A good-bye to our beloved apartment in Astoria, New York.
Dear little apartment in Queens:
You are not a house. You are a home.
And after this month, you will not be our home anymore.
The real estate broker wants to start showing you to whomever your next renters may be. She wants to post photos of you online. I procrastinate responding because the thought of packing you up raises a lump in my throat.
And now, with a curt precision and promptness belying their corporate backgrounds, our landlords will hardly yield us time to load a UHaul, just so that they won’t endure a few days without someone else signing a check for you.
I’m so sorry, little home, but that check is one of the reasons why we have to leave you. You’re an old Jansport backpack for which we now pay a Chanel price.
The clinical impersonality of your tradeoff will now invade you, as chilly and selfish as what New York has become. When we moved to New York, it still grunted and swaggered. It no longer retains the lopsided grin and beat-up jacket of a blue-collar kid willing to challenge anyone to a fight. It’s not the best part of a Billy Joel song anymore. There are no more bars here where a Piano Man could play.
Now, New York raises its eyebrows and assumes everyone is simply there to pick up the dry cleaning. So much of your initial purpose, little home, was to act as a bastion against New York’s brawling, and lately, it had been against New York’s cool-voiced sleekness. Now, that sheen has found its way into Queens and right to our front door.
We moved into you based on a handshake with an old Greek diner owner who, in turn, no longer owns you. Since that telling change of hands, the dingy 99-cent stores and bodegas near us turned into organic cafés, their sidewalks now crowded with trendy denizens waiting outside for brunch.
The battered old Jansport can’t compete with couture. It needs patches and a new zipper, but we don’t care. We like the practicality and we got it on sale.
We came back from our honeymoon to you and have argued in you. We returned from both exquisite parties and emergency rooms to you. We found Christmas trees that were perfectly proportioned to your little living room and filled you with friends for the holidays. We drank countless cups of coffee in the prewar glow of your homely, hazy mornings.
We lived in you during a time in our lives that taught us the difference between what we want and what we need. Society tells us that square footage determines our worth. We want nothing to do with that misconception, and needed everything to do with your rattling radiator and musty entryway. We want nothing to do with luxury, but needed your scratched parquet floors and snapped tiles and old shower. We need comfort and simplicity and warmth.
My husband says that you’ll be in the UHaul with us when we drive to our new life. He says you’re already waiting for us in my abuela’s kitchen. And he says that, when the time comes, you’ll be in our nursery. He says you aren’t any configuration of walls or an address on a bill, but rather that you are us, that we made you. And as we made you, we can fold you up and make sure that you go where we go. You’re a kindly spirit who embraces us with the smell of Café Bustelo and freshly diced lemons and soft, clean sheets.
So envelope us in your particular morning light a few more times. Let your floors creak under our feet only a bit longer. Understand that I still have to cry over you a little more, my stalwart backpack now discarded. We outgrew you as we outgrew the teddy bears and blankets from our childhood, but it’s fair to say that you’ve outgrown us in some ways, too. The panoply of stuffed animals I had as a little girl may not have even elicited such mourning as you, little home, tidy backpack of our worldly possessions, carrier of our paychecks and parties and peace.
Let me cry, and then I’ll carefully fold your gentle spirit snugly into my pocket for the ride to your next corner of the world. Because, as he said, you beloved, cozy, humble little home, you go where we go.
It’s a pretty good crowd for a Saturday
And the manager gives me a smile
‘Cause he knows that it’s me they’ve been comin’ to see
To forget about life for a while
And the piano, it sounds like a carnival
And the microphone smells like a beer
And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar
And say, “Man, what are you doin’ here?”
Sing us a song you’re the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well we’re all in the mood for a melody
And you got us feeling alright