My First Shitty Apartment

…My first shitty apartment was a third-floor walk-up in a house that didn’t really have a third floor – like if your grandma rented out her attic. The ceilings were so low that I spent the three months I lived there permanently crouched. The bedroom had no closets, but was the size of one itself. There was already a futon when I moved in, but I quickly became convinced the damp polyester housed bed bugs and refused to sleep on it. Instead, I put an air mattress in the kitchen since it was the only decently sized room in the whole place and slept there. It was so hot that summer, and heat rises, so the damp, dirty apartment became a steam room for bacteria. I acquired a portable air conditioner, a floor unit where the accordion hose hangs out the window. It often took on too much humidity and overflowed multiple times a day, causing large, discolored watermarks to form all across the dark green “carpet” in the living room. I covered these stains with baking soda because that’s what Pinterest or Google said to do. When that resulted in nothing more than a thick paste, I became more proactive and re-purposed a lid from a large container to set underneath the unit and catch the water. This formed a moat that had to be emptied into the tub twice a day. On the way, I’d easily spill half of the contents of the rubber, wobbly lid across the carpet, so I put down yet more baking soda. I remember being embarrassed when a friend came to visit and burst out laughing at the disaster that was my living situation. “What the hell is that?” he said, cackling and pointing to the pasty white stains that snaked across my floor. To feel better, I told him to leave and then a few days later, adopted a kitten. This cat was the last kitten left in a litter at the shelter down the street because, as the lady at the shop warned me, “He’s the devil. He attacks everyone. Even his siblings hid from him.” I decided this was the perfect cat for me and brought him home in my jacket. He thanked me by peeing on my couch and refusing to recognize the litter box as belonging to him. Instead, he left cat shit all around my toilet like a picket line I had to cross every morning. I got no sleep after he moved in. I would try to bed down on the air mattress but could never fully relax because he was always climbing to the highest spot he could find which was usually the mountain of dishes I left piled in the sink. Perched at the top, he would flick his tail and watch me, waiting for me to enter that lucid yet dreamy state between wake and sleep – at that point, he would launch himself off the tower of pots and pans causing them to fall and clang noisily as he landed feet first, claws out, on my chest…

Nights

When I was growing up, I slept on the couch every night. We lived in a small house with only two bedrooms – one room belonged to my parents while the other had finally become my room after my older siblings moved out. The two bedrooms shared a thin wall, lumpy in places where decades of termites had packed their mud inside so tightly that the wooden paneling bowed out at the seams. I could never sleep in that room. I was afraid of the dark, and if I kept the lights on, yellow jackets would fly down through the light fixture in the ceiling which was connected to the attic. (I never set foot in my attic even once, but from what I gather, it was a jumble of bees’ nests and copper wires that somehow never caught fire.) So night after night, I’d wait until my parents went off to bed and then stretch out on the couch in our living room, cuddled underneath a velour blanket to protect me from the window unit air conditioner that was permanently set to arctic. I loved Nick-at-Nite and spent hours watching Roseanne, I Love Lucy, Three’s Company, and Bewitched, but never Gilligan’s Island because that show is stupid. By midnight, I’d get hungry and tiptoe into the dark kitchen to try and dig through the drawer with the Little Debbie Cakes. The plastic would crackle so loudly that sometimes I’d give up and run back to the couch for fear of waking Mom. Because the only bathroom in the house was on the other side of my parents’ room, Mom and Dad always slept with their door open right beside the kitchen. The floorboards underneath the linoleum cracked like thunder no matter where I walked, so my goal was always to take as few steps as possible. If I looked too closely, I might see a large house spider scurrying up the wall, illuminated by the light of the refrigerator. When I was little, I used to run into Mom’s room shrieking, begging her to come kill the spider. If woken up prematurely, Mom was even angrier than usual. She took on animalistic qualities, gritting her teeth and barreling toward her target so quickly that her silk nightgown caught the air and blew behind her; she almost always scared the spider away, but then I was left to deal with an enemy with less legs but far more bite.

