Places I’ve Lived: Is Heat Included?

Walker Rd, Wales, Mass., Sept. 2005- Aug. 2006, $0/mo.
I graduated from college with no plan. I moved home, deferred my student loans, and took a job as a permanent substitute in the high school two towns over. The kids were cruel, and my boyfriend lived in the next state over. Paying no rent meant that I was able to save a decent amount of money, which I promptly spent on a trip to England to visit friends. My roommates, also known as mom and dad, favored dinners covered in butter and bedtimes close to 8 p.m. While I didn’t gain the freshman 15 at any point during college, my first postgraduate year I become soft with the buttery love of living at home.

Wadsworth Ave, Waltham, Mass., Sept. 2006- Sept. 2008, $550/mo. (my share)
My friend and I found this apartment on a somewhat ill-conceived one-day trip to Waltham to find an apartment to live in for grad school. We saw just three places before deciding on this two-bedroom second floor apartment on a shaded street. The floors were hardwood, the rooms were large, and our landlord insisted on replacing the kitchen stove. He also blessed us with a couch, a futon, and an Ansel Adams print before mysteriously “heading to Africa” for the remainder of our lease.
Our utilities were not included, and our first winter we discovered just how cruel that could be. We played a game of chicken with the heat, each refusing to turn it on until absolutely necessary. We spent weeks wrapped in quilts making tea, and going to bed early. In the summer the apartment was perfect, filled with light, and quiet. The fire escape was outside my bedroom window, and one summer night a pizza boy tried to deliver a pizza directly to my bedroom. Should I have let him? Yes. Should I have stayed in Waltham instead of declining a solid job offer and moving to Albany to be with my boyfriend? Yes.

Hamilton Street, Albany NY, Sept. 2008- Feb. 2010, $375/mo. (my share)
My boyfriend and I lived in a house was built in the 1850s. At some point between 1850 and 2008, our second-floor apartment lost its access to the lovely rear courtyard. There was a clearly visible staircase that should have lead to our apartment, but the bathroom was now in the way. Over the course of our year and a half in that apartment, I would have easily traded our moldy water damaged bathroom for courtyard access a hundred times over. The ceilings were tall, and the living room had an ornate non-working fireplace, which I happily filled with tasteful seasonal vignettes. The kitchen stove was electric, and one of the burners tilted at an angle that made it impossible to use, while another never even produced heat. We stayed much longer than was necessary, being placated halfway through by the addition of a new puppy to our lives. When the puppy took up an interest in the moldy bathroom floors and tried to tear up the linoleum, we decided it was time to move.

Grove Ave, Albany NY, Feb. 2010- Aug. 2011, $375/mo. (my share)
We saw this apartment already emptied of furniture, and we let that emptiness confuse us into believing that it was larger than the one bedroom we were currently living in. We moved in the middle of the winter, ecstatic about the working fireplace. The first time my ex tried to use it, we discovered it wasn’t really working all that well, and he ended up running outside with a flaming log in hand. The apartment stayed smokey for weeks. There were entirely too many apartments in this building, too many noises, and too many dogs living close together. At one point during our lease, a pregnant woman with four chihuahuas moved in upstairs, and undergrads moved in across the hall. Over the summer, the undergrads threw a party in the backyard on the vegetable garden we had tried to plant. I woke up early the next morning to the dog growling out the window—one of the party attendees had passed out below our window, and was just then stirring. Despite the negatives, this apartment was close to a great sushi place, and an ok sandwich shop, which I convinced myself made it totally worth it.

House on the Hill, New Baltimore, NY, Aug. 2011-April 2012 $500/mo. (my share)
Seeking more space, more privacy, and more of an adult feeling (we had just gotten married), we found an old house overlooking the river in a charmingly small village south of Albany. On the car ride down on moving day, I said to my brother that I didn’t think my husband realized just how lonely living in a village was going to be. What I really meant was that I was lonely already. The house consisted of three floors: a master bedroom and bath on the third floor, a living room/open kitchen on the main floor (with a deck), and a ground floor with a utility room, guest bedroom, and bath. The house was beautiful: century-old wooden plank floors, a delicately tiled bathroom, and a stained glass window in the staircase. Heat was not included, but there was a propane stove styled to look like a wood stove that we put the couch right next to. I would watch the big ships pass by on our deck in the evenings, and busied myself with creating charming vignettes on our giant kitchen island. The guest bathroom had both a window in its door, and a window looking out into the neighbor’s yard. Despite the fact that we had house guests on numerous occasions, I could never quite bring myself to buy curtains or figure out another solution for the complete lack of privacy. For that I apologize to everyone who stayed with us that fall. In the early spring, the attic hatch located feet from our bed fell open in the middle of the night for no apparent reason, and when I tried to get my husband to fix it, he barely stirred. I left a few weeks later, and he became my ex-husband. The only thing I took with me at first, other than clothes, was a small ceramic skunk pulled from one of those charming vignettes.

Jefferson Street, Albany, NY, May 2012-Aug 2012, $300 (only a portion of the rent)
I stayed on a friend’s couch for weeks when another friend told me his own apartment was empty—he was in a new relationship, and they were spending all the time at her place. I moved in. His apartment was tiny, dark, had mice, and smelled of leaking gas. There was a courtyard in the back with a large rhododendron, and a wooden deck. Despite it being the right season, I was never in the courtyard mood. I lived out of two rooms: the bathroom and the kitchen. All of my sad, broke meals were microwaved and then eaten cross legged on his bed while watching Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It was a generous arrangement. When I moved out, I scrubbed the bathroom and gladly erased any evidence of ever having been there.

Home at last, August 2012- Present, $700/mo. (heat included)
This is the first apartment I have ever rented by myself. I’m kind of in love. The moving day was a little rough, my parents wearing the faces of those who had hoped to never move their grown-ass-and-formerly-married-daughter into another apartment again, but since then it’s been smooth sailing. The studio has its own separate large eat-in kitchen, and a closet so big you walk through it to get to the bathroom. The ceilings are high, the floors are hardwood, the tub is big enough to soak in, and the craigslist advertisement had two of the most important phrases known to the real estate world: “heat included” and “pets welcome.” I am mostly broke, moderately in debt, and happy as a clam. This winter I occupied myself with turning my radiator on and off at whim, and eating bowls of buttery ramen sitting on the couch with my dog. Butter is love, after all.

Pearl Higgins is a hot knife, you’re a pat of butter.



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