I try to avoid this part of downtown Manhattan, which isn’t hard, because it never appealed to me to begin with, even when I was renting a nice bedroom with exposed brick facing a firehouse on Broome Street. There weren’t enough trees, and on the weekend traffic would sit in front of my apartment like a sea of metal, unmoving. What it lacked in foliage it made up for in creeps, my least favorite being the guy in a wheelchair who rattled a tin can when you passed, rasping a hoarse, “Dollah dollah dollah dollah.” They called it Nolita but it was really just real estate purgatory, something that existed between prettier, tree-lined Prince Street and a real Chinatown bargain.
They’ve painted the bottom walls of the building. At least I think they have. I remember them being green. My old roommate—the one who called the cops on me for domestic disturbance, the one with the dog that used to shit in the living room every day—lives in my old room. It’s been four years since I moved out of there in a rusted out maroon van, assisted by two guys from the Dominican Republic who drank beer and smoked weed the whole sweaty, blistering late-August day. “Jen,” the one kept saying. “Jen, slow down.” I just wanted to get the hell out of there and start over as quickly as possible, in my own space, on my own street, in a place that felt like home.
Seeing that building used to make me mad; it reminded me of the person who still lived there who I disliked so intensely, reminded me of the ulcerous pang I would feel in my stomach every time I heard the door open, reminded me of her wine bottles and her yelling. The five months I spent there felt like high-jacked time, an era that could have gone well and was supposed to go well but didn’t.
But now I see it for what it is: a place I wasn’t meant for. It was a faulty springboard from Los Angeles to New York, one that broke your ankle on the jump, but—more importantly—got you to where you needed to be. My recollection of the place now is one of a selective amnesia, a blank place where I recall only the fuzziest of details, like a book you didn’t care for much, with the exception of some particularly memorable scenes.
Relationships are like that, especially the shit ones. Apartments that weren’t right but where you existed for a bit within the space-time continuum for the mere reason that you are living, and have to, eventually, be somewhere, with someone. These were never places that you owned or even had leases on. More like non-committal Airbnbs that give you the taste of a place, a neighborhood, but never providing the security of home. The depressive coke addict like a basement apartment in SoHo with no windows. The competitive ADHD obsessive who loved you like a dull, pretty two-bedroom in Murray Hill with dying neighbors and nice views. The intelligent misogynist with a chip on his shoulder like a loft with faulty electrical and pipes that freeze in winter. Every place with its problems, every man with his issues. You, the person who gets to come and go. Tourist, for life.
In the end, it’s always better they didn’t let you stay. In New York, there’s more bad real estate than good. And not every place is meant to be yours. Anyway, I’m holding out for a West Village townhouse with original details and a pill problem.