I thought I was bidding adieu to Apartment 4 on Monday, and proceeded as such. There was sorting and packing and the throwing away of lots of crap, and, when all that got to be too much, there was a trip to the Wawa a few blocks down, which was hence christened as the most recent public place in which I’ve cried, robbing a couch in a Connecticut Crate & Barrel – the site of a truly spectacular mid-May breakdown – of that sought-after title.
I’d honestly never stepped foot in the Wawa before, but around midnight on Saturday, after spending hours doing nothing but dividing my books into piles (Will Fit in New York; Might Fit in New York; Don’t Kid Yourself, These Are Definitely Not Fitting In New York) that little store, nothing more than a glorified 7-Eleven to most out-of-towners, did me in. It suddenly seemed so very Philadelphia, a representation of all the things I was leaving behind, and thus I felt the need to very publicly mourn the loss of all those 99 cent cups of coffee and late-night hoagies I’m never going to have.
It’s a strange predicament I find myself in: loving a place I just can’t stay. Technically I can’t stay because we have to go to New York, because that’s where Dave matched, but on a deeper, pre-March 17 level, I really just can’t stay. It’s not this city’s fault – this city is wonderful and lovely (yes, even more so than New Jersey) – but it just hasn’t been all that lovely and wonderful to me this year. And that is a sad thing to face: the idea that, while you love something (and that something’s cheesesteaks and low housing prices and proximity to Anthropologie) very much, it might not be the very best thing for you at the moment, and that no matter how hard you try to fight for it and make it work, the only way to move forward is to jump ship, for the moment.
(Is this starting to remind anyone else of bad relationships they’ve had? Or am I the only one who’s ever had trouble leaving someone who takes me out to a Stephen Starr restaurant occasionally?)
Anyway, I was coming to terms with all of this, in that weepy, embarrassing-yourself-in-a-24-hour-convenience-store type of way that seems to be my own particular breed of pathetic, and closure actually seemed to be close. As a bonus, said closure did not require me shlepping up and down stairs and loading up a big truck, as I had been deemed far too weak to participate in the actual move (and far too stubborn to take another vacation day in the name of New York.) All I had to do was pack up our life, and then Dave and his brother would do the rest, down four very narrow, very spiral-y flights of stairs.
Tuesday came and the boys headed off, coming back for lunch with one truck-full of our stuff and shirts soaked with sweat and an appetite for all of the roast beef in the deli drawer of the fridge. They headed back into the city to round up the rest and I headed to the pool, where I proceeded to enjoy a dip and a phone call with Amruta. When I heard the truck rumbling up the driveway again, I reluctantly left my perch, and apologized for having to cut the catch-up with her short: “They’re here…with all my shit,” I said. “I suppose I should help.”
Famous last words. Dave was bringing not just a second haul of furniture and boxes but also news that we would have to make one more late-night trip, and this little princess would be coming with.
So off we went, one last drive from Southern New Jersey into the city, me planted on some towels on the floor in between Dave and his dad, legs tucked under me. I couldn’t see much from down there: the skyline poking through the dark on that one bend in 676, an elevated expressway looming overhead, a familiar street sign. But I know my neighborhood well enough to read the tops of buildings and the curve of rooflines, and I knew when we were there, pulling in to our old spot across from the rowhouse we called home for two years.
Still deemed relatively weak (true life: I’ve successfully avoided physical activity for two years), I wasn’t made to do that much. I carried down trash bags and a toaster oven, pieces of the play pen we used when Franny was small enough to stay in it and young enough to need to, while Dave and his Dad took apart the futon (yes, that one where I used to make out with my high school boyfriends.) After they finished disassembling my introduction to teenage sexuality, they started loading up the car, and I was sent back up to collect the dregs of our life still marooned in the apartment: stray extension cords littering the corners of the rooms, a copy of the New England Journal crammed where a door met the wall, pens and hair ties and the beloved Kitchen-Aid mixer my mother bought us when we first moved in together.
All those previous days of packing had confronted me in the same way, of course. The hours spent sitting cross-legged on the floor, surrounded by boxes, were chock full of all sorts of reminders of our lives, past and present and future, followed by choices. Did I really need to keep that birthday card? That too-small T-shirt purchased at the outlets on a trip up to Maine the summer that Megan’s mom died? That note from my college roommates informing me they were going to White Castle (“Really,” the index card signed off, with the flourish of a purple pen.)
I had already done my sorting – of worth keeping and worth letting go – and I had had my farewell tears in a Wawa on Walnut street.
But I’m still glad I had those last few minutes to walk through the fourth floor of that rowhouse, cleaning up scraps and wiping away dust and thinking about where we’ve been and where we’re going. And saying goodbye, so long, peace out, to our first apartment.
It’s been real.