Leaving The Ghosts

Goodbye, possibly water-damaged kitchen

Goodbye, possibly water-damaged kitchen

I will be moving soon.

I’m sorry to leave here, but I’m also kind of not – I’ve been getting weirder and weirder the longer I’ve been living alone, and drunk on the freedom of knowing no one will see how messy I can let my apartment get before intervening, or how much humidity I can stand without installing the window unit A.C. Kevin left because I don’t want the electric bill to go up. I’m moving to a place where there’s central air, and where the back gate has a lock. Where there’s in-unit laundry (!) so I don’t have to worry about being assaulted in the unprotected laundry room in my building’s basement. Where there’s another person living, who will presumably call the cops if someone breaks in while I’m sleeping.

I’ve been worried about myself for a while, but even more so in recent weeks, since that cyclist grabbed me. I might have been able to get past it by now — written it off as a one-time bizarre fluke — except that I saw him again a week later outside my building. I stared at him and he stared right back: He was on his bike on the sidewalk again, the idiot. I’d been looking for guys of his build and stature ever since it happened, so I might not have thought anything of it except that he HID FROM ME. He saw me staring at him, and I swear he recognized me. He darted left into the first alley he could, looking over his shoulder at me as he did. I stood there stupidly, staring at the spot where he’d disappeared.

A few seconds later he poked his head around the corner of the building behind which he hid, checking to see if I was still there — and I was. “Hey!” I shouted, and moved toward him. He sped up the alley toward Lawrence and I watched him go. He was on a bright orange bike. He has black hair shaped in a bowl cut — shorter underneath, but not shaved. I wish I’d thought to take his picture, or as a friend pointed out, at least pretend to, to scare him.

Did he recognize me from the news? Did he see which car I got out of? I ran up the stairs to my apartment and burst into tears. I remain startled by how much his presence has unnerved me, both times. I wish I didn’t care at all. My blood chilled when, days later, I read a description of an attempted rape in Logan Square: mid-20s, black hair in a bowl cut.

That’s when I started locking all the windows, and dead-bolting the doors. I was lucky the first couple of nights after I saw him the second time; I stayed with Jaimi that night, since we had a race the next morning, and a couple friends came to visit me that weekend. When they were gone and I was alone again, I bolted the back door shut. I forgot about it the next morning and ended up locking myself out of my own apartment. I had to call my landlord to ask him to let me in, since neither Kevin nor I ever got around to telling him he’d failed to give us keys to our own unit’s front door two years ago. But that’s a whole other story.

I am not so sorry to leave this place we lived in together for so long, I tell myself. I’m not sorry to be leaving a place where the kitchen ceiling leaked for months before the landlord finally hired a roofer. I’m not sorry to leave the memories of the fights Kevin and I had late at night, and I’m going to have to eventually be okay with leaving the memories of the good stuff, too. I’m willing to leave the good along with the bad if it means getting out of this place and leaving it all for good.

I found a young couple to take the apartment. They were willing to sublet, but my landlord offered to start them on a whole new lease – better for everyone, really. Who knows why he wasn’t willing to let me go month-to-month if staying on a May-to-April lease timeframe wasn’t so important to him?

I’d been worried for weeks that my landlord was trying to screw me over, but it turns out he was just being lazy. He never responded to my letter stating my intent to sublet, which I’d asked him to acknowledge in writing, so I went about finding a tenant anyway since I couldn’t wait any longer. I’d asked him back before I signed my third lease, without Kevin this time, if I could go month-to-month or have someone live with me for the summer to help pay the rent, but he’d refused on both points. He didn’t give me any other options, so I re-signed knowing I’d either have to cut back on spending for the next year or buy myself some time right then, only to break the lease later. Once things settled down at work, I decided to move before it got cold, and harder to find a place.

I found a woman in Albany Park whose roommate had had to leave Chicago for a job in another state. She and I got along well when we met. Her apartment is gorgeous, and she owns two cats. She works with animals, she is a runner, and she has a good sense of humor. I’m optimistic, and even if six months from now we don’t get along as well as I hope we will, I’ll have my own bathroom attached to my room so I will have my own space, at least.

I do hope we work well together, though. I’ve been spoiled by wonderful roommates my whole life and I’d really like for that streak to continue.

I got nearly 100 emails asking about my current place. I showed it to a parade of strangers, all asking about the water pressure and the obvious kitchen-ceiling leak, and marveling at what a steal the place was.

A steal. It IS a steal, when there’s two of you. Don’t tell me how cheap and wonderful the apartment I have to give up because I can’t afford it is. I’m aware.

I liked the couple I met, one of few couples who inquired. Everyone else was alone, and probably made way more money than me. I’m glad the couple was highly motivated and the first to apply, right there on the spot. Even my landlord couldn’t find any reason to not move forward when they made it so easy on him.

I didn’t want to tell them that it’s haunted by a break-up. I hope they won’t mind that I’ll leaving a few ghosts behind.

