The other half

A colleague asked how our move went, and as I was showing her photos of our new apartment, her eyes widened and lit up as she exclaimed about how “adult” and beautiful our new space is. “Wow, so this is how the other half of New York lives!” she said, stunned, admiring the natural light and the bathroom space.

All I have to say is, this isn’t how I grew up, and these apartments are not at all exemplary of where I’ve come from.

Post college, I was constantly humbled when people had no idea what Elmhurst, Queens, was. Even when my apartment was huge with a renovated granite kitchen and a brand new oven/stove, it didn’t matter because people are so location-obsessed in New York. And it didn’t help that slowly but surely, I started discovering the roaches all over the kitchen and the bathroom. Even my mom discovered them on her second visit and was constantly chasing them around the kitchen to kill them. She asked where they were coming from. I told her it was a combination of bad foundation, old home, plus the disgusting landlords downstairs.

Then, I moved in with Chris to a much smaller space on the Upper East Side. Though the building was good with monthly check-ins with the exterminator, plus an elevator and laundry in the basement, the biggest scare I would have is cleaning under the kitchen counter to find the occasional dead roach, usually at least one to two inches long. And one memorable morning, I woke up to use the bathroom to discover a centipede and all its scary legs walking all over the bathroom tiles. That wasn’t fun.

This is a very different place than what I’m used to. It still doesn’t feel quite like home yet, and I still feel like I’m walking around someone else’s house. But hopefully soon, it will start feeling like my home.

Goodbye, Upper East Side

We came back to the old apartment to do some last bits of cleaning, and to sell and discard some last items. Once we emptied the remaining bits out, it was literally just a few reusable bags at the door with remaining belongings we’d bring back to the new apartment, plus the couch, sofa, curtains, and shelves that we sold to the next tenant who will be moving in at the end of August. I sat on the couch with the AC running and looked around at the place. I spent over five years in this apartment, cooking in that area, sleeping in that back room, sitting on this couch. And now, it’s coming to an end. It seems a bit sad. Even though the floor boards were coming undone and the brick walls were constantly shedding dust and sand and all kind of other disgusting things, I grew to love this place.

Onto the future. At least in the new building, I know I won’t have dead roaches randomly waiting for me or sand that comes out of a chimney.

Natural light

Even though moving day was a long and tiring day, I ended up waking up naturally at around 6am this morning. I felt a little confused, and though I lingered in bed for a couple hours, I immediately realized why I woke up; we didn’t pull the bedroom blinds or shades down, so the morning light streamed through the window.

I cannot remember the last time I had this much natural light in my bedroom… ever. Even in hotels, I usually take advantage of those thick window curtains where you can mask out every bit of light, just because I could. Outside of hotels, I’d never seen such thick curtains before.

This place is going to take time to really feel like home. Everything feels like an adjustment so far.

Concierge

Even though we hired movers to move all our boxes and lone bookcase, I still had to cart over a number of bags of things I didn’t want them to deal with, like our perishables from our refrigerator and freezer, jewelry, and random loose items from the kitchen and bathroom that could have become messy. I went to the apartment building first to get the keys from the building manager so the movers could enter, and as I unloaded all my things, the concierge came and asked if I needed help bringing my items to the room. I insisted I didn’t (and didn’t fully register that this is normal service in the building), but as I met with the manager, I left all the items near the service elevator. When I came out, they were all gone, and when I went up to the apartment unit, a¬†porter came with all my items hanging from hooks on a cart and asked me where I’d like all my bags placed in the apartment.

I guess this is part of what I’m paying for, huh?

Race, even in furniture buying

It seems like in a day and age of Trump running the United States of America, everything seems to be about race. When you are anything but white, you have to think about race all the time. And when you’re white, it’s easy to take for granted the fact that you have that privilege. Like in this guy’s case that I’m about to describe, he thought he could take advantage of being white by “paying me later” when trying to buy our dresser.

After seeing our Craigslist ad, this guy said he’d be over on a Saturday and rent a truck, and his friend would come to help him move the dresser out of our apartment. As he’s on his way, he called me to let me know that his friend would be meeting him, but he’d probably get to the building sooner, and so, “Don’t worry about the Hispanic guy hanging out outside your building. He’s not there to rob you; he’s my friend just coming to help me transport the dresser. He’s a good guy.”

