When you live in an environment where picking up and leaving in a moment’s notice is normal, you have to learn to carry just enough. Just enough to get by and settle in. Just enough so that you can still survive. Just enough so you don’t break your back.
Trinkets and mementos become optional. Keeping clothes “just in case” is no longer an option. That pile of When I Was Skinny clothing that’s sitting in the back of your closet goes in the trash, because it’s taking up space and there’s no point in carrying it around. You get used to keeping only what you need.
This is a complete 180 degrees from the way I was raised. Although we moved a bit, my mother kept everything she could. The space under the stairs of our basement is filled with nothing but decorations, mementos, and trinkets that we’ve accumulated as a family over the years. I’m sure if I asked, I could find an uncle who has my old atari, a young cousin who still plays with my old Barbies, and an aunt who still holds all my Disney books. And I know exactly who has my Barbie Dream House.
I prepared myself to carry light when I came to New York. Most of my things were in storage, including shoes, jewelry and trinkets. I had a few things I still carried with me, under the excuse that I would need them but were mostly keepsakes: A Konica FT-1 that belonged to my father, a leather Juicy Couture handbag my mother gave me for my 27th birthday, a few pieces of costume jewelry from Nordstrom, and a canopy that once belonged to my sister.
|And then belonged to me|
Even my laundry bag had a connection for me. After a while, everything did. and I started to see them for what they represented. It was the laundry bag my mother bought me for Girl Scout camp. The blue trunk she bought me after I became obsessed with anything vintage. The Kindle and laptop she’d gifted me, the jean jacket I bought when I worked for LOFT. The purple scarf from visiting my sister in Boston. The boots and flat iron I’d bought while living with Ceasar. Every once in a while I’d also find calico cat hair in my luggage.
Everything had a connection. Everything was a way to keep sane.
The DJ went out of his way to make me feel comfortable in the apartment. He hung my canopy and added hooks to the walls for me to have some sort of storage. He even bought me a futon so I’d have somewhere to sleep.
That weekend, I had a hair appointment in Midtown. The makers of Cezanne wanted me to review their product, and I got a free haircut out of it. After that, I once again packed everything in my car and moved. Jay was kind enough to help me. He knew he’d fucked up, and he was trying to at least be cordial, which is more than I can say for Sandra, who refused to be the one to hand me my deposit money back.
When I arrived at The DJ’s, he made me pull over a little further away from the building entrance while he brought my things in little by little. It was the first hint I had that something was wrong. That night I barely slept because my car was parked on 28th, and they were very strict about parking regulations. I had to move the car sometime around 6 AM to be safe.
Over the next several days, I parked my car in the Bronx by where Jay lived, and took the train back into the city. This, of course, was unsustainable. It made me late for work, and I had to keep going back to the Bronx to move my car on alternate parking days. I had to bring the car to Bridgeport, where I could park it longer with friends. But I was broke, and barely had the money to take the metro back into the city.
I drove out one night, and left my car with V. She wasn’t home, so I took the bus back to the metro. It was during one of those cold snap days in late December in 2013, and I got brain freeze just from stepping outside. I took a train from Bridgeport to Stanford, and one from Stanford to Grand Central.
I had an old pass from when I used to live by Fordham that was due to expire that night, and tried to use that to pay my way. But it was only worth half the trip, and when the conductor saw it, he got really annoyed and charged me for the rest of the trip. It was still money I didn’t have, but I arrived back into the city safely, if a little cold.
It was the last time I saw my car, my most favorite trinket of all. My car was my freedom. It was my escape. It was the symbol of how far I had come, how far I could go. I bought my car after years of taking the bus, after years of believing I couldn’t drive, that I didn’t need to.
Including my original arrival, I had already packed my things inside my car four separate times. I had been living in NY for eight months, and if I planned to stay longer, it would mean moving again sometime in the future. Leaving my car meant I could no longer pack it up and leave. When I finally accepted that I could no longer afford to keep it, that I had to turn it back into the bank, I was heartbroken. And I’m still not over it.
I contacted my mother after leaving my car and settling in. I didn’t want to stress her out after I had to leave Jay’s so quickly, so she didn’t know I had moved again. I learned that in the time I didn’t contact her, she’d had heart surgery again.
Before I left Connecticut, my mother had a pacemaker put in her chest. While she was healing, she complained that she could feel it moving. The doctors found that not only had the pacemaker moved, but it has completely turned itself around inside her chest. She had to get surgery again to have it readjusted.
|And I apparently have no survival instinct|
I scolded her. My mother the clean freak could not drop the mop even if it affected her health, and I begged her to get others to help her with the house cleaning, and to take care of herself. She promised she would.
The second hint that something was wrong with The DJ came that New Year’s Eve. It was the winter before my 30th birthday, and I dreamed of greeting the new year in Madison Square Park. But the bitter cold hadn’t lifted, and The DJ kept talking about how crazy it was outside, so I stayed indoors.
I went to sleep, only to be woken up around 4 AM to the sound of The DJ ranting on the phone, and it was the most hateful, homophobic rant I had heard in years. I listened. And when it got to be too much, I put in ear plugs and roller over, shocked. He bemoaned, for example, that he could no longer throw around the term ‘faggot’ anymore, because people obviously get offended.
A few days later, he asked me how I liked living with him. I tiptoed around the issue, but his late night rant had scared me, and I was starting to notice signs of severe mental health issues in him.
By that time, another girl had stayed with us for a few days while he slept on the floor. The DJ had found a way to pick a fight with her that culminated into a pile of nothing. She had simply left her things behind while she partied with friends, and he kept blowing up her phone asking when she would come back. I understood why she got frustrated, and as they bickered over nothing, I got a front row seat for the whole show. After she left, he tried to relate with me on it, but we were clearly not on the same page.
I felt that he had instigated the situation, that he found excuses to pick fights with her. I had seen that behavior before: people who create drama out of nothing as a way to pass the time. Day in and day out, there was always something new to create a big stink over, and I had no need to participate in that.
As he tried to call her names in front of me, I pointed out that as a man of nearly 50, he should know better than to call a woman half his age derogatory names. Someone had to be the adult, I told him, but he tried to defend his actions. He tried to call her a Head Hat Wearing Nappy Headed Hoe to me because she wore a wig, and I thought it was completely inappropriate of him.
Later, he came back to me and said that he had only only called her Beastly because he had heard other girls calling themselves that, completely unaware that it was something else entirely that I had called him out for. I jokingly told him that one day I would record him in the middle of one of his rants. He brushed me off an told me to go ahead. That he didn’t care.
So I did. And boy, was it a doozy.