My Basement

… The basement smells like standing water, and it’s dark, dim at its brightest. During Christmas time, Mom would have to move one of the two overstuffed la-z-boys out of our cluttered living room to the basement to make room for the Christmas tree. This made the basement my new favorite hideout during my teen years. Despite the dimness, I would sneak down the steep, creaky stairs just to get some alone-time in the rocker. I was in my James Patterson phase, so I would sit down there for hours reading about the grisly murders to which Detective Alex Cross was assigned. The loudest sound was the crackle of the furnace, which my dad came down to stuff with coal and wood seemingly at random, or whenever he was bored with the conversation upstairs. Besides the fire, I could hear the purr of my cat, Miss Kitty. She was a soft calico with a split face, one side orange and the other dark. I told myself she loved spending quiet time with me down in the warm basement, but really, she probably just enjoyed being safe from the winter air and the hunting dogs who liked to tree her. Between the furnace, the cat, and the rocker, I was always warm, bordering on too warm. I stayed because I loved to be alone and I felt proud to be a girl enjoying such a masculine space. It was dark, unkempt, and filled with the hunting trophies from the men in my family – deer antlers were strewn everywhere, and once, my oldest brother stored a dead bear in the deep freeze in the corner, just so my mother would be shocked when she came to re-stock her upstairs freezer. In the spring, the basement flooded multiple times so that the wet must lingered and mingled with the scent of the bone-dry carcasses. The air tasted like mildew and cobwebs abounded. Sometimes I could feel them on the back of my neck as I walked down the stairs and would quicken my pace…

The Shower

…The shower is hot, wet, and smells clean even when there’s no soap. I wear glasses so the shower is also a blind place for me – everything shows up in blurred blobs – is that my shampoo? Where’s the damned body wash? Did he move it? I’m always feeling streaks of skin along my legs, if I bother to shave them, to check if I’m finished shaving. The feeling of a razor against my skin when I’m in such a vulnerable state always feels threatening, the glide of the sharpness against my wet, exposed skin, all while I’m too blind to tell if I’m ripping off a hunk of it until it’s too late. I don’t do quiet showers; I listen to country music almost every time, letting the twang of my childhood fill up and share the room with the steam. I don’t listen to it because it reminds me of home, quite the opposite. I listen to it in spite of it reminding me of home and because I know all the words. I love to sing. I was told I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but I don’t believe it because in the shower, I sound just like Mary Chapin Carpenter, if only I strain my voice. And my ear. I let it rip when I belt out “I Take My Chances,” smearing the shampoo all over my scalp and defiantly refusing to worry about it seeping down into my eyes because I take my chances, duh. I like washing my hair. It’s dry, so I don’t do it very often, and when I do, the feeling of my fingers massaging the cool, gelatinous texture of my shampoo into my by-then oily scalp while almost-too-hot water pelts down on the crown of my head takes me away from myself. Getting out of the shower, on the other hand, sucks just as much as leaving the bed a second time. In a hot shower, I can almost sleep standing up…

The Living Room

…My living room now smells heavy with incense, like someone deodorized all the oxygen in the room. The couch I’m sitting on is soft but too low to the ground, and my heaviness always gravitates to the middle so that the overused cushions seem to bend on either side and envelop me. The pills on the cushions bother me. They could be removed with a razor, but the effort required is too much. They’re little blue balls of fuzz all over the yellow cushions so that the cushions look like they have some sort of bizarre furniture pox. The floors are made of wood, but there’s a large rug that takes up most of the space and could be mistaken for carpet by someone not very observant like me. There’s a tightness in my chest now that’s coming from the fear that I’m not doing this right or often enough; Myrtle is squeezing my heart, that bitch. There’s a painting hanging above the 60″ television perched on a wooden entertainment center. I like to watch TV, okay? The painting has always looked out of place to me, like someone cropped out a section of an art museum and copy-pasted it over a picture of our real living room. The room is small and if we don’t open the door in the summers, it gets hot as balls. There’s a Christmas tree in front of the window. It’s June, but we just like it so much we don’t care. The red curtains behind it accidentally add to the festive flair. There’s a coffee table between the Christmas tree and the couch so that one has to contort their body to fit between the two of the three when coming or going. The coffee table is sleek with sharp edges, black, and stuffed with junk that pours out from the narrow storage section on the side…

christmas tree
What’s your living room like? Take ten minutes and describe it using all your senses in the comments!

