Place I’ve Lived: Broken Leases, Okay Credit Score
Where have you lived, Liz Goodfellow?
Catherine St., Saratoga Springs, NY, $200/mo. (my quarter), May-August 2005
After four years in dorms, I rented my first apartment with friends the summer after college. We were so naïve we didn’t pay our first month’s rent—we assumed the landlord would stop by to get it. One roommate didn’t have a job and spent her days making us homemade gluten-free pasta that we ate on a card table.
“South Slope,” Brooklyn, NY, $625/mo. (my half), August 2005-April 2006
In my first cohabitation experience, we rented a dark basement apartment from a couple with a newborn daughter and a giant dog named “Hemi.” Hemi liked to stare in the bedroom window at us after shitting on the lawn that we were forbidden to use. Upstairs, they had terrible screaming matches and put the house up for sale. One morning I woke up oddly damp and thought one of us had peed. The ceiling had collapsed and we were blanketed with wet plaster. After two of the landlords’ carpenter friends failed to fix the problem, the ceiling fell two more times. Then they let us break our lease.
Fourth Ave and Union St, Brooklyn, NY, $850/mo. (my half), April 2006-April 2007
We moved to another first floor apartment in “real” Park Slope so close to the R train that I never bought a winter coat—I commuted to work in Midtown like a hamster in one of those cages with tubes. Every room and closet in the railroad-style apartment had doors—an incredible surplus of doors for an apartment so tiny. I wish when we fought that I had slammed them more, slammed them all. There was a yard, but it was scary. My parents, who visited once from Vermont and clutched their belongings tightly at all times, admitted later that the apartment made them sad. Out of desperation for love and pets, I bought two tiny turtles in Chinatown.
Maujer St near Lorimer, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, $900/mo. (my half), April 2007-July 2008
I adopted a sweet, one-eyed cat from the shelter a few weeks before we moved. After a terrible standoff that he probably still hates me for, I chucked the cat carrier and swaddled him in a towel as we drove up the BQE to Williamsburg. The apartment was brand new and had a dishwasher and a tiny balcony. No one else in the building seemed to have a job. We drank too much and rarely washed the dishes. Orthodox men with baseball bats fought with gas station attendants below our windows, which I watched nervously as the cat chattered at pigeons. The turtles died. Inside the apartment, we fought, applied to different grad schools, and pretended we wouldn’t break up when we moved to opposite parts of the country.
Monroe Ave, Rochester, NY, $640/mo., August 2008-August 2009
I lived alone in a giant one bedroom in a building that reminded everyone of The Shining, but I didn’t care because Rust Belt rent is cheap and generous. The building manager fed my cat when I fled town, and she left long notes about the feminist theory on my bookshelves. Once, she refused my $5 tip and said I should buy my cat better toys with the money.
Crittenden Blvd., Rochester, NY, $385/mo. (my third), August 2009-May 2010
I shared a moldy house near the university’s hospital with a grad school friend and a girl we met on Craigslist. Abortion protesters stood on our lawn sometimes, and med students, ghostly in their pale scrubs, cut through our lawn before dawn. The landlord, who had fled the Holocaust for South America as a child, spoke Spanish, Yiddish, and very little English. I still have a sense that I should’ve gotten to know her, learned about her amazing life, and become a better person for it, but instead I resented her nosy phone calls about the progress of “my studies.” She made me pay to repair her lawn mower and once held my hand in the oven to show where it was dirty (the oven was off, but really).
19th Ward, Rochester, NY, $425/mo. (my half), May 2010-July 2010
I moved into half a duplex with a kind boyfriend who gave me an inexplicable rage. I decorated, planted a garden, and moved out when I realized the relationship was making me cruel.
Park Ave, Rochester, NY, $675/mo., July 2010-April 2012
The Park Ave neighborhood, for the uninitiated, is where men with slick hair drive flashy cars to overpriced sushi restaurants, and Solo cups litter the lawns on Sunday mornings. The real estate agent, whose grown-out chest wax looked itchy, made me feel unsafe but offered the only apartment I could find in a hurry. My upstairs neighbor had severe mental problems and whispered “I can hear you and I hate it” through my door before snarling like an animal. The landlord made me find new tenants AND give up my security deposit. I realized it didn’t matter as I stood in his faux-Grecian office behind a Chinese restaurant. His dog never barked or took its eyes off me.
South Ave, Rochester, NY, $375/mo. (my half), summer of 2012
I moved in with my now-fiance in the funky/bourgie neighborhood called the Southwedge. We got a kitten from the shelter who turned out to be part Siamese. He yowled sadistically whenever we slept until the neighbors yowled at us and we moved.
Mt. Hope, Rochester, NY, $1200/mo. (together), April 2012-present
We like this house so much we’ve tried (unsuccessfully) to buy it from the landlord. One cat warms his old bones by the fireplace while the other watches chickadees swoop to the birdfeeder. I planted crocus bulbs last fall and am waiting for them to pop up. We have pre-approval from the bank to buy a house but the landlord needs to know if we’ll renew the lease ASAP. We’re busy planning our wedding and mortgages are complicated. One more year can’t hurt.
Liz Goodfellow lives in Rochester, N.Y.