New Year, New Home
I start the new year by putting the finishing touches on the design of the Wanderlust App. Proud of my work I am eager to see if it behaves live as it does in my deck and my mind. I send the prototype to Jessica and Sylvia to look over once more in case they want to add anything before we roll out the first testing phase of the App.
Two seasons and eight months, it’s almost like birthing a baby. It helped that most of the winter was brutal so being in my office writing code was rather cozy. No baseball to watch with Nate to distract me. He has been working extra because it’s hard to be cooped up at home with his dad and he is trying to save money for his project. That he seems to be keeping a secret. He pulls a Val, answering a question with a question whenever I ask. And I am sad to admit that I am far too busy to push. When we do spend time together, I need him to be my getaway so we are happy to be each other’s distraction from our real world.
Occasionally when masturbation fails me, I am forced to realize that it’s been almost a year since I have had sex and my body is not happy. I tell myself that I would be cheating on Nate. But how can I cheat on someone that I have yet to kiss? No, the truth is, I miss Tommy. I try to access memories of my countless escapades to help with my self-pleasuring, but I always convert each memory to Tommy, no matter whom I start with, even Miss Cliff. Oh Gods, please help me break this streak. I need my groove back.
After eight months in New York City as I am slowly finding me, I finally find an apartment. No better time than springtime, the season that marks re-birth and new beginnings and Peonies! I am ready to be out of corporate housing. A place of my own completes the circle of officially becoming an adult. All of it is mine and only mine, even the bills. Putting the utilities in my name was oddly exciting. I am sure that will change once I start paying them. But for now, it’s one more thing I do on my own.
Sylvia and I did some window shopping for my new place a bit early, so when the furniture arrived, they almost did not fit. Nothing feels more grown-up than when you buy your first piece of furniture with your own money. My bed took the longest to find, it signifies my independence from so much, I want it to be perfect. I love watching T.V. when I am writing or drawing so a huge, cozy couch is a must. Which didn’t leave room for much more than that in my living room. Because my couch was the first item that I purchased, this set the decor for my entire home. Soft and feminine yet rustic.
Brooklyn Heights was built in 1824 and my apartment was one of the original buildings. The red brick exterior and absence of alleyway between the buildings remind me of London. Quite different from the boxy, modern, beveled, glass buildings of Manhattan currently surrounding me.
Brooklyn Heights has buildings that show character and charm. The multi-levels of the home with their brownstone base, soft red brick faces trimmed with deeper red brick border, circular balconies, black woven rooftops, and A-frame peaks planked by chimney stacks. Steel frame windows with bulky air conditioning units sticking out contrasted with intricate stained glass along the top portion.
I can stare at my building for hours from the street before entering the grand foyer. Updated with gold plated mailboxes that are lined neatly in a grid along the left wall as you enter through two sets of double, heavy steel and wooden door. All of which clashes with the new buzzer system for security that allows us to see from our homes who is calling from out front. I can even buzz you in from my cell phone. Since I am living alone, I will not complain, safety first.
A flight of stairs takes you to apartment 2B, that’s me. Our realtor informed us of the benefit of a walk-up is more bang for our buck. In comparison to the new buildings with elevators and washer and dryer in units, 81 Montegue Street, Apt. 2B is considered to be a large apartment for the price I am paying.
There are actual distinguishing features like archways with intricate moldings to separate the kitchen and dining room from the living room. I picked a larger kitchen with a smaller dining area since most meals will just be myself and possibly Nate and his dad. Which we prefer to dine on T.V. trays in front of the television so we can watch sporting events or stand-up comedy shows. The small dining table doubles as my work desk.
The other benefit of this older building is the gas stove and fireplace. Sadly the old school wood-burning fireplaces are illegal here so mine has been converted to gas. I love the radiator but prefer using the fireplace. Plus the radiator only has two settings, on or off. I can’t imagine the poor people on the fifth floor since heat rises. Nate somehow found me a new sleek airconditioning unit that you mount above the window, so I don’t have to keep the huge item protruding from my window that was jimmy-rigged to fit, not. Still cashing in on his karma credits in my favor. I don’t look this gift horse in the mouth since I enjoy being able to open my window for fresh air.
The other item I splurged on is my media, which Nate picked out of course. And he and his friends installed. A movie screen and projector, now we feel as if we are actually behind the Yankee’s dugout when we watch the games. As well as in the theaters, men and their surround sound. Although I do love that I can play my music through the surround sound. And I pray none of it glitches or else Nate and his crew will have to be back here to fix it. I may be a coding wiz but it’s like having an internist performing surgery, both doctors but very different skill sets.
Sylvia snagged the same set of pots, pans, and knives that I had given Nate for Christmas. “Happy open house”, exclaims Sylvia as she helps me carry down my final boxes out of my corporate apartment and into my moving van. “You sure I can’t help you unpack?”
