Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Then and Now 41 - My Apartment

Then and Now 41 - My Apartment
Time: Before I got married.

As I mentioned before, my new boss helped me to find my apartment, but it wasn't the only option. She had another place possibly lined up for me, which was a bit cheaper and a bit smaller than the one I eventually got. I had only one real condition regarding where I would live: that it would be possible for me to be a little loud without disturbing the neighbors. I planned to throw a party or two at my new place, and of course, I ended up having two, which I wrote about in Then and Now 4 and 8. I also wanted to rock out a bit with Guitar Hero after work, and I wanted to do so without getting broom handles thumped into ceilings or cops at my place.

My boss talked with the first landlady about my situation, and she said that she would not only be happy to have a foreigner living in her building, but that she had a rooftop where I could play guitar. Taking that as a tacit admission that the only place I could make real noise was not in my apartment, I waited for my boss to research the other choice in town.

The second place was the place I ended up renting, and it was still a steal at $300 a month. It was that low because when I lived there, the city hadn't been fully developed yet. The building was very humble: six floors tall with two apartments on each of the first five floors, and a single one on top, which was the one I rented. The bottom ten apartments were on either side of the central cement stairs that led me to the top, and to my pad.

Outside the building and one door north of the entrance to my apartment building, there was a little local convenience store which sold everything from candy and chips, to gallon-sized water bottles and soda. Farther north were some more apartment buildings, and the road burst out from between them to head into a bustling downtown area with coffee shops, shoe and bedding stores, restaurants and much more. Directly to the south, there was a mechanic's garage that I never really got to know about. Beyond it, the narrow street ran between more apartment buildings, and there was a supermarket located very conveniently just two minutes' walk from the entrance to my new apartment building. Finally, across the street was a little church sandwiched between some more apartment buildings, but I never went in. Nate and Annie's apartment was on the north side of the fifth floor of the building, and I lived on the sixth floor right above them.

I can't describe just how lucky I was that I got the place up there. First, the apartment had just been built a few months before, so it was the only residence on the roof of the building. That meant that not only was I free to be as loud as I wanted when I threw parties or played Guitar Hero, but I also had the entire rooftop to myself. It included a spectacular, miles-wide view of my new city to the east, with hundreds of buildings rising up there. I also had not one, but two gardens. One was outside of my apartment on the roof, and it held on tenaciously without me caring for it because of ample rain and sunshine. The other was on my balcony in the apartment, but every plant I ever put there and watered daily ended up dying.

My front door faced south, outside, towards the hutch that housed the stairs leading down and out of the building, and directly inside my door and apartment was the balcony. Looking into my place from the front door and to my left, my garden was a patch of dirt on a raised rectangle of brick and mortar, and above it were horizontal iron bars that ran along the balcony and kept my place secure. On the right, to the east, were two entrances into my place. The first on the right was the door that led to my bedroom, and the one beyond it (also on the right) was a pair of sliding glass doors that led into the living room. At the far end of the balcony was my washer, which only saw use once a week.

My bedroom was very comfortable. It was about fifteen feet wide and twenty five feet long, and on the northeast side was a door leading to the rest of the apartment. I spent most of my time at my apartment in this little room, despite the apartment being a three bedroom place. I guess I could have moved my stuff into the living room, which was twenty five by twenty five, but I didn't have curtains for the sliding doors or A/C in there. I didn't want people looking into my apartment and seeing me sitting there in my shorts, sweating like a dog while I watched TV or something. So in my bedroom, I placed my bed in the northeast corner right in front of the door that led to the rest of the apartment, and put it atop a giant wooden box that Nate gave me.

On the western wall of my bedroom, next to the door leading out to the balcony, was a rolling TV cabinet with all of my entertainment on it. On the top shelf was a decent TV that Nate got me, under that was my PS2, and my Guitar Hero controllers were on the shelf beneath that. On the bottom was a collection of random gadgets, like a VCR Tim and Jessie gave me, and a Neo-Geo style joystick that my co-worker Natalie bought for my birthday. Whenever I had a party going on at my apartment, it was a very simple matter to just roll that thing into the living room to get a game or movie set up for everyone.

Behind me in the southeast corner of the room was my mini-fridge. I honestly hardly used it and left it unplugged most of the time. I was on a constant diet, and the best way to fail at a diet is to have food around the house, so I usually kept it empty. Besides, there were at least two stores in walking distance, so I was free to get dinner at any time. I sometimes kept some shredded cheese in there to make burritos, though.

Going through the door at the end of my room on the northeast wall, there was a small hallway that led into three different rooms:

To the west/northwest of the hallway, and north of my bedroom, was the living room, which I never really used. Aside from the two parties I threw, I just placed all the furniture Nate gave me there: a sofa, some cushions and a few footstools. They served as seats for the parties, but later, they never did anything more than hold my wet laundry to dry as the sun blasted through the sliding glass doors.

To the northeast of my bedroom, and east of the living room, was the guest bedroom, which was on a raised wooden floor. In the back were several cabinets with sliding doors, where I stored all of the assorted trinkets, souvenirs, gifts and stuff that I acquired while I was abroad. I also stored my video game folder, a box full of old birthday cards and letters from friends, and my laptop in its case when I wasn't using or reading any of them.

