On Living In A Rented Apartment With Things That Aren’t Yours

I was digging around this place looking for tape recorder batteries. I had a phone interview half an hour from then and was trying to avoid running up the street in the rain to buy some of my own. “Perhaps this white box beside the DVD player will contain some,” I thought to myself. I thought wrong. Before I reveal to you the horror that I found, let me explain that I am currently subletting a furnished apartment in a city that is not my own. The thing about living somewhere for only a short period of time is that you basically pick up where the person who regularly lives there left off. When I got here, there was a tub of half eaten ice cream in the freezer and a banana peel in the trash. The transaction – I becoming the renter, the landlord, the landlord – happened very quickly, so later on I found myself washing the bed sheets and pillow cases of a person I’d only known for twenty minutes so that I could sleep in their bed that night. Before I unpacked my suitcase, I walked around the apartment, removing photographs of sweet looking strangers from the wall, and put them in a drawer where I could ignore them for the coming months. I wrapped toilet paper around my hand to remove a used bar of soap from the shower shelf so I could throw it away without incurring any residual grime. That’s just the way it is, this subletting lifestyle: very nonchalant. What I found in the white box however, was real.

“Jesus,” I whispered, to no one, with my fingers clutching the locket hanging from my neck. It was a Garth Brooks DVD. I don’t mean to be an elitist bitch about this, but isn’t your stash of Garth Brooks DVDs something you bury in your backyard or dump into the East River with a brick tied around it? That is embarrassing.

I folded the lid back onto the box and slid it back into hiding. I felt uncomfortable. The owner of the Garth Brooks DVD is the same person whose bed I’d be sleeping in for the next few months, and I am fine with the fact that there was probably a basket of pornography and elaborate sex toys beneath it. But a Garth Brooks DVD? Who is this guy?

Here is what I know: He wears slacks and a (tucked in) light blue dress shirt to his job at an Internet firm. We work in the same neighborhood and once I saw him walking down the street eating an apple with a suit jacket slung over his right shoulder like he’d just had a successful day at the office. He probably had. I know he thoroughly participated in Internet Week and I know that he does at least moderately well in bike races. He seems very fit. He has a long-term girlfriend. He has a lot of National Geographic magazines. He seems normal, but he also owns a Garth Brooks DVD, which is messed up. I drink coffee from this guy’s mugs and am currently working my way through the bottle of dish soap he left here. My clothes are hanging in his closet. I know what his mother looks like because I tucked a photograph of her away in the drawer. He’s typically quite cordial, but I just can’t shake the fact that he owns a Garth Brooks DVD.

I discovered a handful of dead cockroaches here when I first moved in and sometimes at night I hear animals scurrying through the walls. At least two of my four neighbors are drug dealers. None of this is an issue. But when the person you’re renting an apartment from has a Garth Brooks DVD stored mere inches away from the DVD player but far from the rest of a very large DVD collection, you’ve got to really wonder what kind of maniac you’re dealing with.

Insane Clown Posse? Fine. Barbra Streisand? Great. There could be a DVD of children singing holiday carols and I’d feel less squeamish than I do about the one that features an entire hour of live concert footage plus an additional disc of bonus features. But alas, I didn’t move into the home of the guy who wears his affinity for Insane Clown Posse on his sleeve or painted face. I got the landlord who is secretly into Garth Brooks.

I couldn’t bring myself to see him after that. Months later, I left my key under the mat with a thank-you note and scurried out of the neighborhood forever, never looking back. I feared that I’d see his silhouette in the window, wearing the cowboy hat, watching the DVD, spur’d heel resting on cowboy booted ankle atop on the coffee table in pure rhinestone-country-pop-jam ecstasy. You don’t truly know a person until you know what kind of secret DVDs they’ve got stashed away in their apartment. Pornography is normal. But Garth Brooks? I shiver.

image – Jimmy Harris

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