When I moved to New York at the age of 18, the city was the second home I ever knew …
I was immediately in love with the way I could get lost in the crowd, the paradox of feeling like I was always and never alone. Each walk promised to reveal some new secret, even if I set out on the same path as the day before. After all, this was an environment for countless books and movies and essays, a place where every moment I felt burdened with possibilities, where even the jobs done could make me feel like the hero of the story of my life.
It’s safe to say that the kind of romanticism kept me here. Because it certainly wasn’t real estate.
My apartments – there were a lot of them – had whims after whims. For years I lived in a building where one neighbor seemed to spend all his waking days cooking bacon, and the smell constantly permeated the hall. Then came the apartment with photogenic sink on the farm who just spat hot water. Thick rubber gloves were necessary for washing dishes, and hand washing was not for those who suffered from heart disease.
Was bedroom in Brooklyn with radiators hissing and moaning like an evil fairy witch. I woke up in the middle of the night for weeks, thinking someone was breaking in. In the end, I got so used to it that it barely registered.
Then, late one night, I heard a new, disturbing sound. Scraaaaaatch. It resounded inside the wall, like something straight from the story of Edgar Allan Poe. Scratch-scratch-scratch. A friend came to my apartment to confirm and the sound died down. Then, as soon as I was left alone – and more easily intimidated – the scratching continued. Finally, when it seemed that this creature could break through the dry stone wall, someone came to look. It was a whole family of raccoons.
In one apartment in Manhattan, my upstairs neighbor worked as a bartender, moving up the stairs at 4 a.m., where his presence immediately became known. Did he make dinner – or is it breakfast? – and watching TV, the sound faded just as I was getting up for work. If what happens is bypassed, it wasn’t the case for me, because my next place came with a neighbor downstairs complaining about every sound short of the sound of my breathing. If only he could live under a bartender, I think so.
And that’s just my experience. Friends who live in all the different places have stories of their own whims – deer and rabbits eating their gardens, creepy noises in the attic, neighborly fights over landscaping or the color of holiday lights. When Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home,” this probably wasn’t what she had in mind. But such whims are in some cases what makes a home a home.
While I don’t miss dissolving water, many of these idiosyncrasies have only added to my life experiences. At the age when I am I lived, hearing the hum of a neighbor’s television helped me feel less. I felt safer, knowing that someone was witnessing my life in the same way I was witnessing the sound of their footsteps.
Over the past year, I’ve especially discovered that being close to other people feels comfortable, even when it happens through windows and walls. In a broader sense, we are all neighbors. Know it or not, we are all a bit unusual. So, what else can we expect?
Where do you live and what are the whims of your home? Do you have any stories to share?
PS He’s going home i Stella’s 175-square-foot apartment.
(Photograph of Caroline ‘s apartment on the road Instagram.)