An Excerpt from Harlem Is Nowhere
That would have left the studio apartment on Edgecombe Avenue for $675, which was not actually an option. A previous bad experience of cramped studio living had taught me the true nature of my Texan sense of space. At the top of the page I found the ad for 3 Rms. Floor-thru apt. No Kit. Clean, Non-smoker. Ref ’s req’ d, $750/mo. When I called the number the owner said the apartment wasn’t taken. In the margin of the now-creased and aged newsprint are the directions I quickly scrawled. I went uptown at once.
At the time, the miraculous location of a floor-through brownstone apartment—even a floor-through brownstone apartment without a kitchen and with a lamentable green hallway complemented by ugly green wall-to-wall carpeting—held a certain sense of destiny. It was somehow meant to be. The notion that an apartment without a kitchen was ever anyone’s destiny has to do with the general desperation of real estate in New York City, but it is a good indicator of how I saw the world then. I needed providence as an escort on my own ascent from the subway station into Harlem. I, too, was going to meet a place I had already filled with so many expectations. I, too, would have to match the pictures in my mind—the ones I’d invented and the ones I’d seen in books—with the world that was now my own.
Reprinted from Harlem Is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America, copyright 2011, by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, with the permission of Little, Brown and Company.
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