That phone call already started the bad taste in my mouth about this guy.

Then, when he arrived, his friend opened the truck door and he came into the building when I let him in. He introduced himself and asked, “It’s okay if I Venmo you, right? Can I do it later?”

Um, no. I expect the money before you leave my apartment and take my stuff. You need to pay me now.

He immediately looked exasperated, as though I asked him to give him some exorbitant amount of money for the dresser or was making him go out of his way. “Well, now I need to get my friend to give me my phone so I can Venmo you now, then.”

That… was not a problem. Your friend was literally 50 feet away. You could easily have him go get your phone. What, when this guy goes to a store, does he take merchandise out of the store and tell the cashier, “Hey! I’ll pay you later?”

So he Venmoed me, no problem. Then, they took the dresser out and he left. But I was still annoyed. Even though we got a decent chunk of money for the dresser, the entire experience made me mad. First, he stereotyped his friend and projected his stereotypes of Latino people onto me as though I would feel unsafe seeing a brown man coming into my apartment (ha, because my husband is brown, too), thus exuding the classic “I’m not racist, I have a black friend” attitude. Then, he expected to get away with “paying later,” and I’m almost 100 percent certain he did that because he’s a white guy who thinks he can be trusted just because of his race. And as though it were really relevant, he said he was a resident at Columbia.

Yeah, I don’t care who you are — black, white, orange, rich, poor, a tree hugger, or a doctor. When you come to my apartment after seeing my Craigslist ad, you pay for the furniture you said you would buy. Then, you take it out. And then you get out immediately.

Why did this annoy me again tonight? Because tonight, we had a guy come with his brother to buy and dismantle our bed frame, and not only was he extremely polite and hesitant to even enter our apartment, without question he paid us immediately in cash before he touched a single part of the bed. And this guy was black. And I can guarantee that he did this because he’s hyper aware of his skin color and how he’s perceived, and he knows for a fact he’d never, ever get away with what that white guy did and pull a “I’ll pay you later” stunt. It probably would never even enter his mind the way it did with the white guy who bought the dresser.

That made me so mad. It made me mad that this African American guy was so polite and really didn’t have to be that polite, and it made me mad that that white guy was so nonchalant about paying because he’s got white privilege. Everything is about race, even furniture buying and selling.

our hood

After work today, I went home to pick up two massive bags of old blankets to walk up to the ASPCA about 14 blocks away. As I walked up First Avenue, I noticed all these new wine bars, restaurants, and little shops I’d never really noticed before. It must be because I just never really paid attention, as well as the fact that this neighborhood has changed so much over the last five years I’ve lived here. It’s become trendier, more diverse cuisine has become available and actually stuck, and of course, more expensive and shiny high rises have gone up. Every day this neighborhood is changing, and soon, we’ll be gone and won’t see it evolving anymore.

New Yorkers have such an attachment to certain neighborhoods. I’ve grown to really love the Upper East Side, which I once thought as a food-and-drink area was quite mundane. Now, it’s flourishing with all types of cuisines. I noticed a Chinese-Hawaiian fusion spot on First Avenue in the 90s today, as well as a hip looking Korean spot just a block over.

I wonder what interesting things we will find in the new neighborhood. Who knows – maybe in another five years if I come back to this current neighborhood, I may not even recognize it anymore.

the next tenant

Tonight, I came home to meet the next tenant who will be living in this apartment. She’s originally from Atlanta but has lived here in New York for the last twelve years. She was living in the 30s on the east side and got a rent hike she wasn’t thrilled about, so she decided to start looking and found our unit. She’s probably the most respectful house guest we’ve ever had that we didn’t know; she asked permission for literally everything she did and even proactively took her shoes off without asking me.

