The Last Things I Did Before Moving To New York City


The last meal I had before moving from Houston to New York

Jack in the Box Breakfast Croissant, hash browns, and a milk jug, dining in. I sat near the windows, across from a gray-haired retiree sipping coffee while reading his newspaper. My parents were driving with my sister somewhere down Westheimer, their car full of cleaning supplies, toiletries, and food that they had raided from my apartment the day before. My sister was also between jobs—in a week she’d be in London and my parents would no longer be just a half-day’s car ride away from their children.

The last night out before moving to New York

I called the remaining two friends I hadn’t seen since announcing my move—a married couple I’d known since freshman year of college. The husband suggested we go for a beer at The Ginger Man, but we ended up at Swirll, surrounded by high school girls, spooning frozen yogurt into our mouths and talking about the relationship problems of our mutual friends. At midnight they drove me back to my empty apartment where I smoked through half of a pack of cigarettes while talking to my girlfriend on the phone.

The last time I saw my girlfriend before moving to New York.

My phone alarm woke us at 6AM. She drifted in and out of sleep while I played with her hair and face. Her body was warm and comforting and I felt another mild stitch of regret for deciding to move. At 6:30 she got out of bed and put on an oversized plaid shirt and we walked to my car, silently. We had said our goodbyes and made our promises the night before, during a long, strained conversation while we lay naked in her bed—in the morning there was nothing left to say, really. She was flying to Dallas later in the day for a conference and wouldn’t be able to see me off. Several weeks back, when I told her I’d be moving to New York on this specific weekend, she had moaned and pouted, but in a cute, lovable way, to mask her disappointment.

The last afternoon at work in the Houston branch of my firm before transferring to New York.

I shuffled through my desk, throwing out unused napkins and ketchup packets, broken pens, and business cards bearing my old contact information. I found a stack of plastic cups that I’d saved and left them balanced on top my computer screen. Because I couldn’t find a box or bag, I filled a paper folder with the things I would take with me—travel records, a coaster, an engraved pen, some unopened packets of gum. Two people had been fired in the same week that I accepted the internal transfer offer. Many of their belongings still remained in the office—snack foods, coffee mugs, earphones, a chair support. One of them had called me and asked me to look for his iPhone charger, but I couldn’t find it. When I asked him how he was getting along with his job search he said he’d call me later, but he never did. Someone who had resigned several months previous had left a Staples “That was easy!” button between our desks—I handed this to my old line manager who passed it around his remaining subordinates before walking me down to the parking garage so that he could take my access card after I got past the gate.

The last thing I did in my apartment before moving to New York.

I stood in my empty closet and closed the door and suppressed an emotion that might have led to tears. I had been in Houston for four years, ever since graduating from university. I had gone through two jobs, three LTR’s, many times more infatuations and crushes. Dozens of cigars smoked, hundreds of sweaty bicycle rides through the city, countless drinks and cigarettes consumed. I had wandered through Houston for four years, sometimes alone and sometimes with friends, sometimes drunk, sometimes sober or high or euphoric or melancholy or fatigued, horny, confused, lost, determined… and the last thing I did before moving to New York was to stand in a dark closet, trying not to be sad or scared about leaving things behind. I just wanted to be ready.

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image – Daniel Schwen