I’m dreaming of granite countertops and stainless steel. Utopias complete with an overstuffed chair in a library room, a wooden ladder sliding across shelves stuffed with leather-bound masterpieces. I wish for new blinds on soundproof windows, breezes cooling off a room without the roar of traffic in the background. I picture small gardens with space for planting, grass for my puppy to play, and a hammock nestled between shady oaks. With my magic wand, I create the swimming pool and patio table, filling padded chairs with friends to share the late summer evenings. I coat my walls with color, vibrant and muted, character in the arches and sweet touches for the drawer knobs. There is a washer and dryer right in my own place, no quarters required, and shower heads that pound the stress away at night. In my dreams.
Let’s be clear. I don’t even need grandeur. I’d be happy with a tiny cottage, one room, kitchen, bathroom, and backyard – if it was a home I could call me own. Or even my own for this one-year lease. Or if I have to compromise, a 1-bedroom apartment will work (obviously, we’ll make the bedroom the library, let’s not give up all our dreams) but something without trash lining the streets, neighbors who stomp up the stairs at 2 am, firehouses next door, and rusted sinks in old buildings.
So I keep looking. After a while, all of the apartments start to look the same. Hardwood floors or carpet, drawers that don’t quite close, fresh paint, and empty closets. There are the pre-requisite screens with holes and showers that dribble, fridges – apparently in LA apartments don’t often come with them!– that I mentally line with Cosco size boxes of baking soda. But this business of moving is hard work. I find it’s really a full time job, making me wonder what people do who actually have a job where there are expected to show up from 9-5? Lucky enough to be able to put some of my writing on hold while still working on others, I have been promoted this week to ‘Apartment Hunter’. I am in training as expert Westside Rental user and have developed a master code system for my notes. It’s like that game: drawing a line from which ammenities match which address. I take a deep breath before I crack open the next possibility, armed with blank paper for coded notes to ponder later: p, pool, L, no grass... at night, I’m lucky when I can crack my own code, struggling the remember why I initially said no to #1475 until I end up revisiting the same rooms to have a fresh comparison.
And I know, there’s not a huge rush, aside from the toxic mold where I currently reside, and that I should keep looking until I find the right one. Ok, but here’s another snag. Often the one I love doesn’t allow dogs or has no grass, so not the right one for Gracie. And I promise I could find the perfect apartment today if I let myself roam the entire store instead of limiting myself to the sale rack. But without a millionaire’s salary, one shouldn’t sign leases for a millionaire’s budget. So it’s back to the mapquesting new locations and looking a bit more. However, at some point in the very, very near future, I’m cutting myself off. The mental health cost of endless searching and watching ones I had almost chosen get rented and searching some more trumps this imaginary perfect apartment. I’ve decided it’s like the unicorn. Maybe it’s out there somewhere with a “Welcome Home Lauren” sign on the mailbox, and I just haven’t looked hard enough. Or maybe I could spend my day’s entire apartment hunting until they all blur into one mess of a hassle, and I end up opting for a lovely cardboard box in the woods. (Still, lined with booked, because a girl needs a library)
For today, I’ll fight the urge to just choose the best of what I’ve seen in order to pack up the game, and I’ll keep looking a bit more.
If I could just get the gardenia bushes and plush carpeting out of my dreams, it would at least allow the reality-based apartments to enter the playing field.