The worst part was the echo.
An hour or so after the movers left and I smushed a dozen boxes, picture frames, an ottoman and a didgeridoo into a storage space in Chelsea, I walked into what seemed like an empty apartment only to shut the door and be bombarded by the blaring sound of all that once was.
I stood there, in my vacant apartment filled with nothing but memories, thinking about when I signed the lease back in 2007, at the end of a summer spent tending to the battle wounds of a broken heart at my parents house in Long Island. I found it, as I did all my prior apartments, by searching like a dog on Craigslist and every management listing site I knew to avoid paying a broker’s fee. I succeeded and even wrote about it in the New York Post, giving Apartment 5C its first, and maybe its only, day amongst the headlines.
I stood in my vacant apartment, filled with nothing but memories, thinking about its location. While it wasn’t hidden amongst the cobblestone streets of the far West Village I’d come to know and love from previous rentals, the studio was close enough to be considered within the zone (despite it being in the 10011 as opposed to 10014). But I liked that I was a hop and a skip from Union Square, Washington Square and Jackson Square. I had all the Squares covered, with a range of metro stops and Duane Reade’s to choose from in between.
I stood in my vacant apartment, filled with nothing but memories, thinking about its perks and quirks. It was on the fifth floor, so there was a lot of huffing and puffing with laundry bags on top of my head, but it got tremendous afternoon-to-evening light and was therefore worth the climb. I almost never had to turn on a switch until way after sundown. Speaking of lights, the bathroom outlet didn’t work without the light switch on, which was located outside the door. And speaking of the bathroom, this one—with its pale yellow subway tiles and flower-etched mirror—had a “skylight”, which for a long time was halfway open. Then, one evening while standing nearly nude in my kitchen (otherwise known as my walk-around closet), I caught sight of a squirrel that had snuck its way in. Following a few screams and a call to management who, quite literally, battened down the hatch, I was no longer worried about a furry rodent hopping into my shower. There was, however, still a smidgen of a gap that allowed for misty sprinkles during downpours, which I loved. The hardwood floors were dark chocolate—nearly as dark as the brown leather love seat from Jennifer Leather that I bought off a friend and regretted almost immediately. Even after 8 years, it remained the most uncomfortable piece of furniture I’d ever bought. It may have ended up looking well-worn, but those were just the scars of my waking up at 3a.m. with my knees in my mouth and my neck twisted in ways it shouldn’t be.
I stood in my vacant apartment, filled with nothing but memories, thinking about all the neighbors I had over the years: My first knocked to introduce himself—and suggest a proper placement for my TV (aka, not the wall we shared!)—before the movers even left. In the weeks that followed, he then passive-aggressively moved my doormat from horizontal to vertical every morning because it was “in his way” until one day I caught him in the act and let him have it. (An earful, not my mat.) Then, there was the twenty-something blond with a mini white schnauzer who would run between our apartments when the doors were open, which was most Saturday nights as she always wanted to get dressed together—despite that fact that she was first going out when I was getting home. Lastly, there was the cute guy with tortoise-shell glasses who for a second I thought would become my betrothed and we’d have the most amazing New York story to share. We bonded over our Jewishness—the name on his mailbox ended in “man”, too—but I was never quite sure if he wanted the fresh cookies I was baking, if you catch my drift…
I stood in my vacant apartment, filled with nothing but memories, thinking about its ever-changing decor, which evolved from blank white walls, to fern green and a pale peach (that was intended to be beige) courtesy of my cousins from Buffalo, and eggplant in my kitchen thanks to an afternoon of standing on the counters with Lindsey. I started out with the bed perpendicular to the far right wall, and then got all creative by turning it parallel, towards the window, which created a semi separate “living room” and “bedroom.” The kitchen got a facelift after Year Four, complete with new granite countertops and a dishwasher! Oh and due to my inability to refrain from buying concert posters, I ended up with a “gallery” wall almost by accident, which became one of my most favorite parts of the apartment.
I stood in my vacant apartment, filled with nothing but memories, thinking about the many soirées I hosted there: From Book Clubs, where I always served soup (to avoid having to use a fork and a knife due to the lack of table seating), to yearly Chanukah celebrations during which the fire alarm inevitably went off during the latke-frying, to “Shop and Swaps,” which required my friends to get cozy and creative when trying on clothes to avoid flashing each other—or anyone in the apartments across the street.
I stood in my vacant apartment, filled with nothing but memories, thinking about the local places and faces outside that I’d miss: Keith at Mermaid cleaners, who always knew the last four digits of my phone number without having to ask in order to look up my account; the morning head nod and razor-holding-hand wave from Gino, whose Barber Shop next door opened just months after I moved in; the free refills of expensive Italian wine at Gottino and the “Stella” coffee-chocolate mash-up at Jack’s coffee shop around the block; the sounds of school letting out, which I only noticed once I went freelance; and, mostly, the leisurely neighborhood walks with my dear friend Jen who continues to live (with her husband, two dogs and a baby) just around the block. Our meet-ups were spontaneous and sometimes fleeting, but she was always there if I were locked out, wanted a late-night ice cream or needed advice on where to hang that new concert poster or how to reposition the bed.
I stood in my vacant apartment, filled with nothing but memories, ready to make a new one before I turned in the keys. That night, I’d host a few friends over for a farewell pizza and wine party, complete with plastic cutlery, cups and a picnic blanket. (Go ahead, say it: How very Carrie Bradshaw of me. Yeah, yeah. So maybe I am the living stereotype!) Despite its lack of “things” and ever-present echo of emptiness, the place still felt as full as the moon, which the evening prior had undergone a super-duper lunar eclipse making my final night at 50 Greenwich Avenue pretty magical. Because as most of us know, it isn’t the material that makes a home or fills a heart, it’s the memories we create within its walls.