After seven wonderful years of parking our butts in this tiny little apartment, crammed away in this cozy garden level abode, stuffing our brains with a lifetime of warm and fuzzy memories, it is time to say goodbye. And we will miss this place, this apartment, this home we’ve had for those seven wonderful years. It has treated us well and provided us with a sneaky little headquarters, tucked closely into a main artery of the city, with big windows, an old blue carpet, and a suspiciously rusty bathtub—all at garden level prices.
Aside from the occasional (sometimes frequent) murderous rant regarding the infinitely noisy upstairs neighbors, the recurring hordes of apartment dwelling insects, and the not so infrequent traditional flooding of the bathroom toilet, I have no complaints. It will be missed.
It is, after all, the first place Amanda (my wife) and I made into a home, together. It was bare bones and a little sad when we first moved in. The old, raggedy blue carpet stood out like a sore thumb. The drop ceilings were decorated with water-stains and the odd dent or two. The windows came armed with cages to repel would be apartment intruders. And I had never lived somewhere that was so … small. Or I suppose I had, in college. But this was adult life, and I didn’t know that it was just fine to live somewhere that was not so big. That in fact, I would eventually learn to enjoy the smallness so much so that the game of owning fewer things and learning how to place and set those things in the perfect spot was indeed a very fun game to play.
Over the years we’ve made a million or so trips to all the usual department stores, filling our new home with all the usual grown-up accoutrements, adding furniture and kitchen wares and coat hooks and spice racks, magnetic knife holders, storage baskets, and what seems like several dozen potted plants that make our place a little bit more alive. We’ve gone through dirt cheap and barely functioning bed frames to middle grade this should last a few years bed frames to holy crap did we just spend that much money on a bed frame, bed frames. We’ve been through at least three vacuums.
And after all that time we still don’t have matching towels. But maybe soon.
We could live here forever, amidst the burgeoning utopia of freshly sprung luxury apartments and the ever-growing mobs of college students. Target is approximately two-hundred steps away. We have three coffee shops, several pizza joints, and a yoga studio. We are surrounded by convenience. If I can’t walk over to the grocery store to buy pretzel sticks at two in the afternoon on a Tuesday, I’m not so sure I’ll know how to survive a situation like that. But we both decided it was time. The appeal of a little more space, maybe an extra bedroom, and the chance to wash and dry clothing inside our apartment had finally gotten the best of us. It was time.
Upon announcing the news of our imminent departure to the corporate apartment management company, they kindly and with the utmost consideration released what appeared to be a cage filled with starving, commission-hungry real estate agents, foaming at the mouth, ready to pounce and rent our home several months before the lease was even up. There was no thank you. No aww, shucks, we really liked you guys. It was all business.
And so the agents began to call and text and leave voicemails. Day. Night. Weekends. Kathryn. Joe. Gabby. Roger. Marissa. Cal. Juan. George. Laura. Luke. Insert generic name here. They came from all over and from everywhere. Over the next few months, the apartment transformed into a revolving door of people just like us, hoping to enter, turn the corner, to peak through and around and see the possibility of the next stage of their life.
To my surprise, after a few days spent cursing loudly at the barrage of new text messages, I found that I didn’t mind it so much. The realtors were all very nice and since I work from home, I had the pleasure of meeting each and everyone one of them—morning, noon, and night.
Following the morning and daytime shifts of realtors and apartment hunters, I would often find a group of them huddling together in the hall upon my return home from an evening run. The realtor would always be fumbling with the keys, attempting desperately to get in. It turns out, that with all the efficiency and speed that that management company transitioned the apartment into ready-to-be-rented status, they failed to give each and every single one of the realtors a working, functioning key capable of opening the door. Luckily I was there to let them in.
One realtor, a very nice guy named Arthur Huxbury, showed the apartment so frequently that he explicitly told me how comfortable he felt working with me directly, as if I had some skin in this game, and that he felt no need whatsoever to obtain a new set of keys. He went into further detail, proclaiming that I was a very good sport indeed to be so amiable, to be so good natured about it all.
It was just after the third or maybe the fourth showing of the apartment that I began to suspect that good old Arthur Huxbury may have just been looking for a new buddy. By then, our friendship had evolved to the stage where we began to share stories and chit chatted on topics that far surpassed the subject of weather. We conversed about our lives, significant others, baseball teams and sports scores, even venturing into personal hobbies and our thoughts on the current political climate.
