Books are a uniquely portable magic. ~ Stephen King

Monday, March 1, 2010

In Which We Move Into Our Deluxe Luxury Apartment

Memoir Mondays

A few weeks back I wrote a post on Keep in Touch With Mommakin that referred to my first year of grad school as 'Around the World in Eighty Lays'. This prompted my roommate from those days and I to want to relive them through writing a joint memoir. I write a chapter, she adds a 'journal entry' to show the same story through different eyes. At this point I'm referring to it as The Texas Project. I hope to come up with something better soon. Until then, without further ado, Chapter 3 of The Texas Project (subtitle: Around the World in Eighty Lays)

In case you missed something:

In Which I Lose a Love, Make a Friend and Run Away From Home
In Which We Fly to Texas and Uncle Frankie Goes to Hollywood

In Which We Move Into Our Deluxe Luxury Apartment

We enjoyed a couple days at Terri’s friend’s apartment. It had a pool in a center courtyard and it felt a lot like Melrose Place. It was a lovely, well maintained complex with beautifully manicured grounds. It felt a little bit like a vacation. We learned our way around town and I applied for a job at the University.

We kept pretty busy and the day to move in to our own digs was upon us in no time. We loaded up the car with all of our belongings and headed to the address we’d been given, full of anticipation. The lyric, “comin’ home to a place he’d never been before” kept rolling around in my brain until it implanted itself as a full-on ear-worm.

As we pulled into our own complex, our excitement didn’t waver. Perhaps the word ‘complex’ is not entirely accurate. Our landlord had four buildings forming the four corners of a square. Each building was divided into four identical units, two upstairs, two down. The area between and surrounding the buildings was filled in with gravel. It was quite – unremarkable. There were two old rusty coaster bikes leaning against the railing in front of our apartment – the left downstairs apartment of the right rear building. Terri’s friend had acquired them for us, informing us that it was nice to be able to get around, but you didn’t want to own anything worth stealing. All righty, then.

We turned the key and walked into our new home for the first time. Our apartment was furnished with a delightful assortment of well-used and mismatched furniture. Our living room, dining area and kitchen were all the same room and took up the full right side of the apartment. To the left were two identically sized though not, obviously, identically furnished bedrooms. I took the front room and Terri took the one in the back. There was a small bathroom off the living area.

This was the first time in my life that I had ever really had a room of my own. I had shared a room with my sister growing up, and then I’d had roommates all through college. Terri had grown up in a large family, but she’d had a room of her own in college. That room, however, was in a family home. So this was my first bedroom and her first apartment. We loved every hand-me-down, outdated, dilapidated inch of it.

We immediately went to our own rooms (Our own rooms! Our own rooms!) and began unpacking. The wall between our rooms was thin and we carried on the first of many many conversations across it. The former renters had left things behind and we did a lot of squealing and calling the other over to see our ridiculous finds. There was clothing and periodicals and even a few things we couldn’t quite identify. We threw everything away, but not before trying to imagine what the people who had owned these things were like. Had they been happy here? Why had they come? Why had they left?

Once we had unpacked our suitcases and taken inventory, we set out walking to the local grocery store. It was called Skaggs, and we were pretty sure we couldn’t imagine a less appetizing sounding place to shop. I don’t know. Maybe Herpes Sore Grocery and Pharmacy would’ve been less appetizing, but not by much. Her friend, however, had reclaimed his car and we were left with no transportation other than the rusty bikes. We had to make due with the places we could get to on foot. Luckily that included Skaggs, a dance club, several bars, and, of course, the University itself. What more would we ever need?

We picked up a bottle of cheap champagne – or, more accurately – sparkling wine – and a half gallon of Cookies and Cream ice cream. Blue Bonnet Cookies and Cream ice cream, as a matter of fact; something we couldn’t get back home. We walked home (Home! Home! Home!) and cracked open the bubbly and dug into the carton with two spoons while we waited for a pizza to be delivered. We turned our little portable TV to MTV (where it remained for most of the next year, making exceptions for Days of Our Lives and the rare sporting event) and ate and drank – completely and utterly content.

