These walls do talk

“Bless you.  And good morning!”

I picked up my phone and tapped back, “Good morning!  And that wasn’t me who sneezed.  I think it was L.” (our upstairs neighbor)

Her response was, “How funny, it sounded like it came from your room.  I’m going to go workout.  Will be coming in and out to warm up.”  She liked to jump rope outside, which would have been generally annoying to me, but it turns out she was a super cool roommate and a pretty amazing person, so I let it slide.

I wished her luck, and appreciated that last part.  I knew she had her keys, so if I heard the buzzer I didn’t have to leave my bed.

Bed.  Nowhere has it been more apparent that I’m NOT a morning person than in New York.  The view from my bed makes me happy.  I find that I do some of my best writing from there.

I typically sleep on a Murphy bed in the dining room (which is only the dining room because it’s at the end of the kitchen, and when the bed is up, a table rises from the floor.)  The beauty of that room is space (there is actually a small set of drawers, a chair, and a bench at the end of the bed) and (more importantly) light.  To the left of the bed, there is a window and a glass door, both leading to the deck out back.

The deck is a good size, and is one of my favorite features of this apartment.  It has three walls (one is the outside wall of the building next door, and the other two have windows looking back inside this apartment, as well as L’s upstairs and O’s above her.  O has the penthouse, so he has the top two floors of the building plus an additional deck that I can’t see from here.) and a railing looking over N’s back yard.  Yes, a back yard!  My building, and all the other buildings on this street form one side of a long rectangle.  The buildings on the street behind form another side, and in between there is a large courtyard (with huge trees!)  The courtyard is divided by fences and belongs to all the lucky owners of ground floor apartments.  Ground floor apartments appear as basement apartments from the street.  The street itself is higher by more than half a floor, so you have to walk down stairs to enter these units.

Back inside the dining room, there is only one wall.  The rest of the room opens up to the hallway on one side and the kitchen on the other.  The kitchen is also just a hallway with kitchen stuff so that you know it’s a kitchen.  It was never meant for more than one butt at a time, and I am constantly knocking shit down and breaking stuff.  I am not Princess Graceful, so I typically don’t use the kitchen.  The fridge holds beer and wine and sometimes yogurt.  I use the sink to rinse out glasses and wash the occasional spoon.  And I utilize the bins under the sink to dispose of all my take-out trash (and recyclables… thank you NYC!).

The living room is at the other end of both hallways, and has high ceilings (or low floors… depends on how much I’ve had to drink) and two luxuriously tall windows.  The windows look out over 21st Street, and I spend much of my time gazing out of them.  Except in the winter (and only because it’s too expensive to heat this place), I keep the windows open all the time.  The sounds coming from the city and the street make me happy in ways I may never be able to explain.

This time, I have a roommate.  She is staying in the dining room, so I have the “master bedroom”.  Before you picture anything fancy, let me describe it to you.  Part of the wall opens up at the end of the front hallway (like a secret door), and you find yourself in a 3X7 hallway (conveniently flanked by the only closets in the apartment) that empties into the room itself.  The room has three walls.  One serves as the headboard for a queen-size bed, and the opposite one (with a window onto the deck) serves as the footboard.  There is 18 inches of space between the far side of the bed and the back wall, which has a second window, this one overlooking the courtyard and has a view of several other buildings.  It is physically impossible for one person to make the bed.  No, really, I’ve tried.  It’s tiny.  It’s cold.  I can hear every sound coming from every part of the building.  And I love it.

Finally, there is a front door that leads into the hallway.  The smell of this hallway varies from season to season, and it’s hard to describe.  Mostly, it’s a combination of death, smoke and urine.  Very ‘New York’ I suppose.  I don’t actually mind it, which scares me just a little.  One set of stairs leads up to apartments C and D.  Another set leads down to a landing with a doorway that opens to yet another set of stairs.  Down these stairs is the dungeon.  Okay, maybe it’s storage.  Maybe it’s the laundry room.  Maybe it used to be a kitchen, or servants’ quarters.  Whatever.  It’s a dungeon.  Picture a dungeon in your mind.  That’s it. From our hall there is also a door that leads to a small foyer with mailboxes (and usually an odd assortment of salt, a shovel, a broom, boxes, trash, plants…whatever) and then out to the front stoop that leads to the sidewalk.  On the side of the building is a set of buzzers.  Watch “Friends” or “Seinfeld” to figure these out.  Like stairs when you were a kid…they seem like fun, until the entire world hits every buzzer in order to get into the building.  Please refer to my earlier “not a morning person” comment.  Then there is the stoop.  If those steps could talk… well, they almost do.

L is pregnant.  Due in a couple weeks.  I’m sure that will add an interesting wrinkle to the building’s noise.

N has a boyfriend, and they have lots (and lots) of amazing (trust me) sex.  A couple days ago, N showed up at my door with a cable technician.  Seems the cable was out in his apartment (I wondered if that was WHY all the sex.  If not, I wondered why he would want cable at all.)  The technician needed access to our deck to run a new line.

O is renovating his penthouse.  I would love to get a peek inside.  I’ve seen the floorplan and pictures, but man…what does it look like up there?

Yesterday I went to turn on the shower and realized there was water on the floor.  I looked up to see where it was coming from and noticed a steady drip, drip, drip coming from the light fixture.  Well that can’t be good.  I’ve been a property manager for 26 years, so I know what damage water can do.  The problem was determining where it was coming from.  The water was kind of brown, and the bathroom smelled a little like Penn Station (or a urinal), so I was concerned.

Things move fast in this city.  I sent a picture to my cousin, who called me back.  He shot a message to the Super, who called a plumber, who called me.  The plumber had just arranged a time to come and check out the problem when there was a knock at the door.  I opened the door and there stood Rade (from Serbia).  It seems N (who also happens to be the Super) had already called O, and asked him to check with his contractors.  O called them, and immediately one came down to look at the problem.  By this time, the dripping had slowed down considerably.  He knew exactly what had caused this.  While they were working, there was a pipe between two beams that wouldn’t budge.  They accidentally put a hole in it.  They had fixed the hole, but the water ran down three floors (picking up every speck of 180 years worth of dust) and eventually found its way through our light fixture.

Rade told me he would be here tomorrow after lunch to repair the light fixture and paint the ceiling.  He gave me his cell number and asked me to text him my name so that he had me in his phone.  I texted “Sandi Apartment B”, and when he got the text he looked stricken.  He began speaking rapidly, and with such a deep accent that I could barely make out what he was saying.  But at some point, I heard the sentence, “If my wife sees that text without your last name…”, so I realized I needed to actually text him my contact info.  I happily resent the text and he left with the promise of tomorrow.

Sure enough, today after lunch Nash (also from Serbia) showed up at my door.  He had a large bag which he asked if he could put inside the door (supplies), and when I agreed, he gingerly leaned in and put them against the wall without ever stepping foot inside.  He explained that he needed to go pick up the rest of the stuff and would be back in about 15 minutes.

True to his word, he returned, paint in hand.  He is a large, bearded man who moves like a classically trained ballet dancer.  He spent nearly an hour taping plastic to every inch of the bathroom except the ceiling.

Nash is now painting the bathroom, while I sit cross-legged on the couch typing this blog.  “Patience” plays on my Pandora station, and I find myself missing someone but blissfully happy at the same time.


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