Let’s talk about my apartment for a second. It’s small. This is the part where you say “How small?” And I say again, in a very serious, no really if you left me in there alone for too long I would suffocate and die tone…small. Then I smile and say, “But I love it! It’s such a great location!”
This is exactly the type of conversation you would never remember having until, one day, for whatever reason, you have found yourself inside said apartment. Maybe hell has frozen over and I am cooking you dinner, or maybe it’s something closer to the suffocation scenario. Maybe there is a cleaning solution involved because this is a recurring nightmare I’ve had ever since my super bolted the air conditioner in place, thereby preventing me from opening any windows. So maybe you find me on the bathroom floor high on cleaning fumes. The tile is shiny, at least, since I have guests, and I am gasping for oxygen and mumbling something like, “A woman shouldn’t have to live in fear of cleaning her own shower!” At least that is how it happens in my dream.
Anyway, for whatever reason, you are inside my apartment. And you never imagined it was this small. This thought will come to you so suddenly and so distinctly that, like every visitor who has come before you, you will have no choice but to say it out loud.
“I know you said it was small, but I never imagined it was this small!” Then you will remember your manners and follow with, “But it really is so charming!” If you are from out of town, you will promptly put your bags down and stay anyway.
But it really is so charming, if I do say so myself. Take the mini fridge, for example. It’s adorable. Who needs to be able to fit a Britta filter in their fridge anyway? The water from the faucet is such a pretty shade of gray here. Besides, if you’re going to have a refrigerator in your bedroom, I should hope that it’s a small one. I also love that its small size forces me to be more selective about my inspirational magnets. Shouldn’t we all be more selective about our inspirational magnets? (Mom, I’m talking to you). Somehow a magnetic notepad my friend Margaret gave me made the cut. It has a faded image of a sassy old lady in a vintage bathing suit beneath the words “Maybe if I gave a rat’s ass.” Sometimes I look at it and think, “Maybe if I gave a rat’s ass, I wouldn’t still have a mini fridge.” And I definitely wouldn’t be able to read the magnets on it from my bed.
I should also point out that my apartment has beautiful hardwood floors. I should point this out because it can be very difficult to actually see them. On a good day, for example, after I have sent the laundry out, you can glimpse about ten square feet of them. But they are beautiful. And they are hardwood. And they are mine. And, by the way, what’s not to love about an apartment that gives you no choice but to send your laundry out? As in for other people to wash and fold and return it to you in neat little stacks with only the occasional foreign undergarment thrown in, all wrapped as tightly as possibly as to maximize exposure of the aforementioned beautiful hardwood floors. That, my friends, is luxury.
Speaking of luxury, I have yet to mention that my apartment is the penthouse. That’s right. It is at the top of five flights of stairs and maybe there’s no elevator, but everyone knows the penthouse is the best. Everyone knows this because that is what Richard Gere’s Edward tells Julia Roberts’ Vivian in Pretty Woman, so it must be true. And, lest there be any confusion, no, I did not have to sell my body to get this view. I didn’t even have to put up with some man insisting on calling me Vivian when, really, I am such a Viv. But Edward was right about one thing: the penthouse is the only way to go.
I hope this essay doesn’t come across as some sort of Napoleon complex of the living quarters. Because the only thing less attractive than a Napoleon complex is Napoleon himself. And I do hate to sound insecure about it. I promise it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m about to turn 30. Why would a monumental decade shift cause me to reevaluate the charms of my humble West Village abode? I am not the type to have trivial thoughts like I am about to turn 30, maybe I should own a sofa. Or I am 30, maybe I should start paying for internet. Because, really, what does one thing have to do with the other? Nothing. Nothing at all.
Besides, if I did ever feel any nonsensical anxiety of that nature, when the laundry is out, there is just enough space to spread out a yoga mat and do the Rodney Yee videos to relax. And I am never bitter that Rodney is on a beautiful, expansive mountaintop with his perfectly groomed ponytail blowing in the breeze, while I keep hitting my knuckles on the broiler. I never look just beyond my toes as I am stretching and think,“Oh my god, my bed is still on those plastic stilts I had in college. And I am (almost) 30!” I am only at peace and at one with the present…just like Rodney tells me to be.
So, yes, in the spirit of Rodney, I love my apartment. I love the big window by my bed, even if it is bolted shut. I can still see the sky and the occasional moon and the little jagged edge of West Village brownstones. Even through the slightly dusty window, it looks like a painting to me.
But it wasn’t always this way. I remember the day I signed the lease. It was my first apartment of my own and I remember thinking that making decisions for myself could be vastly overrated. There would be no one else to blame if things went terribly, terribly wrong. But I signed the lease because it just felt right which, if you think about it, is the same reason monkeys masturbate in front of children at the zoo. It doesn’t make it okay. And as with each big milestone, I wasn’t quite sure if it was the best decision I had ever made or the most tragically idiotic. I had spent all of five minutes in the space itself. I had inspected precisely nothing beyond turning on the faucet in the pedestal sink in the little bathroom. The day I moved in, I started to fear that only if that faucet were the fountain of youth itself, would the amount I had agreed to pay for a year in this place be justified.
Suddenly, all I could think was that the windowpanes seemed ominously large and inviting to criminals that may or may not lurk in the back courtyard. A friend joked that I had overlooked the possibility that a gang of ninjas might scale the building and creep in one by one. And, having signed all of those papers—so many papers!—this started to seem like a distinct possibility. No matter that when I imagined this inevitable ninja invasion in my mind, I could see only turtles sporting different colored headbands and fighting over my last slice of pizza. I think that had more to do with my limited frame of reference when it comes to ninjas than with the probability that they would actually be turtles, which, obviously, wouldn’t have been so scary to think about.
But I suppose it all worked out. After a few years, I am starting to have memories here, and not a single one involves a ninja, turtle or otherwise. I would even go so far as to say that this tiny little apartment is starting to feel like home.
There’s the day I discovered Draino and fixed my own fountain of youth without tears or help from the super. Then came the Christmas I insisted on a full sized tree, even if it meant giving up the Rodney Yee videos for a few months. It was the year I learned I feel the same way about Christmas trees as I feel about dogs: get a big one, or don’t get one at all. So I got a big one, and I insisted on carrying it all the way home as my incredulous suitor looked on. But I had a feeling the fresh pine smell would last longer than he did. And I was right. Another favorite is the weekend my twelve year old niece came for a visit and I could hear her singing Taylor Swift from the shower. A bigger place and I might have missed that one.
Then there’s the art deco mirror I bought from a thrift store the day I sold my first (and last, but who’s counting?…) story to The New York Times. I’d been eyeing it for months, but was unemployed with few prospects and little faith that I’d hold onto my apartment long enough to make it worth the money. It cost $50. Now it’s my “I’m in New York to stay,” mirror. And it really is made for that fireplace.
Not to mention all of those nights I promised myself, and probably my mother, that I would stay in and rest. But upon realizing, again, that I do not even have a sofa, I threw on a little black dress, ran down five flights of stairs, and into what I would call my life.
So, yeah, it’s small. But I love it. It’s such a great location.