I was 23–nearly 24–when I first moved into the second-floor walk-up on East 90th Street between Lexington and Park Avenues. I moved into the tiny, sundrenched bedroom in April 2005. It had taken nearly a week to paint the room because it had been particularly humid and rainy and the walls did not seem to dry. My best friend Sharon and I would meet after work to paint and order a half CPA (Chicken, Pesto, Artichoke), half Billy the Kid (goat cheese, pignoli, peppers) from the now-shuttered Pintaile’s Pizza on 91st and Madison. We would listen to a rotating mix of Joy Division, New Order, and Death Cab for Cutie’s Transatlanticism, which felt like the perfect soundtrack to that most existential of 20-somethings experience–the first apartment.
The apartment had not been renovated in probably 25 years. It was a railroad apartment–or a “walk through”–in which all the rooms were connected except for the kitchen, bathroom, and my bedroom. The kitchen floor was covered in a faded black linoleum with white marbling. The hallway leading from the kitchen to the rest of the apartment had floors that partially slanted. The doors to the living room–which was really more like a parlor in the old sense–were hanging off the hinges. There was hardly any furniture in the living room.
The place needed a lot of work. But when I visited it after responding to a Craigslist ad in March 2005, all I saw was cheap rent and the chance to live on the Upper East Side. The apartment came with two roommates–M, a then-25-year old woman who was supposedly working in real estate and K, a then-32-year old woman who was a struggling actress. By the time I moved out seven years later, I had had 12 roommates, four different jobs at five different places, two years of graduate school, one boyfriend (and several flings), and had gone from being an agnostic to working in the field of evangelism for my church. What I didn’t realize–like most 23-year-olds–was that I also needed a lot of work. And that apartment became the place where much of it was done. Continue reading