We have this studio in the central district, historically the area where all the nonwhite immigrants to the city were pushed into by racist zoning laws in other districts. And now, acting as forces of gentrification, young poor people of all stripes move into the low-rent houses by the hundreds. It’s generally a shithole. I love it anyways.
Some examples of the squalor: Dark mold populates the bathroom walls. Dalyce, my roommate, found a live mouse, scurrying around, in the oven last weekend. Underneath, in the dungeon that is our basement, the building’s 20-odd inhabitants share one set of coin-operated laundry machines. It is a basement coated in a thick layer of black grease and graffiti. Bits of broken glass litters the alleyway behind our house, because I keep setting glasses on the patio ledge and knocking them off. There is a huge stain on the carpet–Dalyce spilled wine on the beige and we disagreed on how to clean it up. She said to pour cold water on the winestain and then soak it up; I remembered reading somewhere that if you dump baking soda on the wine it’ll absorb it and disappear. We did both. We now have a large crusty patch of dried baking soda shaped like a small eastern european country, like Moldova, or perhaps shaped like a lesser-known organ.
The previous occupants, Dan and Micaela, had left many containers of their things behind, and the house was crowded. (We’d arranged a nice little sublet–they get to store some of their stuff at their old place, we get to dodge a security deposit. Nice.) The first night we moved in, Dalyce and I took a break from unpacking, stepped around the boxes occupying every available inch of floor, and opened the door to the patio for a cigarette. It was stressful. I perched on a pile of junk. Dalyce leaned on the latticework which sealed our patio to the night, and the fire from the cigarette was the only light we shared. We talked about plans, hopes, dreams, it was super indie and you would have totally loved it duh. We felt really cool. Yeah.
After we finished our cool indie smoke break, we tried to go back inside. The door was locked. My keys wouldn’t open it. We realized, because of the latticework, that we were effectively trapped in a giant outdoor cage. Our phones were inside.
Welp. I picked up a plastic cooler and prepared to jam it through the crosshatched wood.
“Wait,” said Dalyce. “To Auspicious Beginnings,” and raised her glass.
“To Auspicious Beginnings,” I said, and smashed through the patio walls.
The hole was pretty convenient. Though ugly, we could now access the alleyway without bothering to walk all the way around the house. So first we started emptying our french presse grounds out the hole, then the bodies of dead mice, and then we would lower sacks of garbage to the ground, rather than carry them dripping through the hallways of our building. We worked up to furniture: After the damp patio couch we inherited had sat in the corner for too long, it too went through the hole. I pushed a squat armchair through. All manner of things went through the hole, like a metaphysical garbage disposal.
The hole enlarged, naturally. Pieces of latticework curled back further and further until they hung, suspended by no more than a nail. It was hideous. Something had to be done. I located a rubber mallet and bashed the crosshatch out, then neatly stacked the broken wood underneath the staircase.
Now it looks like this:
(Those are Dalyce’s pants, incidentally. We do laundry by hand here in order to avoid the murder-basement laundry experience.)
Oh, and just so we’re all clear…
Sooooooooooooooooooooooo I guess we shouldn’t have been totally surprised when the eviction notice came. We discovered that our new landlord was completely unaware we were subletting, and also had a curious sense of humor.
1. I suppose, yes, technically, Dalyce and I are wholly unauthorized. Whoops.
2. Okay. So it’s one couch. Somebody will pick it up eventually. That’s standard practice, right? Leave unwanted furniture outside and somebody steals it?
3. A TOTALLY INTRACTABLE PROBLEM
I called Dan and asked, “so, did you by any count tell Keith we were living here now?”
And so I laid the whole story out. Dan gave me Keith’s number. I called him. “He’s a little stupid,” Dan told me. “He has an on-site manager, an evil bitch, who probably told him about you.”
I dialed Keith.
“Yeah, hi Keith, this is Ernie, the guy who’s…uh… living in your house…”
“Well, we’d, uh, like the unit back.”
“Yes, by the weekend.”
“Well…we would really like to stay. Could we…uh…mm.”
“welllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll…hm.” He began to think.
“Do you have a renting history?”
And so I negotiated with Keith until he agreed to come meet me and discuss terms of a new lease. I cleaned obsessively for a few days. I dragged in a mahogany wardrobe I’d left in the hallway for safekeeping, since it probably wasn’t supposed to be there either. The apartment was once again as crowded as our original move-in, though tidy. Keith came by the next Monday, a tall, tottering old man. He flourished two background check forms, and smiled.
“You two aren’t raisin’ hell, are you?”
“No, we’re not.”
“Ok.” He set the papers on the mahogany wardrobe, walked through the kitchen to the patio, and looked at the now-enormous hole. “Huh,” he said. “I didn’t even know there was a patio here.” He walked back into the living room and leaned down into my face. “If the other renters say you’re not raising hell, and you pass these background checks, you can stay,” he said, and then left. What? Who is this man? Why does he think we have a cat? Why does he think a cat could smash through patio latticework? It was the shortest eviction ever. And also a reverse-eviction. What?
So I guess everything’s alright in the end, but I wish we actually had a cat big enough to make that kind of hole. Though, that would mean a loose jaguar in the central district. Hunting young urban gentrifiers like myself.