Today was a day.
As you know, Eric and I are newly-wed parents-to-be. As such, we have decided to leave our current apartment in search of more space and an additional bedroom. It was a decision affirmed by the arrival of a small mountain of baby gear from my older sister, which turned our already cozy space into a living experience that can only be accurately described as cramped. We weighed our options, we assessed our finances, and we told our landlord we were OUT.
Our apartment search began in earnest last weekend - by accident. We contacted a few brokers so we could get a sense of the apartments in our target neighborhoods, walk around a bit, get a lay of the land. The first place we visited was firmly blah - which was fine. The second place we visited knocked us directly onto our asses.
It was, without a doubt, the HUGEST apartment either of us had ever seen for that price. Rooms upon rooms upon rooms. More space than even the broker seemed to be expecting. It was incredible. Renovations were still being done, and I am usually the type to balk at the ugliness of transition, unable to visualize the finished product. I had no trouble with that here. Like Eric said, I could “see the vision”. I could see us in this apartment. The very next day, we had our application materials ready to submit.
Only to find out that someone beat us to the punch.
I understood that this was one of those quintessential New York experiences that makes you stronger, that toughens you into the kind of seasoned, hawk-eyed warrior that you need to be to thrive in the concrete jungle. But we were crushed. I had already begun envisioning Peanut’s nursery, laughably huge for such a tiny human. We had giggled together about how long it would take to fill each room with furniture, mused about the decor for the space we had already dubbed our ‘book nook’. Our joy was a dead thing, burnt to ashes in the space of a few minutes, a couple sentences: Someone else already applied. They will most likely get approved. Sorry.
We pouted, we licked our wounds, and, eventually, we moved on.
This week I was off for Spring Break. So while Eric maintained his nine-to-five drudgery, I was free to make multiple trips on the B44 bus to scout potential living spaces. We shared a Google Spreadsheet to keep track of the listings, brokers, and monthly rent prices, adding notes like “Bedrooms too tiny” and “W/D in unit!!!” StreetEasy became my most frequented website, my normal discomfort with cold-calling and cold-texting all but vanished as the days progressed. I used FaceTime to digitally share each apartment with Eric, earbuds on so that the broker could not hear his murmurings as I panned each wide, empty room. I skipped therapy to view an apartment that I thought might be worth the $55 cancellation fee. It wasn’t. I texted Eric angrily. We ran down narrow sidewalks, minutes away from being late for an appointment, seeking a bathroom for my full and aching pregnant bladder. We didn’t find one. I suffered through two and a half showings before we finally burst free of the building and I found a toilet in a pizza shop. We inhaled our slices, unable to find much common ground on the apartments we respectively rated as our “number one”. I despaired quietly. He probably did too. It was raining that day.
I thumbed through the StreetEasy and Naked Apartments apps feverishly, fiercely determined. I knew there had to be apartments with the kind of space and layout and amenities we needed. I regretted, for the thousandth time, ever seeing that perfect, perfect place, only to have it snatched from our grasping hands. It seemed to cruel to be shown exactly what we were looking for, lose it, and never find anything like it again. We had taken to carrying all of our application materials around with us to each listing we saw, bound together in a folder, buried deep in my bag. If someone decided to mug us, they could have stolen our entire identities with a nary a care. We needed to be prepared, we thought. Just in case. Just in case.
Yesterday, after yet another 80-minute round-trip that only led to disappointment, I walked back into the apartment, throwing down my purse and shrugging off my coat. I hadn’t had time to sit down before my phone rang. It was a broker, I knew, because I hadn’t saved the number. I stopped doing that after I hopefully saved ‘Jake the Broker’, the young man who had showed us The Apartment That Must Not Be Named. Everything was a potential omen, or jinx, I thought wildly. It’s not paranoia, it’s caution!
“Hi, Carla, I’m at a new place that just opened up and it’s SICK. It’s INCREDIBLE. SO BIG. I think this place would be perfect for you."
I won’t lie: I was skeptical. It was a broker we’d seen the day before - one of the more enthusiastic ones, to be sure, but his excitement in the units he had showed us didn’t match mine when we visited. I have this thing about living room/kitchen combos: I hate them. With a little one on the way, I need rooms. I need separation. I need places where I can put up baby gates. I had sent him a few texts that morning in a fit of frustration when I couldn’t find any desirable new listings on my usual internet haunts, outlining all of our non-negotiables and our price range. He hadn’t seemed optimistic about our prospects. Now he was nearly panting with exhilaration. Could it be?
Probably not, but he was sending me pictures, and he was saying we HAD to see it TODAY, and whatever, why not. We made an appointment for 4 pm, because I could not mentally handle the thought of putting on my coat and making another 40 minute trip after I had just gotten home.
Eric and I had another appointment planned for later that afternoon at 5:45, one that he planned to leave work early for. The pictures seemed promising and the ad boasted many of the features we were seeking. When I called him about this new place, he responded that he could only come to one. The 4 pm or the 5:45. We decided he should do the 4 pm. Cool, see you later.
At 4 pm, the broker was late. But we were inside the building, and we were - dare I say it? Impressed. The entrance was enormous. Clean. Well-maintained. Secure. We watched several tenants come in and out, perused the signs on the walls. Checked our phones. Broker was a few blocks away. Trouble finding parking. Eric was getting antsy. He needed to get back to work.
When we finally made it up to the apartment, work was the farthest thing from our minds.
It was the best kind of deja vu. There was a foyer. A dine-in kitchen. A separate living room. Closets upon closets. Bedrooms. Bathroom. Every room - massive. Flooded with sunlight. It couldn’t be. Were we being pranked? Was it another cruel joke?
Eric subtly motioned to me after we’d taken the tour, and we stepped into one of the bedrooms to talk.
“So, we should take it,” he began.
“Uh, yes,” I concluded.
Our conference thus completed, we rejoined the broker to tell him what he’d already expected: YES. He was visibly overwhelmed with our preparedness, not expecting the mountain of paperwork I produced from my bag. We made phone calls and scribbled signatures. I texted our 5:45 appointment broker to let him know I wouldn’t be coming. We made plans for lease signing the following day. Eric went back to work late. I had to use the bathroom in a McDonald’s. We parted ways, smiling and hopeful.