I've used up my old apartment

Steve Hammer

I think I need a new apartment. The one I have is all used up. Never mind the fact that my landlord never does any maintenance, or that the rent is too high or even that the neighborhood is turning into a war zone. Despite all that, my apartment is done.

"Every inch of your apartment has a story to tell," a friend of mine said, and it's true. Everything which can be spilled upon a carpet has, in fact, been spilled on my carpet. The mountain of beer cans, empty wine bottles and the farms of cigarette butts only grow with each passing day.

It's a very overwhelming experience, entering my apartment for the first time. Despite the fact that I issue a lengthy disclaimer to anyone considering entering it, it's still more than they expected.

Even the most naive visitor might expect an empty beer box or two. But a dozen? One might expect a few beer bottles to be piled up in the trash can - but 100 bottles? It's scared away a few people and turned peoples' opinions against me.

The place has been well lived-in. I've hosted dozens and dozens of parties, some quite innocent and others very decadent. You could stock a small town with the number of people who've puked in my bathroom.

My cats have exacted their toll on the place, too. Every surface which is available for claw-sharpening has, in fact, been used for that purpose. There isn't a corner of the wall which hasn't been scratched by them.

Even the furniture is worn out. The loveseat is spilling out foam from its top and if my thrift-store couch could speak, I'm afraid it would be traumatized into silence.

It's time to move. I'm afraid the only sure way to clean the place would be with a flamethrower or possibly a few sticks of dynamite. I shouldn't expect a single penny back from my deposit, because I long ago damaged the place beyond repair.

So I need to find a new place. Trouble is, finding a good apartment is harder than finding an honest Republican. Either the place costs too much, or it's in a shady neighborhood, or it's even more rundown than where I currently live.

Plus, I am inalterably opposed to the idea of having a roommate ever again, unless it's a supermodel, keg tester or gourmet chef.

Strange things happen when you have roommates. The other day, my friend was getting ready to leave her house, which she shares with two roommates. She was walking towards the door when her roommate stopped her.

"Sweetie," her roommate said, "we need to have a talk about something serious."

OK, my friend thought, what now?

Her roommate stared her down. "Have you been eating some of my food in the middle of the night?" She produced an empty margarine tub. "Have you been eating my Country Crock? I can tell that a lot of it is gone."

My friend thought for a second. "Well, I did make a few slices of toast the other night ..."

"DON'T YOU THINK YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN MORE CONSIDERATE?" the roommate asked.

My friend was at a loss. "What should I do?" she asked. "It was only a few dabs of Country Crock. It wasn't like I stole a side of beef from her. And now she wants me to replace the Country Crock."

She sighed. "It's not like it's even real butter."

"Nope," I said. "It's a flavored vegetable oil spread. But here's what you should do. Buy two tubs. Put a Post-It note on one of them. Write 'ENJOY' on it and then draw an insanely happy smiley face. Make her feel guilty. Then take the second tub and walk around the house with it and a spoon, like it's a pint of Cherry Garcia."

"They'll think I'm deranged," my friend said.

"Ah, but they'll respect you," I said. "They'll never bring up the topic of butter again, once they realize its significance in your life. Everyone respects a crazy person. Nixon called it the madman theory. If they think you're so unstable that you might do anything, they'll surrender more quickly."

She smiled. "You're right. If I do that, the Country Crock Crew will never bother me again."

Beside the fact that roommates cause trauma, they also have the inconvenient habit of not disappearing when you need them to. I might have been a grandfather by now if my college roommate had ever left our dorm room for more than a minute or two.

I don't want roommates and I don't want to endure the hell of moving. So I'm screwed. I'm stuck in a hellhole of an apartment with no immediate way to escape.

Meanwhile, conditions continue to deteriorate in my apartment. The carpet squishes with spilt beer. The torso of a mannequin appeared in my living room one day. I have no idea how. I'm not sure I want to know.

It's a good thing no sunlight ever penetrates the place, otherwise a garden would begin to bloom in the carpet. I might just move out and take only my cats, my CDs and my PlayStation and leave the squalor for someone else to deal with.

But, for now, I sit and wait for a better day, a day when I can leave my trashed crib and live like a human again.

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