Our bike rack. Photo by C. Shomo. (The cute black one is mine.)

 

Back in November, it was time to move on from my previous living situation.

I sat down at my computer and opened up Craiglist.com, determined to find a new apartment. This time, in Brooklyn. I spent three years in Harlem, right out of college, but always wanted to venture south to the borough that everyone adores so much.

While on Craigslist, I searched for a spot that I could realistically pay for, meaning, I needed it to be damn-near free. I clicked on the first ad I saw. It was a “collective living” situation in Crown Heights. The ad mentioned beehives on the roof for honey, gardens, and a mix of housemates ranging from DJ’s to farmers. It was also super cheap, and off the (convenient) A train.

I found the apartment ad on a Friday, went to check it out on a Saturday, and by Sunday I’d agreed to move in. Everything moved quickly, but it all worked out perfectly. I moved across the bridge from Jersey to Brooklyn about a week later. After everything was said and done, I had a stack of boxes and very little money. I bought a gently used mattress, and then a comforter and a frying pan. I felt excited, like I was beginning a new adventure. But I was also scared shitless, wondering how I was going to pay for everything, and what the hell I was even doing there.

Side note: I was seriously broke at the time. I remember a few times having only $10 for groceries and jazzing up Ramen noodles with a bag of mixed vegetables and a bunch of fresh spinach. A four-pack of Ramen is only a dollar. I became somewhat of a magician when it came to feeding myself. Luckily, a paid freelance job came in the month I moved, which I’m forever grateful for.

The house is a brownstone. Four separate apartments, four people in each. It’s “collective” in that it’s a house of young people with mildly similar interests who co-exist. There are committees to manage the composting, care for the bees, and maintain the garden. There are monthly meetings/potlucks to catch up and hash out any grievances or new ideas. There are 16 people in the house total, but I rarely see everyone. When I first moved in, I remember being completely nervous about being the only black woman in the house. Seven months later, I’m much more relaxed, and have created a little space for myself, even though my clothes are still in suitcases and many of my things are still stacked in boxes.

This place isn’t at all perfect, but it’s perfect for me right now. It came at just the right time, and in many ways (the community structure, the bright Caribbean neighborhood, the tiny room of my own) has brought me back to life.