“I am good, the movers will carry everything up and a day of putting my apartment together is just what I need right now.”
“Yes, and if I change my mind, I will call, I promise.”
Sylvia has already gone above and beyond her duties with helping me move. Time to put the pieces of my life in place. My place.
I did not realize how much I accumulated when I was with Tommy until I saw the pile of boxes that my parents sent. Benji and Jodi packed up my room and I have not had to look at these boxes until now. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, art first it is. Whenever we went to art galleries, Tommy and I would buy art we both agreed on, which oddly was not a lot. He was more into modern art whereas I prefer storytellers. Paintings of sultry, vivid lifestyles. We compromised with the theme of music and dance and curated an eclectic collection.
Unwrapping each painting cracked open my heart splitting each piece in half. Partly because they were such fantastical moments gracing my walls, their grace holds strong even after the fantasy has gone. These paintings were meant for our home. They fit perfectly on my walls, another plus about old buildings, high ceilings means a lot of wall space.
“Hmmm,” there is a second box of artwork. I count the paintings on the wall and I know I have all the pieces up. Where did these come from? Taped to the front of the box was a card.
Happy Birthday My Love! I am most excited to have our art in our new home.
My Love, My Heart Always, Tommy
The box, Tommy had hidden under the bed, was meant for my birthday. A birthday that I barely remember because I was robot Valentina nursing my broken heart. Tommy had framed stolen moments we shared without me realizing it. Moments he captured. Oh, Gods, my heart can not take anymore.
My books! My books and champagne save the day. Three full boxes now empty; a full bookshelf is my pride and joy. Half of these books have pleasured me and are waiting for round two. The other half ready to be explored and relished. Placing each book in its new home was not as calming as expected but healing none the less. The pain in my heart is less sharp. I lean all of Tommy’s photos along the floor by the radiator. I am not ready to hang them.
I do feel proud of myself, “welcome to your new home, Val!” A toast to myself on my first night here.
I thought of having both Nate and Sylvia over, but something about being here alone feels like the right thing to be doing. The final touch, vases of Peonies. It took all day and evening but my home is assembled. Tonight, I will go out and find my spots, we all need our spots in our hood. My dad’s bar is that spot for so many people, I need my bar.
It takes a few weeks for me to find my rhythm. I take the 2 train to and from home. I find the subway soothing, so many strangers in one small space, all minding their own business, lost in their thoughts and problems. There are several places along Montegue Street that I frequent. I found a coffee spot that isn’t a Starbucks, my pizza joint, and a Greek spot a few blocks up. Everyone I have met so far is nice and makes me feel like I matter to them. Or maybe I am just a big tipper. The funny thing about this city is people are hard to break, but once you break them, they are loyal.
Maybe it’s all the years of working and growing up in bars that have me gravitate to the employees versus patrons, or maybe they are more interesting and better listeners.
Like at the Greek restaurant on Montague Street, I sit near the front by the open grill and where the employees gather. Just like how my friends used to chill in the kitchen when I was preparing our dinners. The youngest son of the owners is there almost every night, working after school since he was little. Costa and I bond over the obligation and ease of a family business. He is applying for dental school and I can see his proud mother smiling in the background as he tells me of his dreams. I can also see the look of, “don’t mess with my son,” she shoots me every so often. I don’t blame her; he is the Greek hottie that is the reason college girls do their semester abroad in Greece. Not like the Greek Gods but the perfect vacation romance. As tempting as his lips are, the food here is too delicious to risk being exiled.
I tell myself, focus on Valentina and work, don’t get distracted by men. Costa is boyfriend material: great family man, kind, smart, good-looking, on his way to a solid financial future in dentistry, and a great listener. This is humorous since as a dentist, most of his patients won’t be able to talk to him with their mouths held open.
Annie’s Blue Moon is officially my neighborhood bar. It is just a few blocks walk up Montague Street, a walk I quite enjoy. Annie’s is my little gem. How many bars have a jukebox and a pool table? Surprisingly it didn’t take long for me to make friends with the bartenders.
It seems that Brooklyn Heights is a young, hip, up and coming spot where I can meet a lot of people who, like me, are implants. It’s easy to slip into a routine. Like my dad’s bar back home, Annie hosts many locals that frequent the establishment as often as I do.
Many of the young men here are students of the Brooklyn Law School, even though they are only a few years younger than myself, I feel like I have aged years since I arrived in New York. I definitely did not get the chance to be the doe-eyed girl from the countryside, even if my countryside is Berkeley. Everything here moves fast and the stress is rather overwhelming at times. So we all seem to find solace in our pints at the end of the day. Not quite having a family of our own here, we quickly become friends. Sylvia continually reminds me, “don’t shit in your back yard,” so my boundaries with all these young blood are just pool and pints. Still always such a good ego boost. Plus it never hurts to make future lawyers your friend.