PREPARING TO GO TO NEW YORK – 2

Posted: December 27, 2011 in New York City

Helena and I were set to embark on July 1st. Things had a way of working out. I no longer had a job and my daughter vamoosed so quickly out of the house after her 18th birthday that it made my head spin. Why stick around? Half the reason I was in Miami these last ten years after my divorce was because Iwanted to see my daughter grow up. She grew up. And out. Now it was time for me.

Our luck in finding an affordable apartment in New York was astonishing. Everything seemed to be paving the way for our move. I  called my old friend Fred to tell him about my decision to leave Miami. He told me he knew someone who lived in the West Village and was looking to sublet his apartment for six months starting on July 1st. I called the guy up. His name was Jerome, a photographer. He said sure, come on up. Any friend of  Fred’s was a friend of his. He offered me the place for pretty much the same rent I was paying now. He’d be leaving for sure by July 1st due to a 6 month gig he had upstate. It was too good to be true. If I had been writing fiction, no one would have believed it.

Up until then, I had spent sleepless nights waking up from nightmares of living in New York. I had this comfortable two bedroom townhouse on Brickell Avenue in tropical Miami. My sisters lived down the block. What was I trading all this for? I had heard about the apartments in New York. Small closets they called studios for the price of what a three bedroom apartment would cost down here. With rats for roommates that were too stubborn to help with the rent. And the winters. Blizzards! What’s a Miami boy like me going to do during the  winter besides freeze my nuts off? Was I crazy? Helena insisted we get out of here. I saw her point. I spent my days and nights working, going to the grocery store, occasionally eating at one of our favorite restaurants, and going home to watch TV until I fell asleep. This was living? Did I want to work for another Hispanic ad agency down here producing cookie cutter commercials? Had my career ended? Most of my freelance clients had either dried up, died or were struggling with the recession. What was I doing here? Waiting to die.

We bought one way tickets to La Guardia. We sent Jerome a check for the first month’s rent as security. He never asked for a deposit, so we didn’t offer one. By June 1st, we were counting down the days to our new life. I could hardly believe I was making the plunge, but I was more than ready. All I had to do was step out and feel the 95 degree weather along with the stifling humidity that was going to have a stranglehold on this city for the next several months to realize I wanted out. No more heat. No more hurricane preparedness and 24/7 news broadcasts predicting doom if we don’t buy batteries. We put the car up for sale, posted the furniture on craigslist. I packed my DVD collection, my CD collection, my books, my chunk of the Berlin Wall and sent them to a friend who was nice enough to let me store them in his warehouse until I could retrieve them. Those were the only things I couldn’t do away with. Music, film and literature were my life’s blood, worthless to everyone but me. We even made plans to throw out our Parcheesi game, but not until the night before we left. This was serious business.

Then came the call. Jerome couldn’t leave on the 1st because he had unfinished business to wrap up in Manhattan, but he would definitely be out by the 15th. My intestines twisted into knots. Would he call us the following week to tell us he changed his mind? We had committed already. We had bought the plane tickets. We had already sold some of the furniture. I asked him if he was sure that the 15th was definitely the date he was leaving. He assured me as convincingly as he had assured me when he said he was leaving on the 1st. I looked at Helena. We both knew what we were thinking without uttering a word. We had no intention of staying here a second longer, so we bought new plane tickets and ate the cost of the first two. It didn’t taste very good at all.

There we stood, two weeks later, 4AM on the night of July 14th looking at our empty apartment. Jerome had called us a few days before to tell us that he was no longer leaving on the 15th but on the 18th… for sure. I asked him if this was his final change. He said yes, absolutely, even more convincingly as he convincingly told me he was leaving on the 15th after he convincingly told me he was leaving on the 1st. We decided to keep the plane tickets and stay in a hotel for those three days as it seemed more cost-effective. It wasn’t easy finding an affordable hotel in the city but we settled on one that was only $250 per night. A bargain. Our dear friend Jerome had already cost me almost a thousand extra dollars out of our budget. I shrugged it off since he never asked us for a deposit.

Waiting for the taxi, I walked into my daughter’s empty room. Gone were the posters I bought her, along with the silly scribbles and stickers she had scrawled and  placed all over the place. We had spent the last three years living here. I had been very happy to have finally been able to get a two-bedroom apartment so she could finally have her own space after all we’d been through.  But since she left so unceremoniously eight months before, I hadn’t heard from her at all, except for my birthday and Christmas. The only way I knew of her existence was her facebook postings that I would check daily. She hadn’t friended me or anything. She just didn’t realize her postings were public. It seems that she was quite happy living with her boyfriend. She no longer needed Daddy. I didn’t call her. I didn’t write her. As long as I knew she was OK,  I had no intention of reaching out to her. Strangely, I didn’t feel sad. I felt relieved, as if I had placed my life on hold during her eighteen years and I could finally pick up where I left off.

I heard Helena calling me from downstairs. The taxi had arrived. I turned off the light of my daughter’s ex-bedroom and shut the door for good. I walked down and picked up the two remaining bags. Helena left the front door opened for me as she headed on to the cab with the two other bags. I could see her ahead of me, placing the bags down to throw out the torn up Parcheesi board that had given us so much silly enjoyment during all those nothing-to-do days . There would be no more time for Parcheesi in Manhattan. We got in the cab and held hands the entire way, stealing glances at each other and smiling uncertainly. Some time later  we were in the Fort Lauderdale Airport. An hour or so after that, we were boarding the plane. Three hours later, we were in Manhattan. Just like that. Miami, my entire life there except for the year I lived in Washington, D.C., had just become a memory.

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