This post originally appeared on The Billfold.
Two months ago, I found, got, and lost my dream apartment over the course of 24 hours.
Since graduating college in May, I’d stayed in four places in New York City. First, there was a high school friend’s sublet on the Upper East Side, where I stayed for a week and woke up on the last day covered in bed bug bites; then, student housing at Columbia University, where I was taking a course about publishing, and which was my only real reason for being in the city. Next, there was the Brooklyn family home of a friend I’d made at the course. (She had introduced herself to the class as “a pretty good stilt-walker” and that was it for me.) We helped cat-sit while her parents were in Paris, applied to lots of jobs, and went on long walks through nearby Prospect Park when we got restless. All the plants died.
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When her family returned at the beginning of August, I moved my single rolly suitcase to a fifth-floor Brooklyn walkup with one bedroom. The apartment belonged to another friend from the publishing course, a tall girl who liked to read Southern fiction and had to go home to Georgia for a couple months. I liked how none of the vintage chairs matched. I had started a job that I loved but wasn’t permanent, and I tried to switch up the five outfits I’d brought often enough that my coworkers wouldn’t know about the rolly suitcase. I slept on the couch while our friend Sarah, also from the publishing course, took the bed, and even though it was a little knobby and I missed having a door to close, it meant I could live, for a while, where I needed to be.
The dream apartment was five doors down from where I was staying.
I’d found it on Craigslist (in a manic weeks-long clicking fit) around the middle of September, and liked it immediately—even from the cramped, crappy photographs. It had gleaming hardwood floors and exposed brick in two of the bedrooms. I called the realtor, a guy named Ed who didn’t sound any older than me and my two would-be roommates, and arranged to see it that afternoon.
We rode the subway back to Brooklyn from upper Manhattan, at the opposite end of the city. We’d been out to see a place that was in the middle of being renovated. There was pee in the toilet. It had beautiful light, and was down the street from a bakery I’d liked to go to when we were at Columbia, but it was also near the bars where we’d huddle over drinks after class. We’d talk about who did and didn’t get which job, glancing from side to side and worrying to ourselves that there would be nothing left for us in this industry, in this city, and that we were somehow doing it wrong.
The apartment was just around the corner from the small park where over the summer a boy with cuffed sleeves, who I’d thought was the real thing, had pushed me up against a fence and kissed me. We hadn’t spoken much since. I would have been happy anywhere—a month in and the couch was starting to dig into my spine, the sun through the curtainless windows woke me up when it did—but I didn’t feel the need to make that particular neighborhood mine again just yet.
It took us nearly an hour to get back to Brooklyn because of the weekend train schedule. Even then, Ed was late. He was chubby and had a round, smooth head and pulled up in a station wagon that looked like the one my mom used to drive when we were small. He was coming from class, he mumbled, and didn’t know whether there was a washer and dryer in the building. My roommates and I looked at each other.
The listing had described the apartment as being on the fourth floor, but Ed led us up to the fifth, as many flights up as where I’d been staying. He fumbled with the lock of the last apartment on the landing and let us in.
I’d seen a lot of apartments that summer—the ones I’d stayed in, the ones belonging to my friends and a few stray boys, the ones I’d looked at to sublet and then to rent—but I’d never felt the kind of calm I felt walking into this place. The floors were just as shiny as I’d pictured it, the exposed brick was just as inviting, there was a dishwasher (!), but even beyond that, it just felt real. I had spent the past few months anxiously desiring fuzzy, abstract things—a Job, a Boyfriend, a Home—that I’d forgotten what it was like to see something I wanted with sharpness and clarity. You could see the Statue of Liberty if you craned your neck on the fire escape, and the bedroom off to the side of the common area was the exact size I wanted my life to fit.
To find out where Alanna ended up living, and what happened to her dream apartment, continue reading at The Billfold.