I walked down the street in Clinton Hill, my hopes low. My stomach gurgled familiarly, demanding ice cream in penance for putting my psyche through such torture. The light was fading as the sun set, twilight silence engulfing the neighborhood where neither man nor beast seemed to be awake. I studied the buildings and the streets with attentive disinterest, the same way you might look at that thousand dollar dessert in Manhattan, knowing it was probably delicious but that you would never taste it unless you seduced a rich widow. And in the back of my mind, I remembered being in this same position one year ago.
I strolled across the south side of Prospect Park, enjoying the view of autumnal leaves cascading around me. I was on my way to Sunset Terrace to view a three bedroom. The meeting was in a half hour, so I might arrive a bit early, but I knew it’d offer me the perfect opportunity to surround what was, I hoped, to be my future neighborhood.
I casually took my phone from my pocket, completing another neurotic check to make sure I had the right address and time. As I searched for the email, a new one from the very man I was about to meet loaded. Confused, I opened it hastily.
The message was brief: “Hey Greg, we found someone to fill the room. Good luck!”
Well, crap. I turned around.
As I turned the corned I quickly saw the building I was heading towards. A young man in his 20’s was adjusting the blinds as I peered up, and our eyes met for a moment. He waved like he knew me as more than someone answering a Craigslist ad, and I waved gingerly back, knowing if I let myself feel any form of enthusiasm my hopes and dreams will be as crushed as when I discovered Santa was a farce.
Moving to the door, I pressed the buzzer. I bit my lower lip in nervousness like a teenage girl who had been asked to prom by the most popular boy in school but suspected it was just a ruse to get covered in pigs’ blood.
A few moments later, the door opened to the the same friendly man from before. “Hey, Greg? Nice to meet you.”
As I walked up the stairs to the house in Astoria, I began dialing the number I was given. As it rang a girl went to the window and looked at me briefly, before turning around. Through the glass I could hear a muffled, “Shit! He’s here already!” Then she fled from my view as I stood, baffled.
I waited five minutes in the dark, confused by what had happened, a constant inner monologue about whether I should leave or not. As I began walking down the stairs in bafflement, the door opened. The same girl I had seen earlier greeted me. “Oh, hi, Greg? I’m sorry, I just noticed your call, my phone was off…”
She showed me the room, her words slurred and her footing wobbly, as three of her friends stood awkwardly in the kitchen, their voices a whisper as if they were afraid I was keeping track of what they were saying. As she took me back down the stairs into the living room she turned to me briefly and sputtered, “Okay, I have a confession; I’m a little wasted.”
Well, no duh.
“That’s fine,” I simply said. She stammered a bit more and introduced me to her friends who were also sloshed, and I feigned interest while mostly questioning my ability to get into these situations.
She turns to me and starts talking about the other guy who would be living there, and I feign interest as I prefer to actually meet someone. In her drunken stupor she insists on showing me his room even though he’s gone, and I appease her, fearing the wrath of a drunken event planner scorned.
She knocks on her roommate’s door briefly before opening the door. “Oops,” she happily stutters, a hiccup almost escaping her lips. She quickly closes the door of the other man who lives there and turns to me once more. “They’re in there.” I can only imagine what she saw.
At that point, I politely flee. A day later she offered me the place, but I decide I’d rather not live with the woman who seems to regularly get drunk on Tuesday and the guy who I first encountered when I almost walked in on him and his girlfriend.
“This is Phoebe, the other roommate,” the man explains as we enter the apartment on the second door, gesturing to a woman in her late 20’s eating a huge sandwich. She waves to me, her mouth full of meat and cheese.
The man, Josh, shows me my room, the bathroom, the living room, before we sit down with Phoebe. Everything is gorgeous, and, with the exception of my room being a bit small and lacking windows, it’s perfect. So perfect that I knew that, in the shadows, there must be something sinister lurking. There always is.
