Stillness is the Move

by

06/19/2012

Neighborhood: Upper East Side

It was after our third year in New York that my wife and I realized it was time to move. The deciding factor came when I’d picked up a stapler at a stationary store, looked at it in my hand, and thought, ‘Where am I going to put this?’

Our studio apartment was just that full.

We’d built upwards. Alfa shelves ringed the ceiling, stretching midway down the walls and filled with books. The required Ikea white cube shelf dividing our living room/bedroom from our study/dining area was filled up, cube by cube, and then stacked on top with a landslide of records, mail, and other assorted junk that had no drawer to call home. Our shared closet was a Frankenstein of Container Store space-saving ideas—thin hangers, double hangers, upper and lower bars, collapsible hanging drawer shelves—but there wasn’t any more space to be saved. Doubling zero still came to zero.

And so we started the horrible process of finding an apartment in the city. We began where everything begins: Craigslist. This yielded some bait and switch excitement but little else. TWO BEDROOM WEST VILLAGE GEM. REEL PICS!!! $1850. WONT LAST!!!!

Reel, indeed…

Still, it was tough to not get hooked, so I called. No details about the village apartment, except that it was taken, but maybe we’d like to see something on the upper west side (read: Washington Heights) or the Upper East Side (read: East Harlem).

When we did manage to see a few places, they were bigger than our studio, sure, but also grimier and more depressing. Everything was slightly off, like a poorly dubbed film: five blocks too far uptown, an extra two avenues from the subway, across the street from a recycling depot; or, if the area was okay, then the apartment was a walk up (third floor or higher), or there was no laundry in the building or, as in one case, there weren’t any windows. Well, there were two — both looking out on an alley and an adjacent building that was so close you could usefully hang your shaving mirror off it.

And so, quite reasonably, we gave up.

We went to Ikea. We tossed out old clothes, weeded through our books, bought several more bags of ingenuous space saving items at the Container Store. We stacked. We condensed. We slid things under other things.

And then, a few months later, Nataša was pregnant. I checked: Alfa did not make a wall-crib unit.

We had to move.

This time we skipped Craig and went straight to Masha, a friend of ours who had recently moved to New York from New Haven, who was also a student, and who lived in a decent apartment that was not (too) outrageously priced. Nataša went over to see her place. I waited at home for the report.

“It’s really nice,” Nataša said, once the coffee was ready and we were seated in our living room/bedroom area. “It’s pretty big.”

“How many bedrooms?” I asked, greedily.

“One. But it’s a big one. And the living room is very spacious. And it has an eat-in kitchen.”

An eat-in kitchen!? My God — Xanadu!

Masha would put us in touch with the owner of the building, who owned other buildings in the area — Upper East Side, toward 1st Avenue. And she’d put in a good word for us.

“This might work,” I said.

Two weeks later we were looking through the seemingly enormous vacant apartment that we were to eventually live in.

“Look at these windows,” I said. We huddled up against the big living room window, which looked down on a green, leafy courtyard. “There’s a hall closet,” I said. “Look, you can stand in it.” I stepped in and closed and opened the door, proving my point.

Nataša had a look. It was a big closet! “We can put linens and towels in here,” she enthused.

The bedroom was every bit as big as the living room.

“Look,” I said, pointing at a large storage shelf above the bedroom door. “We can put our luggage up here.”

There was a great nook in the bedroom for a crib; my desk could go by the window.

We could finally toss our fold down sofa and buy a bed!

And the building had an elevator, and laundry in the basement, and the neighborhood was beautiful.

We moved in, triumphantly.

Hana, our daughter, was born a few months later. Into her first apartment in New York. Our second. The first home she knew. Our place on 85th and 1st… and in a few months from now she’ll be two.

She’s sleeping one wall over as a type this. They both are. The fridge is whirring behind me. It’s late and I don’t want to sleep. The courtyard is in total silence. I wish I never had to sleep.

I wish we could move in all over again.

Have that first night in here, together, just Nataša and I, and then that first night, again, with Hana home from the hospital, Hana asleep in a car seat next to our new sofa, the famous sunlight coming in through our windows, pictures waiting to be hung on the walls, a newly assembled crib in its nook in the bedroom, fresh linen and towels in the closet in the hall.

Trevor Laurence Jockims teaches English literature at Hunter College, City University of New York. His writings have appeared in The New York Times, Anderbo, Kino Kultura, Connotations, Highbrow Magazine, and elsewhere.

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