On his last visit, he asked me to send him a text message whenever I had the chance to ask my wife where it was exactly we had bought that hand-dandy red cart for out kitchen seven long years ago. Turns out it was J.C. Penny.
Another time—again after an evening run—I welcomed a realtor and a very nice couple into our apartment, only to learn that not only was Amanda home but that she was also in the shower, and not only was she home and in the shower, but that she had just finished her showering and was all ready to come out and begin her traditional post-showering dressing ritual.
Not knowing exactly what to do or what the normal protocol for a situation like this would be, I initiated a brief conversation with her through the bathroom door to explain what was happening. Through that door, I heard a few mumbles and my ears perked at what I suspected to be some sort of disapproving tone. Unfortunately, the front door was already open, and this inquiring threesome were all standing right behind me listening in on the exchange. The awkwardness was real, and instead of taking charge and booting them out I turned around and invited them in.
I can definitively say this was the first time I’ve ever approved an apartment viewing while my wife was locked away in the bathroom—hopefully, it will be the last. The showing went quickly enough, but the longer they stayed, the more time I had to second guess my decision. The couple, who I assume had somehow instantaneously forgotten that my wife was not only in the bathroom but also completely finished with all bathroom related activities, began asking me a series of questions regarding their air conditioning options for the apartment. Flabbergasted and beginning to worry that my wife was thinking about punching me in the face, I somehow composed myself and ran the nice couple through their options. It was, after all, a very important question.
The Air Conditioning Apartment Cooling Funnel System
To begin, there is only one window in the entire apartment in which an air conditioning unit can be placed. The back window in the bedroom has a specially designed cage that not only keeps out burglars and other people of the night but also allows for the placement of an air conditioner. I have in fact met many burglars through these window cages, engaged them in conversations about their lives and personal goals, always wishing them well after pointing to the window cages and shrugging my shoulders. Very nice people, burglars.
But make no mistake, the air conditioning unit will be one-hundred percent necessary to ensure your survival during those oppressive, sweaty nights spent trying to avoid the astronomically torturous temperatures of the summer months.
Now, despite the apartment totaling a mere 550 square feet, there are indeed several rooms, including a bathroom, kitchen, living area, and dining cove. For reasons unbeknownst to us—the current tenants—the original architect of this garden level apartment did not believe that its future occupants would require cool air in any area other than the bedroom. Yes, the windows protect us from burglars, but they also prevent us from installing temporary cooling machines. It’s very European. Being that you are not European and that air conditioning is a very real and normal part of our culture, here is what you must to do.
We call it … the Air Conditioning Apartment Cooling Funnel System. Since its inception six years ago, we have applied for, registered, and received an official patent for the design. To build your own Apartment Cooling Funnel System, you’ll first need to purchase several fans from your local department store, making sure to buy both standing and floor fan models. While it’s best not to be cheap, there’s also no need to break the bank. I highly recommend you use several Bed Bath & Beyond coupons to purchase your fans at the standard discount rate of 20 percent. As fans, both standing and floor models, do not fall under the bed or bath categories, please direct yourself to the beyond section of the store.
Once purchased, please begin the official construction of the funnel system by placing the fans in targeted areas throughout the apartment. Starting in the bedroom, then the hallway, kitchen, and finally the living room. The goal is to push or “funnel” the cool air from the air conditioning unit into other areas of the home. While this does sometimes appear to work, I cannot guarantee a one-hundred percent success rate. And although the patent is backed by several mathematical algorithms and I am known by those who know me best as something of an engineering savant, the system does have its flaws.
Luckily, if you do find that your recently constructed Air Conditioning Apartment Cooling Funnel System is not doing anything whatsoever to keep you cool you can use your recently purchased fans for other activities. For instance, you can use your fans for blowing smoke out of the apartment when you burn something on the stove or to help speed the drying of your laundry. In extreme situations when you simply cannot take it any longer, and you find the heat has caused that thing to happen where your body sticks to the couch, feel free to stand in front of your fan for maximum relief.