The main reason she came by was so that she could take measurements for planning purposes, as she’ll be moving in during late August, and so she could check out our TV and couch, which we were hoping she’d take, especially the couch, since it would have required a sofa doctor to cut it up and take it out of our apartment given the doorway is too narrow. She saw both, sat on the couch, and immediately said yes, and Venmoed me right on the spot. Now, if only everyone could be as easy going and swift as she’s been.

We chatted for quite a while about quirks of the apartment, things to be mindful of, and favorite spots in the neighborhood, including our beloved Australian-owned wine and liquor shop that we’ll be missing. She immediately wrote that spot down; it was so obvious she couldn’t wait to move. She raved on and on about how big our bedroom is and how great our setup was with the kitchen island, as she saw it before we sold it during an apartment viewing. She said she wanted to set up the apartment almost exactly as we had it.

That’s my Chris, the closeted interior designer.

Pack, pack, pack

I hauled home more boxes from work today, and spent most of the evening cleaning out the kitchen, scrubbing the cabinets, cleaning all our wine and liquor bottles, and filling more boxes with our belongings. For people who live in a small apartment who don’t think they like owning “stuff” that much, we have already filled about 23 boxes with our “stuff.” Seeing all of it together boggles my mind that this small apartment held all this stuff, not to mention all the things we sold, donated, or tossed out.

I was talking to my friend this weekend about the packing process, and she said she could never imagine anyone else packing up her things for her. “Why would I want someone else touching and packing up all my things?” she said. “It’s my stuff. How do I know they will pack it the way I want it to be packed?” Well, it’ll never be done exactly the way you would have done it. But at least if money didn’t matter, you could pay someone else to deal with all this calamity.

But I’m too cheap and too much of a control freak to do that. I actually do find more comfort knowing that I packed all these boxes other than some random Joe-Schmo who could easily toss all my wine glasses into a box between thin layers of bubble wrap and think they did a good job.

Microwaves

This morning, we heated up our leftover food over the stove. It felt like such an old-fashioned way of reheating leftovers.

This is what life was like before microwaves.

When I was heating the food in a pan on the stove, I was thinking about the time I came home once and remembering how I went downstairs to the basement, and somehow, there were literally four microwaves stacked on top of each other. I had no idea where they had come from or why we even had them. So then I asked my dad.

Apparently, he had been collecting free microwaves around the city from Craigslist when people have moved.

“You never know when your microwave will break down!” he said.

Well, I lived at my last apartment for four years, and the microwave never failed me. At this apartment, where Chris has lived over seven years, this microwave has been more than sufficient.

Hoarding is not a good thing. It’s not healthy, either. At least all those microwaves are gone now.

1461.

Dear Ed,

1461 – that’s the number of days that have passed since you left us. That’s four years, including an extra day for Leap Year. I’m late this year with writing my annual letter to you. I don’t really have any legitimate excuses other than the fact that Chris and I are moving, and packing takes up a lot of time and energy. I’m not trying to be a jerk about it, but I’m just being honest.

I really miss you. This move has been a lot more emotional than I ever imagined it would be. I’ve been living at this apartment with Chris for over five years now, and for just over the first year of that period, you were still alive. We never had the chance to have you come visit and know what it’s like to be in a real Manhattan apartment. Many moments as I’ve been packing up this apartment, I freeze and get upset, remembering how you never got to see this place, how you will never be able to see the new apartment or any place I live in ever again. That’s a really awful feeling, to know that you cannot share in these experiences ever again with me. You only got to see my roach-infested, non-ACed apartment in Elmhurst. I’m sorry that when you visited, it was the peak of summer, and I only had a fan for you to use. You really hated the heat and humidity of New York. If you came back in May 2012 like I asked you to after you quit your job, I told you I would have given you my bed in my room, which had an air conditioner. You never came, though.

I left a really shitty job this year, the same job that was basically cursed from the beginning because you died just days after I accepted that awful role. Something in my gut told me then that this wasn’t going to be good. And it wasn’t at all; it was probably the worst job I’d ever had in my life at the worst company. I never had a chance to tell you I was leaving that old job to go to this terrible one, and now I’ll never be able to tell you about my new job and new company, where for the first time, your sister actually feels like she kind of belongs here. I get treated fairly well. I have peers and superiors I respect. I think we’re really going somewhere here. We’re not short-sighted or delusional. We’re addressing real problems here. Nine years after starting full-time work, I can finally say all of that and be confident about it. I was never able to tell you that about the last job I had when you were alive.

