Second Floor Columbia Street

Consider what all your old apartments would say if they got together to swap stories. They could piece together the starts and finishes of your relationships, complain about your wardrobe and musical tastes, gossip about who you are after midnight. 7J says, ”So that’s what happened to Lucy; I knew it would never work out.” You picked up yoga, you put down yoga, you tried various cures. You tried on selves and got rid of them, and this makes your old rooms wistful: why must things change? 3R says: ”Saxophone, you say? I knew him when he played guitar.” Cherish your old apartments and pause for a moment when you pass them. Pay tribute, for they are the caretakers of your reinventions.

“The Way We Live Now: 11-11-01; Lost and Found” by Colson Whitehead, Published in the NYT Magazine on November 11, 2001.


When Michael and I left second floor Columbia Street a month ago, we left hurriedly and without regret. There was no dimming of the lights, no slow close to the door, no thoughtfully chosen song playing in the far-off distance. We left like we were just… leaving, to go to work, to catch a movie. I missed the acknowledgment, the pause, of what this apartment had been for us, had done for us, had heard, had seen. Because if walls could talk, what would ours have said? Isn’t it worth noting the address where the readiness of marriage had finally felt equipped and outfitted?

Second floor Columbia Street fulfilled a fantasy of mine. The fantasy where I am finally older, with a job and a boyfriend, tiredly dropping keys on a counter, unzipping skirts and pulling on socks, pouring wine with sighs, writing rent checks in a flurry, hitting spacebar at a farmhouse table, with no television, just music and books and radio and windows, watching Brooklyn sunset light flood dark honey wooden floors, listening to rain, to hurricanes, to Jalopy banjos, to foghorns, to church bells.

I romanticize life - I will be the first to admit it! Yes, shitty shit, like scary silence and arguments and crying into pillows so he won’t hear me but probably did, made its way into this second floor Columbia Street fantasy, but that is just what lies behind a closed door. Yeah, there were nights we were too hot, days we were too cold, afternoons of resentment, mornings of insecurity, et cetera. #lifeproblems

I turned 32 over a week ago and I can barely remember conversations I’ve had thirty seconds ago. I can’t stand the idea of looking back on my life in foggy recollection. So what, so many people think. And they move on. But I can’t. I want my future histories, my children, to find written morsels of our genetic similarities so that their feelings, the intuitive way they handle themselves, my quick lip or quiet chariness, feels more endowment than bug.  

I know I am just one writer contributing to the long narrative of (low-scale) human suffering, our half glasses full, then subconsciously dipping like an old man’s bank account, or like eyesight or like time. Optimisms mottled. Considering our injuries with broken hearts, thoughts reeling like a broken fishing line. Leisurely I learn that nothing can ever be like it was. And why should it? I don’t want to stay locked in time, reliving the same awesome things. I want to move on and feel everything! The late Seamus Heaney wrote, “Capstones shift; nothing resettles right.” Not to say that it wrongly resettles; it resettles. 

In the past, our energies have burned on Union Street, in a full bed, eyes open, jumping madly (me) and purposefully (him) into what we always felt would be the rest of our lives.  In the top floor apartment of Marie and Norman’s house, we’ve sat opposite sides of a reclining couch, watching The Jersey Shore in fun horror, paying closer attention to Ronnie and Sammi’s dysfunctions than to the ones we, ourselves, were cooking up. We’ve since broken up and written long emails; we’ve since connected over ices and gone for long walks. On Craigslist I found our clean slate - second floor Columbia Street – where just a few short months later, Michael penned a message to me in the Red Hook Star Revue that read: “I’m so glad that we have Columbia Street together.” Second floor Columbia Street was a saving grace from its aggravating landlord who I secretly took lessons from in how not to be. I took Italian language classes. He started juicing and running. We spent lots of time with grandma. We learned a million things about a million things in this apartment. My name changed in this apartment. 

We’re in transition now, living at Third Street and Sackett Street, but we’ll resettle on Summit Street in the year 2014, on a date that exists because it will arrive naturally with the calendar, but on a date I can’t write down yet. I’ll have to work to treasure the meantime. Otherwise, our story will let pass the romance. And that’s not how it goes or looks in my fantasy.