"NO, I CAN DO IT MYSELF!"
I have visions of myself as a toddler shouting this at my mother as she'd try to, I don't know, tie my shoes or pack a suitcase or make a bed or something that typically toddlers do not do on their own. As most small people do, I just wanted to be responsible for myself, to know that in my heart of hearts I really didn't need anyone else to do whatever task, no matter how menial, on my own. I am, perhaps stupidly, the same at 25. Though my vocabulary has increased exponentially, the sentiment remained the same when my mother telephoned to ask when I would like her to come up and help me move.
"I don't really understand the purpose of that," I said, full of maybe too much pride, maybe too much hostility. To be fair, the last few weeks had been a rough road. I was seeing, at times, multiple apartments per day, at one point walking the length of my neighborhood twice, meeting brokers who could really give a rat's ass about what I was looking for in an apartment and thinking only about their own bank accounts. Many were fake, many were rude, almost all of them were liars. I felt out of control. My work was suffering in a huge way--having to take time out of my day to look for an apartment meant I couldn't be home getting more work, and lord knows I don't get a steady paycheck. I needed to do something on my own, to know that I could still, somehow, take care of myself. That something turned out to be packing up my entire apartment on my own (save for help TL gave me packing up my dishes--thank you for that, because it would have been incredibly dull otherwise) and moving a month's worth of my life to a friend's apartment in case I didn't find a place by the time my lease was up. Every day when I finished working or seeing apartments I would come home and pack, much to the chagrin of my friends who wanted me to come play. It was also much to the chagrin of myself who, having my roommates move out a week earlier, stood in front of a wall of boxes, packing tape poised at the ready, alone. I put on records to fill the silence in the room but also to silence my brain, as it was filled with anxiety and lists of things to do before I moved out. Johnny Cash, Janis Joplin, Patti Smith all kept me company as I folded clothes, ripped tape, bubble-wrapped glasses and emptied trash can after trash can full of stuff I just did not want to take with me. Honestly, I wanted company more than I wanted help. Taking four years of your life off of your walls and out of your closets on its own is a sad task, but that coupled with being alone is not a good combination. At one point I needed a hug so badly I curled up with the giant, four-foot teddy bear named Randolph that my parents gave me as a Valentine's Day present. I was sad enough to feel him hugging back.
Eventually, everything got packed away, though. And on June 30, the day before I was set to move out, the call came in. I had been approved for an apartment. Instead of crashing on AS's couch for a month, I'd be there for just two days--I could move in on July 3. On July 1, the movers came and cleared everything away. I heard them ripping and disassembling and covering for hours while I crouched in the doorway of my roommates' old room doing work, leaning up against Randolph with suitcases and bags and a cart filled with stuff scattered around me. I couldn't bear to watch the stuff go away because it meant my own departure was not too far off. And after everything was gone and only lint and feathers (I own a comforter from which they escape much too easily) remained, I walked around and stared at everything. I wanted to see every soiree, every late-night kiss, every cigarette out the window, every day spent working on the couch because I was too lazy to walk to the kitchen table. But all I could think about were the possibilities in the next apartment. How I'd have all of those things again in a place that was no longer nameless or faceless. The Polaroids would go back on the wall, the old copies of Rolling Stone would get hung back up, the living room would again be filled with people and I wouldn't be sleeping on a couch. But first I had to get all of this stuff downstairs and out of the apartment. That seemed like the most difficult part not only because of all the schlepping, but because of the emotional weight of the act itself. It was the last step.
In a series of five stages, I first moved Randolph, the cart and bags and suitcases to the hallway. Then from the hallway to the elevator. Then from the elevator to the building entrance, from the entrance outside and from outside to the curb. Before I moved everything outside, though, I placed my keys on the so-empty-kitchen counter and said goodbye to the old girl. I walked through each room and took pictures, stared out the living room windows and said, "We had a good run, didn't we?" The back of my throat felt tight and I felt my eyes water but nothing came out of them. I preferred it that way. Eventually a car came and the driver helped me load everything into it. It's funny, after each of the previous four years in my life, there was some sort of pomp and circumstance signifying its end--high school graduation, college graduation. But after these four, all I did was close the door behind me and drive away. Nobody cared if I was leaving or staying, and really there's no reason why they should have. In New York, people leave all the time. My departure wasn't special.
I sat in the backseat clutching Randolph. I watched my neighborhood slowly pass away from me and I held Randolph tighter.
I would shortly move the carful of items into AS's apartment by myself; then, two days later, back out again. I would unpack my apartment by myself. I would decorate by myself. Perhaps in another four years I will see such a task as a fool's errand as I look back and think, what the hell? I felt like I had something to prove, I will say. I wanted to feel like a "real adult," whatever the hell that meant. But real adults ask for help when they need it, or so we're told. They aren't supposed to be stubborn and they know their limits, be they emotional or physical, or so we're told. I don't really know if I knew my limits this time; or if I did know them, I didn't care what they were. I just felt like this time I needed to be the one taking care of myself.
So after all of this, I am still in so many ways a toddler trying to tie my own shoes. Perhaps in the next four years I will be different. Or maybe being an adult means acknowledging you were a toddler all along.