If I was looking for some sort of relief after the shit storm that hit 415 and forced my four housemates and me to the brink of homelessness and the ends of our sanity, I didn’t find it in Apartment 6.
Apartment 6 was a sixty second walk down a gravel road past a dumpster from 415 that our landlord, we’ll call him Mark, thought would serve as a suitable alternative to our little homeless problem. It was a two bedroom, unfurnished nightmare of wood paneling. The carpet was dirty, and there was food t in a bucket in the kitchen that had sat there since the last people had moved out two months ago. Perishable food.
Mark said he would get rid of it. He never did.
The most mysterious element of Apartment 6 was pushed against the south wall of the living room, a huge yellow tanning bed from the 1970s. Sprinkled on top of the tanning bed was dry cat food, which was also possibly from the 1970s.
Mark said he was going to move the bed out. He never did.
We had to duct tape the shower head to keep it from leaking, and the hot water faucet in the bathroom didn’t work. There were charred marks on the wall from having installed a burner too close to the wooden cabinet that held the water heater. The doors didn’t open or close unless you lifted them up and shoved them against their hinges. Two of the windows were lacking blinds.
Mark never got any to replace them.
The following is an excerpt from an actual conversation (as I remember it) that I think demonstrates nicely the utter incompetence of our property owner in Kirksville.
Handing me a single key
Well…here you go.
Taking the key slowly
We’ll need more than one key. There are five of us.
Oh…well I can give you this other one…
With no patience left whatsoever
That’s two. We need five.
Um, well, ah…do you know a locksmith?
Struggling to resist the urge to roll my eyes
There’s a hardware store right down Baltimore.
You can get keys made there. It’s a five minute process.
Oh…okay. I’ll go do that.
Yeah. Okay. Call me when you have them.
Two of my housemates and I lived in Apartment 6 on air mattresses for the final week of classes. The fourth had a demon of a dog that was not allowed to stay in the apartment, and the fifth stayed with her, putting her arms and legs in peril of being bitten every twenty minutes or so.
We didn’t sleep much. Apartment 6 was exposed to the noise of the busy Illinois Street, which turned out to be a favorite route for truckers as they blasted through the town at three in the morning. It also turned out to be the secret fighting ground of the feral cats, as well as where a boy with a motorcycle loved to sit and rev said vehicle at random. Day or night.
I don’t think I have ever lived in a place with thinner walls.
After it was over, my parents came up to Kirksville to help me move my bedroom furniture out of 415 and into a storage unit. I remember sitting outside with my Mom looking up at 415 and thinking back on all the memories in that house, the good ones and the bad. We weren’t sitting very close. It still smelled pretty bad if there was a gust of wind.
So I sat back and thought about how hard we had worked at painting my room and making it look nice.
“It’s not fair,” I said.
“How’s that?” my Mom asked.
“We spent so much time on this house. But all along, it doesn’t matter if the foundation is shit. And you’d never know it until everything’s gone.”
I thought I had made a pretty neat metaphor for life. My Mom just shook her head and laughed. She’s used to me being a pessimist. I think I’ve earned the right to be one, after everything I’ve been through in Kirksville.
I have a lot to look forward for. Fall 2013 will be my last semester at Truman State. I’ll start my internship at the Truman Statue University Press. I’ll be Executive Editor of my school’s travel magazine. I’ll have my very first one-bedroom apartment, directly across the street from one of my best friends.
Let’s just hope this next one isn’t leaking, too.