May 15th, 2008

Buying an apartment is an interesting experience. It’s sort of like an arranged marriage — you walk inside the first time after an official ceremony overseen by religious figures (or multiple lawyers) and there you are, alone with this thing, tied together for life (or at least until the mortgage gets paid off, which is basically the same thing).

At the beginning, it’s a bit forced — well, here we are, stuck with each other, after only ever seeing each other twice, once at the open house and then at that walk-through before the closing where hovering real estate agents wouldn’t give us a moment of privacy. But after a day or two of halting awkwardness, walking into unfamiliar walls (as opposed to familiar ones), and turning on strange faucets, the intimacy starts to grow, and we can ease into the process of beginning a new relationship (something I’m good at, particularly when the other party is 750 square feet of plaster and parquet).

Pretty soon we’ve learned each other’s habits, manners, all the little peccadilloes that only sharing your private moments with someone(thing) else can reveal. The way the radiator clanks at just a certain pitch, how the hot water goes from zero to scalding in under five seconds, how the floors creak at different levels on opposite sides of the hallway. Soon, the infatuation phase is in full swing — I absolutely LOVE my new place! What amazing good fortune (and stark economic downturn) has brought such happiness into my life!

Then, of course, as with every new relationship, the first major snag hits. That initial fight over something inevitably silly, but it smacks you out of bliss mode and turns on that internal ticker tape of other things that’ll no doubt cause battles in the next few years. And, as with so many conflicts, it starts with one party not listening.

“Be sure to click in the window guards if you’re going to open the bottom window,” Andy, the venerable neighbor, tells me in the hall.

Window guards? What window guards? I’m a reasonably intelligent person, I know how to lock windows. I don’t need anyone to tell me about window guards. Do I look like some incompetent moron who can’t figure out how to close windows? Please.

Sure enough, the next windy morning: CRASH!!! I race into the kitchen and feel glass crinkling under my slippers, but even then it takes a few minutes to process what’s happened: I ignored his advice, and the entire bottom window has come unhinged and blown into the kitchen. What do I do? Call the landlord! Oh wait, shit, there isn’t one. Call the super! Yes, Joe, the venerable superintendent, who performs basically the same duties as a marriage counselor, but with greater patience.

“Joe, help! My window fell in and shattered all over the kitchen!”

“Ok honey, stay calm. Don’t get any glass in your feet. Try to clean it up and I’ll be there in a minute to take a look. We’ll work this out.”

Four hours later, window/order restored and glass shards DustBusted away, it’s just the two of us again, left alone to start making up and repairing the damaged trust. It’s harder than it sounds — yes, I can still feel safe here without worrying whether every window is going to smash into me at any moment. No, I don’t hate or blame you.

“What are you up to?” a friends asks on the phone.

“I’m restoring my bond with my apartment,” I say with a straight face — she thinks I’m crazy anyway, so why not keep up appearances?

“You need to get out more,” she sighs.

And leave my apartment? Not a chance.

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