Sometimes I walk down West 73rd Street to my apartment on West 74th Street. About halfway down the block, I am greeted by an an elegant gothic church, slightly hidden behind a wrought iron fence with green leaves from tall rose bushes protruding out towards the sidewalk. The church sits on a spanse of land that is rare in a city with nearly every square inch stacked with skyscrapers. When I pass by on a sunny day, the stained glass illuminates the sidewalk. And if I listen carefully, I can hear the organ or choir practice.
I always smile as I pass by this church. Because of her, I almost didn’t move into 419 West 74th Street. Who would not want such a peaceful neighbor? My roommate.
An hour before we were supposed to sign our lease, my roommate called from the corner of our future block. “I am uncomfortable,” she told me. I stopped in place. I was packing a box of clothes from my current apartment, approximately twenty blocks away. My parents had flown in to help me with this long awaited move. “Why are you uncomfortable?” I ask my future roommate, in as gentle a way as I possibly can. After all, we are signing the lease in less than an hour. My mother who is dusting, turns around as she hears my voice rise an octave or two or actually three.
I reassure my hopeful future roommate everything is fine, and that I will be there soon with my parents. Then, we hang up. I tell my parents why my roommate is upset – “There is a church on the next block!” “What?” my dad asked. “Is she against religion?” Then, he asked, “Oh, Is there a soup kitchen for the homeless?” “Apparently,” I responded, rolling my eyes. “Now,” my mom reassured me, “we all have our neurosis. You have to overlook and calm her down enough to sign the paperwork. Remember how nervous you were when you moved into your first place?”
I had been looking for this new place for months now. I was praying nothing derailed it. I could not possibly move into a friend’s place to sleep on their couch like I had done for the first few months a few years ago when I couldn’t find an apartment or a roommate. “Yea, Yea, Yea,” I responded. We headed uptown to meet my roommate.
When I saw her, I give her a hug, introducing her to my parents. Then, we went for a walk around the block to reassure my roommate that the homeless people who visit the soup kitchen for food are harmless. As we turned the corner, I literally prayed that the soup kitchen would not be open so my roommate did not get cold feet. It was open. There was a line down the street, a very calm line of people waiting patiently. “You see,” I told her, “they are just trying to get by with help from the church.” She nodded, hesitating slightly. “You girls will be fine here,” my dad said. To which, my roommate responded more positively. With that, we reversed course, and signed the lease.
I felt like singing Hallelujah to celebrate, it felt oddly appropriate. Instead we went out to lunch. I am pretty sure my roommate barely walked down 74th Street, but when I did, I always thought of her. The church turned out to be a pretty peaceful neighbor after all.