LETTER ONE

DEAR SAL,   

I made it to New York! I’m writing to you from my hotel room. It’s very nice. I got a deal on it, but it’s still pretty fancy. I’ve been here five days and it’s two weeks until I start school, and I still don’t have a proper place to live yet. You can imagine my growing unease.

Want to hear about my first days in the city? Well, my first day played out exactly as you might expect: I got lost, I took the wrong train, and I spent way too long wandering the streets with either my camera or a map in my hands—at one point both, if you can believe it. I ended up in Times Square for far too long—I couldn’t find my way out. You know, I really thought I hated Yonge and Dundas Square, but man, do I really hate Times Square. I just don’t understand the appeal of these squares. The geometry of tourism is entirely lost on me.

My second day here was long, hot, and exhausting.

Since I started looking for an apartment a few weeks ago, I’ve really only been looking at online listings. Turns out it’s hard to get an apartment in New York with out actually being in New York. Now that I’m here I hoped I’d have more luck, but so far no.

I’m getting rather desperate, as the possibility of homelessness becomes less of a joke and more of a legitimate avenue I might actually consider. I hired myself a broker to help me find a place, which I really didn’t want to do because it’s expensive, but I’m drowning here. Her name is Rose.

Meeting her felt exactly like a first date. We met at a Starbucks. Both of us were dressed up, just a little. (Just fancy enough to say I am financially and emotionally stable, and just casual enough to say I’m a hip easygoing young person). We were both a bit shy, all smiles and clunky introductions. It was a little awkward. We laughed, there was some light conversation, and then we signed a bunch of legal documents. You know, exactly like a normal first date.

Afterwards, we strolled the streets together looking up at the old buildings and telling each other stories about the places we’ve visited and places we might live one day. If only we had any money. Then we went to look at an apartment.

Keep in mind, that this is the first time I’d ever looked at an apartment. I’ve lived in the same semi with a white-picket fence my entire life. This was a big moment for me. I was very excited. That excitement faded quickly.

Imagine if you will a mayonnaise jar. A mayonnaise jar that has been nearly, but not totally scraped clean, so that streaks of mayo still cling to the walls of the jar. Now imagine that this jar of mayo has been left outside, maybe in some alley where it unknowingly fell out of a garbage bag. The remaining mayo, which at first might have attracted rats and flies, has long since congealed and hardened into a solid off-white plastic-like substance, which coats the inside of the jar. Now imagine that jar of mayonnaise is an apartment, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what the first place I went to look at was like.

It was tiny. Everything that wasn’t the floor had been coated in white paint. I’m not sure whether someone had actually painted it and done a horrible job, or if someone just stood in the centre of the one (and only) room and thrown buckets of watered down paint at the walls hoping for the best. There were thick ridges of paint across the walls, and long-hanging stalactites of white from the ceiling and every other surface parallel with the floor. The white itself wasn’t even really white. No, no, it was exactly the charming colour of weeks-old, sun-bleached mayonnaise.

There was nothing I could do when I saw it, other than stand and awe.

To make things even better, the landlord was an asshole.

He told me straight up that he wouldn’t consider renting to a Canadian without some “guarantee” (*cough* cash *cough*) that I could pay my bills. He and I had a few words, and I think it’s fair to say that I won’t be getting the apartment. Nor will I probably get one of the 800 other apartments he manages.

That’s how it went at pretty much all the apartments Rose showed me. We’ve been all over the North end of Manhattan looking at ten-thousand different units, and at almost all of them I’ve been immediately turned away for being a student, or for being foreign (seriously), or both. For now, I am apartmentless, and I am a little stressed.

 

If I was the kind of person who cries, I think I might have broken down last night. I was feeling kind of low after my fourth day looking at shitty apartments that I can’t even afford, and getting bitched at by landlords who are worried I’m gonna skip out on my lease and run back up to Canada. The stress of moving, added onto all the other things on my plate right now—work, school, leaving all my friends, leaving Toronto—has been making the world seem a little dark lately. But I’m not the kind of person who cries.

Instead, like many emotionally and psychologically stable adults, I deal with my stress the healthy way, by repressing it deeply and forcefully. So last night I bought myself a couple of tallboys. I sat looking out the windows in my hotel room and I toasted to the chaos of life saying “Fuck this. I’ll deal with it later.”

Your Friend,

Henry

 

HELLO AGAIN!

Two bits of good news! After I finished writing you something great happened—I’ve found a place to live! It’s a shitty little studio in Queens and I can rent it, or sublet it rather, for the month, until the girl I’m renting it from’s lease is done. 

It’s fully furnished and I’ve seen pictures. It looks all right, I can’t imagine it being too bad.

I’ll need to look for something more permanent, but for now I’ve got a roof at least! And I can get out of this hotel.

 

The other good news is that my bank approved my loan. I should be able to afford my tuition now!

You know what’s really strange? Looking at your bank statement and seeing a balance of—well, a lot of money. More money than I can properly conceive of. Money I’ll be paying back till I’m dead.

Don’t get me wrong, I am super thankful toward the bank for helping me, but I’m a little worried about how much my life is beginning to look like the first half of a parable: an eager (and handsome) hero makes an ill thought out, and perhaps slightly reckless, bargain so that he can get power, and wealth, and glory, and blah blah blah &c… I’m not saying the bank is the devil or anything, but once contracts and preposterous sums of money are involved you can’t help but think about how it all feels very Faustian.

 

Cheers,

Henry