The cab turned from Greenpoint Ave onto Franklin Street, and I instinctively looked to the right toward Kent Street and the apartment where Courtney and I had lived our last year as New Yorkers. I could see the lights were on behind drawn curtains in our old bedroom, which was now someone else’s bedroom. I felt a lump rise in my throat as the taxi kept driving straight, further up Franklin. My Airbnb was just a couple blocks away from our old place, and it felt surreal being a guest in a neighborhood that still felt 100% like home.
We had last been in Brooklyn in mid January. Dirty snow caked the curbs then, and we worked our things into a moving van on a rainy Friday and clattered away on the BQE, towing my Honda and leaving the bitter cold behind us with bittersweet relief. We’d waited apprehensively for the other shoe to drop, when we’d feel regret for leaving our grand city and all our friends, and were surprised when it never did.
Now being back in Greenpoint, enjoying my usual favorite breakfast of sage & eggs at Little Neck Outpost, I feel a mixture of things. I feel completely comfortable and familiar here, as if 6 months hadn’t passed. Snow and gray has been swapped for baking summer sun and wet humidity, but still no time seems to have gone by.
What has shifted, though, is the feeling I once had of frantic urgency to experience everything here before it was too late and we’d move away for good. I feel none of that now. Moving away has a sense of finality. But temporary returns—even long, 2-week visits like this work trip I am presently starting—are endlessly replicable. I feel now the ability to finally relax and fully enjoy this city, and in doing so I am finally able to say goodbye.
Postscript: I walked by our old laundrymat, hoping to see the kind, grandmotherly woman who always did our drop-offs, but found only a Sharpied CLOSED sign taped to the door, with an email address under it for pickup requests.
I looked in the window for a minute, then an old man sitting on the stoop next door said, “No more laundry.” He had a Spanish accent, like the laundry lady had. “They had a fire, on Good Friday,” he said. “No insurance, no nothing. Now you go to Java Street to do laundry.”
I thanked the man for the info and expressed my sadness to hear that news. Some things stay familiar to a prodigal New Yorker, but other things change for good.
—July 16, 2018