Text & photography by Ryan Fitzgibbon (Hello Mr.)
The house across the street from my childhood home taught me an important lesson about how we value the spaces we live. In a row of manicured, two-story houses sat this Frank Lloyd Wright-style ranch, overgrown with bushes and shrouded with mystery. When the couple living there migrated south to retire, a young family moved in and it became my mission to find a way inside. Two of the children were twins, but five years older than me. The third was my age and always outside playing. When I saw him hitting tennis balls against their indestructible garage door (something I was forbidden to do after leaving a sizable dent in ours) I finally decided to make my move.
We likely exchanged the kind of small talk that only 10-year-olds in the mid-90s understood, but it wasn’t long and I was running back to grab my racquet so we could play together in the street. This space, once occupied only by the occasional vehicle passing through our quiet neighborhood, was instantly repurposed as the place where we came to play. We made it ours.
Almost two decades later, I now live in Brooklyn and have rediscovered this lesson all over again. It’s no secret that space is a rarity in New York. Part of the experience of living here is accepting that everything, especially space, is shared. You learn that quickly just by riding the subway once.
It can be hard to find room to breathe here. Even outdoor recreation can sometimes feel off-limits. Almost every tennis court in NYC requires you to have a membership and schedule a reservation, but like the unfrequented street that we turned into our temporary playground, there are plenty of unclaimed walls to hit against in public parks around the city. Whenever I’m feeling suffocated or boxed in by what I have, I think back and remind myself that I don’t need permission to make something mine, even if it’s temporarily. I just need my racquet and the initiative to go get it.
From N˚5: Arrival.