In December 2004 I moved into the fifth in a series of six apartments all within one block of each other. It was just after the Maggot Incident in the basement apartment. There was an available place on the first floor. The first thing I noticed about the apartment was how dark it was. It was at the back of the building, hidden from the sun with additional shade from a few big trees. There were two windows in the main room and one window in the kitchen, but not much light came in from any of them. It was not only dark, but cold. I kind of loved it. Because it was winter when I moved in, I spent a lot of time in there bundled up with the lights dim. The building was old and all the apartments had radiator heaters. They would come on, hissing and squeaking for a couple hours at night and in the morning. It might sound annoying, but I found it strangely comforting.
The main room was not overly tiny and it had a big closet and some cute built in shelves and cabinets. The bathroom was nice with a working shower, no hose in sight. The only weird thing was that I quickly realized the bathroom window opened up into a sort of vent that went through to the roof. So the apartment next to mine had a bathroom window I could look into. And four more apartments above us shared the same bathroom window vent. Basically there was a lot of hearing my neighbors cough, piss, poop, fart and brush their teeth and occasionally much grosser goings on. That’s apartment life, er, at least it was for me. I learned to tune it out for the most part.
During this period, I was making a small effort to not be such a fuck-up. The meth use was tapering down but there was still a lot of drinking. By that time Fuckhead, or FH for short, had learned to capitalize on my rekindled relationship with hard drugs. I can’t say how frequent they were, but there were plenty of nights he’d come over to stay and would have coke to do. It actually came in somewhat handy when I was trying to repaint the apartment. My landlord hadn’t bothered to put a fresh coat of anything on the place before I moved in and had given me the go ahead to paint it myself. I picked up some discount paint at Big Lots and FH and I snorted a bunch of lines and went at it. As has been known to happen when on coke, we got distracted by our scintillating conversations and need to change the music every two minutes. We painted about half of the apartment and never finished.
Despite the drugs and drinking I did manage to start acquiring more grown up tastes. I bought new bedding, curtains and arranged things in such a way that it was pleasing to the eye. It was cozy and color coordinated. I’d also started to accumulate things like bakeware and vintage dish sets. I even threw my first dinner party while living in this apartment. It was mostly a success aside from it spiraling into an all night coke party. Although I guess some might consider that successful. Also someone threw up and passed out. But whatever. That happens. It was a good time. I really started to enjoy entertaining and cooking meals for people.
Most of the apartments in this building had hardwood floors. You could always hear much of what was going on next to you, above you, etc. My next door neighbor that I shared a wall with was actually a friend of mine and I learned that she liked to stomp around in high heels and listen to music very loudly. I didn’t want to have to be a bitch about it, but I ended up telling her she needed to quiet down by 10pm, some of us had jobs to go to. I had a neighbor upstairs I’d seen around. His name was Luka, he lived on the second floor. Yes, like the song, but without the child abuse. He was from Italy, he was gay, and he seemed to be very social. I often heard him come home late at night with company. For the most part, he wasn’t offensively noisy. One night though, I did get a little bit offended when I had to endure him having raucously loud sex. His bed was banging all over his studio and there was a lot of grunting and groaning. If it hadn’t been late at night I wouldn’t have cared as much, but I was trying to sleep and had work the next day. I felt like a real jerk, but I ended up knocking on my ceiling with a broomstick and shouting “Be quiet!” They hushed up. After that night whenever I would see Luka in passing it was awkward and I avoided eye contact.
In the spring of 2005 FH told me he decided he would go to Alaska for the summer to work at a cannery. Things had not been horrible between us around that time. There was still a lot of drinking and drug use going on, but we had been getting along alright. Or at least it seemed like it. Looking back now I realize I had shifted my standards. It didn’t occur to me until much further down the road that my whole concept of a relationship had been altered to suit FH’s needs. We didn’t live together, I didn’t ask him to quit using drugs, I never bothered to bring up the future of us or what we were even doing together. I just didn’t think about that stuff anymore. Well, I tried not to. I remember having a constant nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I should be figuring something out. There was a void there and I filled it up by spending all my time being with this person who didn’t make me happy. Happiness seemed like some elusive quality in life that I had never been able to get a grasp on. I was convinced that no one was actually happy and had to be faking it the majority of the time.
As FH prepared to leave for three months I started filling up with dread. I was afraid of him leaving. I couldn’t imagine what I’d do without him around. It wasn’t even that I was going to miss him. I didn’t want to be alone. I knew it would only lead to horrible things. I knew I’d be lonely and then destructive. I’d be bored and then do bad things. I drove him to the airport. We both cried saying goodbye. I drove home, crying the entire way. When I got home I cried some more. I was scared of the coming months and had every reason to be.
I listened to this song a lot while FH was in Alaska. It perfectly captured how bleak life felt for me. It might have felt that way for him too. Whenever we spoke on the phone he sounded miserable. He never told me he missed me but his voice would crack at the end of every conversation. I would always hang up and feel worse than I did before we spoke.
I suppose it’s true when people say things get worse before they get better. The darkest light is before dawn and all that. It was certainly true for me. When FH left I drank pretty much every night. I chain smoked. I listened to depressing music. I took stupid pictures of myself trying to look sexy and posted them on myspace. Instead of doing anything useful with my time, I very quietly began to self destruct. This was all I knew how to do at that time. Drown out the noise in my head with music and alcohol. Fill up the emptiness with more empty things.
When the opportunity to move into a nicer, brighter, more spacious apartment came up I took it. I knew a change would be good for me. I told myself I would drink less, quit smoking, cook more, start crafting, be creative again. I made a list of things I wouldn’t do anymore and things that I would try to accomplish. I packed up my stuff in the coldest and darkest apartment and bid that time goodbye.