The latch on the iron gate sticks — you have to finagle it just so to be rewarded with a telltale scrape against the brick. Walk down three steps to the 6x6 landing and you’ll see a rose bush above the trash cave, a hopeful occupant of W 88th St. It looks like it’s dying right now, but for two perfect weeks one April, it bloomed, and six pale pink roses watched over the rubbish.
A clever someone thought they designed the trash cave for a perfect fit. Unlatch it, pull up on the metal pole that’s lodged in the concrete, open the door, and you’ll see two cans nestled together in their dark and damp home, exactly enough space for both. But that clever someone forgot to account for the closing mechanism. When you remove one of the trash cans to deposit your offering, you have to lift it over a one-inch lip on the ground. There’s very little clearance on top, so your knuckles scrape the bricks that form the cave’s ceiling every time.
It’s been a long time since I thought about my scabbed knuckles, roses in April, coated iron scraping brick, or the telltale click of my garden entrance’s spring lock, but the most unexpected thoughts and memories float through your consciousness in the wee hours. And last night, the uninvited visitors to my homeostasis were the banalities of my everyday existence in the Upper West Side.
I missed that click — it’s a more satisfying sound than the soft-latching deadbolt up the stoop. I wondered if the trash roses bloomed last spring. I brainstormed ways to alter the cave to remove the lip. As I remembered, a visceral nostalgia flooded my belly.
I’m glad I no longer live in the 400-square-foot, 5th floor walkup I shared with a man who’d stopped loving me years prior, my love similarly lodged in the past. My memories of W 88th are not ones of warmth or comfort or belonging. I was not happy in that apartment. I am happy now.
Last night, I was homesick for it anyway.