I moved. For the seventh time in five years.
Please, God, someone take away my keys.
This time is a little different though: I am not moving out of necessity or because “our relationship is ready to take the next step”; I’m moving because I want to and because I can afford it.
I mean kind of. I still can’t really afford it, but I’m doing it anyway!
For the occasion, I rented a small U-Haul van and a dolly to assist with all of those large, over-stuffed cardboard boxes. I also employed my trusty neighborhood Kevin to help me with the heavy-lifting and to accompany me so I wouldn’t have to drive said van.
I picked the van up at exactly 10am, and needed to have it returned by exactly 2pm. I was feeling pretty confident in this timeline, especially considering that my old apartment and the new are only 10 minutes away from one another.
Oh, how confidence is always a surefire sign of impending disaster.
Second Breakfast: Storage for Porridge
For a crisp early morning breakfast, Kevin and I chowed down on some good ole Public Storage. My mother has a unit here, and she told me that I still had a box or two taking up much needed space.
Despite the complicated written address, detailed directions are not necessary when the building you are searching for shines brighter than a Gotham City nuclear spill. Kevin and I park and jump out of the van only to be immediately informed that we can, in fact, not park there and can we please park somewhere else?
Upon opening the unit door, who should we find staring blankly back at us but my old wooden rocking horse, smiling in that ever so welcoming John Wayne Gacy way. I turn her around to face the wall and try not to let my goosebumps show.
“Mom says I have boxes in here, but I have no idea where they may be or what they may contain.”
Kevin is not listening – he’s rifling through a box of mom’s vintage Barbies. Cool.
I scale the shelves like a fleshy, desperate monster and eventually stumble upon a carton of Gamecube games. I nearly inhale them with excitement.
With a newfound enthusiasm to live, I’m ready to get along to the next stage of the move. I toss the rest of my previously stored things into a garbage can and skip back to the van only to be immediately informed that we can, in fact, not throw garbage into that can and can we please fish it out and throw it away somewhere else?
We do that.
Leaving the Shire
This is my old apartment. It’s on the third floor of a three story house built in 1918. The branches of an old peach tree rap against the window any time the wind blows. Upon this winter’s first snow, I woke up to the sound of children, each with an armful of books fresh from the library, giggling, catching snowflakes on their tongues. It’s the cutest darn thing, Forest Hills.
There are twelve other people living in this house which means the air always smells like garlic and the kitchenette is in the bathroom which means my food always tastes like you-know-what.
This move is a good thing; don't let the hardwood fool you.
Most of my things are stowed away in pretty well-organized cardboard boxes, so the first twenty minutes sail smoothly:
Down three flights of stairs
Up three flights of stairs
We take a totally undeserved break after about twenty minutes to shove bagels into our faces and exchange compliments. I told Kevin he was very sweet to be helping me; he said, “Are you also buying me dinner?”
We wrap up at around 12:45pm. I leave my key on the dining room table and leave my very weird house for the last time. It’s beautiful outside: 65 degrees and sunny. I stand on the porch and take a deep breath, allowing myself a moment to feel thankful and excited.
This move is a relief. Stressful maybe, emotional as always, but a relief. This house was always temporary, a cheap storage unit to buy myself some time and get my post-college bearings. It served its purpose, and now it's time for something new, something better. A bird somewhere nearby chirps and it makes me smile.
I hear Kevin’s distinctive, “Shit, fuck!” and glance over just as a glass shatters. A very old couple walks by and eyes us both. I tip a hat I’m not wearing and head to Kevin’s rescue for fear the old woman might whip out an ax and start hacking.
Turns out, the van door’s latch is broken and therefore unable to close – which is exactly what you want when you're transporting all of your life’s possessions across I-4950. Kevin fiddles around with some WD-40 while I’m on hold with U-Haul’s customer service. Mariachi music blasts from the radio and my phone is blowing up with “Sooo how’s it going?” texts from my mother. This is a very silly situation, and I’m sweating a lot. Kevin finally manages to get the door closed and the two of us speed off into the afternoon sun.
