A sunnycold day in Brooklyn, I sit at my computer doing final formatting on this user’s guide. Point-and-click point-and-click. Out the window, I check on Sophie in her yard. Body poised, the fluff around her ears blowing in the wind, I see puffs of her steamy breath snorting from her glistening nose. Inside, I am warm, listening to the music Kris put into a playlist for me on his computer this morning before he left for work. The radiator chuffs a moment of steam, temporarily drowning out Lauryn Hill.
I am waiting for the cable guy to come and turn on our Internet connection. He’ll turn on cable, too, but I don’t much care about that. The telephone man is outside climbing a pole in his down jacket. Soon I will be able to call my sister. Soon I will check my Hotmail.
It was a difficult move. In a mad rush to launch a new homepage by 02/02/02, Oxygen kept Kris at the office past ten most nights during the week we were packing. I spent each day packing my apartment, then rode the subway across town and down to his Chelsea apartment to help him pack late into the night. Come moving day, my apartment was neatly stacked with cardboard boxes scavenged from the recycling in my building, but Kris’ apartment was only half done. The line at the U-Haul office was out the door, and there was only one woman working at the counter. Exhausted, I walked to the nearby gas station to buy coffee and croissants while Kris waited.
One of the effects of 9-11 is the extra security at the most surprising places. The U-Haul dealer wanted two pieces of ID and a major credit card. They would hold on to the ID until the truck was returned. Double parked outside Kris’ apartment, the truck left just enough room for the mail trucks and taxis to pass. In front of it, the U-Haul van looked petite by comparison. Kris’ roommate, Liz.
These high-rise Manhattan apartments have rules about moving in and out. We had use of the freight elevator from nine to five, but we were sure eight hours would be plenty of time to clear out the apartment. Liz and Anthony had the elevator first, so Kris and I tried to wrap up the packing as quickly as we could while they piled everything Liz owns into the basement. By noon we realized two things: We would not be able to get my things out of my apartment before I had to give the up my own freight elevator at two, and Liz couldn’t fit all of her things into that van.
“Since we’re not moving Patti, there will be room in our truck. Put your mattress in there.” Kris offered, while I threw a tantrum.
“It’s okay, hon. We’ll move your stuff on Saturday. That’s only two days away.”
His words made sense, but I was beyond logic.
About then, Elbert turned up to help. Gratefully, we tried, in a disorganized way, to make good use of him. Around one, we realized we couldn’t do much more without some food in our stomachs, and headed out for the nearest pizza joint.
Just as we were digging into our plate-sized slabs of lasagna, Kris’ cell phone rang. It was a gift from heaven calling, in the form of our friend Ben. Ben was at work at Oxygen, but had gotten permission from his boss to take the rest of the day off to help us move. He said he figured Oxygen owed Kris that much, after the week he’d had.
Ben was as chipper as he was efficient. After borrowing a giant wheelbarrow-bucket thing (used to take out the trash) from the building maintenance man he organized a wheelbucket brigade moving lamps and tables down the elevator, through the maze of the building’s basement, and out to the truck. Then he rearranged the back of the truck and called in reinforcements. He stayed with us through the day. I was SO glad to have him with me when I was lost in Brooklyn, coaching me on directions and watching the mirrors as I shouldered my enormous U-Haul truck between the Hondas and Toyotas parked on both sides of the pencil thin side streets, gripping the steering wheel in horror.
It was after midnight when we hauled in the last box, and I was trembling with tension. I wanted to think it was over, but I knew that soon I would be doing it all again. This time with my own boxes.
It was a difficult move. Strangely, the decision to do it was pretty easy.
Everyone expected us to move in together from the start. My friend, Jamie, from the office…
ME: “Things are going really well with Kris, but I can’t say where it is going. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here.”
JAMIE: “Why don’t you two move in?”
JAMIE: (with a knowing pat on the back) “You’ll find that you will”
Everybody here is looking for someone to move in with. In Manhattan, it’s acceptable to live with your parents if they have a great apartment. Or a cheap one. Many people live with grandparents, patiently waiting to inherit a rent-controlled apartment. Families sublet to strangers forcing them to pose as cousins in order to hold an apartment for their seven-year-old son. Strangers get in line for the opportunity to play the long lost niece. Several people I know live with their parents, and one is living in the very apartment he grew up in- only the layers of paint to indicate the passage of years. I could tell you the story of a divorced couple that continued to live together, inevitably remarrying “for the sake of the apartment”.
In this culture, moving in together is about economics, and the finding that great deal. You hear a lot less about “taking our relationship to the next level,” than you would back home.
It IS a great apartment. We have the ground floor of a brownstone, also known as a “garden” apartment. The brownstones hunker stolidly against the sidewalk in the front, shoulder to shoulder to shoulder on every block, garden touching garden to the rear and on each side out back. To get to our apartment, you don’t climb to the tall double doors, but walk around to the right, into the hobbit hole under the stairs.
To West Coast Patti, these brownstones are simply quaint old buildings. Charming for their excesses of trim and their wrought iron fences. To Manhattan Dweller Patti, they seem palatial. Our apartment was once the kitchen and formal dining room for some wealthy person’s skinny, four story home. The main floor would have been a parlor or sitting room, and the floors above bedrooms, and possibly servant’s quarters. There’s something magical about sleeping in a hundred year old formal dining room. Antique lighting fixture ringed by circle upon circle of scalloped detail; white ceiling traced with a double row of thick molding, eight inches apart. A plate shelf circles the room 12 inches down from the ceiling. Opening my eyes to this room feels like waking up inside a wedding cake.
The garden, actually a 10' X 10' square of dirt, sticks, and leaves, punctuated by a surprising number of old pennies and the occasional condom wrapper, is one in a seemingly endless line of iron-fenced patches marching domino-like to the right and left out sight, is Sophie’s little gymnasium. She actually has a pretty good range out back. The rusted iron fence separating our yard from Dennis’s yard, on our right, is missing several rods, and I’ve sighted her several times using his yard as a race course, circling and circling, tearing his dirt into a chunky circular track.
A great apartment.
Still, for Kris and I, it was a thoughtful decision. We had been taking it easy, enjoying our romance one day at a time, but with me out of work we couldn’t remain that way for long. We wrestled with our ideals, but our West Coast sensibilities couldn’t overcome the facts of our case. Faced with the choice between moving to the ‘next level’ and my moving back home, we chose to move to Brooklyn together.
For pragmatic reasons, we made a leap of faith.