I moved to New York and rented an apartment in Park Slope. My room was as wide as I am long, and before I moved in any furniture, I lay out on the ground, my head touching one wall and my feet touching the other, and took a picture. The floors were fake wood and there was a bubble in the bathroom ceiling that one day popped, spraying water and plaster onto the floor. But the window in my room faced the back of a church and a cluster of tenement apartments. The way the sun rose over the low skyline, the light flooding in from the window, gave me peace. Everything—what little I had—was cast in that light. Later I would move to Manhattan and realize that the view had been very Brooklyn, the light beatifying the plain white walls, the tattered chair picked up off the street, the shelf with stacks and stacks of writing materials.
My roommate was also from California, from the north, and one of our first weekends in Brooklyn we pedaled to a party in Williamsburg. We found a place to lock our bicycles. Twenty bikes or more were parked out front. A bunch of kids our age had converted an old warehouse into a living art space, and it was the kind of party where you got lost in all the rooms. We drank various shots of liquor, not being careful not to mix. It wasn’t that kind of party. When a band hooked up their equipment and started playing in one of the rooms, the dancing got so violent that a boy with curly brown hair cracked his forehead on a corner and started bleeding. He danced while he bled; a dark maroon splotch made its way onto my shirt.
We moved outside to stand by the fire. An asian boy who I’d befriended while dancing rolled a spliff, a mix of pot and tobacco. I turned to my roommate and lowered my voice, “People are smoking spliffs, spliffs.”
“Yeah, dude,” she said, “we’re not in California anymore. The pot here sucks.”
I turned back towards the fire and took a short drag from the joint, coughing sharply on the exhale.
Later, we tried not to be alarmed when we got back to our bikes and the handlebars had been meddled with, were facing the wrong direction. While a blond kid dressed in a hand-knit wool sweater, smoking a spliff, watched me snap my wheel back into place, he spat phlegm onto the pavement. We pedaled home, passing Hassidic neighborhoods as we rode.