Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Girlfriend . . .

. . . had spent the last two days scrubbing out the grime that accumulated in the kitchen cabinets over the four years of living in this apartment. Though I did all the heavy lifting, there's no doubt she worked ten times harder than I did. Though I haven't lived there in the past month, this would officially be the last day it was attached to my name.

In the end, the apartment was spotless. It was as pristine as when it was first shown.

When I arrived in Chicago (in the winter of 2005, maybe), I spent my days looking for jobs, and riding the el across the city. It was my attempt to get a feel for the neighborhoods of this town. The Red Line was my preferred route, as the Blue Line felt grimy, like dirt caked to the outside of a window. The apartment at 5200 North Sheridan Road was the first and only place I looked at. I found this area by studying the people who got on-and-off at the various stops. The Fullerton stop seemed to be composed of people my age, but with much more money. Turns out, that was Lincoln Park, so I kept on North. I'd see a stop bustling with a murder of douchebags. This was Wrigleyville. The stop I found most comfortable was Berwyn, in the Edgewater/Uptown district. It was a diverse cross of working types, casually dressed youths, and people from lands I couldn't find on a map.

The apartment was two blocks down from the el-stop. A banner stretched across the facade read, "Studio and One Bedrooms Available!" I asked the woman showing me the property two questions. "What's the etiquette at a revolving door. Do I let the lady go through first, cause then she has to push the door to get it started, or do I go first and get it spinning so all she has to do is walk through? The latter is less effort for her, but it seems rude - cutting her off like that." When she had no response , I asked, "Do the ice cube trays come with the apartment?" That night, she left a voice mail. "I looked into it, A.v.E, and the ice cube trays come with the apartment. And everyone in the office thinks you're the sweetest man, ever."

Looking now, at the empty apartment, it felt so small. After that initial showing, I still couldn't grasp the layout. The apartment seemed so large, and it's arrangement perplexing. Now, I can't understand how I was so captivated with this place. It felt like my first time back in my parent's house after I moved away. I stood in the kitchen for fifteen minutes trying to figure out what changed, as the entire house seemed minuscule. I felt I could extend my arms and touch both sides of the home.

I didn't have furniture for the first several months. Instead, there were stacks of phone books I used as make shift chairs. I'd stay awake through the night, smoking cigarettes while staring out the window into the night sky. The radio would be tuned to the AM classical station. Mahler would blare as I sat, squinting out at the lights in the horizon. I'd watch the vehicles passing on Lake Shore Drive, hoping that someday, like them, I'd have some place to go in this city.

A jug of cheap wine would sit empty at my feet.

The light of dawn would crest over Lake Michigan. Unlike the last five years in Kansas, here each day would offer something new.

No comments: