On my last night in the city, my downstairs neighbor asked, “Are you going to channel Joan Didion and write an essay about leaving New York? ” I think he was teasing me? We were eating Chinese takeaway for Christmas Eve dinner. My things were in the back of a truck, including books, mugs, old yearbooks, and a floofy aviator hat given to me by a sort-of-boyfriend on his final night in town. I was  putting them in storehouse .

For weeks, my neighbor and I had been saying “hi” and “hey” to each other. I’d catch him by the trash cans. Actually, it was at the trash can that we first met.

I pointed to my window, three floors above the trash, and said, “I’m in 4F, up there.”

“Oh, hey. I’m Charles. 1F.”

I had a crush on him right away, but you already knew that. I suppose that’s how it works sometimes: the month when you intend to leave your city, the city spirits start giving you little messages to make you stay. (I believe the “city spirits” are rats.) Or those tiny small Greeks people on the coffee mugs.) I’d leave my flat with a single garlic clove in my hand, intending to toss it out (while casually glancing into 1F’s windows). I envisaged a future in which I lived “between” 4F and 1F, like an heiress who resides “between” Paris and New York. We’d eventually combine our belongings and relocate to a location that was somewhat less close to garbage. But, as I mentioned a few lines back, I was leaving. Leaving New York, as discussed in essays and other materials. It seemed self-evident. Is it a little religious? I felt as if I’d been touched by an angel — the millennial angel who persuades people to store their belongings and temporarily reside in Airbnbs. I told people, “I don’t feel like this was really a decision I made,” which was probably just me evading accountability. But it’s true: I knew I couldn’t remain one day. I can’t really comment because my subconscious got to this conclusion, although I’ve lived here for 12 years. I’m old enough to understand that I’m going to die, yet still young enough to forget about it. And if you live anywhere long enough, even the most hectic city in the United States, it will start to feel little.

Also, California appears to be pleasant, but avocados in New York City are disgusting.

I’d take one  item of garbage with me every time I left my apartment: an 80 percent full bottle of Worcestershire sauce from my mid-2021 beef stew period; a complete lamp; a copy of Chronic City I’d discovered in the foyer of my old building (started, never finished; not for me). The lights in Charles’s studio apartment were occasionally turned on. They weren’t the majority of the time. I tried not to look at my trash-throwing face reflected in his windows.

One evening, seven days before I should leave, Charles and I ran past one another in Prospect Park. After twenty minutes, we limited up our structure’s front strides at the very same time.



With our mouths, we formed other word- sounds. He was witty and snarky, which I suppose is required when your windows face five 95-gallon garbage cans. We stood on the porch of a majestic brownstone that had been carved into studio apartments 50 years before, a structure that had seen decades of single people plod up and down its concrete stairs, and flirt-complained about our landlord. My garbage was stacked next to the porch, including dry chicken mix and two garments I hadn’t worn since 2010. (Anything left on the curb in New York City is gone within a day, including dried poultry mix.) He was aware that I was leaving. The evidence was piling up outside his windows.

Joan Didion died a few days after our jog, on my second-to-last night at the apartment. This seems suitable. Had she been aware that I was leaving? “It’s simple to see the beginnings of things,” I told myself, and you’re surely aware of the rest.

Some starting points: Having to carry an air mattress up York Avenue and then up 12 flights of stairs. Sleeping on the sofa of someone called Laurel Harris for a month and perhaps just ever talking about the name. Mera had been sleeping on the floor of her Hell’s Kitchen ground-level flat for weeks until a little insect crept into her ear (it wandered out). Evenings on First Avenue when the red and gold spotlights transformed the walkway like a galaxy runway. Westside Market on 110th and Broadway serves mochi balls for breakfast and cheese cubes for lunch. Attempting too hard and then attempting not to attempt too hard. I’m heading to The Monster with a backpack. I’m feeling like a teenager. I’m feeling lonely. I’m getting the impression that I’m going ignored. I’m feeling unstoppable.

I spent almost an hour on my last night in 160 Sterling Place, Apt. 4F is composing and retyping an instant message to Charles. We’d already exchanged phone numbers, presumably to plan his adoption of my philodendron. I was preparing to depart for San Francisco and, for some reason, I thought to myself, “If not now, when?”

“Would you like to order food or something?” I should be nominated for a Drama Desk Award for my laid-back approach.

In addition, my refrigerator was empty. Its contents were located outside of 1F. It was the night before Christmas. If you haven’t guessed by now, Charles and I are Jews. I was very certain that we were the only ones left in the building.

“Patrick has a hankering for Chinese cookery. “Would you like that?”

I wish I could tell you that on my last night in Joan Didion’s New York, I did not have a Jewish Christmas Eve Chinese supper with my crush and his boyfriend. However, persons who appear to be exceedingly single are not always so. (I am, however, single.) It was all OK. Patrick was kind and had no idea how much I hoped he didn’t exist. We discussed employment and real estate, the only two topics authorized by New York City law. Charles and I were comparing text messages from our landlady. And he assigned this essay to me without even realizing it.

Some examples of conclusions: There are three empty takeaway containers. A table that is round. The lighting is soft. Charles and Patrick utter the phrase “microclimates,” and tell me to dress in layers. Climbing the stairs to 4F on my own. Keys in a drawer that never shut properly, even when I first moved in. My laptop was on the floor of an empty room in a building that was built as a single-family home 100 years ago. Saying farewell, “I’ll be back,” “I just need to get out of this city for a little while.” On my way out, I tossed one more bag of rubbish into a larger trash bucket.