- the toaster oven and its broiler pan. Lunch today was a taste from my childhood--the tuna melt. Multi-grain bread best eaten toasted; half a can of tuna left over from putting tuna in my mac and cheese*; thick slices of a tomato that had been begging to be eaten; extra-sharp cheddar on top: stack 'em up, stick them in the toaster oven, broil for 10 minutes. The cheese boils and bubbles into something supremely delicious, and the hot tomato and bread with a layer of tuna hiding between meld into meaty succulence. At SBU, toasters and toaster ovens were contraband, to be hidden under a bed or even in the bathroom during the monthly dorm inspections. Not so here!
- shutting off the smoke alarm. It is such an immense relief that the smoke alarm's hypersensitivity doesn't result in the building being evacuated and the fire department whirling in in a blaze of sirens. I can just slam on the button to shut the thing up, and knock out its batteries. (It's brutal treatment for an object that is trying to save my life--but hey, I don't need to anthropomorphisize the smoke detector.)
- the freedom to be unclothed. When I come home sweaty and sticky, I can close the curtains and peel off my clothes. There is no one to see me walk to the kitchen or the bathroom, or when there is someone, it's my husband, and that's even better than no one.
- the sound of church bells ringing the hour, calling me to worship. The song drifts across the rooftops. It floats over the engine noises and the exhaust. It softens the chatter of the crusty Italian men across the street. As my sister says: The bells remind me I'm not alone.
- striking matches and lighting candles. I love candle-flicker and scented air. I love wax melting into clarity, spilling like a waterfall, pooling and cooling, reshaping itself.
- the panting golden retriever that lounges downstairs. He lives with the landlord's nephew in the basement apartment. Today when I came home, the dog was sleeping in the sun in front of the building. He smiled at me and waved his tail a little, though he didn't come to the fence when I called him.
- the roof with its sprouting chimneys. I slip out the window on to the fire escape, then climb up the rickety ladder, praying it holds together. And then I stand on the sloping silver-painted roof. I feel like Mary Poppins up there. The setting sun makes the sky blush. As darkness drifts down, a hundred windows light up, golden in the blue twilight.
- having the refrigerator to myself. O. and I have the whole refrigerator! Not just one shelf and one drawer. All the food there is ours, and no one is going to steal any of it. If something is going bad, I can make sure to use it up in time; or I can throw it out, without having to ask five other people if they know whose this is.
- using all the cupboard space, all the counter space, all the pantry space. I loved living with friends in college, and I even loved sharing the kitchen with them and cooking together, but I am definitely loving how I have this whole space to myself. As I realize more and more that I can't tame my emotions and have them happen at convenient times, I appreciate the areas of predictability and control more and more. The kitchen is one.
- our huge bookshelf. After four years of stacking books to unsafe heights on my desk, now I have them arranged, orderly, vertical, alphabetized, categorized, looking happily toward me when I walk in the front door.
*Another nostalgic meal, this one recalling nights with a baby sitter while my parents snatched some couple-time. I only recently found out during college that other Americans apparently don't combine those flavors.
For anyone concerned about the safety of my rooftop explorations: I hereby inform you all that the roof being walked about on is neither steep nor slippery, but on the contrary is sticky and flat, if somewhat slanted (estimated slope: 10 inches of vertical change over 30 feet of horizontal space). Moreover, said rooftop is surrounded by a low wall, such that falling off accidentally would be a challenge. This is a rooftop begging for a garden and a lounge chair (and possibly a new paint job).