I live in a two-bedroom railroad apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn. I live with my girlfriend, one of my best friends from high school and her girlfriend, who is also a close friend of mine. We all moved into this place together a couple months ago. By New York standards our rent is relatively affordable (it’s only a little more than what my suggested monthly loan payment is!). Of course, it’s cheap for a reason. My girlfriend moved to NY from the Suburbs in California, and when we first walked into our apartment I knew she must really love me to leave everything to come live in this dump with me. The previous tenants left a mess. I spent the first day in our new home sanitizing. I washed pee and scraped gum off our hard wood floor. I found the old tenants used underwear shoved in corners of the apartment. I scrubbed EVERYTHING and to top it off I got my hair stuck in an old flytrap that was hanging from the kitchen sealing. But our future in our new home looked brighter with each layer of dirt I washed away. I know I’ll look back fondly on our first night in the apartment, when exhausted and sweaty we all ate a five dollar pizza and drank beer sitting on the freshly cleaned floor. I tend to over romanticize but I like to think that being poor in NY is different than being poor anywhere else… in NY it’s bohemian. (I recognize that my romanticism is probably slightly problematic, see Privilege Preface from a couple weeks ago). At least telling myself it’s somehow romantic makes the struggle easier, it gives it a kind of character and beauty. It makes it easier to deal with our slummy landlord, and nothing working quite right, and the somewhat scary late night solo walks home, and the loud street. No really, this street is loud! My room faces the street and my girlfriend and I woke up one morning to a woman screaming at our neighbor (direct quote) “Open the door you crack head! If I ever see your face in the streets again I’m gonna slice it up”… ahh the Buschwick version of birds chirping. Though that’s not exactly the best wake up call and the man next door yelling out the word “bitch” repeatedly at midnight can put a damper on the late night lady loving mood, we’ve made do. We’ve explored more Pandora music stations. We focus on each other’s voices and the rest becomes white noise.
This is all we can afford and with all of us together it’s really not that bad; it’s actually kind of great. One of my apartment mates is what I call an extreme crafter (she has a power drill and a soldering iron on the way), so with her Martha Stewart meets carpenter dyke expertise our place looks better and better every day. Some art on the walls helps with the look of the place and some lit candles help with the stuffy smell (we have almost no widows). I’m aware of how cheesy this sounds, but the love the four of us have for each other makes our crappy apartment a home! The family dinners the four of us make and eat together and the stories and laughs we share make the noise, and trash, and inconvenience, and money stress all seem trivial. So yes, I could go to a friend’s “perfect” Manhattan apartment and feel jealous, or I can see how he’s not really having the full NY experience. Fighting for the life you have can make living it all the sweeter. And how lucky am I that I get to fight for it surrounded by three of the strongest and kindest people. Turning back to the Dickinson poem I sighted last week, I think if someone looked into the one window of our crappy Bushwick apartment, she would see much wealth.
Your overly sentimental,