The sound of the front door of our Bed-Stuy sublet swinging open into the darkness of 5am had Tameem jumping exposed and swearing from our bed, in anticipation of... I'm not sure what really? Death? There had been some action in our apartment building in the month we'd been there, so surprise arrivals in our living room in what felt like the middle of the night.... "she's lucky I didn't go George Zimmerman on her," Tameem said, when we identified her as being the woman we were subletting off.
"Sorry," she said lazily to Tameem and I, both standing there: half-naked and white-faced. "I should have texted from the cab to say my bus got in early."
Sublets are an interesting experience. You're effectively living in someone else's very personalized space and they seem to both take it seriously that you're paying to be there and then not really. "Take your time though," she said. "No rush."
Leaving New York was always going to be strange. How can you ever say goodbye to a city like New York? And we'd agreed to be out earliesh, sort of around breakfast, which in our minds meant around 8am. I'm pretty sure even dairy farmers have breakfast at around 8am, despite getting up at 4am for milking. From my limited knowledge of farm life I think I remember this from my nana's breakfast service. Dancers from Pennsylvania? I'm not sure. I guess they consider breakfast to be whatever time the bus gets in.
Tameem put on pants and went to fetch the rental car from JFK. I started moving around, packing up our last little bits and learned that "take your time" meant 30 minutes. By 6am our host wanted her place back.
"OK if I go in?" she said to me, meaning the room where ayah (6 months) and Little t (three years) were sleeping. She decided it was definitely time to put her suitcases away.
"Um, they're still sleeping, but I guesssss," I said. "Thanks," she said. Genuine smile; lights on and the kids up. Now there were four of us moving around awkwardly.
"OK if I give you half your deposit back in cash and the other in a cheque?" she asked. Turns out that although we'd given her cash it was no longer available in this form. Turning it back into this form meant she had to pay $7 to get it out at a bank machine and instead of doing that she'd decided we could drive around Brooklyn looking for her bank to cash her cheque before leaving town or pay bigger bank fees ourselves up in Canada. No, I said, for what felt like the first time in New York. She stomped off to the bank machine, phoned her mum a million times and then and stomped back.
6:45am: the vibe beginning to crackle, she set up her computer in the lounge and snapped at our three-year-old. "Don't do that!" she said. "McDonald's for breakfast?" I said to Little t.
The place was packed. In the line up in front of me two African American women chatted about their type two diabetes. "I got to watch my kidneys," said one, pouring sachet after sachet of sugar into her coffee-type drink.