Saturday, November 20, 2010

First Day in my Solo Home

This is going backwards from The Move West, I know, but sort of connected to this post.

I had help moving all of my things into the apartment by a friend, with whom I got into a terrible argument later that evening. It was pretty depressing, and not worth writing about...but I will note that we are friends now. For the first month or so in the apartment, when I would come home from work and feel overwhelmed by the loneliness of a strange, empty apartment, I would sometimes think that having my move-in day end with an argument had some large, deep meaning, like it had set the course for the rest of my time there.

But really, looking back, I think it was the day after move-in day that most symbolizes what I'd deal with at that apartment and what was wrong with it. After my friend-with-whom-I'd-argued went home, I returned to my new, strange home feeling lonesome and depressed. The previous day, before setting out to move things from my old apartment to the new, I'd used up most of the food from my fridge by having a big brunch at my friend's house with his housemates. It was a big group effort meal, like the kind I have all the time in Portland. Everyday breakfast was like a party. I remember thinking that this was what I wanted my life to be like. But I never had anything like that again until I moved to Portland.

As I unpacked and tried to find places for things, my apartment started looking chaotic. My landlord and landlady, who lived next door (although the two homes shared a yard, so it was really closer than "next door") left at some point to pick up visiting foreign guests from the airport. At some point, I stopped working, sat on my bed, and prepared to cry into my pillow.

"Sarah!" I heard. Since it was August and still hot outside, I'd left my living room windows open. The door to my bedroom was only open a crack, but still open; plus, my car was parked out front. With the window open, there was no way to hide that I was home.

"Sarah! Hey, Sarah!"

Whoever was yelling was ignoring my closed bedroom door and only focused on the fact that I was home.

I should also note that I had a doorbell, and it worked just fine.

Eventually, I got up and walked into my living room. "Yes?" I said to my open window. I walked to the front door and opened it.

It was one of my neighbors, one with whom the landlord and landlady were friendly. He had a big, sweet-natured dog with whom he'd walk up and down the street several times a day. The dog would always want to greet people, but whenever I'd respond and say, "Hi!!!!" and start petting my neighbor's dog, he'd pull the leash away and tell the dog something like, "Ok, that's enough!" or "Stop bothering everyone!"

Looking back, that was really weird!

Anyway, the neighbor ignored my tear-streaked face to announce his reason for calling on me. My landlord and landlady had left their glass door open, so that just the screen was closed, but if I was planning to go out at all, no one would be home to keep an eye on things and someone could just walk right in! He didn't have their cell phone number; did I?

Of course I did.

I prepared to give him the number.

"Oh no, no, no," he said. "I don't have my cell phone. How about you just call them and tell them their sliding door is open and ask if they want you to go close it?"

I tried to explain that they were at the airport and did not want to be bothered. Our neighbor insisted this was an emergency.

I believe I tried to hand him my cell phone, but he refused. So I complied and called the landlord at Newark Airport myself.

"What?" he asked.

"Um...I'm sorry to bother you...but [our neighbor] asked me to call and tell you that you left the sliding door open...so it's just the screen...do you want me to go close it?"

"We'll be home soon, but yeah, go ahead and close it. Thank you."

The neighbor thanked me as well.

Later, while unpacking, my mother called. I began to tell her tearfully about the argument that had left me lonely in my new apartment. I paced back and forth in my living room, back and forth before the window, visible and visibly on the phone. Regardless, a knock came at my door.

I opened it to my landlord, landlady, and a group of people who looked exhausted from jet lag.

"Hi!" I said, quizzical but also friendly.

"Oh, you're on the phone!" said my landlord.

"Yes, I am," I said, beginning to close the door.

My landlord stopped me. "Our guests are curious to see the inside of the apartment."

"Oh, I replied. "Well, I haven't finished unpacking, so it's really messy." I tried to shut the door.

"That's okay!" said the landlord. "They'll understand!" He pushed past me; the group followed. I tried to resume my phone call, while loud chatter among my new guests and my guests' guests broke out. In the middle of this, I tried explaining that I was in the middle of unpacking and oh! Please don't step on that!

My mother said loudly that she'd call me back.

Eventually, the landlord, landlady, and group of foreign guests filed out of my bathroom, out of my bedroom, through my living room, and out of the door, out of my apartment at last.

I believe I remained undisturbed as I spent the rest of the day unpacking and laying out my work clothes, eventually falling asleep but waking up now and then to the sound of leaves crunching outside my window, which I instinctively thought was mice scuffling around the apartment. I'd awake, remind myself that I was no longer in a Mouse House, and try to fall back asleep.

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