I’ve said it before, but I’m saying it again: I will never live with a boyfriend again unless I’m sure I have a future with him, and that I want that future. Starting over post-live-in breakup for the second time has taken a toll on me and I am just so, so done.

I’m hoping having a roommate will force me to be a little more social because as it’s been lately, I get home from work, eat dinner, watch Netflix, and go to bed early most nights. I love my job, but it makes me keep earlier hours. With commuting, I’m pulling 11-hour days. I’m still making the most of my weekends, thanks to people like Stef, Becca, Jaimi, Becky, Brianne, and others, who continue to ask me to do things and get me out of my house. If it wasn’t for them, I might have slipped off everyone’s radars and gotten used to staying in even more than I do, and I never want that to be the case. I’m lucky to have them as friends, especially now in Sarah’s absence.

I really have been meaning to post something positive here, but I’m always, always more inspired to write when I’m feeling like this instead. Right now it’s literally dark and stormy outside, a bleak Monday night, and all I wanted to do was write about how sorry I feel for myself.

There are wonderful things in my life right now too, I swear.

Any time, anywhere

So this happened on Twitter yesterday:

The young woman was almost certainly me, and this person’s interpretation of me being “very upset” was actually me hurling an F-bomb at a stranger on a residential street in the late afternoon. I didn’t see who did it, because he didn’t even stop to turn around when I yelled at him. He was wearing a gray T-shirt and he passed me on my left when I was walking east on Eastwood to a neighbor’s BBQ. It was around 5:30 p.m.

I saw a family outside their house a couple of houses up and asked them if they’d seen what happened. They didn’t, and by then the cyclist was out of sight. The father I asked didn’t seem concerned. I walked away.

I spent the next couple of hours at the BBQ with friends, but didn’t say anything. My friend Patty’s parents were visiting and I felt weird telling this story in front of them, and I tried to forget it. I couldn’t, so after I left the party I posted on Facebook. Tons of my friends came to my defense, as did two girlfriends I saw later that night.

Then it was pointed out to me that the Lincoln Squared Twitter account manager had most likely witnessed it, so I replied to what he wrote:

He didn’t respond, but continued to tweet about other unrelated things:

Finally, this morning, I posted this:

No response today. I’m putting a notice on EveryBlock just to warn people, in case he strikes again. I do wish the Twitter user had approached me instead of just posting an amused observation of my humiliation, but that’s his choice.

Thanks to everyone who has voiced his or her support and re-enforced the belief that this incident WAS a big deal. I fully realize it could have been much, much worse, and thank God it wasn’t. But some guy felt like it was okay to do this to me and that is such a blow, especially during this time when people are actually having serious conversations about this very issue. Despite that, this guy didn’t see the harm and that’s disconcerting to say the least.

Update: Lincoln Squared responded.

Three more steps

Not this year

Not this year, delicious ribs (source)

This week’s chilly, rainy weather has mirrored my mental state for the last several days a little bit, and it’s been a drag because I can’t even take my bike out to get my mind off things. This past weekend was great because even though I was deeply, deeply depressed, the weather kept me outdoors and friends kept me distracted.

I needed distracted, because Rib Fest 2014 was in full swing near my house and three years ago Kevin and I went to Rib Fest 2011 for our first date. We went every year after, and saved two tickets from each event as our own small tradition. Going to Rib Fest for a first date always seemed to make for a cute story, but now it’s just embarrassing that a neighborhood-organized public rib-eating contest can cause me such turmoil and mental anguish.

Last weekend would have been our fourth Rib Fest, because today would have been our third anniversary — had we not agreed we were probably never going to see eye-to-eye on a future together and instead decided to pack it all in.

It’s infuriating and sad that after five months, I still feel this rotten about the whole thing and I don’t even understand why. I’ve very slowly moved along in the stages of grief, on a much smaller pain level of course, and have now gone from denial to anger. According to the internet, I’ve got three more steps to go before I can be a person again.

I don’t know, maybe two-and-a-half. Sometimes I feel like I veer slightly into bargaining territory.

I’m definitely mad, though. I’m mad that he doesn’t feel the horrible way I feel. I’m mad I have to give up the awesome apartment we picked together and go live with someone I don’t know instead of marry my live-in boyfriend. I’m mad about fights we had years ago and I’m mad that I can’t pick up the pieces and get it together. I’m mad at him, I’m mad at me, I’m mad at people I don’t know on the street who have the nerve to look kind of happy together. I am mad all the time this week, and while it’s kind of exhausting, it’s also strangely empowering.

I can’t let it go, I feel like it’s helping. Nothing helps, but this maybe helps a tiny little bit. I’m just gonna run with it.

I know this for sure: I deserve to be with someone who cares enough about our relationship to be willing to plan a future around it, and not just string me along, hoping I change my mind about what I want.

