Approximately one year ago today, we drove across a bridge.
His Dad and Uncle arrived from New Jersey in a truck, into which we loaded 7 large boxes along with a twitching mattress and box spring.
It was a sunny day, energized by the fact that we were finally moving into our new place together. We were excited for the possibilities, the unknowns that would play out over the course of the next year as we left everything we knew behind.
I gazed out the window as we drove out of Manhattan and into Williamsburg, looking ahead at the vast blue sky — clear with soft strands of feathery clouds drifting high and almighty. The spring breeze blew gently at the gathered cobwebs of my psyche, disengaging some of the past to make way for the present.
We propped the second elevator open with a box, methodically loading each one in. We made it to the fourth floor in two trips plus a third for the bed.
His things were already there. Some of my stuff was, too — things we kept stored at his place in LA until it was his time to move eastwards. Records, books, pots and pans, dishes, clothing, electronics. There were golf clubs, an ironing board, a turntable, a bocce ball set. Boxes and boxes, giving new meaning to the word “stuff.”
The reality of the decision, the literal and figurative contents of a move cross-country were about to be unpacked. We looked around the raw, open loft filled with crates of our former lives. We made it across the bridge…so now what?
As we’d soon discover, the immediate future would be spent exploring the new that appeared remarkable in such a state — places that would be commonplace in any other scenario. Where should we go for brunch? This produce is so cheap! That neighbor is weird!
Other time is spent grieving what we left behind. The past — idyllic in retrospect and worn thin with ownership, teases you in the rearview mirror with its brilliant sunset. We knew we had to stop looking back. It was our mutually calculated decision to move forward, but in the next year we’d question it all — consciously and unconsciously, yearning for certain elements of how things used to be.
The loft was the first and only place we saw.
I saw potential. He saw it for what it was — a massive, undeveloped room with no privacy whatsoever.
We were both right.
In essence it was a large room of cement, brick, and glass, nine-hundred square feet with high ceilings that likely tripled the total walking space. There were four windows presenting a splendid view into the northern parts of Manhattan and Williamsburg. I still come home at night and glance out the window to check the colors of the Empire State Building, an impulse now as routine as checking the microwave clock. When the US Supreme Court declared Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional last June, it was resplendent in a vertical rainbow of pride.
The building itself is historic in nature, dating back to the 1920’s when it served as a shoe polish factory. Two blocks east of the East River, it shares a nook with the also now-defunct (and soon to be demolished) Domino Sugar Factory. It was easy to imagine what this particular Brooklyn nabe may have been like long ago — full of factories and warehouses with sloping sidewalks and winding streets, not yet ready to imagine the steady pedestrian traffic filled with European tourists and omnipresent hipster culture.
We liked Williamsburg straightaway. Plus, it was easy — just one subway stop from Manhattan. The search was exhausting when we looked for my place six months earlier, so why put ourselves through all that again? We found something that worked and felt lucky. So we did it.
The major downside was the distance from the nearest subway stop. During our first winter we’d walk the full mile, trudging side by side in big boots and layers of clothing (my highest count was 5). I’d wrap a scarf tightly around my face from the eyes down to the point where breathing would fog my glasses but at least the nose was guarded from the piercing cold.
Eventually, the psychological elements of the walk grew easier. I became proud of my newfound urban abilities, bounding out into the cold bright mornings rather than remaining terrified of the concept of winter in general. I discovered that the secret (most of the time, and this may be obvious) is to wear ridiculously warm socks and gloves — strange artifacts found at the local camping store and unabashedly marketed to the urban bourgeoisie.
That first day we unpacked as much as we could, for as long as we could. Then we got hungry.
We started walking and came across a tiny restaurant called PT. It was a typical Brooklyn establishment, located in a small, dimly lit space with the night’s specials scrawled on a chalkboard.
Our first dinner together in Williamsburg was special, even magical in a way. We had walked into a new world, strangers in this foreign land. For the next few months most ordinary experiences would appear this way, dusted with the glittery newness of novelty and delight.
While we had everything we needed from a functional perspective the loft didn’t feel like home for months. We figured things out as we went along (what should we do with those hooks?) and got by with what we could (what’s for dinner?). Nearly a year later we have yet to hang our art — perhaps this weekend we’ll finally mark it off the list. All in all the place is comfortable and relatively tranquil in the way necessary for city living, and with a newfound sense of minimalism we add small gestures of homey ornamentation as time marches on.
With that, it didn’t take long for everyday nuances to outweigh the romance of our new adventure together. The biggest was the limitations of the physical space itself. In case you were wondering, there is a major downside to living in a loft which is primarily not having any walls. The only door goes into a small bathroom with no windows, which can be a nice place to hide — once I did a phone session in there with my therapist — and it’s nice for the dead of winter when a twice-daily shower seems like an excellent idea.
Still, humans adapt quickly to new environments, and we did exactly that. We learned to use eye pillows and earplugs, wear headphones and install divider curtains. One of us learned to walk a bit faster while the other purposefully moved slower. We came to love the limits of our loft and the strangeness of our streets and the frenzy of New York.
The most challenging element about moving forward together was learning to live in an unpredictable framework that was still being assembled. It’s difficult to let go of a familiar past, especially the established friendships and routine places that made it so good in the first place.
It was only months and months later that I began to fully live in the present. I woke up one morning and realized what a gift it is to be able to live in a weird artsy loft in an old building in Brooklyn with a view of Manhattan and the person I love by my side.
Plus we all have to move forward in some capacity, anyway — mentally, emotionally, physically, sometimes everything all at once.
We now come home to each other after walking that mile from the subway in the sun or rain, sleet or snow. Everything, our “stuff,” was moved here — now we were, too. The adventure of moving in together was over and the experience of living our lives had only just begun. Now we had to adjust to it, or it had to adjust to us.