It is September 1 of 2014 and we are moving into the third floor of 111 Rogers Avenue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. We know very few things about our new neighborhood except that a restaurant down the street has $1 oysters on happy hour and we got free shots of whiskey there two days ago when we came in with flushed faces and sat at the bar, gushing about how we just signed a lease for an apartment around the corner. It was ninety degrees the day we moved in and by the evening, Ashley had somehow already purchased us two air conditioners from Craigslist.
The best thing about the Rogers apartment was that there was plenty of space. We had two couches and got a Christmas tree one year, that’s how much space we had. The worst thing about the Rogers apartment was that we couldn’t get on the roof. My favorite memory of the Rogers apartment is making sangria out of boxed wine and Diet Orange Crush. It was Ashley’s idea and it was sweet and delicious. The worst day in the Rogers apartment was when Ashley’s boyfriend moved out because they broke up. We put the belongings he left behind in a big plastic tub and threw random shit we wanted to get rid of in there too, like an old can of cream of mushroom soup. This made us laugh through our tears and then Ashley slept in my bed for a couple of nights. It was Rosh Hashana so I had a few days off so we watched Gilmore Girls for literally forty-eight straight hours and I tried to convince Ashley to eat by ordering an the entire menu from Number One Chinese Restaurant. (Note: Not to be confused with “New Number One Chinese Restaurant” or “Number One Chinese Kitchen.” These are also in the area but do not compare.)
In that apartment, we started with four and ended with two because Eliza got married which is a good thing and we love her wife but it’s still kind of sad because we love her too, you know?
So we moved two blocks away with the help of my boyfriend and another kind soul who offered to help us at a mutual friend’s birthday party the night before because NYC actually does contain multitudes, including kind people.
The second apartment was 891 Bergen Street. We felt more grown up there. Ashley changed jobs and won an Emmy award but insisted on keeping it at her parents’ house because New York also contains humble people. At the Bergen apartment we hosted an annual wine and cheese party. We actually went to a fancy cheese shop in Manhattan to learn about the cheese before we bought it. We still bought furniture from IKEA, but we tried to stick to a color scheme and we cleaned it more often. We had exposed brick. We had people over for dinner. We didn’t have closets.
Ashley travels a lot and goes out a lot. I make sure her cat has food and water and she brings me elderflower flavored gin and shortbread from Scotland. Ashley sees a play or musical at least once a week. On my twenty-eighth birthday she took me to see Waitress on Broadway and I cried my eyes out to Sara Bareilles. On my twenty-seventh birthday, she planned a party for me and bought me those giant gold number balloons. Ashley’s love languages are acts of service and gifts and she is fluent in both.
At the Bergen apartment, we went out a lot together. We would end our nights out on the fire escape with a cigarette, or on the couch with french fries that we ordered (in the Uber on the way home) from the twenty-four-hour diner that always has diet peach Snapple to leave in the fridge for when you wake up dehydrated. One particular MLK day I stumbled out of my room at noon after we had been out until four a.m. every night for the past three nights. Ashley was on the couch in a blanket with a Gatorade. “Who the fuck do we think we are?” she asked. I joined her and pulled up Number One Chinese on Seamless. Who let us live like this?
But we only lived like that sometimes. Mostly we made salads on Sundays and put them in Tupperware to take to work for the week. Mostly we tried to be good roommates and friends and humans by picking up Draino and LaCroix when we needed it and texting about whether or not you’d be home for dinner and if so do you want some rice with chicken and asparagus and that really good yellow curry sauce from Trader Joe’s? Mostly we complained about work and politics and got really excited for new seasons of Girls and Game of Thrones. We had roaches at some point but we took care of it. My roof leaked once but then it didn’t. (Or it never rained that much again—who can say?) We still bought boxed wine but we didn’t mix it with diet sodas. We liked that you could climb a ladder to the trapdoor to the roof but sometimes when people came over they called it “terrifying.” But that was okay because they just hadn’t had enough boxed wine yet and anyway most people I know who moved to Crown Heights had to do some work to convince their parents it wasn’t “dangerous” or “trashy.”
When I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn last summer, I cried when Francie tried to convince Neely how special Brooklyn is.
“I go to New York every day and New York’s not the same. It’s mysterious here in Brooklyn…It’s a magic city and it isn’t real.”
Eventually Neely concedes: “Brooklyn is no different than any other place….But that’s all right, as long as it makes you so happy.”
We didn’t resign the lease and it ends July 31. After four years, Ashley and I will not be living together because I am getting married which is a good thing and I love my fiancé but it’s still kind of sad because I love Ashley too. You know?
Ashley is moving to Manhattan, but in a way I am the one leaving her, and that makes us have feelings that we don’t really talk about, even though we’ve talked about literally everything else.
So I picture us at sunset on our terrifying rooftop and I say, “Who the fuck do I think I am and why do I get to get married and you get to pay more rent? But here is my cast iron skillet and please cook asparagus and chicken with yellow curry sauce in it and think of me.” And then I say, “This apartment is a magic place and it isn’t real. I’m sorry I’m leaving you.” and she says “That’s all right, as long as it makes you so happy.”
And then we order Chinese.
Caroline Higgins (’11) lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she spends the vast majority of her time teaching English Language Arts. You may also find her at barre exercise classes or playing (and losing) at bar trivia. She continues to be inspired by the energy and diversity of New York City and the beauty of that certain slant of light.