Where have you lived, Katie Heaney?
West Bank, Minneapolis, September 2010—August 2011, $829/month plus utilities
Two months after I graduated college with a degree in political science, I started working as a data entry specialist for a medical information services company in St. Paul. My job was to look up Medical Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for the products used by our clients and update our records with the various unpronounceable chemicals in each of them. Or something like that. I worked two more largely inexplicable jobs like this one before I decided what I really needed to do was retreat back into academia. My best friend Rylee was itching to go back to school, too, so I proposed that she leave her life and boyfriend in Illinois and come start policy school with me in Minnesota. My not-that-secret hope was that, in those two years, she’d fall in love with the state and then just never leave. In that way, the first apartment we lived in together was Phase One of a long-term scheme.
Later this will seem funny, but $829 is actually too much for any young, non-rich person to pay for one-half of a two-bedroom apartment in Minneapolis, even if it does have two huge bathrooms. It’s a silly price to pay for what is essentially a silly, cookie-cutter, “luxury” dorm for college kids whose parents want them to have a security entrance and a gym on-site. But Rylee was coming from out of state and wouldn’t be around to help, and I’m fairly lazy when it comes to bargain hunting, and the building stood directly across the street from the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs. It snowed 87 dazzling inches that winter, the fourth-highest Minneapolis snowfall on record. So this proximity came in handy.
It is possible to feel very old at 23, and one of the quickest ways is to live in a four-floor maze surrounded by 18- and 19-year-olds. Our friend Colleen visited us one weekend that fall. We drank a fishbowl of blue vodka punch in the bar downstairs. On our way up to our apartment afterward, a group of kids scream-summoned us into their party. Colleen drank a beer on their couch. “What year are you guys?” I asked. “WE’RE FRESHMENNNN! WOOOOO!!!” a girl screamed. “I have to go,” Colleen said, and she lurched out of their apartment. We ran down the hall to ours, where Colleen threw up in the living room.
Cedar-Riverside, Minneapolis, September 2011—May 2012, $480/month plus utilities
Let me restate what the numbers here show, for emphasis: our rent in the apartment we moved to for our second year of graduate school was just over half what we had paid on the West Bank. True, this apartment did not come furnished, because apartments for adults do not come furnished. The extra near-$400 a month more than made up for this fact. We still had two bathrooms, too, and a pool, though a pool doesn’t make itself useful much between the months of September and May in Minnesota. Our married friends—likely the two smartest students in our entire program, by the way, forged together in a terrifyingly intellectual bond—lived on the floor above Rylee and me and invited us over for fancy dinner parties sometimes, and we felt very young.
In our previous apartment, I got my heart broken, just a little, just before Christmas. I cried next to our tree. In this new one, just after Christmas, Rylee got hers broken a lot. She preferred to cry sitting in her empty bathtub, and for this reason we were both happy that she had the master bedroom with the bathroom attached. Whenever she felt well enough she’d come out to the living room and we would watch the ABC Family college classic Greek for three or four hours at a time. Any time something romantic happened on the screen, we’d fling our arms into the air and say “ugh, GODDDD.” Something romantic happens at least five times per episode on Greek.
Whittier, Minneapolis, June 2012—August 2013, $555/month plus utilities
We planned to move after we graduated from school, and we visited three or four disappointing apartments until fate or fortune (or something) struck, and someone who read my Tumblr and therefore knew I was looking for a place emailed me to say she was moving out of hers. We were in love before we even went inside, largely because the brick exterior is covered in ivy. There were also the wood floors, and the many windows, and the Secret Garden-esque courtyard between the buildings. It was old—no central air—and sweet and homey. I was working from home then, and I bought myself furniture for the first time: a beautiful desk to write at. Rylee worked from home too. We’d both worried about living together again, a little, because it hadn’t gone extremely smoothly when we were 19 years old in a dorm. We’re arguers, big on feelings and talking about them. I think we were both surprised to get to this place, seven years after we first met, where we could be together all the time and have it just work. It used to be hard for me to understand how anyone could live with the same person for their whole lives—not because I wouldn’t want to, but because I didn’t know how I’d ever like anyone that much or be liked by anyone that much—but I know that I could live with Rylee for the rest of my life.
But then I decided to move to New York City.
Lower East Side, New York City, September 2013—Present, $1150/month plus utilities
The move was for work, and for access to a much wider social life, and for taking a risk for risk-taking’s sake. It wasn’t especially for New York City. Everyone (normally, graciously, as would be expected) asks me, “So how do you like New York???” and I never really know what to say. It’s okay! I like to tell my friends and parents the prices of everything I buy to hear them say, “Oh my God.” I texted Colleen to tell her that a 19-ounce bag of M&Ms here is $7 and she wrote back “OH MY GOD.” I told my mom, “My contact solution brand is $16 here.” “Oh my God,” she said. And then she mailed me a bottle of contact solution.
There are a few sounds I’m dealing with that I don’t like. One is that the radiator pipe in my new bedroom, which was just turned on last week, screams and wails and hisses me awake early most mornings. Occasionally, somehow, it sounds almost … pornographic. And then, somewhere in or around my building, heard from my bedroom window, someone keeps playing the trumpet. He plays at unpredictable times, and I hear it about once a week. When he played the trumpet one Saturday morning while I tried to read in bed I asked myself, “Why would you play the trumpet on a Saturday morning?” When he played the trumpet on a Tuesday afternoon when I was home sick from work, I asked myself, “Why would you play the trumpet on a Tuesday afternoon?” I don’t know what I think is the logical time to play the trumpet, except for any of the ones when I’m not home.
The sound I like most here is any conversation I overhear between any two people on the street or on the subway. This city is an eavesdropper’s paradise. One day when I was walking home from work I saw these two girls standing up against the wall outside a restaurant. I noticed them because I heard one of the girls saying “Hetero. Flexible,” punching her right fist into her left palm for emphasis.” The girl she was with nodded enthusiastically, like, “Totally.”
I miss Minnesota all the time. I miss Rylee all the time. I miss all of it and everyone, and this will come and go for a while. I just don’t know which side the feeling will land on yet. I think if you’re going to bother trying something new you probably have to give it enough time to become miss-able. Anyway, I hope I’ll just know. Sometimes I am walking along some street in Manhattan and remember to look up and find it very exciting to remember that I live here now. Only I’m not sure if that’s because it’s like, New York, or because I actually like it. I spent a lot of time before I moved imagining what it would be like to live here, and I can’t even remember any of it to know if it’s true. I think I pictured many more animated, dramatic conversations taking place in the backseats of cabs than have happened so far. That is an idea I probably picked up from Sex and the City and maybe also the Real Housewives of New York.
Sometimes the size of my apartment feels suffocating, like it did during my first week here, when I accidentally broke three of my lovely, patient roommate’s various dishes just by living. Sometimes climbing the six floors up to my place feels like nothing. It feels right to be here right now, if not easy. And there is a lot left to see. Most of my friends live in Brooklyn, and each time I’ve gone to a new neighborhood there, I’ve gotten off the subway, walked up the stairs and said, before I could even see very much at all, “It’s SO NICE here!” Maybe next fall I will move to Brooklyn. So far Rylee hasn’t said anything about what happens the year after this one, but if she doesn’t start openly plotting my return pretty soon, I will be a little annoyed.