The Front Porch

…Our front porch is large and spacious, concrete and next to a steep hill overlooking the one-lane road that ran by our house. Mom’s hanging baskets full of flowers hang above every post, and in the evening when she comes to water them, the whole porch smells like a car wash – wet, the sudsy smell replicated by the perfume of the flowers. There’s a swing that hangs toward the back, and mud daubers build their nests in the top of the chains so that when you sit down, a flurry of mud falls in your hair, down across your lap. The springs also make a dangerous creaking sound – not the squeaky sound that says they just need oil, but more like a severe cracking sound that made me think the roof to which the springs were attached was falling in. I get a melancholy feeling when I think about the swing. It’s where I moped during much of my teenage years, sitting in it, rocking back and forth, the wind and the mist from the rain blowing in on my nose and cheeks. The wood was smooth, worn from age, and I would run my fingers along the boards absentmindedly, liking the assurance there were no splinters to look out for. Often, my dogs would come ask for pets while I was sitting there feeling sorry for myself. I would pet their heads, soft beagles and jack-russell terriers who ran the whole night and then lazed on the porch the whole day. They smelled rank, and my hands would always smell just like them when I finally pulled away. You couldn’t leave anything on our front porch – the dogs would chew it up by morning and then come ask for pets as usual, like they’d done you a favor…

Beagle
Seriously, our dog looked just like this. We called him Radler, and he snored so loud we chased him away from the house at night.

The Big Rock

…The big rock is hard to the touch, and it smells like wet no matter how many hours have passed since it last rained. The big rock is big enough for me as a small child to spread out completely, its coarse coolness a welcome respite from the summer heat. The big rock makes me feel safe. It’s far away enough from my childhood home that it feels like a different universe, one in which children are in charge. The big rock is close enough to my tiny shack that I can still see my family outside, so I feel safe. The pine needles cover the ground around and under the big rock, and they crunch under my tiny feet. Sometimes I bring chalk and draw on the big rock. I like the way the chalk vibrates in my hand against the rock’s surface as I draw all sorts of symbols that mean “This is mine. This is a safe space for children.” The rock is shaped like a boat, ferrying me to safety. The rock is cold and damp and I’m not old enough to bother worrying about the ten thousand snakes that probably live underneath. The bank that we climb to get to the big rock is steep, and our toes often slip out from under us as we try to get there. The big rock is quiet, not interrupting the chatty sounds of nature that fill the surrounding area. Birds chirp noisily and as it gets later in the day, we can hear the frogs and the hissing, swishing noises in the trees from a prolific bug that I forgot to ask my dad to name. Next to the big rock is a skinny, tall tree. As an adult, it seems to me the rock and the tree are friends, the rock and the tree so close together that they seem to be leaning against one another. I would sit on the rock and…

The Big Rock
The Big Rock – Like this, except way bigger and with a tree friend.

 

My Childhood Bedroom

…My bedroom as a child was brown. Brown walls that were covered in paneling and brown shag carpeting installed in the 70s on top of five layers of carpet that were already there. When you walk on it, it feels softer than your eyes tell you it should because of all the extra padding underneath. This room has little insulation from the elements – the layers of carpet touch floor, which touches ground. When it’s cold outside, it’s a walk-in refrigerator. My dad was poor and cold as a boy – often his family didn’t have money for shoes or heat. Since he spent so many years freezing, he now keeps our house in winter hot, uncomfortably hot. My room, exposed to the elements from the outside then became the air conditioner for the whole house. We would exasperatedly throw the door to my room open and let the cool air wash over us, blowing against the sweat caused by the furnace downstairs. The room smelled like dirty socks even though my mother did her best to ensure no dirty socks were in the room. All of my siblings that came before me, three plus at one point an ailing grandmother shared that room and it’s my theory that the dirty sock smell was just a mixture of all of our scents and a stubborn must. The room was large but filled with the clutter of former inhabitants. On my dresser were pictures, old, black and white, of my aunt and uncle on their wedding day. Mom wouldn’t let me take it down even though this aunt and uncle were still alive and in good health and despite the fact that the room belonged to me. The aunt and uncle come to visit sometimes and I found the stark contrast between the youth in their wedding picture and their appearance now as seniors disturbing…

Shag Carpeting

 

WTF is this blog about?

I created this blog after starting a daily practice of object writing – details found here. You should do it – it’s fun and it’ll make you a better writer, or so I hear.

Once I’d been on a roll for about seven days, I was overtaken by hubris and decided I needed to share all my stream-of-consciousness descriptions with the world. My reasons for doing this are nakedly self-serving: I’m trying to become a writer, not in the literal sense as in one who writes, but in the capitalist sense, as in one who gets paid to write. I hear it’s a cold world out there, full of rejection and despair, so in the meantime, I created this blog to feel a little less like I’m writing for no one but the voice in my head, who mostly says I’m destined to starve in my own filth, usually with the gloomy cadence of Moaning Myrtle.

Pictured: My Inner Voice
Pictured: My Inner Voice

Enjoy?