Saturday, July 12, 2008

First Line of Defense

A bit of background regarding my apartment, about which I plan to whine a lot in this entry:

When I returned to New York after my three month respite, my life was, in the main, not going too well. I was broke, I had just lost one of my best friends in a warlike fallout (hence the move), I was far away from home, sick of being nomadic and directionless, and I had lost my copy of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory.

Never did find that.

I really feel like Johnny Depp could have helped me through that difficult time.

Oh well.

I had, however, just started dating someone who lived in New York. (Side note: if you ever want to go through a really emotionally confusing experience, fall life-changingly in love with someone while your life is crashing down around your ears; it’s lots of fun trying to reconcile the happy-puppy feelings of a new relationship and the deep desire to kill everyone around you.)

Because I left Pennsylvania in rather a hurry (battle, retreat, surrender), I did not have the time or the funds to secure living arrangements in the city. To the general dismay of everyone involved, I moved in with my boyfriend. Only temporarily, for a couple of weeks until I got on my feet. And I certainly did stay a couple of weeks, provided you define “a couple” as “seven.”

I was not at all happy about this, except in the sense that I would have otherwise been on the street. The idea was that I would find a job and an apartment, hopefully in that order, and get quickly settled in the city. The apartment… not so much. The job part, however, went beautifully. For reasons surpassing understanding, a couple of days after my arrival, I managed to get interviewed—and hired—by the same company I work for today. It’s a fantastic job; I love it, I have zero major complaints about it, and I’m not just saying that because I’m writing this at work.

That job was a bright spot and a blessing to a degree I really can’t convey through words (I can convey it through interpretive dance, but you wouldn't be able to see that since this is a blog) and I was profoundly grateful to have it, because the subsequent Epic Apartment Hunt of 2007 was so deliriously stressful (both for me and the boyfriend) that had it been accompanied by an equally difficult job search, I wouldn’t have necessarily made it through with both of my original eyeballs.

To make a long (you have no idea) story short, the boyfriend and I did eventually find an apartment for me, after weeks of work and dozens of disappointments. It’s a nice place; reasonably quiet and free of obvious bloodstains, which was really all I wanted at that point. I still live there, and until now it has been a near-problem-free place to live. Sure, it’s not as close to Manhattan as it could be, and sure, the guy above me answered the door with no pants one time (and he wasn't one you'd want to see pantsless under any circumstances), and sure, I have to spray the cockroach poison (to which building up a tolerance is apparently possible) a little more often than I’d like, but believe me, compared to some of the crack houses and brothels I passed on before I found it, it’s Three Ponds. Welcome to New York City real estate.

Anyway, as you may know, it is summer. In summer the weather can be a bit warmer than is desirable by anyone who did not grow up in the Middle East. This wouldn’t be a problem, except that practically no one who lives in the outer boroughs of New York owns an air conditioner despite the fact that temperatures regularly hit the triple digits. Why? Lots of reasons. We care a lot about the environment around here, for one. Don’t want to contribute to pollution. Heh. Also, they make electric bills shoot up like a desperate junkie. Perhaps “torpedo” would do better to capture the spirit of the process.

This is my third summer in NYC. During the first one, I did not get an air conditioner. Food came in higher on the priority list, for some reason. When the second came around, I could technically afford it but my near-total monetary focus at the time was on eradicating my student loan debt. I was only a couple of months away from that happy day of freedom and unwilling to postpone it just to keep myself temperature-controlled. I tried to be all “tough girl” about my lack of cold airy goodness (I don’t NEED an air conditioner! I already got through one summer without it!) but it should be noted that I spent an inordinate amount of time at work that summer.

Now I definitely could, if I were so inclined, easily pick up a unit and run it to my little heart’s content with no noticeable financial impact. But I have not yet done so. Why? I don't think it's been that hot so far. Some people disagree with me. But here it is, July, and so far it's been much more “steam bath” than “Hell’s waiting room.” Which is okay with me. And since I’ll be out of town for three out of the next five weeks, it doesn’t make sense to me to buy one now. By the time I return in mid-August, the summer will be practically over and there’ll be a full year standing between me and this debate yet again.

In the meantime, though it has been pleasantly warm during the day, the only way I can comfortable sleep at night without resorting to filling a sleeping bag with ice is by keeping my window open.

Here comes The Issue.

There’s a fire escape outside my window. And it has occurred to me once or twice that if, say, a serial killer or a rapist felt inclined to visit, leaving that window open is just about equal to leaving a love note for the fella. I feel much more secure when the window is shut and locked, and my blinds drawn such that they cannot see me lying there like a defenseless kitten.

I used to sleep right next to the window, however, and that was okay. I think it had something to do with a picture I had in my mind of hearing “something funny” and leaping up just in time to startle the serial killer/rapist enough that he would stumble backwards and fall off my fire escape.

I’m five stories up, so this would probably mean the end of him bothering me.

However, a few weeks ago, my bed decided that it didn’t want to be friends with me anymore. In fact, it decided it hated me. Not sure what I did to offend it, but it must have been bad because I woke up one morning with the following cheerful greeting to the day on my lips:


My back can no longer tolerate the bed on which I formerly slept. It makes me wake up feeling like someone spent the night beating my back with golf drivers while I, inexplicably, slept. To some extent, this is understandable. My “bed” is actually a sofa bed, and it was never really meant to be slept on every night. I got it for aesthetic reasons, not because I thought it looked particularly comfy. This was a very stupid decision, but it did take more than a year to catch up to me. Which completely justifies it, in my mind.

So no more couch/bed for me. Fortunately, I have an alternative: my extremely comfortable leather couch. So for the past week or so, that’s where I’ve been sleeping.

This is good for my back, but problematic in all other ways. Because of the placement of the couch, I am no longer in a position to observe someone coming in through my window before they are actually in the apartment, which was unlikely to begin with given that I have slept through earthquakes, shootings, and cats getting it on. Sound sleeper, me. So it was always dubious that I’d notice someone entering my apartment through the fire escape even if I were sleeping on the fire escape, but now that I’m clear across the room, there's no chance. By the time I notice there’s someone in here with me, I’ll probably have been cut up into little pieces.

Thinking about all this has caused me to have a tiny bit of trouble sleeping. My panicked mind has been nudging me awake every few minutes to squint at the window through my non-contact-covered pupils to make sure there’s no one there yet. This has not made for what you might call “good sleep.”

It might occur to you, if you are one of those “sensible” types, that I could just switch the positioning to the couch and the bed. Well, actually, it occurred to me too. And I did. But my apartment is pretty small, and switching those two pieces of furniture made it look unacceptably cluttered in here. So I changed it back and decided to learn to live with it. Or not, as the case may be.

If you’re getting the idea that my apartment looking nice is more important to me than staying alive, well, yeah. And don't give me that concerned expression. If you are really that afraid for my safety, you could always hire me a bodyguard.