31 January, 2012


The first thing you have to understand, let me tell you. To set the scene. My apartment is great. Perfect size for me, good neighbourhood, no lawyers. That was my criterion for the search. I don’t want to live anyplace that looked like lawyers or bankers, consultants, etc, you know? Lived there. Obviously that’s a generalization, there are good people who are lawyers. Interesting people. I have excellent lawyer friends. But, you know, as a proxy, you know, it’s a good screen. I mean, I was a lawyer. People change.
It’s a one bedroom, my apartment. Actually there is one lawyer in the building, just graduated from -----, she’s articling now. Her first year of practice. But she’s a rabid environmentalist that’s wicked into bike safety, like a bike safety ninja. She actually bought me bike lights, as like a housewarming present. Out of nowhere. She’s afraid for me; my Jewish mother, is what she says. She sues cops.
But so the apartment, I really like it. It’s on the top floor so no noise, no bugs. The third floor’s the top floor. The outside of the building’s not so great, but I’m into it. You don’t see it coming, kind of thing. Non-descript. Thinking about going to seed.
And the super, R---, such a sweetheart. He tries hard, is what I mean. He’s a good guy. When I was about to move in and I called him about the keys, you know, about picking them up, and when is the current tenant going to be out of there. He rings me back later that night and says ‘Good news! She’s going to be outta there on the 31st.’ As in the last day of her lease. Like what a favour, right? I had to laugh.
The building, though, my flat is renovated, new floors and cupboards, but the hallways, like on the stairs and such, are carpeted. This hideous and like crunchy red carpet. When I went to see the place, R---’s sister was mopping the carpet. Straight up, no gloss. It’s a bit sad, actually, she’s retarded, I mean, but R--- introduced me and on she mopped. She’s got a little pail of suds and everything. The carpet’s always clean, too, I’ve noticed.
I like to say my place befits my current station, which is pretty much starving artist. I used to be a corporate lawyer, though, right? You work a lot, make lots of dough, have nice things. It’s cathartic. (God, can you imagine? The despair.) So my place ends up being this weird combination of Truman Capote meets Tom Waits or maybe like Charles Bukowski; like that’s the aesthetic. The windows I can’t take out and clean because they probably went in dirty, but if you want a drink - like anything, even a glass of milk - all I can offer you is cut crystal. [shoulders’ shrug]
The bathroom, though, the bathroom is all Tom Waits. The ceiling is noticeably distended; convexly curved. There’s obviously a leak in the roof - remember I’m on the top floor, right? - and the leaking water basically puddles above my bathroom, like on the ceiling, if you see what I mean.
Actually, most of the water’s puddled on my bathroom ceiling; the run-off goes into the kitchen and down the wall beside my cupboard. Little patches of disfigured and mottled plaster. It was like that when I moved in, and R---, true to form, came right in a fixed it up. It took a while, partly ‘cause he works full time and he can’t always get out to our building to fix things, partly other people have more urgent problems, but also because the plaster has to dry once it’s on, then same for the primer, then the paint. So it’s a multi-day job, in other words, and not necessarily consecutive days. Which just ends up making the whole thing ridiculous, because after R--- sanded down the walls and put on and smoothed out the new plaster, the plaster just disfigured itself all over again, meaning the water damage was ongoing not temporary. As in that’s the conclusion you should draw. But R--- is undeterred, he just puts the primer right over the disfigured plaster - to give you an idea, imagine like the wall has psoriasis, is how it looks - and then puts the paint right over the primer. He must have had to tamp the paint on with the bristles, to get it down into all the nooks and crannies and around all the bits of flaky psoriatic plaster.
But so like a month or so after he finishes fixing up the kitchen - ‘fixing up’, right? - I run into R--- in the hallway, and he actually asks me how the kitchen wall’s holding up. Like did the damage come back. I mean, did he forget what it looked like when he was painting right over it? You gotta love the guy, though, he’s really OK. It’s too funny to get upset about or anything, and you know, I’m pretty low maintenance, I can handle a little psoriatic plaster in the kitchen.
The bathroom ceiling, though, bit of a different story. It looks almost threatening, hanging down like it is. I don’t want that kind of tension in my bathroom, you know? I feel like that’s reasonable. Plus eventually the paint started to bubble in places, clearly holding water that was dripping through the drywall. Or whatever the ceiling’s made of, that stuff. You can push on the little paint bubbles with your finger, in and out, and it’s clearly water in there. And eventually the ceiling starts dripping, but into the shower, thankfully. It makes a lot of noise - the tub’s some kind of metal, right? So the drops hit it like a bell - so I have to put a towel in there to catch the water or like muffle the sound of the drips.
So up I call R--- and he takes a look and says ‘Yup definitely the roof’s leaking. I could re-plaster your ceiling but it won’t do any good if the roof up above’s leaking. We’re gonna have to get a roofer in.’ Which is fair enough. R--- knows what he’s doing, maintenance-wise, he really did do a helluva job painting over the unsmooth plaster in the kitchen. He got impressive coverage under the circumstances.
But in the interim I’m a bit worried about the ceiling caving-in, given all the obvious water build-up, but not to worry because R--- has a solution for that, too. He comes back the next day when I’m out at work and punches a hole in the ceiling right above the tub, where the biggest leak was. Like a drain. That’s what he said when I called him - I thought a piece of the ceiling fell out or something, it’s not like the hole was perfectly round or square or like finished-looking. The idea is the hole lets the water drain into the bathtub so there’s less weight on the ceiling until the roofer comes. And actually, you know, R---’s a good guy, he actually made the hole opposite the tap end of the tub, so it’s not like when it rains and I’m having a shower the water’s dripping down right on my head or anything. All things considered it’s pretty sensible.
Except then about a week later a man-sized hole fell out of the ceiling anyway, right into the tub. As in imagine a man lying down on his side above the ceiling and then falling through. Plaster and drywall everywhere. It’s one helluva drain now, in the ceiling, let me tell you.