Sunday, December 17, 2006

Living Space and Me: The Second Look

So I went next door to my new apartment with a few goals: clean the tub, replace the burned out bulbs, and move all the boxes of packed stuff out of my kitchen so I can start moving some bigger things.

It turns out I've never smelled the apartment on a warm day. The previous long-term tenant -- who I'll refer to as "Bad Guitar" -- allowed a scruffy stray cat to infiltrate the building, and the cat obviously spent a leisurely six years spraying its scent around the place. The basement is the worst, but it's also a bit whiffy in the kitchen and the livingroom.

So I started opening windows to air the place out, and lo and behold some of the windows are broken. Most of the screens have enormous holes in them...probably due to the cat again. Determined to fix at least one thing, I scrubbed the tub until my hand was numb. It was a valiant battle but the tub won. It appears permanently stained.

Standing outside -- directly between my old and new apartments -- I felt that feeling come over me. It's like an upside-down waterfall in my throat and a metal clamp around my head, a feeling of deep sorrow and panic that just comes over me in a huge, unstoppable wave. I stood there trying to figure out when I'd last felt like that, and then it came to me: I feel like this EVERY TIME I MOVE. It's a mix of emotions all bundled up: how will I manage this transition? What nasty surprise is lurking around the next corner? How's my cat going to feel about living in another cat's stink? Will the landlords fix the things that need fixing?

And under that, a feeling even more childish and irrational than all the rest: is my old apartment sad because I'm leaving? Am I being ungrateful? Will it be lonely?

I recognize that attributing human emotions to a building is a little neurotic. Stupid things strike me as sad and poignant when I'm feeling trapped, panicky, or vulnerable. I was literally standing there looking at the light through my kitchen doorway, wanting to burst into tears and comfort the old building all at the same time. I was in a deep funk, and not a Bootsy Collins kind of funk. A deep blue funk.

Fortunately my mother called and said that she always felt the same way when she moved, except for that last part about imagining that my apartment is crying, of course. Her advice and comments were wonderful, uplifting, and realistic:
  1. Hire a MollyMaid for three hours to go over the bathroom and the kitchen. I'll try to do this tomorrow.
  2. Ask the landlord to fix the windows, screens, and bathtub. The fact that his son backed into my mother's car yesterday may give me some leverage.
  3. Go to a pet store and ask about cat-spray neutralizer.
  4. Paint. This is hard because I've never painted, I don't know how to begin, and I don't want to delay moving all my stuff over (since we have no heat here).
  5. Get some rugs and curtains.
  6. Recognize that feeling displaced is probably a normal thing to feel when moving.
So I'm back on track. Maybe this advice is just plain common knowledge, but I tend to get so wrapped up in panicky predictions that I overlook the obvious.

Besides, I've always wanted a maid, even for just a few hours!

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