Goodbye, Columbus

I am wearing shorts, a tank top, and flip-flops. You will see why this is relevant.

Saturday, 5:40 p.m.: My friend leaves. I look around my new place and sigh at the clutter. I start to unpack and go to throw away a single box.

Saturday, 5:48 p.m.: I lock myself out. Again.

Saturday, 6 p.m.: I jiggle the lock to my new place, which will not move and which also sits about three feet above my doormat, which reads "Déjà Vu Déjà Vu," frontward and backward. This can't be happening. I knock on my new neighbor's door and borrow her cell phone. I call the landlord, who is somewhere in Connecticut. He informs me that The Super is on 96th Street with a spare key that I can get if I go now.

Moving in Manhattan: A strange and fascinating hell
photo: Cary Conover
Moving in Manhattan: A strange and fascinating hell

Saturday, 6:30 p.m.: What do I really need now after two straight days of physical movement? A sprint! By God, yes, a sprint! So I book my ass up to 96th and meet The Super. Beautiful little man, I think I've never been so excited to see another human being in my life. I say: Are you the key master? He says: What? I say: Nothing. He hands me the key and I look at it and my heart sinks. It's the same key as I already have. The sight of them matching up perfectly together . . . trauma. My landlord was wrong. This person does not have the new key. He is, in fact, the devil disguised as a smiling Puerto Rican man. The disappointment fuels my run back to 73rd.

Saturday, 7:15 p.m.: I am so fucked. I sit on my stoop and breathe. My landlord won't be back from Connecticut until Tuesday. I would call a friend or a co-worker or the ASPCA except that all my numbers and my phone for that matter are locked behind a big oak board. What's so annoying about locking yourself out or leaving a wallet somewhere or any mistake without prior escalation is that it could so easily have not happened. But it did. And twice in one day. And even if I could access my wallet, I couldn't use it to get cash until midnight.

Saturday, 7:45 p.m.: I do it. I call my parents collect from a pay phone. I think they think I'm in jail. I worry for a moment that this is their natural conclusion. Then again something about the boxed pay phones in New York feels like TV prison anyway. This is around the time I lose it and start to cry. My lungs feel small. I tell them that I'm going to go back to my old building to read the same locksmith number off the same sticker and hope my old neighbors are home so I can borrow their cell phone.

Saturday, 8:15 p.m.: I tell the locksmith dispatcher that he should either give me a break or charge me double for being an idiot. Up to him. He laughs, says he'll give me a $20 discount. Meanwhile, one of my saintly parents drives into the city to bail me into my apartment: $260. And I wait for the locksmith, sniffling and knowing all my lights are on.

Saturday, 9 p.m.: The locksmith pulls up. He is the same locksmith as the one this morning. Hi again, he says. I tell him that he knows my life better than any of my friends because he is one of the few to have seen both my old place and my new. He takes out his drill. Again. I tell him that he has a very urban job, what with all the drunks and deviants and dumbasses in this city. I wonder aloud about all the strange people and places he sees. He changes the lock and fills out the receipt and points down with his pen. He says: That's a funny doormat.

Sloane Crosley is a senior publicist at Vintage Books.

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