After sleeping on my friend’s couch in Harlem for a few weeks it was time to upgrade to a room. I actually began the hunt for an apartment in April 2011 with one of my coworkers, but I realized after the 4th time of her ditching on a deposit, the fact that her parents lived in Long Island made it nearly impossible for her to go through with moving to Brooklyn. (Sweetheart though she is.)
I sought a place alone and I found a filthy but spacious room for rent on June 1st 2011 in Washington Heights on St. Nicholas and W 155th. The first thing I bought was a swifter. “Moving in” consisted of filling the room with a bed, a mirror, a clothing rack and the swifter. But that was pretty much it, for my first 4 months as a New Yorker.
The guy who advertised the place stayed in the living room and there were 2 other girls living in separate rooms as well. I rarely saw any of them. Our hallway was long and dark and yes, this place was filled with bugs. NOT bed bugs mind you!!! (Seriously, they are my greatest NY fear.) But definitely bugs that would make you cry for your mother.
Quick side-story: my first encounter with a house centipede (WHICH I DID NOT KNOW EXISTED) took place while I was in my bed around 2 pm watching 30 rock and eating a baguette. (which I was dipping straight into a jar of peanut butter. I never said I was sexy.) I had a second mattress in my room because a friend was giving it away and I was saving it for my other friend from Seattle who was gonna move in with me. As I pointed at my macbook screen and barked with laughter (yes, spewing baguette) I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. When I turned to see what it was all I could do was moan.
Now I want every single one of you to google “house centipede.”
Do you see that? DO. YOU. SEE. THAT.
This beast was propped on the corner of that second mattress like he’d been living there his whole life. I was near tears because I realized there was absolutely no one I could harass to remove this creature and I certainly wasn’t going down that dank hallway in search of anyone. So I took a deep breathe and picked up a book. I was gonna be strong like my aunt Tzeitel (She was the one who always killed the roaches in Hawai’i while Ash and I covered our faces and squeaked. I doubt much has changed on that island, except Ash squeaks solo.)
I crept a little closer, armed with a thick novel, and right before I was gonna strike I screeched, “Be like Tzeitel!” and I threw…..my baguette at the centipede. My baguette. :( My poor, delicious, baguette. Baguette.
Well, apparently I have a great bread arm ‘cause this sucker was done. I swiftered him up and dumped him in a potted plant in the kitchen. A right proper grave, I’m so kind.
Back to my original story which may actually be shorter than my side story:
The apartment next door to our apartment was swathed in DO NOT CROSS tape. I never paid much attention to it. I never saw anyone go in or out.
One saturday morning, bright and early, 6 am, our doorbell goes off. I’m not a morning person, though it’s always been a dream of mine. (No pun intended.) Waking up early seriously brings me physical pain. I also wake to a mean case of bedhead each and every morning. But I was mostly upset because I couldn’t ignore it. My room was closest to the front door and all the other rooms were at the end of that disturbing hallway. When I answered the door the police officers clearly suppressed a smile. During their “morning calls” I imagine police must relish seeing civilians in their vulnerable, gooey-eyed, drool-crusted, fire-breath state. I was not impressed.
“Yes?” I asked huskily. (Mornings REALLY just aren’t my thing)The one who seemed to think my face was the funniest responded,
“‘Scuse me ma’am. Sorry for wakin’ you *chucklechuckle* But have you see dis man?” He pushed a photo towards me. “Have you seen anyone goin’ in or outta dis apahtment?” He pointed at the yellow taped door to my right and I shook my head,
“Nope, never.” They warned me to pay attention and to keep an eye out for the photographed man. And when I asked why, they casually said he had murdered someone recently.
I was quite shook up about it, so later that day (at an hour when normal people function) I told my roommate/landlord what happened and asked him why the police would be looking for the culprit next door. He nodded and said,
“Yeah, that apartment next to us has been empty for about 9 months now…the cops must be worried this guy is holding up in there.”
I eyed him suspiciously and asked him why the apartment was empty for so long and he shrugged,
“There was a couple who used to live there. I lived next door to them for about 4 years. They started fighting a lot and dude caught her with another man. He beat the guy up and then a week later, the lover climbed into his apartment through the fire escape and shot him point-blank in the back of the head while he was writing a letter at his desk.”
Then he just smiled and started walking away until he saw the look on my face.
“Oh yeah,” he said, eyes widening, “I forgot you’re from the suburbs…Seattle right?”