Once again I took a long break from writing. Although this time I have a valid excuse. Sita has temporarily moved in until she can move into her new apartment in town. So we have been busy basically cooking metric-f*cktons of food and then watching terrible TV.
Now Sita actually looked at quite a few places before choosing the one she will get. I can’t say I saw many of the others, but the one I did see was so shitty I couldn’t register properly the concept of renting property at such a high price for such a shit piece of real-estate.
First off, this place was in an ok location to the business district, a brisk walk. However it was in the seedy, sticky, icky looking part of town. I’m sure it has its charms and when you get to know the neighbours it’ll be fine, but at first glance all you can see is shifty glances and people whispering loudly in unfamiliar dialects obviously about you. There are some lively fruit markets with loud banter and large women heartily laughing but most of the shop fronts are boarded up. Some of the shop fronts are covered with graffiti. The only one that isn’t the strip club, painted black with tinted windows, I assume large bouncers would emerge if a spray can came within a foot of the building. I’ve lived above a strip club, but the area I lived in was friendly, even the bouncers waved ‘hi’ to me. Not that I think that this is drive-by country, just that I wouldn’t be surprised if someone threw garbage out their window and it landed on me.
Anyway like I said, I’m sure once you get used to the area its fine. So we get to the front door. Which is only around 30 years young and hanging onto its hinges through willpower. The locks on the door number about 4 or 5, obviously when one lock gets busted they leave it there. The older locks are rusted over and you can barely see the word ‘Yale’ on them. Anyway we are ushered into a dark, unlit, tiled sarcophagus which the realtor explains is a hall. Two people cannot stand side by side, if someone were to pass us we would all have t press up against the mailboxes and breathe in, if a larger resident needed to use the hall we would all need to back the hell up and get out of the house.
The realtor explains that the apartment is on the third or fourth floor, but I’m not really giving him my full attention, my feet are sticking to the floor and for me that’s a bad sign.
We amble precariously up a narrow flight of concrete stairs, the stairs are not lit at all, the only reason we manage to get up them is the light coming off the grimy landing windows. Once on the first landing I note that the stairs are painted a deep red, verging on magenta. My inner Edgar Allen Poe starts maintaining that it is due to the ability of this colour to hide blood stains; I mentally punch the macabre little jack-wang and replace him with a gentle humming of a tuneless song.
We eventually get to the third of fourth floor. The realtor smiles broadly explaining how he’s sure the landing lights will be fixed soon, how everyone is expected to clean the common areas such as stairs and landings. My first thought is that maybe he should tell the ground floor; the stickiness seems to indicate they missed that memo.
He opens the door. The apartment is sparsely furnished, but we were aware of that, the door opens on a small hall maybe 7 feet by 4, not exactly palatial, one wall has a couch leaning against it, the opposite wall has a fridge. The kitchen is behind us and consists of a small alcove with a sink, hotplates and oven, as well as a window that opens onto a wall; at least there is some ventilation. The kitchen floor and the hall floors are grimy, fake wood paneled floors. The bathroom is next to the kitchen and is a narrow low ceilinged room. It’s claustrophobic in there and I don’t bother going in. Through the paper thin walls I can hear kids playing loudly, I can’t tell if one is screaming from joy or from pain, but I hear their voices clearly, like cut crystal. Sita hates kids, I think about how she’ll probably murder one if she has to listen to that noise through the wall day in and day out. I don’t mind kids and I’d probably be driven to superglue their mouths shut if it was permanent.
The realtor ushers us to the bedroom, the only place with actual light. There’s a bed and some shelves. The window is decently sized and gives the whole apartment light. Despite this window’s best efforts, it can’t redeem the rest of this buildings squalor. The room is a decent size, it doesn’t feel like it belongs to the apartment. Sita starts asking technical questions. I roll my eyes around my head lugubriously, mini-Edgar Alan is back running increasingly grim scenarios “You’ll have to visit her here, this place is rife with disease, I bet it has rising damp and descending black mould…”
I start to soundlessly whistle a tune: Sita asks the realtor why the lights don’t work. I suddenly realize that all the light emanates from the bedroom. The realtor explains that the lights had a fault when they were installed and that she can just buy a lamp. My eyes are no longer rolling, they are attempting cart wheels.
Sita smiles pleasantly and asks about the fridge, she is assured that it is brand new and that the old fridge can’t be removed. He tells her she can keep the couch. I start trying to remember if you can get tetanus from couches, I concluded that it is unlikely but that this apartment appears to be a black hole for norms. Sita asks if they will clean the floor before she moves in. The realtor looks surprised, he tells her she can clean it herself, or get a maid in. Sita asks about the deposit and payment. He gives her the price; I choke on nothing in particular when he tells us the price. It’s double what it should be. Sita calmly asks whether it includes gas, electricity and water. I think “it better had”. It doesn’t.
The realtor explains that the deposit is two months’ rent cash-in-hand. He escorts us out of the building. As we stand on the doorstep e tells us that Sita isn’t exactly what he’s looking for. He would prefer a student (the University Campus is the other side of the city and there are no direct buses or subways to the campus from here). Sita asks why, I wonder why she bothers, this place is skeevy at best, and a fire risk and crack den combo at worst. The realtor explains that the area is very metropolitan and multicultural and she doesn’t seem to really fit the bill. I try not to crack a rip, instead I smirk with pure superiority, Sita is the epitome of multicultural, a trilingual Italian-South African, brought up in France. Hell she makes me look positively normal.
Sita inclines her head and enquires further, “How do you mean exactly?”. She’s laid a lovely trap for him; he puts on foot in his mouth, removes it momentarily and puts the other one in. His half-assed explanations about cultural diversity, city-living, can-do attitude, and student expectations make him sound like a racist, back-water, snake-oil peddler. He comes off as a mega-douche.
As we leave I tell Sita I need a stiff drink after that chronic display of sh*t-shinning.