A light wind circled the Brooklyn air that September afternoon, where autumn’s fickleness made its presence known. We were in the midst of seasonal transition when I saw my old apartment building in my old neighborhood on that day where the sun’s rays bore down on my sleeveless top.
The building’s awning shed its green for a shade of red, likened to cranberry, the furniture in the lobby was arranged differently, and my Dad and I were wholeheartedly determined to walk up one flight of steps and visit our old apartment on the first floor.
Our apartment was unique for a typical urban location in that it featured an outdoor patio, which gave me and my younger brother thorough enjoyment; we played basketball with our renowned fisher price hoop, pranced through sprinklers in the August heat, hit wiffle balls against the brick wall, and carelessly ran around in circles, making noise, while notably angering the bitter, elderly woman who lived alone in the apartment above. Her gaze met ours, and her eyes illustrated frustration and disappointment. My mother told her that we were just kids. We just wanted to play.
I could easily recall being a young girl, and how I would run along the outstretched hallway that led to my parents’ bedroom. Sometimes the running was part of an improvised game, our own built-in, personal track, but sometimes it was instigated from a bad dream. I’d wake up from a nightmare in the middle of the night, and there they were – the sound of my footsteps, running down the hallway, on a checkered floor pattern, seeking comfort.
And then there was my room. A shared space with the brother, but still a space, nonetheless. It’s where I hung my Spice Girls posters, listened to my first cassette tape, wrote in my diary, played with endless amounts of Barbie dolls, and huddled under the covers, staring out at the patio door. On nights when fear got the best of me, my eight year-old self would hope that nobody would break in through that door, the door that appeared ominous in the dark.
My room had a carpet that was blue. An ocean blue that instilled a sense of liveliness and calm, simultaneously.
We buzzed ourselves in, hoping the family now living in our old apartment would understand that we were just two nostalgic people, looking to explore what’s no longer ours. A kind-hearted man let us upstairs immediately and greeted us at the door mat. He was sweating profusely, and explained that he’s newly retired and therefore has the opportunity to go running. Good for him, I thought. A path, utilized by joggers and bikers, is situated across the street. I tried to learn how to ride a bike on that bustling strip of pavement, but I was too scared of falling. I taught myself – slowly and with concentrated effort – on our patio, on my own terms.
As we walked into the apartment, the man wiped the sweat off his brow and invited us to sit down at the dining room table. We thanked him continuously, but assured him that we only wanted to stop in for a few minutes. The checkered floor pattern along the hallway was no more, and the patio was bare.
Yet, the layout was still recognizable and memories seeped through the cracks, here and there. That wall behind the table, adjacent to the kitchen, is where all of our elementary school artwork was displayed. Here’s the living room where I used to sing into a plastic microphone and dance nonstop to that catchy Paul McCartney song. Here’s where we would all sit and talk about everything going on, a family nook of sorts. And so on and so forth. The kind-hearted man gave us an enthusiastic tour of the apartment in its entirety; he genuinely wanted to do so, but he also gathered that it meant something. This place will always be a part of me, I thought to myself.
And then we approached my room.
I saw a carpet that was blue; it was the color of the ocean. And I smiled.