I sat in the apartment in Carroll Gardens, my legs going numb. The man on the couch with me continued talking, changing subjects like a stereotypical teenage girl debating what to wear. Four others stood in the room, too, listening to him talk, barely saying a word as they couldn’t keep up with his word diarrhea. Half of what he said wasn’t about the apartment or himself at all, but rather things like the pros and cons of Trader Joe’s or the effects of Celiac Disease.
As we were leaving, he somberly said, “What I’m looking for in a roommate is someone who is clean, nice, and, mostly, someone who can put up with my shit.” I turned without saying a word, knowing that I had no desire to handle anyone else’s shit.
Phoebe, Josh and I talked for 20 minutes — which might be about as much bonding as I did with my previous roommate after 3 months. Despite my gloomy nature at this process and the impending sense of doom I generally felt, I was actually hopeful.
We parted ways, both sides making it clear that we were interested in — to use as sterile of terms possible — interested in proceeding with this venture. I walked out the door, my heart uplifted at the prospect of living with sane people in a neighborhood I liked and an apartment that wasn’t haunted. I would hear back from them that night, they had said.
I waited for an email from the man in Prospect Heights, and when I opened it I was a little despondent; he said everyone he had shown had loved the apartment and a bidding war had erupted. But then, the silver lining; he had liked me more than any of them and would be happy to have me be his roommate if I would simply pay him $300 more per month than he had originally said I would.
I tensed, my reptilian brain slithering about, debating what to do. “$300 is a lot of money! … But it’s in Prospect Heights. But $300 is a lot of money! But he seemed cool. But $300 is a lot and this is probably me being a sucker. BUT I LIKE THE APARTMENT!”
In the end, I took the apartment, and my hunch that I had been a sucker was consistently reaffirmed. But that was coming to an end.
The email arrived 3 hours and 20 minutes after I had left. As it loaded my brain was in turmoil, a mix of fear, hope, hunger, anger, happiness, and zestiness clouding my thoughts.
The email started nicely enough, saying the pair had enjoyed meeting me and would like to have me as their new roommate but — at that word my stomach always lurches — their current roommate had decided to stay.
My head did a free fall onto the desk, my brain turning into a puddle of mush and seeping out of my ears, pooling into a formless mass in front of my face. After so many terrible run-ins I thought I had finally found freedom, only to be gunned down all the same.
And that’s why looking for an apartment makes me want ice cream.
This weekend, I moved again. While I will be somewhat sad to leave my creepy, irritating, and strange apartment, I am excited to move for a few reasons, which I will briefly explain in lieu of a normal ramble this week.
Reasons I am excited to be moving:
1- I can take a bath without fear of getting a venereal disease.
2- Flypaper won’t be my most visible decoration.
3- My bed will no longer be a twisted mass of razor-sharp springs and concrete.
4- My refrigerator won’t be older than the combined age of all of my roommates.
5- The first floor of my building will no longer look like the Rancor’s pit.
6- This will no longer haunt my dreams.
7- Most importantly, I will be 2 blocks away from the best ice cream place in Brooklyn, Ample Hills, paving my way to becoming perfectly spherical like I’ve always dreamed.
Some of you who have read my blog for the last six months know I once made a post called, “A Haunting on Lenox Road.” Consider this my unexpected but very appropriate followup.
This New Years, I spent my night going to a party at a loft in DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) in Brooklyn. This space was… Interesting. The building’s insides looked dilapidated and utterly unused, with dust gather on the floors, open letters and ripped newspapers heaped in the corners of the hallway near the entrance, and a few sputtering lights. The loft we went to was on the seventh floor, and to get there we took the old elevator — the kind that had a crank to operate it and lurched to and fro as it moved (or you moved inside it).
