Committing to a One-Year Lease

Flushing Avenue, January 2016

Tiny bumps on my balcony’s uneven concrete pierce through my sweatpants as I watch an unreasonable amount of people cross Ninth Avenue in the middle of the block instead of walking a mere twenty feet to the lights. A Coca-Cola truck, a red (corporate) drop amongst yellow taxis and metallic cars, parks outside of a supermarket but no one comes out. A delivery man in a bike passes by the lifeless truck, swings from the left lane to the far right, barely missing a few pedestrians who have actually preferred to trot the worn out lines of the crosswalk. The bike takes a right on 28th Street, riding against the current of the traffic. Another biker appears on his CitiBike, casually going up the avenue in zigzags. The defiant bikers of New York.

April 14, chilly but not so bad under the sun. A faux warmth takes over. The mild but lengthy winter has finally left the streets of New York, reminding me of the day — exactly a year ago — when I stepped foot inside this apartment. It took me almost nine months to give my life a direction and sign a one-year lease. In the span of nine months, I had already changed two apartments in the city but I had woken up every single day with the same feeling of uncertainty no matter the borough, the avenue, the street. Each day, a part of me had hoped I would tell myself to pack my bright orange suitcase, grab my passport, and take a cab to Terminal 1 at JFK. Somehow, I never did. Maybe it was because endings are just hard for me — at the end of the day, I’m a cancerian. I don’t simply live in nostalgia, I immerse myself in nostalgia. I am nostalgia.

But, when I left my sublet in Brooklyn and got on the M train — which had witnessed me smile, laugh, cry, sleep, have breakfast, run into friends and meet strangers — , I did not even look behind. Movers placed all my boxes in a white truck that was missing one of its side view mirrors and told me I could not drive with them because of company policy. I was not only worried about my boxes but also about the safety of the movers but they gave me a smile, slammed their doors and drove away. For a second, I thought one of the doors would fall off. It didn’t.

Just as I did every day to get to Manhattan, I crossed the street, walked by the walls of the Woodhull Medical Center, paid homage to all the nights an ambulance’s shriek woke me up, making me think that it was indeed the end of the world. (It never was the end of the world — or at least not of my world.) An accomplice of the smooth April breeze, my wet hair gave me a chill. I walked up the stairs of the Flushing Avenue stop, took a picture in front of the sign and for once in my life: I moved on.

Over the East River, the M struggled to climb the Williamsburg Bridge, and I looked at the city and realized that I could now act like I was rooted for a year. When other millennials don’t want to commit to anything, I am dying to commit, to stay in the same place for more than a few months. As I near the end of the biggest commitment of my adult life, I tell myself the most consistent thing I have had so far has been a piece of paper that I signed with my roommate, a contract, a legal promise.

My roommate and I always knew the best part of the apartment was the balcony, and somehow we never put anything out, except for fairy lights that broke after a summer rain. We did not even decorate the apartment inside. We went on furniture websites or second-hand furniture groups on Facebook, but it always hit us that we could soon have to leave the city or even the country — I mean, we are not even from here, right?

April 14. New York’s trees are still bare, but they’ve made it. They held on tight. At least, I can try.

Manhattan, April 2017