a few nights ago, the Drifters’ song “Up on the Roof” started playing in my head. It had been a long day at work, an even longer evening doing laundry, and there were so many things I wanted to do but I didn’t feel like I had the time or energy. Writing was one of them.
It wasn’t until a roommate of mine decided to show one of her friends our roof, and I decided to join, too. It was a long walk up (and a painful reminder that it’s been too long since I’ve jogged) but it was totally worth it.
So I went back. And now, whenever I get stressed about living paycheck to paycheck for my first few months here, or about wondering whether or not I’ll ever write a novel, or whether or not I’ll be able to stand on the L train without holding onto the railing as it travels between the Bedford Ave & 1st Ave stops, I know I have the roof.
When I don’t have the roof, I have this blog. This blog will be my roof, and I shall climb to it whenever this old world starts getting me down.
If I stop writing in this blog, it will be the equivalent of throwing myself off of the roof and onto the ground below, which would be stupid. At least, that’s what I’ll tell myself.
Write or die, right? Always works.
So, onward then. I have many things to document from my past three weeks living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan, but it’s kind of difficult to do so without feeling like I’m trying to simultaneously eat four different tubs of newly opened Ben & Jerry’s without them melting all over the place. (Painful analogy, but this kind of happened to me earlier–minus three tubs. One of the most wonderful and most dangerous things about living in a city is the fact that anything you want is always only a few minutes’ walk away…)
Therefore, I’ve been trying to split it into somewhat coherent chunks.
Chapter 1: The Bed Bug Blues
Actually, the title is pretty much all I’m going to say about that part of the moving process. I don’t wanna talk about it.
I will talk about the way it feels when you write your first check for your first apartment. It feels damn good, especially when you spent 80% of your summer trying to find a job in the first place.
It’s not a temporary on-campus apartment that someone else is paying for and is known to be located in the “sketchy” part of campus, where there aren’t many sidewalks and the laundry is at the bottom of a black hole. It’s not on a beach in Brighton, hugging the English Channel just a few seconds away from a delicious fish and chips joint but surrounded by drunk British people.
It’s in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. (Although that may even be questionable; I’ve already gotten into a few verbal scuffles with strangers who love to insist “East Williamsburg” doesn’t really exist.) And while it isn’t a two-minute walk away from both an emergency room and a Starbucks, and it isn’t overlooking the ocean, it’s in an area with the best Thai food ever. And that’s really enough for me.
I’m not a religious person by any means—I believe this is where the word “blessed” would go if I was—but I do believe in fate and some kind of order out there. I am so fortunate to be here, in a place with which I’ve become familiar thanks to my sister’s hospitality over the last few months. I’m also fortunate to have really great roommates that I didn’t have to find via the internet.
I could go on and on about how fortunate I am, but that’s kind of obnoxious for someone to do in something like this (just like it’s obnoxious to quote yourself, goodness gracious who does that?), so I’m just going to leave it at that.
Fighting the Good Fight
During the two-week period of commuting from my house in Connecticut to the my job in the city every day due to the invasion of those-creatures-that-shall-not-be-named, I learned many things about myself.
One thing is that I am capable of doing a six a.m. to nine-thirty p.m. day if it means I am getting paid. Barely breaking even? Perhaps. But getting paid nonetheless.
Another thing is that even while I was certainly making the most out of my last few weeks at UNC with college friends I love very dearly, I still had the foresight to work as many hours as I could manage before graduating. Otherwise, my pockets would have been completely empty when it came time to fund my $40-day commutes and I would have to make my money through questionable services–you know, selling hemp bracelets and selling homemade Cinnabon rolls on the streets.
Finally—and most importantly—I learned how lovely having a routine can be. True, going to bed at a certain time so I could wake up at six a.m. and feel somewhat human, then making sure my dad and I left for the train station by seven a.m. so I could take the 7:27 out of New Haven to Grand Central Station, then catching the 4 or 5 subway down to Fulton Street to get to work by ten a.m. was a bit tedious.
But if there was one thing that I loved about the grueling process, it was the little surprises. Like the two or three times the newer, shiny red-and-white upholstered 7:27 trains were replaced by the old ones—you know, the ones with the purple and blue seats that are too shiny for their own good.
I would shake my head and sigh along with the rest of the platform dwellers when the old geezers lurched onto the Grand Central-bound track, but when I sat down (after checking my seat for any suspicious stains, of course), it felt like a new adventure.
Even better were the random interactions I had with people who liked to talk to other people.
Once, a woman on the platform complimented me on my shirt. It was one of the ones I’d gotten on an Express shopping spree1 when I’d learned that I’d gotten my current job and I felt so fancy.
I thanked the woman and told her that there had been a sale going on, otherwise I would never be able to afford to shop there. Before I knew it, we were exchanging our life stories. I told her it was my second day of working at my new job, and in the span of five minutes I learned that she had two daughters and their life stories. One daughter was maybe twenty-three, and loved Express, even though her mom said she couldn’t really afford it. The daughter was a single mother and a waitress, and not really sure what she was doing with her life.
Her other daughter older, had like five million children2, held some profession that had similar caliber to that of a doctor, and was happily married. The woman described this second daughter’s life seemed so much “better” than the first one’s, it was incredible.
Almost to point out how true this was, one of the star-child’s daughters (the woman’s granddaughter, just to clarify) sat patiently on the other side of the woman, probably singing “Kumbaya” in her head. I hadn’t even noticed the three year-old before cherub before, she was so quiet. She was so well behaved that she didn’t need anything to entertain her. I smiled when the woman told me they were spending the day in the city.
The train arrived. I wished them a happy day in the city. They turned left into the car; I turned right. And I wondered about the younger daughter. I couldn’t help but wonder how she felt whenever her mother explained her situation to others, if whether or not her single motherhood had come from a one-night stand or from a long-term boyfriend who had changed his mind or some other way. Funny how life turns out.
1If buying five shirts counts as a shopping spree. it did for my wallet.
2Slight exaggeration, but it was more than two.