The apartment itself was decent, but clearly constructed piecemeal, with a skylight in the living room that looks into the kitchen. Even the furniture was a hodgepodge of artifacts, with all the dishes being arranged on top of a piano and a total of six chairs in the entire place, which were: two wooden kitchen chairs; two plastic lawn chairs; one white, metal chair with a worn cushion; and a shiny, red bar stool. The sight of the bridge and the river from the place was beautiful, but the interior, between the lack of light fixtures and one room which is shaped like a “(” and has 12 sides, leaves you feeling a bit unnerved.
Little did I know, in one month I would find myself living there.
I moved to The Loft on my birthday. It was altogether an… Interesting experience. To begin, I was sick, and all but one of my friends was busy, so she was lucky enough to get to help me move (the good news for her is I live a nomadic life at the moment and have few possessions). We moved my stuff quickly, and found my room to be sparse, all faded blacks and white, and no one was home.
We went out for dinner and returned that evening, when darkness had fallen. When we entered my apartment we discovered that neither of us had any idea how to turn illuminate my new place, as, again, there were no actual fixtures. After stumbling about, with the only light coming from the bridge and across the river, we found how to turn the few lights scattered about my home — though, because they were so scarcely spread throughout the place and they were all older bulbs, even this only served to elongate the shadows.
The apartment was cold, too, even with the heat turned up, and my room was the coldest of all, because the person living there before had shut the heating vent and I was unaware of it. Add to this all the noise around us — cars and the occasional train overheard, the waves down below, wind at the window, vents sputtering out what little warm air they could muster, and footsteps lightly falling in the hallway outside — and it was an altogether spooky birthday.
Since then, I’ve grown used to this place, though that’s partially because I made some changes to it (on that first night, after my friend left, I replaced the lights in my room and bought a bright green shag run so I didn’t feel like I was living in an insane asylum). However, the building still remains one of the weirdest, creepiest places I’ve ever been to, much less lived in.
This weekend I decided to tour it and catalog some of my building:
Looking down from the fifth floor, you get a good view of the north east side and the center. While the south side is three stories, the west side is only six, the north and the north and east vary; meanwhile, nestled in the center of the building are two smaller buildings, some of which are connected to the main building itself, and some of which are accessible only through bridges and walkways.
The hardest floor to get to in my apartment building is the second floor. The thing to know is that each floor of my apartment building has three entrances: a western stairwell (which is supposed to be an exit only), the 135 stairwell, and the 139 stairwell — but, without keys, you can only get to each floor from one or two of the stairwells. For instance, the seventh floor generally is locked from the 135 and 139 entrance, and the western stairwell is unlocked all the time but if you open it an alarm sounds. The first floor is — as you’ll hear about soon — not actually used by residents. Getting to the second floor without a key requires finding a way to get onto the western stairwell, because it’s the only side that remains unlocked. That means you actually have to go higher into the building then make your way down to get to the second.
Walking through the second floor is probably the spookiest of all. There’s the least amount of light, because, at this point, the center of the building is still part of the structure, so nothing from the outside is visible. When I ventured down, a few halogen lights flickered dimly, humming, and I heard a sound akin to a staple gun at the end of the ominously large eastern hall. The weirdest part is that this floor, despite having no view of the outside, still has windows which look down upon the center of the building:
That’s right, it’s a trash pit. The bottom floor of my building is used to collect trash. It kind of reminds me of the pit in Star Wars, where Luke fights the Rancor. If only I had a light pistol and Chewbacca.
I am clearly destined to one day live in a haunted mansion.
(That sounds like a good movie title, right? The tagline I’m thinking for it when I sell my idea is, “This year, Halloween comes one day late.”)
On Thursday I moved into my new place, and I must say I have a bit of skepticism about this decision. The neighborhood is fine; a bit dirty, a bit crowded, a bit dark at night, but it’s New York. The apartment itself is very nice, and my room is so large I could play Twister in it without moving the bed — now I just need to find Twister buddies!
No, my anxiety comes from the building. See, there’s this little problem called
THE BUILDING IS FREAKING HAUNTED!!! Continue reading