“Are you sure you want me to move in with you?” I asked.

“Where the hell else are you going to go?” he responded.

Ah, love and real estate. In New York City, they are always entwined.

I sputtered before recognizing his answer as unequivocal commitment, to me.

My new love — his name is Bruce — was 60. He had been living a single life in his Greenwich Village loft for nearly half his life. He bought the apartment back when New York prices were in reach for a young person who lived frugally, had a steady job — in those days, there was such a thing as a steady job — and a decent paycheck.

When it was clear we were together, people were quick with opinions: You’re going to find a new place together, aren’t you? Make a fresh start?


But life seemed complicated enough already, so I sent most of my belongings to a storage unit and showed up on Bruce’s doorstep with a couple of suitcases.

Friends were mystified that I would be moving into his one-bedroom apartment, decidedly a single man’s place. There was, they pointed out, quite a bit of baseball-themed décor. And what about that giant “Lolita” poster?

I could have set up a household on my own, someplace else. I had taken care of myself and others — daughters, now grown; a husband, now former; cats; a dog; a tankful of tropical fish — for a good long while.

Bruce had been more or less living alone all those decades. The last time he had shared space for any significant stretch had been in the early ’80s, in an Upper West Side rental with his college roommate Rick. They rarely had more than a jar of peanut butter in the refrigerator — beer, if they were entertaining — and coexisted happily that way for half a dozen years.

Bruce’s place in the Village, on the 11th floor of a turn-of-the-last-century brick-and-cast-iron factory building, was that of a grown-up who knew what he liked. It had shape-shifted over time.

There was the classic bachelor black-leather-couch-and-sleek-chrome-lamp period. Then the writer-works-at-home phase, during which the color scheme began to warm up, with reds and blues and a gaily patterned Persian rug.


Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves lined two walls, volumes at the top reachable via a rolling library ladder. Two giant TVs, one for the bedroom, one for the living room, meant a ballgame — any ballgame — was only a click away.

An inventive architect had opened up the dreary galley kitchen and borrowed space from the bedroom to create a glass-tiled bathroom with plenty of elbow room in the shower and lighting that gives the illusion of a skylight. An oft-used bicycle had its own closet.

The whole place was custom-tailored, as was the bicycle, for a tall male person, with shelves extending upward, countertops a little higher than standard, giant shades for the enormous windows that looked out over water towers and gleaming silver Rube Goldbergian industrial rooftop contraptions.

I felt like Thumbelina on my first visits there, standing on tiptoe to see myself in the bathroom mirror, standing on a step stool to get a dish from a cabinet.

Height, however, was not the issue on the minds of my opinionated friends, who thought we should move elsewhere — and neither, really, was the baseball décor. What they wondered, and I admit, I did too, was: How could I live in an apartment with the ghosts of the big life that happened before me?

No matter where you make a life with someone, you live within those walls, not just with that person, but also with facets and specters of the people encountered before you. When you’re approaching 60, a history of consequential emotions — thrills, hope, love, disappointment, grief, loneliness, contentment — are part of the deal. Really, how could you want less?


More pressingly, two strong-minded people used to having their own way had to figure out how to share 800 square feet. As we unpacked my books, Bruce began dispersing them into his own well-organized categories: hardcover fiction, alphabetized; biography; theater; softcover trade paperback; baseball history. Momentarily stumped by my cookbooks, he found empty space on a bottom shelf. I panicked, melted down, unable to explain exactly why I needed my books huddled together, even if they stayed in a box.

Sharing space might be the trickiest part of later-in-life romance, or any romance, come to think of it. More than one couple I know decided to avoid those shoals altogether, keeping their own places and visiting on weekends, or a few nights a week. Others moved in together but kept their old apartments, using them as studios or offices — or potential escape hatches. Whatever choices they’ve made seem to be working. Who actually wants to share a midlife medicine cabinet?

Eventually, photos of my family mingled with Bruce’s. Somehow we made room for a big farmhouse cabinet that held my grandmothers’ dishes. The kitchen became my domain (yes, I’m bossy in the kitchen), and we sat at the table to eat — a new idea for Bruce.

“Dinner at home!” he exclaimed over a lamb chop and a baked potato. “How come nobody ever thought of this before?”

In those 800 square feet, we each learned what was important to the other. There was a story behind everything Bruce had in the apartment. I learned that he carefully tended memories of his parents. The oddly shaped glass-topped coffee table had been in his parents’ house; the lovely painting of a Paris sidewalk scene was a gift from his father to his mother; the photographs hanging above the table Bruce had taken on a memorable bicycle trip in Vietnam.

We worked out a bookshelf situation I could live with. We found space elsewhere for the bicycle and expanded the bedroom closet. We decorated for the holidays, with a little Christmas tree and a menorah. We fed a lot of friends and family at our table. And somewhere along the way, we got married.


By then, we recognized that we had aged out of the neighborhood, teeming as it is now with NYU students and impossibly hip European tourists. Landmarks of our generation’s years in Greenwich Village — the Bottom Line, Tower Records, the Lone Star Cafe, the Noho Star and the cruel final straw, the grocery store on our corner — had vanished. We had left our office jobs, and there wasn’t enough room for both of us to work at home. We acquired a young cat who took up a lot of psychic space. We craved quiet. We began to think about leaving.

“Lose the bookshelves,” advised one real estate agent, when we decided to sell the place. “No one has books anymore. And that blue wall in the kitchen? Paint it white.”

In other words, erase the last 30 years of living, like rain washing chalk from the sidewalk. We couldn’t bring ourselves to do that.

It took several months, but finally, a young man in his 30s, with a decent job and a good chance of approval by the co-op board, decided it was the place for him. He has some ideas for remodeling, but is partial to the bookshelves and library ladder.

Now we’ll be somewhere else — if we’re lucky, with space, light and quiet. Wherever it is, there will be baseball décor.

For the record, I’m fine with that.