“How’s your day going?” the porch lady asked.
“It’s going okay,” I said cheerfully.
I was walking my usual loop from my apartment through a maze of unlined streets, up steep hills, down steep hills, around the parimeter of a local hospital, and directly into the setting sun. The porch lady is my neighbor. Her porch is located three houses down from mine.
“How are you?” I asked the porch lady.
“Good! I went down this street and back four times today and now I’m done,” she said. “It’s too hot. How’s your day going?”
“It’s going okay,” I said.
“You look good!” she said.
“Thanks, so do you.”
“You always look good. How’s your day going?”
“You look good.”
We have this exchange regularly.
“Where’s your little friend that you always have with you?”
Dave? Does she mean Dave? My little friend? But it sounds like she is talking about a child or a dog.
“I think you are mixing me up with someone else,” I said, laughing.
“How is the writing going?”
That takes me aback. Have I mentioned writing to the porch lady? I don’t remember ever discussing it with her.
“It’s going alright,” I said, which is hardly ever true.
“What is it that you write again?”
“Fiction. Short stories.”
“I thought it was something else,” she said, trailing off.
Was she mixing me up with another writer? Another writer who lived on my street?
She began to talk about how she recently blew something up in her microwave and set off the fire alarms and her sons had to come over. Then she talked about the town and how she had many friends there who have all passed away – but she was ready for it, her mother warned her it would happen once she hit a certain age. A few years ago she used to walk as far as I do, but now she just goes up and down our street.
“These kids call me the porch lady,” said the porch lady. “Next time you come out I’ll walk with you. Not today. I’ve already went up and down this street four times today.”
I agreed, wanting to be polite, but knew I would be moving to Queens in just a couple of weeks. I said goodbye. I would miss the porch lady.
“You look good. You always look so good.”
This is the abbreviated story of how I went from Queensbury to Queens, the borough. They are not the same place.
First, I have been vehemently resisting a move to New York City for years. I didn’t intend to go to school near the city, I just happened to get into a program that was in the area. I hardly spent any time off campus. A day of walking from block to block in Manhattan sucked the life out of me, the pollution congested my sinuses, the soles of my feet turned black even though I wore sandals. I hated bars, I hated clubs, I hated fun. Subways made no sense. Every time I walked out of the Union Square station onto the street someone tried to elicit my help to save the bees or send me to a comedy show or award me an unsolicited haircut.
I went home to Queensbury after college. When it seemed that everyone my age was moving to Brooklyn, I said no thank you. When I read articles about leaving the city, they confirmed all of my biases about why I should never live there. But every time I moved since college I have gotten closer and closer. New York City reeled me in like a stubborn whale, kicking and screaming.
When I was accepted to an MFA program in the city, Dave and I concocted a plan to move to Queens. I could commute to class by subway and save money by not owning a car or taking MetroNorth several times a week. Moving to Queens made sense.
It’s obvious now that I have been fighting my destiny. At some point or another I was going to live in NYC. As soon as I stopped trying to swim against the tide that was dragging me in the direction of Queens, everything fell together with little effort.
I still have hesitations – leaving behind coworkers that I love, leaving behind a writing community that I only recently fell into, leaving behind my favorite purveyors of Indian cuisine. What will I do without my Westchester friends nearby? How will I function without secret nature trails and the gardens of strangers and a view of the full moon? What will become of my self-esteem without the porch lady? Who will tell me I look good? How will I adjust?
But right now I am writing from a one-bedroom apartment in Astoria with checkerboard floors and an abundance of locks on the door and minimal closet space and, let me tell you, it was not very hard after all.