Finally, opposite the guest bedroom and east of my bedroom, was the bathroom. Not much to say about it: it was small, clean, and had a single barred window on the wall to allow another great look at the city. A toilet, a sink, your typical bathroom.

I lived here, alone, for one year, only four months of which had no baby coming. But I wasn't lonely, of course not. I worked a lot at my job with lots of people, and any time I wanted to be with people outside of work, I either went downstairs to hang with Nate, or out to the city to be with my friends. It was a spartan place to be sure, but to have a place so free of needless distractions is a blessing that I can't recommend enough for others to try.

It was a dream to live there. And it wasn't because it was a great price, relatively spacious, free from noise or anything like that, no. It was a dream place because nobody ever stepped foot in that place without me wanting them to be there. In fact, I can give you a list of every person who ever came into my house before I got married:

- My girlfriend (wife)
- Ken
- Vicki
- Nell
- Sammi
- Natalie
- Jenny
- Nate
- Annie
- Leena and two of her friends from her church
- My boss and her sister
- One of my friends from America and his girlfriend

All of them were welcomed and entertained, and not one of them caused me any trouble. When I needed to be alone and wanted to waste hours sitting around and relaxing, I did it. When I wanted friends over, I called them. I never, not ever, not once, came home to that apartment to see messes I didn't make, to hear nagging to do something, or to be greeted with someone's folded arms, scowling face or furious eyes.

In fact, there was a point in time where someone asked to room with me: it was one of my co-workers at a different school branch of my company which asked me to sub for a while. I sized him up really quickly the first time we met: foreigner, very short fauxhawk, popped collar, constantly talking about the girls he dated and broke up with and the clubs he went to, I knew he would be bad news. He had to commute from the main city to our city every day to go to work, but I had no intention whatsoever of letting him into my apartment:

My first roommate in college was a pig who never cleaned up after himself, who argued with his girlfriend from 1:00 to 3:00 every morning on the phone, and who once locked me out of the room for an entire weekend when she came over to visit. I came back in to find used condoms on the floor.

My second roommate was a social butterfly who came home at 3:00 in the morning every Saturday or Sunday night to do his homework on a very loud keyboard, often practiced playing guitar with his amp turned all the way up and pointing at me, and who also locked me out of the room at least once to mess around with his girlfriend.

My third roommate took an oath of silence while pledging for a frat, and ignored every attempt I made to talk with him, even to explain what he was doing.

My fourth roommate was a really good guy, but was also incredibly messy, and piled up dirty clothes and junk knee-high in the entire room.

So when this playboy asked me to let him room with me, I could only think, Yeah, I come home after ten hours of work to catch you in bed with your girl of the week (when you let me in my own house at all), have things stolen out of my room, have you "forget" to pay your share of the rent, have you throw parties or get stinking drunk at all hours of the night... and you want me to go open the door for you? I ended up lying and saying that my "roommate" wouldn't approve, and I never had to deal with that guy living with me at all.

I loved that apartment. A quiet part of a rather big town, within an hour's subway ride to the main city, surrounded by good people, clean and free of drama, and always waiting to welcome me back after a hard day of work, or a long day of travel, with a hot shower and relaxing entertainment. And I can tell you everything that I had in that apartment, from top to bottom: just everything I mentioned, plus the towel, disposable razors, soap, hair gel and shaving cream in the bathroom. Everything I needed was there.

Today, I pay for almost everything this apartment has and needs, but I don't call the shots about most anything. I never know if I'm going to come home to fights and chores, or just chores. The apartment is roughly the same size as my old one, maybe a little smaller, but it's cluttered to all hell with my wife's stuff all over the apartment. To get some idea of how much stuff is in here (and how much of my money was spent getting these things), I went ahead and counted up all my wife's bottles, boxes and tubes of soaps, lotions, potions, powders, creams, medications and other assorted beauty and health nonsense in this apartment:


And that was just a surface look, without digging around or including things in the kitchen. And this also doesn't include the stacks upon stacks of clothes, papers, books and other stuff that isn't mine here.

My wife's behavior as a girlfriend in my apartment was also markedly different to how she acts today. Back then, I once washed my bedsheets for the week before my wife came over, and they didn't quite dry by the time she arrived to see me. I put them on the bed anyway, slightly moist, and after I let her into my room, I motioned for her to join me on the bed.

"Come here!" I said.
"...Huh? They're wet!"
"Sorry, they didn't dry in time. But don't worry, just snuggle up with me and they'll be dry in no time."
"Ok! ...Brrr, it's cold!" she laughed, then held me tight.

My Fights post featured a piece of drama that started in this exact same way, but ended up someplace different:


My wife woke up and was in a bad mood. She asked why I washed my big blanket in our little washing machine, then let it hang up all night with a fan on it to dry it off. I told her it was because she said it was ok (and besides, I did the same at my apartment for a year, and it was fine there).

Eyes wide and head shaking violently, she snapped, "No, no, no! I said you could wash the outside sheet, not the comforter inside!!"

I stared at her, expressionless and uncaring.

"Mommy, where are you going?" my son cried from the bedroom.

"I'm going to the bathroom!!" she shouted. "Can I go to the bathroom?!"

She stormed inside, and I watched the closed door for a few seconds. Then, I just popped my earbud headphone back in, and played some more computer.


What I wouldn't give to go back to my single life, when going home meant healing, relaxation, parties and fun, not chores, fights, routine and tunnel vision.

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