My friend Jaimi has offered to make up some fun, surprise plans for tonight, and I am very, very thankful for her willingness to do so. I need kept out of my apartment, at least. There’s too much to feel crappy about there, and part of me is relieved I will be leaving it for good soon.

Things I Have To Do That I Can’t Even Think About Right Now: A List

  1. Someday face my landlord after sending him that letter saying I’m subletting my apartment for the last nine months of my 12-month lease
  2. Find a subtenant willing to take on a nine-month sublease
  3. Pack up or toss two-and-a-half years of accumulated belongings, minus the things my now ex-boyfriend bought and took with him, which include but are not limited to: the pasta strainer; the ladle; knives of any kind other than butter; all the batteries for the smoke detectors; and the record player
  4. Save up hundreds of dollars for a move, date TBD, but most likely July 31
  5. Drop hundreds more dollars on a security deposit and first month’s rent at a new place, location TDB, hopefully in/near Lincoln Square and not in Schaumburg/Hell
  6. Make nice with a stranger who will be my new roommate, after not having a roommate whom I wasn’t also dating for the last two-and-a-half years
  7. Convince stranger/roommate to let me get a cat
  8. Accept my new identity as a 28-year-old cat lady

And this is how I will assimilate to my new life. Just think of all the money I’ll save on utilities and also on dating! I’ll be free to spend it all on cat litter and half of a Comcast bill that’s somehow $90 even though it’s for internet-only. It’s gonna be the best. Let the apartment search begin.

Ode to the bicycle

I finally get to use the bell I bought last summer in Fort Collins.

I finally get to use the bell I bought last summer in Fort Collins.

I was still sick on Memorial Day, with a deeper cough than I’ve had since maybe when I was a kid, but I was determined to enjoy the gorgeous weather on a day off. Becca told me to bring my bike by her place that morning so I could air up my tires after having left my bike in my building’s basement all winter. I was glad she knew to do that, and that she had a bike pump, because I sure didn’t.

I hate to admit it, but I was honestly relieved that morning to discover my bike was still in my building’s basement. I stopped going down there months ago once Kevin left, after both washers and dryers crapped out and it occurred to me a murderer could pretty easily access that space since my building’s back gate has no lock and the laundry room door frequently catches.

All winter long I’d feel the occasional pang of guilt, worrying about my bike, all alone down there. I’d bought it last May, the same week a much-liked co-worker at Groupon was killed on his bike by a drunk driver. I took my bike out a handful of times last summer, but I never got past my own general four-block radius. I was too afraid to go near major streets like Lawrence, Lincoln, or Western, all of which border my neighborhood in pretty unavoidable ways.

Yet there my bike was months later, with both wheels still there and everything. I walked it over to Becca’s and after airing up, we ended up going on a 15-mile ride to Evanston and back. To Evanston and back. I couldn’t believe it. I suddenly felt like I could go anywhere as long as I took my bike.

When we got home, I carried my bike up three flights of stairs and protectively parked it in my dining room, as I’ve done almost every day since. I rode to my friend Stef’s and back. I rode to the park. I braved Lincoln Avenue and Diversey and Lawrence. I felt alive and powerful and confused by the strange sort of fierce affection and attachment I’d developed for an inanimate object. I started to describe this to my bike fanatic friend Brianne, and she interrupted me to tell me she knew exactly what I was trying to say.

(I think I’m gonna name her Scout.)

The funny thing is, my mom’s entire family was made up of accomplished cyclists.

My mom’s brother is 65 and nearly qualified as an Olympic cyclist in the 70s. He still rides today, although in recent years he has moved more toward competitive in-line skating. He owns a company that designs and makes cycling gear. My mom’s parents met through a cycling group, and the local paper once wrote a feature about my grandfather for riding to work at the factory every day for years and years.

I, on the other hand, preferred riding my pink Schwinn in circles in my parents’ driveway growing up. It’s weird that this love is only just now hitting me at 28. But that’s also kind of awesome, because it makes me feel like there are probably many other cool things that someday I’ll discover a love for, and therefore life will always be exciting.

And I love it! I want to bike everywhere now. If only I too could bike to work.

Helmet shopping.

Helmet shopping.

I rode at night for the first time this week. I asked an old co-worker from Groupon to show me how to turn on my lights since it occurred to me I’d never once done so. Another friend of ours walked out with us, whose brother had died in a bike accident a few years ago. He has since become a strong advocate for cycling safety and helmets.

“Where’s your helmet, dummy?” he asked, and I held mine up.

“Never,” I assured him. I don’t blame him — if something could have possibly been done to prevent my mom from getting brain cancer, I’d probably be a little bit of a stickler for whatever that would be.

I rode home, half-amazed at my own boldness at riding on Irving Park, even signaling and making a left turn onto Broadway. Granted, it was 10:30 at night and there weren’t a lot of cars on the road, but I felt so daringly bold.

I’m sad I didn’t feel this way about biking last summer, but I plan to make up for lost time. Maybe I won’t be using my new Ventra transit card that much after all.