Basement of a House
City: New Rochelle, NY
Time Span: 1 Month
My apartment hunt hadn’t materialized by graduation and I needed somewhere to live while I got my shit together. Rather than admit defeat and move back home, I moved from the top floor of a house to the basement. A guy named John already lived down there and offered to let me stay for the last month of his lease.
John was one of those people with a “story.” I’d lived upstairs from him for months, but all I really knew about him was that he was from California, didn’t talk to his parents because of some “incident,” and had attended BU until something “happened.” I have no idea what brought him to Westchester. He gave me his room and moved his mattress into a much smaller room in the apartment that had water damage and a weed plant growing in it. I think it had a name, maybe Lucy.
There were many times I didn’t return home at night. John and I saw each other once a week. Sometimes, I’d come home very early in the morning and find John sleeping in my bed. Once, he’d spilled an entire ashtray on my mattress. Another time, I came home to find his shirt, wallet, cell phone, and keys in the driveway.
John was extremely intelligent, but I felt like his intelligence was “dangerous.” He had suspect friends. One in particular was the student president of the community college and an ex-con. I don’t know why he was in prison; I felt it would be rude to ask. He always wore one of those oversized, cheaply-made leather jackets and he had multiple scars on his face and arms. Despite a truly intimidating exterior, he was really, really sweet; the way I remember my brother being directly after returning from months of basic training with the Army.
At the end of the month, John and I went our separate ways. I never returned the key to the landlord, so he took a guitar my dad had given me in retaliation. My dad was pissed, and I never got the guitar back.
Modern Apartment in Bushwick
City: Brooklyn, NY
Time Span: 3 Days
When my roommate Ashley and I viewed this apartment, it had no stove or fridge – but we were assured by Mendel, our broker, that those “finishing touches” would be installed before our move-in date.
When the big day arrived, we packed up the Buick that belonged to Ashley’s dad and drove to Kensington to pick up our keys; then back into Bushwick. We were so pumped. Every song on the radio was playing for us.
The elevator we were promised was one of those manually operated freight elevators. To get to the elevator, we had to maneuver through a wire fence, walk over a blanket of rocks and glass and dirt, and finally, traverse over a wooden plank – while carrying our belongings. The elevator had to be cranked up. There were no numbered buttons. You had to pull a lever to get it to stop on the correct floor. If this were reality television, one of us would’ve taken home 10K and the title “Winner of Survivor: Bushwick.”
Once inside our new “home,” it didn’t take long to realize we’d been had. No fridge. No stove. This realization sparked a series of phone calls to the broker, the leasing office, the landlord, and the super. I quickly learned that dealing with any more than one (1) person in a rental situation is ill-advised. I couldn’t believe how messy things had become in a matter of hours. One minute, you’re singing along to the Go-Go’s. You’re all “VACATION ALL I EVER WANTED, HEY YOU KNOW, LIFE IS LIKE VACATION BECAUSE WE HAVE AN APARTMENT NOW! HAY GURL HAY!” The next minute, your leftover tuna casserole that made the move with you because it was “that good” is emitting toxic gasses due to lack of refrigeration. Life is like that, sometimes.
We were told that we’d moved into a commercial space and therefore, a refrigerator and stove were just not essential. I mean, sure if we’d like them, we could buy them and install them into the two empty spaces in which a fridge and stove would fit most perfectly – but by no means were these two spots intended to house a fridge or a stove. NOT IN A COMMERCIAL SPACE, HOW SILLY!
Ashley left for work and I sat on my air mattress in a sun-soaked room, sweating as I frantically tried to connect to protected wireless networks. Dread washed over me as I realized that people who live in Bushwick do not leave their networks unprotected. Where the fuck had I moved?
A lack of food and internet forced me to confront Bushwick by leaving the apartment and walking directly to the L train. I hopped on and rode into the East Village, where I found restaurants and other marks of civilization. I slept at a friend’s house. After a full day of work and celebratory drinks with friends the following day, I felt that maybe I could embrace my new abode. I was optimistic. I was going “home.”
An unfortunate series of events took place in the next 24 hours, including my coming home drunk to find that I was not given a key to my own apartment, missing work the following day as a result, and the drafting of a “legal” letter that was actually just a misguided rant. In it, Ashley and I demanded our three months’ rent back, referencing a loophole we’d Google’d. Because we’d only occupied the apartment for less than three days, we could legally break the lease. We certify-mailed the letter, took the Metro North to Yonkers to pick up the Buick again, drove back down to Brooklyn, and moved all of our belongings out between 10:30 PM and 12:30 AM. We got all of our money back.