The week I moved into The Apartment was stifling. My apartment had two giant windows, one in each room. My bedroom window was occupied with an air conditioner that was the size of an old tube tv from the fifties. My kitchen window was met by the fire escape.
It was the first time I lived on a floor high enough to warrant a fire escape, and I frequently inspected it with curiosity. There were only a few speckles of black paint that remained; the rest was covered in rust. The metal had aged from the elements and looked fragile. It was a long ways down so I knew if it came to a life or death situation, I would step out without hesitation but until then, the mere thought gave me anxiety.
Even though I was skeptical the fire escape would remain intact if any weight was put on it, I was paranoid to open my window. What if someone climbed up the escape to get me? The thought ruined any possibility that I would open the window for air. I couldn’t sleep knowing there was a potential entry way for intruders. So the only option left was my bedroom window.
Just as I inspected the fire escape, I also stared frequently at the air conditioner from the Middle Ages. As part of my lease, I was supposed to pay an additional $200 during the summer if I wanted to use an air conditioner. I moved into the apartment in September so it didn’t make sense. But I was suffocating in the stale, stench of the building. Every breath was a fog of heavy air, dead skin, hair, the dying old and cigarettes. I couldn’t let myself go that way.
I sat on the floor of my bedroom in nothing but panties and a tank top. Sweat was dripping down my face – even my legs were sweating. I didn’t know if the guy before me had paid the fee, and I was guilt ridden at the mere thought of using the air conditioner if my landlord didn’t have the money. But I didn’t have a choice. I was going to suffocate otherwise.
With the guilt defeated by my will to live, I flipped the switch. A sudden whoosh of air blew dust in my face but it was cold air. It felt so good. I stood in front of the unit arms outstretched praising the electricity Gods. But as fast as the cold air came, it left within seconds.
Shivers ran down my spine. I blew the fuse. My apartment was pitch black.
I was on my hands and knees frantically trying to find pants. I had no idea where the fuse box was. If Patrick wasn’t going to show me the laundry room, he certainly wasn’t going to give me the privilege of knowing the location of the fuse box. But I had to find it. I couldn’t let him know I turned on the air conditioner. Continue reading