when i was twenty-one i moved next door. from one apartment to the next. on the same floor. same building. same small brownstone on 104th street.
i thought it would change things. somehow make things better. a little easier. from a galley kitchen to an eat in kitchen. from an awkwardly shaped living room to a more traditional floor plan. back of the building to front.
it'd be a fresh start.
and a fresh start, a new start, a start-again would change my life.
i've wasted quite a bit of time looking for fresh starts.
the noise that came from the street on 104th was nearly unfathomable. we hadn't heard it in the back, but from the front, the trucks that barreled through, and the parade of people leaving for work or school at seven made sleep past that hour almost impossible. you never know the achilles heel of an apartment until you've spent some time there--and the street noise in that front-facing-second-floor-walk-up was most certainly that.
the first few mornings in brooklyn i woke to the sound of nothing but birds. i'd look out my window--see only green, hear those birds, and lay my head back on my pillow while sending up a small prayer of thanks. it's good here, it's so good.
but where you live doesn't change your life. this much i know. and fresh starts don't exists. at least, not as i understood them. because there is no genie-blink-of-the-eyes-and-nod-of-the-head to try something again, or rewind the last inch on the film of our life.
we carry the weight of the past. we carry our cumulative histories. and this is not a bad thing--i'm not saying this is a bad thing.
in deciding to move there was this constant feeling that my decision to move to another neighborhood was an affront on some other person's decision to not. moving to washington heights was a question of money, yes. it was cheap. and for quite some time it was great. it was manageable and inexpensive and exactly what i needed at twenty-three. and then the costs began to accumulate. in the form of late-night-cab-fares, time spent on the A train, the unwillingness to go out on a Saturday night because the venue would inevitably, undoubtedly be so far from home. and so priorities changed and values shifted and i grew up a bit and what i wanted from a home and place became a tenuous balancing act between known prices and hidden costs.
and so i moved.
because the presence of trees and the sound of birds upon waking have more weight than they used to.
but it's not lost on me that the reason i moved next-door is not entirely different than the reason i moved downtown. or south of downtown, to be exact.
the upper west side holds so many memories for me. i can point and say that diner there is where i broke up with the guy i was dating when i moved here at eighteen. he gave me the key to his apartment and the terror that incited led to a rapid unraveling which ended there, in that diner, at that table, with time after time playing overhead. and i was sitting in that building, on that corner, when the first person i ever loved looked at me in a way that changed the course of my life. it was on that street that i lived in my first apartment. and over there, that's where i was when i called home to my mother sobbing, trying desperately to explain what words would never, could never, illuminate.
even now i can turn a corner in the neighborhoods of, what now seems like, my youth and i'll be confronted with memories that are somehow too close--too recent--for comfort.
yes, of course, there are the good ones. i ran barefoot down this side street on warm night in march after a lovely first date. or i sat in that burger joint there, with this guy and that guy. and we slipped and slid down columbus avenue after a snowstorm in 2005, piling snowballs, hurtling them this way and that, not a car in sight. some of my best memories are there.
but also many of my worst.
and every once in a while, when i'm least prepared, i turn a corner and my eyes light upon something that i haven't seen since i was nineteen and for a moment i forget where i am and who i am and where i've been and i'm nineteen again, afraid i'll be late to class, desperate to impress those around me. and then memory--or half-memories rush in and it is as thought all the the time between that moment and this barrels through. and it's not easy and it's certainly not good in that split second between forgetting and remembering to relive the last eight years.
i needed not more space, but a new space, for new memories. i needed to move where the streets weren't littered and crowded with my recent past. i needed a blank slate.
i wasn't so foolish this time to think that a move or a change in location would right my life, change my life. but i was aware that it was a gift.
a new space, something of a new world in which to stretch the growing limbs of the woman i'm attempting to become.
there have been good days and bad days here, just as there will be should i move across the world. but i'm breathing a bit easier. walking a bit slower. savoring my battle wounds and the perspective they give--the courage they afford me to pick out new corners and new spaces in which to make new memories.
we move on. we move forward. maybe not a fresh start, but a forward movement.