Places, I believe, are as people are; we each affect the other in the living. And as I am with certain people, when it comes to farewelling certain places I often find I am terrible at goodbyes. Suffice it to say, I am finding it very difficult indeed to farewell this one.
Here I attempt to pay certain homage to a rented room, in which I was fortunate to stay for the month of July. I didn’t know what I was getting into when I stumbled into it just over a month ago – this (as it turned out to be) spiritual springboard of sorts, furnished only with my bed, the afternoon sun, and a bird’s-eye view of the Great Metropolis (better than any snow globe) – rented (by chance) on Craigslist, of all places.
But so it goes, I suppose: the best homes – like the best friends, the best men – will often surprise you.
I’ve never really bothered to make a home for myself in nice places. Since the age of 18, when I was forced to move out of my parents’ (lovely and very spacious) home and into a weed-suffused hippie cathouse of a college dormitory, I’m not sure I’ve ever really felt I deserved one; or maybe (simply) I genuinely never permitted myself to put down roots and create one, which (for a lot of my life) would mean admission that I was living in Texas. (Note even my use of the gerund, here; I will not say “I lived there,” for sake of being too finite or concrete. Rather, “was living” implies that it was always a temporary condition. How I got there in the first place – grudgingly, and against my will – is another tale for another time).
And so – even at times in my life when I had quite a lot of money – I always chose scruffy-ish apartments, into which I never fully settled. There was always a big pile of unpacked boxes at the front door or some piece of furniture that I hated, or maybe the place itself was too small or had a broken appliance in the kitchen or an alcoholic boyfriend living in the corner – some critically crummy component (or several) about the place that I convinced myself to disregard because, after all, I would be leaving soon anyway. Of course, there is only so long you can maintain this illusion before it begins to take a toll on your psyche – particularly when that psyche is as fixed and domestic as my own (secretly, truthfully) is. It was like wearing shoes that are just a little chintzier than they should be: so the arch is in the wrong place and your back is thrown out of line…so you compensate by standing just so, and carry your bag this way instead of that way, and on it goes until all of a sudden you ache all over, and find you don’t sleep anymore at night. That’s the way it went, that nagging state of constant unsettledness.
A smudge at the edge of my perception.
Inevitably, it was only when I moved into this empty new condo – in the absence of friends, family, lovers, money, immediate opportunity and artistic outlet, all of which were (freshly, and all at once) more obscured for me then perhaps they had ever been – that I suddenly found myself living in something that felt like a “home.” Or, at the very least, a place of rest, because my residence there was of course presumed to be a temporary engagement at the outset (it was a sublet, after all, though I like to think that the apartment and I simply had an agreement, in the vein of a short-term love affair). Indeed, the place itself managed to become a constant – the constant – full up with a kind of living stillness that always had my back. Places, I discovered, really can do that for you.
(Though of course I owe the owner a tremendous gratitude, as well – that is to say, my monthlong roommate and new friend. We rarely crossed paths, though he is a significant presence; after all, I am always grateful when I am able to stay somewhere nice, and the experience is of course exponential when the host is kind.)
“I was afraid that condo was gonna fuck you up,” my gentleman confessed to me this week, once I’d moved out and successfully landed in a new place of my own (and after we’d begun a surprising and loving climb out of a more-than-heartbreaking monthlong separation).
“Why?” I asked.
“Because it was so goddamned nice.”
And it’s true: my new apartment is substantially “less glamorous,” as it were, even it is a private one-bedroom (a luxury in and of itself in New York). It has plenty of terrible linoleum and a kitchenful of crummy appliances, along with a suspicious Doctor Who-style crack next to the heating pipe that wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if it opened up into another dimension when the climate control goes on this winter – so, all in all, back to business as usual.
He was right, though, my boyfriend: that condo did fuck me up, more than I’d like to admit. And the experience of moving out of it has been tantamount to waking up in another life (albeit with a strange, lingering memory of the old one, now diminished to a hazy tone poem of en-suite washer-dryers and private, granite-lined baths…dimmer switches and birchwood floors, ay me!). Though of all the luxuries inherent to that abode (and there were many), none were as pronounced or eminent – and none will I miss so thoroughly – as this:
In that place.
The sixth floor in Queens is equivalent to the 30th in Manhattan, I discovered, in that the lucky individual who lives there is likely to be higher up than everything else around. Each room had a large, floor-to-ceiling window facing West – towards the East River, and New York Proper – which meant at least twelve hours of constant, unobstructed sunshine every day, including a good five of magic hour. And it was here, inevitably – nested at the crown of that building, up above the canopy of that metropolitan forest – that a certain veil was removed from my vision that I’d allowed to languish there for far too long.
Rarely have I permitted myself to spend that much time living in the Light.
I will not say much more than that, take from that statement what you will. That said, I do have at least one one serious, tangible take-away prize from my time spent living there: at least I have begun taking pictures again, spoiled as I was by that light. Maybe, if I am lucky, some influence from the the whole experience will manage to bleed through in that way, now or in some time to come; the same sunlight shines everywhere, after all, even in my crummy apartment in the Lower City (make no mistake, however: I have ensured I have several large windows here, and that they face West).
So there it goes.
Ta-ta for now, with hugs, kisses and an ocean of love from Down Below.
May you be blessed with an abundance of bright days and white nights, for time enough to come.
“My mind withdrew its thoughts from experience, extracting itself from the contradictory throng of sensuous images, that it might find out what that light was wherein it was bathed… And thus, with the flash of one hurried glance, it attained to the vision of That Which Is.”
– Saint Augustine
Sweater, See by Chloé.