We lost a lot of valuable time thanks to the van door snafu, so we didn’t reach the new apartment – whom I will, from this point forward, be referring to as Charles – until 1:15pm.
Reminder: we have to return the van by 2pm.
I jump in the back and start tossing my things out towards the sidewalk like a garbage man on strike while Kevin struggles up the stairs with the overloaded dolly. He keeps hollering reassuring sentiments like, “It’ll be okay! This shouldn’t take very long!” but I don’t hear him because I am inside of a van plotting a murder-suicide.
Soon enough, the boxes on the sidewalk are piling up and the van is nearly empty. Time: 1:45pm.
We just might make it.
Unaware of the ongoing “moving scene” montage, a young man in a Buffalo Wild Wings sweatshirt spots my blue ukulele sticking out of a lone bag, picks it up, and strums it several times like he’s Paul McFuckinCartney and all he’s ever needed was an instrument. I emerge from the van with a tripod in tow, and the Grammy award-winning musician looks up at me, shocked, either to see a woman in New York carrying what, looking back, could have very easily been mistaken for a rifle swung over her back or that the items packaged away in boxes right beside a moving van were, in fact, not for sale, and would he mind placing that back where he found it?
I sound less like a new neighbor and more like an Orc, but Jack Johnson places the ukulele back in the bag and jogs off. I make another mental note to never trust a man.
The Return of the King (Van)
It’s 1:58pm by the time Kevin and I have the van completely unloaded, so there’s no time for celebratory high-fives.
(We do them anyway.)
I punch U-Haul’s address into Google Maps and we speed off once again, this time blasting Mariachi music as though either of us can understand it.
About five minutes into this escapade, I realize that this block doesn’t look familiar.
Or this one.
Or that one.
Are we in Brooklyn?
I look at the address Google Maps is so confidently sending us to and, good Lorne, it’s not the right U-Haul garage. I tell Kevin that I've made a mistake; we’re going the wrong way, and he pulls some Baby Driver move that was very impressive and steers us outta traffic. I must have said it twenty times on the day, but it’s worth saying again right now and in writing: Thank God for Kevin.
I find the right address and we get there at a crisp 2:11pm. No late fees pending.
The Red Book of Westmarch
Kev and I sit on the curb of a gas station; he’s drinking Mountain Dew and dusting the final layer of grime from his jeans. “This went really well, right?” I tell him it did. All that was left to do now were the relatively fun tasks: hanging posters on walls and showering whenever I want. I was completely free and independent from the wants and needs of others, really.
That’s a strange feeling, one I have not quite categorized as either “good” or “bad”. It’s liberating, right, because it’s liberating to be held accountable for your own time, space, and state of being. I can have friends come over and stay late without running it by anyone; I can try to make dinner and burn it and send off the fire alarm without annoying anyone but myself; I can put a jar of mayonnaise out on the coffee table and know, with full, unadulterated confidence that it will still be sitting there when I come home. No one is interfering with my day-today activities.
Then again: didn’t we all, not long ago, live in caves surrounded by others? Others we cared for and who cared for us? When a fellow cave-dweller got ill, it was imperative that some empathetic acquaintance took pity and went out hunting for a wild can of chicken noodle soup to heat up over the microfire. We couldn’t do it alone. Furthermore, It can be reassuring to leave in the morning, realize the dish soap’s running a little low, come home, and find that your roommate realized it too, so picked up a fresh bottle. It can be nice to hear others conversing, playing video games or drinking boxwine; it reminds you that life is still going on around you. You’re not missing anything while you rest. It’ll be here when you wake up.
It’s different, now.
All of my things – okay, 80% of my things – are tucked away or placed decoratively on shelves and I’ve, for the most part, settled in (though I am still sleeping on the couch because, in an effort to afford this place, I’ve cancelled my Amazon Prime subscription. Damn that 5/6 day shipping!).
I wake up at 8am and nobody is here: no hair dryer blasting from the other room. No loud spousal disagreement. Just me and my laptop that is still playing ASMR hair-brushing videos from the night before.
Living alone is silent, and cautious, and strange, and – I’ve decided – completely unnatural.
And I am loving every minute of it.