On Saturday, September 25th, I shut the door and switched off the lights for the very last time in the place I've called my home for the past four and a half years.
After we left, Andrew and I stood on my roof quietly for a moment, watching the lights of Harlem twinkle in through the dark patches created from the neighborhood's newly-constructed high-rise condos.
My roof. I had my 25th birthday party up here. I brought up milk crates, and we sat on them in the glow of a string of twinkle lights and some cheap tap-lights from the 99-cent store. I brought my sisters up here to watch the fireworks on the 4th of July that they visited. I drank beers here on a blanket with my best friends. I did yoga up here. We kissed up here once, on a grey day after we saw St. John's Cathedral. In the dark I could still see its massive silhouette on the hill, stacked on top of us.
"I've never left something so permanently before," I told him. "Really?" Andrew said. I kissed him again, like I did on that grey day, and we went back downstairs.
Since leaving, I've experienced a curious mixture of grief and elation. Sometimes I'm struck so intensely by the strangeness and the sadness of the fact that I'll never again enter that room, with its bare window, cheap Ikea daybed and the TV tray doubling as a nightstand. Other times, I think about the fact that I'm utterly unattached, unbeholden to that space, to its particular dust and clutter, its mice and its rent - and the thought makes me giddy.
I always meant to buy curtains, replace the TV tray with a real nightstand, but somehow never got around to it. It wasn't a priority. During my tenure in NY, I encouraged in myself a sort of monk-like asceticism; I had neither the money nor the space for a lot of stuff. But as I shut the door on on my room for the last time, a thought came to me, spontaneously and unbidden: never again.
Never again do I want to live so impermanently, in the empty expanse of a space I always meant to make my own. Never again do I want to live the the shadow of promises I've made to myself.
It's funny. Through my self-imposed asceticism, I thought I was cultivating an appropriately monastic spirituality. New York, I thought to myself, was teaching me how to detach from materialism. I thought about the spiritual lessons New York was teaching me a lot. Patience. The value of hard work.
In hindsight, though, I wonder if these things that I thought were teaching were actually tearing down: all those moments waiting for a subway or walking behind someone slow were wearing down my patience to a tiny, raw, nub. All the times I had to work so much harder for what I wanted than I would have anywhere else... maybe it just made me tired. And I wonder if my bare personal space actually set me adrift in some way. I wonder if we need things in the same way we need stories - to tie us down, to tell us who we are.
I go back and forth like this, wondering if New York strengthened me or unmoored me - or maybe both. I guess I'm about to find out.