We had no access to a washer or dryer, but there was a more traditional apartment complex right next door. We would go over there to do our laundry and relax in their pool and hot tub between loads. We figured it was probably trespassing, but we were going to do it until someone told us otherwise. No one ever did.

Even our sense of contentment, however, wasn’t enough to completely blind us to some of the less fine aspects of our new abode. First and foremost, we had an undeniable bug problem. And anyone who has ever been to or lived in Texas probably knows that that was my delicate way of saying we had roaches. Lots and lots of roaches. Big ugly omnipresent roaches. I had never seen a roach before much less shared an apartment with a hoard of them. It was unnerving, to say the least.

At first we erroneously thought that cleaning would solve the problem. So we set out for Skaggs in search of cleaning supplies. We cleaned every tile and baseboard in that small apartment. We emptied all of the cabinets and cupboards and scrubbed them thoroughly. We vacuumed our orange and brown plaid sofa and scrubbed down our orange pleather chair. We hit our wagon wheel coffee table with enough product to kill an army of crawly critters. Our thin walls sparkled; our appliances shined. We went to bed that night, tired and satisfied with a job well done. Of course, when I turned the light on to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, I heard the familiar scamper of tiny little legs and saw the disgusting exodus into the floorboards and closets. I woke Terri, which may not have been completely friendly, but I figured I shouldn’t have to deal with my disappointment, anger and even, on some level, shame, alone.

Next step was roach traps. We bought professional ones at Skaggs and devised a couple of our own as well. We found little Spiderman suction cup dart guns and shot the little fuckers to the wall. This method was ineffective, considering the scope of our problem, but it was highly satisfying. We became quite good shots quite quickly. Terri was a much better shot than I was, but she’d grown up around guns. I held my own and improved with practice. And there was plenty of opportunity for practice. We cut off paper cups and filled them with a small amount of beer. We had heard that roaches were attracted to the sweetness. We even put our names on the cups to see which of us could collect the most by morning. In the morning, all of our traps were full, but the next night the critters were still out in full force.

The next step was fogging the place. We bought a fogger and made plans to be out of the house for the designated number of hours. We informed the inhabitants of the three apartments that shared our building, as the walls were thin, connected, and probably not sound. Across the board they simply nodded at us.

Our neighbors, you see, might have been experiencing a slight language barrier when we knocked on their doors to give them this bit of helpful information. Terri and I were the only folks in our whole little development who spoke English as our native language. She was of 100% Italian heritage and, while my heritage was more of a question mark, I shared her olive complexion and dark coloring. We had never considered ourselves to be very white bread until we moved into this development. Our swarthy selves comprised a pale minority in our little corner of off campus housing. So we told them about the fogging, but we were never certain we were getting through. Some of them were pretty shocked at the audacity of two women they didn’t know knocking on their door and attempting to make conversation with them. They nodded and said anything to make our bold and clearly unchaste selves just go away – and quickly.

Needless to say, none of them did anything the day we fogged, so our little roachy friends just scampered over to their apartments while ours was a hostile environment for them and came right back in three or four days. We didn’t admit it easily, but we did eventually admit it: we weren’t going to win this one.

The bathroom was the worst, so we decided to provide ourselves with a distraction. We bought ourselves a poster of David Lee Roth – 1984 was when he was arguably at the height of his hotness – stepping out of a swimming pool. The poster cut off just below the hollow beneath his hip bones. We knew he probably wasn’t naked, but it was provocative enough that we were free to imagine that he was. It was – distracting, all right. If those roaches weren’t crawling out from under the lower edges of that poster, we weren’t likely to notice them.

1 comment:

  1. Skaggs! That's awesome!!!

    I remember when my girlfriends and I moved off-campus our junior year. I felt the exact same way. Our fridge!!! Our pleather couch!!! Our dining room table (yes, we had a dining room)!! There really is no better feeling. I've been a homeowner for a long time now and even though I love our house, I don't have that same feeling that I did that first time. Good stuff.