The first night in my apartment building, the upstairs’ neighbor’s toilet clogged and overflowed. Bilgy water rained down from the ceiling, soaking my new bathroom mat. I’m not a squeamish person. I can touch spiders and snakes. I don’t mind getting dirty. But I was completely unprepared for brown water dripping on my head. I didn’t know what to do or who to call.
At the time, I didn’t even own a mop.
That night, I stayed up very late with a dear friend who’d come over to help me unpack. Together, Sara and I furiously unboxed my housewares, strategically placing what few pots and pans we could find all over the bathroom.
After Sara went home, I climbed into bed and wept.
The next day, I packed until dinnertime. After I’d washed the dishes, I decided to hang up some artwork. It was early, and, outside my windows, the sky was still light. If I had to guess, I’d say I hung up three paintings.
So maybe 15 whacks with a hammer.
The next morning, I found a handwritten note that someone had slid under my door.
“Too loud!!!” the note read in cursive. “Do not make noise after 5PM!!!”
I stewed for a little while, wondering which neighbor had left me the note. Eventually, I tossed the note in the trash and decided to venture out. The wait for the elevator took forever. When the doors opened, I stepped into the lobby area. It’s a formal space, and even after two years, it feels more like a hotel than anywhere I’d ever call home.
The doorman pointed at me. “You’re the new girl everyone is complaining about,” he said. “The loud one.”
It. Was. Awesome.
(And by awesome, I mean it sucked.)
It took me a year to get brave enough to buy a stereo speaker and actually play some music. Because, seriously, screw them. I’m not going to bed at 8PM.
Since my first day, I’ve received more notes. Apparently, I don’t empty the lint trap in the dryer well enough. And while I enjoy having a diverse group of friends, it seems some folks don’t like “the colored girls” coming round.
Another year has passed, and I’m still rebuilding. Apartment living for me is a lot like solitary confinement. The nature of the work I do (writing and painting) is isolating. I spend a lot of time in other people’s backyards, gardening, helping to decorate their patios. I’m still looking for a house, a community, people with whom to share a heart connection. I have Sara, thank goodness, and my parents, and the reality is that very few people check in on me with any regularity. When I need a ride to the airport, I call a taxi.
What does my life look like now? I get up, shower, make my bed, eat a little breakfast, lunch and dinner. Somewhere in there, I paint, write, do some yoga. I take long walks and learn something new every single day. (Thank goodness for NPR podcasts.) I help one person in benzo withdrawal every day. I clean, do my laundry, and try to connect with another human being in real life.
Weekends are hard.
I spend time going to garage sales in search of abandoned picture frames and Mason jars. I never had a thing for glass before I moved into an apartment, but I especially like the ones with rusty metal lids. I relate to their weatheredness, their fragility.
So here I am. It’s early, and I’ve run thru my entire bag of tricks. I’ve painted and shopped. Walked and cleaned. Visited with friends. Got a carwash. Made dinner.
I don’t cry every night anymore, but I’m still not smiling as much as I’d like.
I’m on mission to find a new home. My son will graduate from high school next Saturday. He’s ready to fly, and I’m so excited for him. Unlike my son, I don’t feel quite ready to launch. I need to do a bit more research, poke around and decide where I want to start the next chapter of my life.
A triangular girl, all I know is that living in a rectangle is not for me.
If you were starting over, where would you go and why? Got any suggestions?