Everything went wrong when my partner and I moved in together, but it worked out, anyway
Moving in with a significant other is something I described to my friends as exciting and to my diary as terrifying. My partner, Steiner, and I, admittedly made this move way too soon. I was 22, my father was still my guarantor, I had little to no idea what career I was even pretending to pursue. Most of my friends were still happily residing in early twenties single paradise. But as I stood with Steiner in Astoria Park one night, one year into our relationship, sharing a cigarette and talking about therapy, it made sense to say yes when he asked me if I wanted to find a place with him. I wanted to and so I did. I had no idea how wrong getting an apartment in New York City could go.
I was never idealistic enough to think we could pull off living together without a hitch. Yet, in my mind we would either be doing light-hearted comedic bits about who should do the dishes, or having long serious talks about the nonsensical nature of monogamy in the 21st century. These discussions would enlighten us and propel us further in our quest for a nonconformist, feminist relationship. All of these things happened in front of a fireplace in my imagination. I really wanted that fireplace.
The day we were dragged around Manhattan by a young, over-enthused realtor is a blur of stress and excitement. I pictured my potential life in each of these potential first apartments. After a series of terrible studios, sketchy management companies, and one very heated debate over the necessity of our pad having an oven, we found a place. After a panic attack, four beers, and a frantic call to my parents instructing them to fax all possible relevant information to the realtor ASAP, I signed a fabulous piece of paper: a lease that made Apt. 3B mine and Steiner’s for a whole year. As I drifted off to sleep that night in my soon-to-be-old bedroom, I couldn’t help thinking that the unit we were shown was 3D, not 3B. But I was tired and stressed, there was no way they had shown us the wrong space, right?!
Jump to the day we moved in. As we arrived at our new building on the Upper East Side, Steiner was more excited than I realized was humanly possible, despite the dent he had just left on my ex-neighbor’s car with our rented U-Haul van. As we climbed the stairs to our first home together, I knew something was wrong. The layout of the building on the second floor confirmed my worst nightmare. We had signed for an apartment we had never seen. We had been shown the rear-facing 3D. I held in my hand the key to 3B.
As I opened the door to our slightly slanted studio apartment, I felt embarrassed that I hadn’t trusted myself enough to say something. I was enraged at my own ignorance, and suddenly completely doubtful that I could ever succeed as an independent adult. I could be mad at the realtor, but really, I was just mad at how much of an idiot I was. Then I looked around. There was a fireplace, my fireplace — the one I had imagined.
As we looked around in disbelief and laughed while crying at the shock of this plot twist, we started to hear something strange. It sounded oddly like wings flapping, and I was sure I was going crazy — that the stress had finally done it, and I had snapped. Then a pigeon, covered in soot, fell out of the chimney. I thought nothing could be worse than having a dead animal in our house until the pigeon hopped up on its feet, turned its head to look directly at us and took off flying, all around the empty apartment. I would have taken the dead bird.
We frantically opened windows and coaxed the bird out using the few things we had carried up with us so far. Steiner and I seamlessly entered into a mechanical way of working together and got that bird out of our apartment with a combination of a Swiffer, a pot, and slight hysteria. After the incident, I cried. Not just because pigeons are disgusting and we both probably had the plague now. I cried because I knew I was utterly unprepared for this.
When I explained my breakdown, Steiner said, “Well, no one’s ever prepared for a bird to come in through the fireplace.” With the simplest, stupidest joke, I knew I could do this. I could grow-up. The rest of the experience wasn’t completely smooth sailing. Steiner went on to break multiple things that day and set up our internet incorrectly. I was terrified another bird would come by to visit for the next few weeks, and avoided the fireplace at all costs. But regardless of those things, I knew I could make it through this new stage, because I had a teammate in failure.
So to the worst realtor in the world, and to the pigeon we now fondly refer to as Frank, thanks for showing me what I really got when I signed that lease. Though the fireplace I’d always dreamed of goes unused, my teammate in failure is still by my side three years, two jobs and a million dirty dishes later.