It was early evening by the time I arrived at the building on Drayton Street. I gave my Lyft driver the gate code, he punched it in, and heavy iron doors swung open to let us inside. I’d only been there once before – on a Monday morning in December – and the place looked totally different in darkness. Long, ominous shadows stretched across the parking lot as we wound our way toward the back of the complex.
It wasn’t the type of place you could easily find if you didn’t know where to look. My apartment and its five neighboring units were classified as live-work spaces: airy, high-ceilinged, industrial lofts with unassuming eggshell façades and a stripe of steel blue across their midsections. Two of the units had storefronts facing Drayton Street (one belonged to an acupuncture therapist, the other a waxing studio), but their signage was understated, and didn’t reveal that just beyond the heavy iron gates there were actual people, living actual lives.
My landlord’s son – who lived next door and who was supposed to let me in – had stopped answering my texts. “I’m here!” I typed cheerfully as we drove through the gate, but he didn’t reply. I arrived to find his apartment eerily quiet, with all its lights off.
“You don’t have to wait,” I told the driver, as he unloaded my luggage into the parking lot. “I’m sure he’ll be back any minute.” “It’s no problem,” he said. “I want to make sure you get in OK.”
I knew he was just being polite, but his answer annoyed me. I was tired from the move, the long travel day, and the jumble of thoughts swimming around in my brain, and the last thing I wanted was to stand around awkwardly in a dark parking lot with some stranger. “Just go,” I thought, looking down at my phone again and silently pleading for the text that would rescue me. No text came, but suddenly, something else broke through the quiet evening: the sharp blare of a horn. The noise repeated again, and then again, growing louder and sharper with each subsequent blast. The driver looked at me, a question in his eyes. “Freight train!” I yelled, pointing to the tracks running just beyond the parking lot where we stood.
“That’s loud!” He yelled back, as the train chugged past us. “Does it come through here often?!?”
I shrugged. “Two or three times a day, I think. But the noise doesn’t last for very long.”
He raised a skeptical eyebrow but said nothing, probably because he didn’t feel like yelling. I looked down at my phone again: still no message. I sighed. “I appreciate you waiting with me,” I told him, “But really, you can go. I’ll be fine.”
“Well alright, if you’re sure,” he said, already walking toward his car. “Welcome to Savannah.”
I’ve been here for three weeks now. Three weeks in which time has simultaneously been speeding by and standing still. After I gained access to my apartment (my neighbor, as it turned out, had fallen asleep, which seems a miracle, given the train), I’d barely put sheets on the bed before I went to grad school orientation, picked up my ID badge, and bought a stack of textbooks at the campus bookstore. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I arrived in Savannah, and my life changed overnight. And ever since that first day, I’ve been on a treadmill, trying to keep up.
I’m sure there will come a time in the not-too-distant-future when I come up for air. When I get a Georgia driver’s license, and a car, and start exploring the southeastern coast and the world outside of graduate school. My sanity demands it. But for the moment, most of my time in Savannah is confined to Starland, the quirky midtown neighborhood where I live. Starland’s vibe is young and artsy, populated by enough hip eateries, cool watering holes, and fair-trade coffee houses that it feels like someone took Portland, Oregon, and plunked it down in the middle of the south.
If I have to be stuck without a car, there are worse places. I’m six blocks from Arnold Hall, SCAD’s writing building, where I have all of my classes. In Starland, I can walk to dinner, to coffee, to yoga class, to the local art store, and to a gas station/convenience mart that’s the closest thing I’ve found to a New York City bodega. I can go days without leaving this neighborhood, which, since most of my time is devoted to writing essays and reading large volumes of text, is pretty darn convenient. And though I haven’t seen all of Savannah, I feel pretty confident in saying that fate has already landed me in the most “Sarah” neighborhood in this city.
On the one hand, I wish I could have done the move differently. I wish it hadn’t been such a mad, crazy scramble to get out of New York and that I’d had more time to say goodbye to the people and places of that city. I wish I’d arrived in Savannah with a cushion of time to simply adjust, to do all the life stuff required to make a place feel like home, before entering into a rigorous graduate program that leaves little time for anything other than classes and homework.
But on the other hand, I think it’s probably best I didn’t have time to get “ready” for this, or to think about all the things I’d be giving up to become a full-time student. If I had, I would have found a million reasons not to do it.
There’s so much about life that’s hard right now. But there’s also something else: an unshakeable feeling that all I have is this moment. And in this moment, I’m where I’m supposed to be, and doing what I’m supposed to do.
And that, despite the train tracks running through my backyard, is a pretty good feeling.
Until next time, friends.
I love this! I am so happy you are settling in and in a fun, New York-esque neighborhood. That is how I feel about Charleston, It is a bit quieter, but still enough city, that I don’t miss New York to much! I can also relate to the hectic moves! I am so type A and plan everything, yet it seems all my moves have been so frenzied. But I also have never felt more home then when I have gotten to those places, even if I am sleeping on my yoga mat waiting for Ikea to deliver a bed. Lol. Best of luck sweets! And let me know if you visit Charleston, It is truly a stunning place! ❤
Thank you friend! I’m glad to hear that you’re doing well in Charleston. I’ve heard many wonderful things about it and it’s certainly at the top of my to-visit list. I will keep you posted! Hope all continues to go well. ❤️
Firstly place your ear against the glass window of the door of that coffee shop, that one with the neon open sign. Listen to the hum,as this is you new friend. Next await for the first morning upon which you’re awaken with the warm kiss sun upon your face, a true sign this is spring time in Sarland. Next find a piece of cloth or clothing that is lavender. tis a cousin from L.A. a token of yesterday’s yesterday in deed. smelling it shall take back to the sea. Study (as if you already do not have enough to so, study), of which local plants and mushroom to must not eat. Birds, make a friend with a crow, she will remember yor face, then always list for her in the tree or upon the roof, and listen to the the song of a wee song bird of Sarland.
Order a door bar, to place and block your inner front door. The croak of a toad, and the smile of a newt for surely you do have neighbors to meet. and your favorite flowers, a few seeds sown, and so smiles your heart at every first gaze. And lastly while strolling at night, do wear a neck scarf for you are in the south, watch out for the faintest sounds of loose board and the distant squeak, and the low hanging hair of the witch upon the willows. Oh and I forgot, fireflies, you’ll know them by their glow as they dance the summer’s night. Sarland indeed.
I’ve said before that you’re a poet, and I really mean that. Thank you for this lovely advice. I hope you’re doing well!