I got through the check-in, bag drop, airport security, and to the gate within 10 minutes. I don’t often check my bag, but now I checked 2, both empty, to make space for all the things I would have to bring with me.

Making a trip in the midst of a global pandemic is an odd thing. The San Francisco airport was a ghost town, all the shops closed. The only available food outlet sported a large queue, so I settled for a smoothie and crisps, a poor choice for the 5.5-hour flight ahead.

I had been dreading the move-out from New York for some time. After spending months on the West Coast, I hated the idea of going back and having to deal with the city. Walking through crowded parks, getting on the subway in the city that’s the hotspot of the virus, spending days alone in an unliveable 5x3 studio apartment, and not being able to go anywhere liveable because everything closed. New York can be the loneliest place on the planet. And then, the moving itself. “Everything will be alright”, I kept telling myself whilst doing breathing exercises and little affirmations in my head, as per my therapist’s recommendation. Everything was alright. At least for the first 50 minutes of my trip or so, that is.

Back in my apartment in Midtown Manhattan, I took a shower and pondered life, looking at the ceiling covered with a fresh new layer of mold that has grown while I’d been away. I decided to get on with it. I sorted through my books and the least intimidating pile of clothes first, labeling the boxes with:

  • “to move”
  • “to sell”
  • “to donate”

Creating a structure always gives me a false sense of achievement, so I patted myself on the back and called it a day. I dumped the trash into the chute in the hallway and rushed back to my apartment …only to find the door shut. Inside the apartment, I heard the calming lo-fi music playing from my phone. The phone was there, having a zen moment together with my keys and laptop. And my shoes.

I ran up to the rooftop wearing only my T-shirt, leggings, and socks and looked up at the Empire state building shining in bright colors. I climbed down the fire escape and tried entering my apartment through the window, unsuccessfully.

After multiple failed attempts at knocking down the door to my own apartment, I decided to try my luck and wake up the building’s super. The 60-something Albanian man was kind enough to let me into his apartment at midnight.

“Not your best day, huh?”, he asked. I nodded.

“Would you care for a cup of tea or a cigarette?”. I went for the latter.

Sitting on his couch, smoking, we waited for the 24/7 locksmith to arrive and talked about Italian shows on Netflix, the Italian restaurant his children managed in Pennsylvania, and how he would soon go to Italy himself to retire and finally enjoy his life’s hard work. The locksmith turned out to be a Bulgarian man in his 20-s, who kindly hammered through my apartment door, entertained my neighbors with some 1 AM drilling, and replaced the lock for the mere cost of $460. At 3 AM, I finally crashed onto my bed, exhausted. Falling asleep, I thought about how ridiculous it would be to get frustrated by the situation. After all, over the past 4 hours, I probably experienced more human bonding than over half the year I had lived in the city.

F***ing New York. I will kind of miss it.

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