New Yorkers have a way of pitying those people who choose to move away. “Can’t hack it in the big city, eh?” As if the person is giving up, too defeated to live and die for the hustle. I didn’t feel this pity toward Talia when she announced she was quitting her successful casting career and moving home to Kansas City. “I’ve got so much potential I can’t use here,” she said. “I’m over being stifled by the cost, by the rat race. I want a house, and a family, and quiet.” I felt disillusioned. She was once indefatigable. And now, quite logically, Kansas made more sense.
Talia waited until our lease was done to uproot herself. Leases, like subway delays, take people hostage here. This left me a clean break to get a new roommate on the lease or to find my own place. I opted for the latter. I had just negotiated a raise at work, and knew that in a year or two, finding an affordable studio in Prospect Heights would be impossible. And without question, I had to stay in Prospect Heights. I owed my sanity to these brownstones, to the park, to the best-of-both-worlds feeling one gets from living in residential Brooklyn.
Our landlord owned a few other buildings in the neighborhood, and fortunately had a garden studio available on Underhill just two blocks away. She even cut me a deal on the place since we had good rapport from my four years as her tenant. It still meant I nearly doubled my rent, but I would finally have my own place. “Wow, Eric, I’ll pay a third of that on my mortgage each month in Overland Park,” Talia reminded me. My response: “Don’t be that person who suddenly convinces herself she was never happy here. Just be happy for me.”
Talia was surprised and overwhelmed that nearly 50 people attended her farewell party in Park Slope, having been certain that a central Brooklyn location would keep things small and more personable. But that’s just it—Talia was personable, and people were sad to see her go. There were a few big time casting directors and agents—her boss even teared up upon saying goodbye. That was what confused me: her life here was set. She was on one of the biggest platforms in the world and stepped off of it. She made New York look easy, and walking away even easier.
We spent Talia’s last full day together. A morning jog in Prospect Park. Then bagels on Vanderbilt. Then we boxed up our lives while sipping seltzer, sent her things on a moving truck and pushed mine into the living room. I would rent a pickup truck the next day to move myself around the corner. The big task of the day was painting the walls white. Each stroke felt like one more memory we were clearing away. Picnics in the park. 4 a.m. taxis. Stories of shameless hookups with cute boys. Talia finally broke down, with half a blue wall to go.
I called a car for Talia early the next morning. Our goodbye stretched out for 10 minutes as the driver waited patiently. “You’re the only reason I stayed as long as I did,” she said. “You’re the only reason I came in the first place,” I replied. I hugged goodbye the person who got me my job, who spent four years as my roommate, who introduced me to my first boyfriend, and who helped me through my mother’s death. “Will you miss me?” she asked. Honestly, I just wanted her to be gone already.
New Yorkers are assholes. If you aren’t one when you arrive, you become one to survive. Or else you move away, because you’re too sweet and too levelheaded to tolerate all of the assholes. I quickly moved my stuff into the new studio, called up Bart and Peter, and made plans for a night out in East Village. Talia texted me that evening: “At my new home. Can’t believe it’s real. Miss you.” I didn’t text her back til the next morning, because I kind of pitied her. She had all the potential in the world, and she failed to use it.