Brooklyn, New York
It wasn’t going well, the apartment hunt. My third since moving to New York.
There was the girl with Celiac’s disease who asked me if I baked with flour exactly twelve times. “Are you sure?” she’d ask, again. “Because I have Celiac’s disease. Here’s the bedroom. Don’t mind the fact that there’s no ceiling. Did I mention I have Celiac’s disease?”
And then the guy who had me meet him in front of something called Strong Place — it looked like a church, maybe, or the headquarters of a cult. “Was he religious,” I wondered. “Should I just leave now?”
“I should go.”
And then there was Holly, an older woman who owned one of those unique wood-framed townhouses in Fort Greene—the ones with the porches out front and the huge first floor windows. She had a deep and condescending voice… a rare type of woman who almost certainly overused the word ‘druthers.’
And then the woman who lived above the British pub on Atlantic Avenue—I looked at two apartments in that building, actually. The first was tiny, but the roommate was sweet and had a gargantuan pet rabbit named Sir Winston Raleigh. I would’ve taken the apartment, but she admitted that she had offered it to someone else before I had arrived. “I get it,” I said. “Apartment hunting, man!” She said she wished she had offered it to me. I pocketed that compliment and deposited it into my apartment hunting karma bank.
The other one I looked at in that building had me fill out a questionnaire before coming, which should have been my first clue.
“I have a few questions for you, if you wouldn’t mind answering them,” the email began, harmlessly enough. I looked to the left of my screen and wondered why the scrollbar was so small.
Some actual excerpts from the email, which I managed to fish out of my inbox:
“I was just curious to know when you would usually be getting up and going to bed on weekdays/weekends, and about how many nights during the week/weekends would you expect to be hanging out in the apartment.”
“Would you expect to be having any overnight guests? If so, how often? In the spirit of being upfront, I’m not seeing anyone exclusively at the moment, so might have an overnight guest on occasion, but not usually ever more than 4-5 times a month”
The email rambled on. I should have deleted it. I didn’t. I responded and went to see the apartment.
She opened the door and, because I’m a cunt, I scoffed internally at the mismatched tile and hardwood flooring. The other apartment I looked at in the building had been much nicer.
I sat down on the couch where she continued grilling me. I answered them all and snuck in a question of my own about her previous roommate.
“Oh, she had to go,” she said, somewhat belligerently.
“Why’s that?” I asked.
“She fell asleep on the couch constantly,” she said. “She had her own room. The huge room I just showed you. Why couldn’t she sleep there? Why did she have to sleep on the couch? It’s not even comfortable.”
“The final straw,” she continued, “was when she would kick my throw pillows on the floor.”
I caught myself looking frantically at her. I should have picked up my bag and ran out of the apartment.
Again, I didn’t.
My karma bank balance rose still steadily. I waited to cash in.
And then there was Lauren. Lauren lived in a charming but dilapidated looking building on the corner of Henry and Warren. It was the top floor of a walkup, but the light and the views were worth it. I liked her almost instantly. She was calm and friendly and worked at a non-profit. The apartment was so spacious and drenched with sun that the stairs ceased to matter.
She showed me the bedroom, which was quiet and in the back of the apartment. Lauren put off good vibes and I was already planning where I would mount an IKEA armoire. The room had no closet, you see. But that didn’t matter. I was sold, and I think Lauren was picking up on those vibes.
“So I have to tell you,” she started, sheepishly. “I did offer this to another guy already.”
This again, I thought. I was starting to take it personally. Like maybe this was simply the way you let eager New York subletters down. There was a script. I was unaware.
“I actually think you’d be a better fit…” she continued. We were in the living room—the one with the huge windows. Uh huh, I thought. Heard that one before.
I was about to beg… to plead. Cancel him, I wanted to shout, I’m your man! But before I could start down that path, a flash caught the periphery of my vision outside the window, disappearing just as quickly as it had come. I stopped, quite likely, mid-sentence. Lauren turned around.
Again, another flash. A huge flock of birds, dipping down into Henry Street and back up again.
“What was that?!” I asked. Lauren smirked and walked over to the window. “There’s a guy over there,” she explained, pointing to the rooftop of the brownstone across the street. “He trains birds.”
“You’re kidding,” I said.
“Oh, I am not.”
I walked over the window. Across the street, as described, a normal looking man—someone who might describe his occupation as, “Oh, me? I work in finance.”—was brandishing a baton which he used to direct this flock of pigeons. They stuck together, these birds, as they flew through the sky over Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.
We watched together for a few minutes. I should have found a way to get her evicted so I could have this apartment to myself, but instead I relented.
“Lauren…” I said, letting the silence hang in the air for a second. “If this guy cancels on you I need you to call me immediately.”
The birds swooped down again.