My parents’ reactions – a mix of 40 percent panic and 60 percent denial – made it clear that getting an apartment with my boyfriend was a big deal. My mother was forced to abandon her advice that had served so well for previous gentlemen callers, that I should ditch him and “concentrate on my studies.” For the 12-month duration of the lease, we were joined together legally. Scary. If this was a mistake, it would be a big one – and someone would end up living in their parent’s basement.
For someone who’s never had a roommate, this living together thing can be pretty tricky. Our apartment feels suffocatingly small at times (probably because it is), and we’re both convinced, in Lake Wobegone fashion, that we each do well more than our share of chores.
But by far the biggest challenge is, well, the apartment itself.
At first, I congratulated myself on the deal we found – $600 a month rent split two ways with no security deposit. The apartment’s character is evident in the bright pastel walls and clashing hunter-green carpet. The kitchen resembles the set of “I Love Lucy.”
And then there’s the story about the Hitler-worshipping teenage neighbor who shot a woman on our house’s front porch nearly 50 years ago. We have a copy of the 1960 issue of True Detective magazine with the story in it.
The apartment’s charm lasted a week. Then the pipes started moaning – loud enough to wake the poor tenant downstairs. After a number of voice mail messages, it was fixed two weeks later.
By this point, however, the apartment’s less apparent quirks had come through. We had to prop up our furniture on cardboard to account for the slant of the floors. Our doors don’t close completely, and the screens on the windows are really just pieces of mesh leaning against the window frames. Changing our first light bulb was an ordeal: The insides of the fixture came out with the old bulb and had to be coaxed back into place. The closets are about 20 degrees cooler than the rest of the apartment; they now double as cellar to store fruit. The heat shuts off without warning for hours at a time.
It would have been useful to have discovered these things before signing the lease. I confess that I was too excited by the bathtub with feet and the prospect of being a little closer to real grown-up status to ask too many questions. It happens.
What we can’t be blamed for not asking about is the squirrels. A few months in, they started scampering inside our walls. They also showed up in my dreams.
Then they got brave (or cold) and ventured through the 6-inch by 6-inch hole in our cabinet. The half-eaten apples left on our counters and floor first caught our attention, but then we spotted one running along our windowsill – on the inside. They got busy constructing a nest of plastic bags and apples in the cabinet beneath the sink. Our standard protocol – calling the landlord a few times and waiting a week or two – was not acceptable this time. We called animal control ourselves, and within a few days our resident squirrels were evicted and the holes plugged up.
Even without the squirrels, our trusty boxelder bugs esure we’re never really alone. Prior to moving in, I had never heard of or seen a boxelder bug. They clung to our screens by the hundreds when we moved in. I assumed they’d die when it got cold. Instead, they moved in with us. Now the bugs spend their days leisurely crawling up our walls, swimming (and dying) in the toilets and bathtub and flying into my face and hair. I hear you can kill them with soap and water, but I never bothered. I’ll claim it’s because they’re not harming anyone, but it’s really just that I’m worried cleaning them out would just invite another disaster.
When our landlord said he was planning renovations, we had another suggestion – demolition.
Character-building is the nicest way I’ve come up with to describe our apartment. Sometimes I’ll confess – it sucks. But it’s also ours. So are the squirrels, the boxelder bugs and the story of the crazed, shot-gun wielding neighbor. In that way, it’s perfect. Besides, our next apartment, which will have a security deposit, surely couldn’t be any worse.
– Emily B eam is a LSA senior and a Daily editorial page editor.