It took longer to explain than I had hoped, but luckily, and to my surprise, that was really the only serious question the nice couple asked me to tackle. Nodding to each other, they appeared satisfied with my response and commenced with a bit of moderate dilly-dallying, opening closets and inspecting kitchen cabinets, gauging the lighting features and commenting on the granite countertops, as all people do. But sooner rather than later I found the realtor whisking them out the door and on to their next stop.
After saying our goodbyes, I returned to the bathroom to see if I had indeed made the wrong decision. But when I opened the door, there was Amanda, all smiles, ready for her post-showering dressing ritual—un-flummoxed and unperturbed as she tends to be.
As the weeks passed and turned into months, there clearly had not been a winner yet. Did nobody love our apartment as much as we did? It was hard to understand why. Many of the would-be renters had very nice things to say about it, showering me with many flattering compliments, often saying things like “I really like what you’ve done with this space” and “wow, that red kitchen cart is perfect right there” and “it’s just so inviting, cozy, I love it.”
And those compliments made me happy because I just so happen to think they are true. We created this cozy environment, Amanda and I, through blankets and decorative pillows, salt rock lamps and bookshelves, through warm lighting and Ikea furniture. And in between all the emergencies, all the uninvited insects, and regularly scheduled bathroom floods, this home has been very good to us.
Visually, our place is a mishmash of furniture, pieced together through the lens of tiny apartment practicality and a need to feng shui every nook and cranny. It is a pristine example of maximized space combined with the warm, homey feeling of livability. We have perfected it. It is exactly as we like it and exactly as it should be. Christmas lights adorn the dining cove, which faces the outside parking lot, setting the nightly ambiance with a warm yellow glow that makes it sometimes feel like we’re just two adults hanging out in our fort.
My dresser sits in the living room. As does my office desk, which is really a buffet table. As do our bookshelves and athletic supplies and the television stand. The arts and crafts storage thing and our old side table that has an accompanying lamp that doesn’t work anymore. The blanket basket and the box with important top-secret documents, and, of course, our decorative buoys. They are vintage and once used as actual buoys in the actual ocean; these were veteran buoys, or so we were told. We even have a couch.
We have two closets. One is for Amanda’s clothes. The other is a Tetris game of interchangeable items and moving parts, it is fluid and constantly shifting, it changes, evolves—sometimes daily. Open the door and your mind will tell you that it’s a coat closet.
Look closer and you’ll find an air conditioner. You’ll find a crate of paper bags used for recycling. Coolers. A box filled with four glass jugs we once bought to fill-up with natural spring water then posted on Instagram and never used again.
Look closer still. A basketball pump. Vacuum add-ons. Plastic bags with furniture parts and pieces that we will never use. A giant outdoor wooden planter that belonged to Amanda’s Nonna and has since been upgraded to family heirloom status and cannot nor ever will be disposed of or left behind.
An Aerobed. A tool bag full of tools in case anyone who knows how to use tools comes over to visit and the occasion calls for tool use. Beach bags. Garden bags. A camping chair. A bin full of Christmas decorations. A four-piece electric wine corkscrew set that we’re saving one day for when we have a house. An old coffee pot.
And the rest is pretty standard. A kitchen. A bathroom. A bedroom. There’s never been much room for activities, but we’ve made due. And so as we searched for our new apartment, we hoped to find a place that we too could see ourselves being happy in, again, but also remembering that we built that feeling ourselves, over time … it didn’t come with the apartment.
Today, our neighborhood in the Fenway is home to a whole new breed of uber-luxury buildings. Buildings that require $2800 for a studio space, buildings that have receptionists and umbrellas at the door for rainy days, buildings that advertise with large shiny signs that display healthy, good-looking young people working out in their yoga spaces and fancy gyms, or lounging out by the rooftop pools and sipping tropical drinks under the cabanas that us regular folks can see from the ground but will never set foot beneath. It might just be jealousy or envy or whatever, but these places seem false. They seem wrong and unusual. And unnecessary. You don’t see many fairly priced apartment buildings rise from the ground these days; they don’t exist.
We searched and searched and searched. As more and more people came to see our apartment, we wondered if we would ever find our next one. It was either that or move back to the burbs where Amanda’s commute would once again be two to three hours a day. Not exactly an ideal scenario.
