Apartment Tales: The Air Conditioner

Window Air ConditionerThe 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

The Apartment Tales: Introduction

The Tuxedo

This is the only picture I can find of the building. I came home one day to find this skeleton banner hanging in the doorway. It was Patrick’s attempt to decorate for Halloween. It made me laugh a lot.

This is a reoccurring post that will happen every Friday (until I run out of stories).  Enjoy!

The Apartment is an apartment building I lived in for three years.  It is in the heart of Boystown on a quiet street, nestled between old brownstones.  It is a striking white stone building with an elegant name.  When I first stumbled upon it, I couldn’t wait to see the apartments inside.  I imagined them being beautiful, big and vintage like the outside of the building. 

I called the number on the For Rent sign.  Patrick, the building manager, answered the phone. 

“Hi!  I’m looking for a one bedroom apartment and would like to schedule an appointment to view one.”

“You have few minutes now?”

“Ye…”  I was startled by the door slamming behind me.  I turned around to see Patrick, a little Indian man with a goofy smile. 

“Well, don’t just stand there,” he said.

The smell was the first thing that hit me as he opened the door.  It reminded me of my grandmother’s house mixed with cat urine, dead people and mold.  It was pungent and thick.  The carpet looked like it had never been vacuumed and the wallpaper was peeling off the walls.  It was very dark.  But the woodwork, it was beautiful. 

We walked slowly up the stairs to the fourth floor.  It was a long walk.  I was out of shape.  Sweat beads were forming on my young twenty something head.  I’m pathetic, I thought.  I could barely talk by the time we reached the top.  Thank goodness, Patrick is more of the silent type. 

He showed me a one bedroom apartment that was the size of a shoe box.  The bedroom was a nice size but the living space was tiny.  My loveseat would touch the fridge, which would later become one of my favorite things about the apartment.  I never had to stand up to get beer.  All it took was a simple lean. 

“Is there laundry in the building?”

“Yes.”

“Can I see it?”

“No.”

I didn’t ask again.  Despite his tiny frame, Patrick intimidated me.  I was going to take his word for it. 

The average person would have run far, far away from this building.  But me, I fell in love.  I could look past the smell (I just breathed through my mouth) and the disgusting carpet and the darkness.  It was in a great location and the bedroom had a door.  Plus, it was the only place I could afford in the neighborhood.  I was forced to have low standards.  And I was okay with that.

“I’ll take it!”

The Apartment became my home for the next three years.  It was a building of misfits.  In a neighborhood of mostly young, gay white men and young straight women, my building was an anomaly.  There were lots of old people – one who died in the building while I lived there.  After the first year, I realized they moved in during the eighties and never left.  Patrick never made the tenants sign leases after the first year or raised rent, which explained a lot.  I am convinced some of them were paying at most $300 a month to live there.

My neighbors became the best part about living at The Apartment.  They provided endless amounts of entertainment.  Oh, the stories I have to tell…

Come back next Friday for the next story in The Apartment Tales!