On Having Space

a window with 2 plants overlooking several high rise buildings

I’ve had the great fortune of having a chunk of prime Manhattan all to myself for the past nine months, thanks to the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Workspace residency program. A studio with a door and two giant windows overlooking some of the world’s priciest real estate. The fact that it would only be available to me for nine months lit a fire under my ass from the first day, got me there on weekend afternoons and occasional evenings and early mornings, on rare days off from work. Why waste time when there was a studio waiting, and in that studio, there was writing and editing to be done?

Before this residency I wrote at home, in a room crammed with my desk and books and my boyfriend’s desk and his “closet” (our typical NYC apartment has no real closet; my “closet” is in our bedroom), or in cafés. Sometimes I wrote on my bed or couch, though that usually resulted in a sore neck and shoulder. But in my studio, I had a proper chair; I could stay as long as I wanted, sometimes past midnight. There were no café patrons making Skype calls or coffees I had to buy.

For the past nine months, I’ve been able to live out an unexpected life on Wall Street. I’d sit here on the nineteenth floor and look out the window at the sixty-floor buildings dressed up in construction scaffolding, the Federal Reserve and its employee gym, and imagine what it would be like to live here. A far cry from the view from my desk at home, in my second-floor apartment, of Mister Softee trucks and drunk hipsters, busses and loud music everywhere, the guys working at the 24-hour gas station across the street.

As a kid, I got through many long days by imagining myself elsewhere, as someone else – living in a Toronto suburb, a Florida motel, a Queens apartment. What would my name be, who would I live with, what would I do? These days, my fantasies of new spaces feel a bit more loaded, perhaps because they are theoretically possible. I could pack up and leave the city and move to a small town upstate (I won’t). I could go back to California (probably not). And then there are the fantasies that are local, yet impossible. Real estate fantasies. Living in a high-rise in Manhattan, in a neighborhood far richer than I am.

But my time here is up, and the nine months will soon be over. I’ll adapt, or re-adapt. Find a new work space, and with that, a new neighborhood to dream of. For now, I’ll be writing from my couch or desk, return to my local café, keeping it on the ground

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