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.

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