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  • It took 20 years to go up 10 floors. There is no elevator when going up in life, sometimes you have to take the stairs. Literally.

    Our very first apartment in America was in a 6 story building and our apartment number was 2B. My dad would make jokes at the Shakespearean reference. It was a 1 bedroom of decent size, pretty bright but also charmless. I slept in the living room as we could not yet afford a 2 bedroom. In Russia, all rooms had doors, as they do in most of Europe. This includes the living room and kitchen. To most people in Eastern Europe the concept of a living room is non existent as this room has convertible furniture and doubles as a bedroom. The doors create a clear and purposeful separation. However in America, I found myself on display and exposed in the open room as my parents claimed the bedroom, the only other room with a door besides the bathroom. In Russia, they used the living room as their space as it was bigger, and I actually had my own little room and even a little balcony. In Europe all buildings seem to have balconies, even the poorest ones, the ugly blocky Soviet era ones included. I still find it strange that here apartments with balconies come with an insane premium while there they are default.

    Our next apartment was a two bedroom close to my high school. This one was on the first floor above the garage and was always slightly cold. The apartment was in an almost identical looking 6 story building but this one was huge and the commute was easy. Its location and square footage aside, it was indeed always cold and the living room faced the brick wall of the neighboring building roughly 12 feet away. This was the place I also lived the longest after moving to America because after that I never stopped moving. My parents moved to a condo which is actually smaller than the apartment above the garage, but its got a great layout, is supper sunny and has a fucking balcony. Finally! This apartment's number is 3B, one floor higher than the first and 2 than the last. But in going from 2B to 3B, that one floor made a world of difference. I always look for patterns this way.

    My next apartment was their condo for a few months, which I loved, before moving into the 2nd floor apartment of a house in Connecticut. Here, the apartment number was non-existent, really. I never knew how to list it, is it 2 or 2nd Floor or 2FL or what? At this point I was living 14 years in America and I have not even changed floors. Much like the apartment number with no identity or memorability, the city where I lived had none either and it was a stark reminder that if you don't own a car, you're really not welcome. I hated it not just for the inconvenience but for the fact that it was so stark and lonely and isolated and it wasn't even that far into the suburbs. I HATE the middle. Its either big city or the woods. Thats it. I despise and cannot comprehend the suburbs for the life of me. City girl through and through. Moscow is a city of 11 million people and while the layout is not as claustrophobic and tight as New York, its a city of ELEVEN MILLION people. I took buses and trains and trolleys and taxis since I can remember. While living in CT, I made every excuse to be in Manhattan to walk the streets (because New York has fucking SIDEWALKS), stare at walkups and brick faced 6 stories that reminded me of Brooklyn. I regretted moving and berated myself for not appreciating my original living conditions more.

    I cursed the suburbs even more when a driver rolled past a stop sign not expecting pedestrians and slammed into my legs as I was walking to the bus, causing me to end up on the hood of the car. He was horrified and apologetic while I dealt with my shock. I still have to wear a knee brace when doing any activity faster than walking and get weird muscle pains, but I am damn grateful that it wasn't worse. Though, it was in my next apartment where I learned that mental pain is worse than physical. Our next move was into a building that was also medical housing as my ex completed his residency. I was so excited to be back in NYC and living in Manhattan for the first I could barely contain myself. I even told my co-worker (who lived in Manhattan a decade already and was not impressed) how stoked I was to have spent 2 entire nights in a row on the island. I finally understood why people who live in "the city" don't want to bother venturing out to other boroughs. This apartment was weird, it was 21Q. It had a weird layout and weird light and that whole year just felt weird. We didn't choose it, it was assigned to us but I didn't even care. I was in Manhattan and I even had an elevator in my building! The windows of the apartment faced inward so it was almost impossible to see the city, trees or anything besides another tall building. But if you craned your neck at just the right angle you could see some of the buildings towards Central Park. It amused me that for a few seconds a day I had the same view as some of the richest people in the world and I was damn grateful for it.

    The next apartment was in an old walkup in midtown Manhattan. Beautiful old sunny thing with a fireplace, on the 3rd floor. It didn't even have a number, was just referred to as 6 as the apartments seems to be carelessly listed in order. Very confusing. Almost immediately we had problems with mice and frat boys. Not sure which was worse. The place was above a restaurant and yet the landlord still blamed us for the mice and said we should be cleaner. This is the same man than charged us full month's rent when we moved in on the 20th and still didn't paint, clean or install a shower head by then. The frat boys were loud and rambunctious but reasonable and would later give us warnings when they threw parties so we went out when they did. I didn't last a year in that apartment though as starting in 21Q the darkness that clouded my mind for years combined with regret and cold feet finally caused me to break it off and move out.

    The next place was almost the same as the last. 3rd floor of a large sunny studio in a walkup kind of far uptown. The super was nice, the neighborhood was adorable and my dog loved the plethora of dog runs available to him. But the building was old and creaky and not that well maintained so after hurricane Sandy I had weird giant bugs like centipedes, spiders and mosquitoes in the apartment which caused me to have panic attacks and sleepless nights as I am terrified of all insects. 3C was not faring well. Unfortunately, the studio was all I could afford in an area I wanted to live so it was either that or central Brooklyn, around where I grew up and I found those areas to be both strange and dull. After spending a 3 year sentence miserable in a place I didn't want to live, I refused to ever live in an area I didn't love or choose myself again. I wish I was one of these people that just adjusts and goes with the flow, but I just cant live somewhere I don't love. If you read any of my previous stores you know how difficult it is for me to be happy, so why add to that? Life is too short to hate your neighborhood, too bad I also grew to hate that studio apartment.

    After finishing grad school and getting a better job I decided that for once in my life I deserve to know what its like to love where you live and the apartment you live in as well. Never had the two ever aligned for me before. And so the long and tedious search began. It had to be new (aka no bugs or mice), it had to have an elevator, it had to be dog friendly. After spending weeks in small overpriced apartments in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, we finally saw a place that we knew was THE ONE seconds after stepping in. Gilded castle in the sky. MY castle. My hard earned long awaited beautiful shiny new castle. When I watch the sun set over the Manhattan skyline I still cannot believe its mine. Its kind of like an American dream story mixed with a Cinderella story all in one. The first night here I kept telling my boyfriend who moved in a few days ahead of me that I could not believe we live here. I went from dirty old walkups to this. As someone who always looks for patterns and signs I was excited to live in 12B. Exactly 20 years after my move to America I had gone up 10 floors. Just like in life, there were ups and downs (literally) and 12 seems like a very good middle point. From 2B to 1H to 2 somethingthefuck to 21Q to 3 and 3 again and then up to 12. From living my pre-teen years in the living room and then facing a brick wall for the next 8 and then living in a place that I hated and that hated me back so much it tried to run me over to mice and spiders to this.

    I know this not real. I don't expect this to last. Next year it might be back to walkups or who knows what? But you know what, it took 20 years to get here and I am going to enjoy every waking moment of my gilded castle in the sky.

    Week 22 of 52 - Story a Week in 2014
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