I packed up all the frames you gave me, and once we move into the new place, we need to figure out what to display and what to put in storage. I still keep the glass frame with the picture of the two of us from the day I graduated from high school displayed – it’s the same picture in the same frame since June 2004. Every time I look at it, it hurts to know that ten years after that day, you wouldn’t be here. I never would have guessed this would have been the future. Sometimes, the future really looks bleak and depressing. It will always be in a prominent place in my bedroom, no matter where I live.

When we were culling things in the apartment in preparation for the move, I’ve refused to give away things you’ve given me. I feel like if I give them away, it’s like I’m giving up a part of you. But, I will admit one thing: I donated Joel Olsteen’s wife’s book that you gave me one year as part of my birthday gift. Sorry, Ed. You know I’m never going to be that religious. I’ve never liked Joel Olsteen. I don’t even like his wife. There, I said it. At least I’m being honest.

Last year, I told you that Trump was running for president. Well, guess what? The dumb fuck is really president of the U.S. now! Can you believe it?! You never cared much about politics anyway, and how could you with your constant internal struggles and your struggles at home. I don’t even know what you would say if you were still around today to read the news. Our mother actually thinks that Trump is better than Hillary Clinton!! What I can tell you is that he has no regard for mental illness, people with disabilities, or pretty much anyone who is not a rich, white male, so that should piss you off regardless of whether you pay attention to politics or not.

You don’t visit as much anymore. Is it because you’re off doing your own thing and don’t need me anymore? The last time I remember dreaming about you, it was over two months ago, and I don’t even remember what happened. I just remember I saw you. I don’t have conflicting dreams of you dying or in pain or being tortured now. Now, I have dreams that depict you happy, or in the very least indifferent or expressionless. I’m not sure if the latter is a good sign, but it’s definitely better than seeing you die every time I go to sleep. Our mom is jealous that you visit me in my dreams but haven’t visited her in her dreams since 2013. She recently told me that still to this day, she’s only dreamt about you twice, both times in 2013. And since then, nothing. It’s okay; you don’t have to do what she wants anymore. You can do whatever it is that you please now. You don’t have to answer to anyone, and certainly not to our parents.

They’re coming to visit us for a week starting next Tuesday. Can you send good vibes over here and make sure she doesn’t harass me over how much we’re paying for rent or what I’m going to be doing with my future? Remember how she always use to taunt you about your future and how frustrating that was? Now, it’s all on me. I’m like her only hope, so if I screw up, it’s all over.

I miss you, Ed. I love you. I try to keep you alive as much as I can. I think about you throughout the day, every day, and hope that you’re in a peaceful, painless place. I have no idea where that is; maybe it’s in heaven. Maybe it’s in a different version of paradise somewhere out in the universe. I don’t know. But I love you. I still don’t fully feel like you have died, especially when I’m back home and I can feel your presence. I wish I could feel your presence here in New York. But I don’t think you bonded with New York enough during your short time here.

I love you. I hope you still love me and think about me, in whatever form you are in, wherever you are, somewhere out there. Your little sister still wishes she could see you again, alive and healthy, smiling those super straight, pearly whites. She even wishes she could see you take off your retainer when you wake up from sleep because those are the geeky, gross things we both do as children who had to wear braces. She still wants you to come back even though it’s selfish. Sometimes it still feels like the world is a big lonely place. You used to try to protect me, and now you can’t protect me anymore. Really, someone should have been there to protect you, but no one did. And I wasn’t capable of doing it. And now you’re gone. I have to fight feelings of regret every day.

I love you. I think about you before I sleep every night in hopes you will come back. I hope to see you every night even when you don’t want to come. Hope to see you soon, my beloved¬†gege.

Love,

Yvonne

P.S. The Snoopy you gave me will happily sit on the new couch in the new apartment. Chris keeps threatening to give him away to Goodwill because he says he’s fat and ugly, but I will make sure to protect him.