We moved into a two-bedroom in that apartment building in 2005, and we traded up, or so we thought, to a three-bedroom in 2010.
A group of our friends had been passing that apartment down for about ten years, and we hadn't heard any horror stories, so we were initially thrilled with all the extra space, but then, oh THEN.
Let me start with the bathroom. The bathroom in the suite upstairs from us was regularly leaking water. Pockets of moisture sagged inside our bathroom ceiling and walls, stretching the paint like inflating balloons. The tub surround no longer had wall behind it because of the constant water damage, and if you pushed against it even slightly, it buckled away from the tub. Maintenance's answer to this was caulking, which only gave way within minutes, because CAULKING IS NOT GLUE MEANT FOR HOLDING WALLS TOGETHER.
As you have probably already assumed, all this leaking water and barely palliative building maintenance meant mould, which bubbled through the paint a few times after particularly bad bouts of leakage left parts of the wall soft as marshmallows. When I showed a maintenance guy how I could press my fingerprints into the wall next to the tub, he said "oh, that happens. It will dry on its own." Okay, stupid. Nobody's health or the integrity of the building is of any concern here.
At one point, we put down a plastic mat under Aidan's wheeled office chair in the room next to the bathroom, and mould bloomed up between the floor boards. That's when we noticed all the water damage seeping up — yes, UP — through the floorboards from the basement. As it did in the bathroom, it started blistering through the plaster in his office and in the hallway, and, as you can see in the following video, the hardwood started turning black with what I can only assume is rot:
Unsurprisingly, over the last two years there, I could barely function unless I was taking both antihistamines and cold medication. It was no kind of home.
We gave up near the end. When the toilet handle broke and the bathroom sink stopped holding water altogether, we didn't even tell maintenance, because if I got one more blank stare and was told that marshmallow walls, mould, and blistering plaster were normal and would clear themselves up, I was going to freak out. I just wanted to keep my head down and figure out how to find a decent place to live with three cats in a city with a vacancy rate of less that 0.6%. If this city managed the residential side of its affairs better, we would have been out of that building a long time ago.
Luckily, we did find a place, though! We ended up having to buy instead of rent, but it turned out to be a good decision. We bought a fantastic apartment in this beautiful heritage building (circa 1914) that doesn't have mould problems, or neighbours who insist on loud phone calls outside our window late every night, or unconscionable $120/month rent hikes for a place that supports a thousand health violations.
There were other reasons that apartment building was no good for us, too. I had a nervous breakdown while we lived there. We both weathered bad employment situations. I fought addictions to cigarettes and alcohol. In 2007, both the Palinode and I had surgeries, he to stop being bedridden with a back injury and I to stop having cancer, and the hospital where we were both treated was right behind our apartment building. For the last five years since, we saw that place every day, and, for the last two, we could see it right from our kitchen table.
You are probably wondering why this is the first you've heard of the state of my housing over the last two years. Truth be told, I was ashamed of it. I didn't want any of you to know that, while I was making great strides in some areas, other parts of my life were halted in such sad ways.
It's hard to move on from the bad places you are in psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually when you continue to live in the building that houses all your hard memories and has you staring over your morning coffee every day at the hospital that took your uterus.
Human beings can adjust to terrible circumstances, and we can even feel well acclimatized to them after awhile, but the feeling of acclimatization only means we feel numbed while the bad things continue to carry out their dirty work. Just because we are used to something, just because we hardly feel it anymore, doesn't mean it is any less terrible for us and who we are able to be and to become in the world.
So, yesterday was the last day we had to clean that place out and leave it behind us for good. We carried out the broken or otherwise unwanted stuff we weren't going to move into our new place, like an old office chair and that Dong Won brand tuna (the jokes just write themselves), scraped off the worst of our legacy in that apartment, and got the hell out of there.
I had to turn and take one final photo after we closed the door for the last time, because I felt a little nostalgic leaving, if only because we passed from our early thirties into solid middle age there with all of the drama our last few years have thrown together.
A lot happened in that place that changed us, grew us, made us stronger and better, even if it nearly did us in, and that final turn of the lock followed by dropping the keys under the door marked a momentous symbolic shift, one that forever barred us from going back inside those familiar halls and rooms where so much of us was spent.
We've moved on.