The apartments we visited were sad, and a bit crumbly, as in falling apart. Realtors would say things like “for your price range this is about what you get in this neighborhood.” What a sad thing to say. What a sad thing to hear and have said to you. We weren’t exactly looking for a top of the line penthouse, far from it actually.
But we carried on. We preserved and doubled down our efforts. We sent emails and set up viewings. We scoured the city for affordable neighborhoods and walked the beaten path to see what these places were like. We journeyed over to Savin Hill and took the tour. We took the subway to East Boston and did a few laps. We drove around and around, to Roslindale and Forest Hills, through the Lower Mills and Adams Village. We identified all the possibilities and carried on with good spirits.
And eventually … we found it. Right there in East Boston near the airport and across the water from all the skyscrapers and all the action of this city we call home. Tucked away, just as we like it.
When the realtor walked us in I felt it. This is it. This is the next place we would call home. The kitchen is pristine with more cabinets and counter space than a man has a right to ask for. We can chop anywhere and simultaneously if necessary. The refrigerator has an ice-maker, and the dishwasher is a Samsung, which means it can probably do all sorts of weird robot things a refrigerator probably doesn’t need to do.
What’s more … there is a pantry. And that pantry has a door. And behind that door are several shelves. And on those shelves, we can put things like cans and bags of chips, cereal and coconut water, boxes of macaroni and cheese and pasta and crackers and probably even many many cans of seltzer even though neither of us like seltzer all that much. The days where our bar and wine rack is covered in Saltines and canned tomatoes are over. We now have pantry shelving representative of the next level of adulthood.
The apartment has tall ceilings to fend off noisy upstairs neighbors. Not one but two whole bedrooms. Two large closets. A foyer. I don’t even know what that is! We have recessed lighting and large windows with sills to put our family of houseplants. There is a bathroom with a regular rust-free bathtub. Sure, the floors go up and down a bit, making the whole place feel a bit hilly, but I don’t care. It has recently installed carpets. Plenty of good light. A chandelier that hangs politely over the dining area. We have a bar countertop where we guests can sit in high chairs while we casually banter and serve wine and cheese snacks. There’s a garbage disposal or as Amanda has always called it, a garbage disposer—it makes sense.
But most importantly, more significant than pantry shelving and a rust-free bathing experience is the washer and dryer … located inside the apartment. No more lugging clothes to the laundry room and waiting for random people to come down and remove their items from the dryer that buzzed itself to completion an exhausting 45 minutes before. Did you know that Amanda does not like sharing things like washers and dryers with an entire building of people? Did you know that? Because I do. Amanda requires order, efficiency. You better be there to remove your clothes from the dryer on time or else. In fact, best not to use the laundry machines at all in case you mess it up. And before you ask, yes, I do the laundry, too, sometimes.
Fueled by the excitement of finding a new apartment, we’ve already found the time to purchase several choice pieces of brand new Ikea furniture that may or may not fit in the living room. We’ll see. We also took a vote by committee and Amanda is now the Chief Person in Charge of all matters related to moving. And before you ask, no, she would not have it any other way. She is great at all things organizing and planning and figuring out. She takes care of business. So soon … we move.
I still haven’t heard from Arthur Huxbury in quite some time; I’m starting to worry that maybe we’re not best friends after all. I’d like to think that although our daily chats have ceased that he thinks of me while chopping up veggies and preparing his dinners on his brand new kitchen cart. And I don’t know if our old apartment has been rented, but the showings have stopped, and the text messages have ceased. My days of casual banter with strangers inside our home appears to have come to a halt for now.
And so … we begin to pack away all the bits and pieces of our life and prepare for the next stage. Amanda has always said that Fenway would be the perfect neighborhood if it weren’t for the college kids, the baseball team, and the green line. And gosh darn it, she just may be right.
It is a bittersweet feeling to leave our old apartment, our old place. The fear of not living within walking distance to a Target department store is very real and hitting us hard. We will miss our walks around the parks. Our favorite places to grab a bite. The neighborhood characters, the familiarity. The memories of a place that soon may only feel like a dream that has passed and no longer seems quite so real. As we say goodbye to this apartment, we get ready to build a new home and again we’ll do it together. After all, home is where the heart is. Goodbye apartment. Goodbye.