The burrito didn’t start the fire
Chicago, do you even know what it’s like to be alone? I feel like I already know the answer to that question since you seem to be bursting at the seams with people drying their socks on the blue line or walking too slowly on the sidewalk or screaming about how there is STILL MORE ROOM IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TRAIN MOVE IN GOD WHAT A BUNCH OF ASSHOLES. I mean someone has to supply craigslist with all of the horrible roommates they send out into the world and I guess you’re doing a good job of that. But you must sometimes feel like you need a little me time and I wonder, do you have a nice little place to call your own where you can go and hide out when you need to take a break? Because guess what, Chicago? I DO. A bitch finally got her own apartment.
This has been a dream several years in the making. Back at my old apartment while my roommates screwed up my Netflix Top Picks I would longingly look through padmapper at one bedrooms and dream of never seeing another living human being again. Then I would get an alert from my phone saying that I overdrew my account by $1.16 buying Say Yes to Carrots face wash (spoiler alert vegetables don’t clear up neck acne) and fish food for the fish I had yet to notice was deceased. My job as an underpaid even lesser appreciated ‘chef de cuisine’ was not going to move me into the apartment of my dreams unless I wanted to move to Gary, Indiana. But on a fateful day, after one too many evenings of getting paid $10.15 to drink cooking champagne on the job, I was offered an opportunity to no longer be a cook and to make more money than I ever had in my short life. This is not to say that I was suddenly going to be able to buy all the nut butters I could dream of at Whole Foods but it put my dreams of living alone within reach.
Let’s fast forward through the intervening months of waffling about hurting my stupid roommates’ feelings by leaving them to die alone and through my naiveté about the process of finding a suitable one bedroom apartment to the beginning of December when I actually moved into my deluxe apartment in the sky (second floor). I stood in the middle of my kitchen/dining room/den/multipurpose room with all of my belongings stacked like castle turrets about me and thought, “Damn I own a hell of a lot of tables.” What on earth did I ever use this many tables for? I guess when I lived in the cold, airless museum that was the house on Dickens I had plenty of useless space to put tables but that was no longer the case. I started picking my way through all of my shit and was alarmed at the amount of idiotic things I found. 17 extension cords? 25 expired credit cards? 13,752 small notebooks with ‘thought for the day’ or ‘what I’ve eaten’ written on the first page? High heeled shoes full stop? A broken chair, a small TV with a built in VCR, a frying pan with no handle, a jar full of pennies. I actually paid money to transport all of this garbage here. Day one of living alone was off to a great start as I began to move everything I just moved in back out.
As night fell I realized that I wouldn’t be lulled to sleep by the burning anger I felt at the presence of people just on the other side of the wall. The heat kicked on and it sounded just like someone ripping open my bedroom door. A piece of ice fell on the deck right outside my window and it sounded like someone waiting for the right time to come into my apartment and murder me. The refrigerator buzzed and it sounded like a nightmare beast sharpening its claws to harvest my organs. I snuggled closer to the burrito that I had brought into bed and turned the lights back on. The joyful cold fear of independence washed over me as I stared at my new ceiling with the mysterious charcoal handprint in the corner, where I can only assume a monster from another dimension tried to enter this universe and tear my scalp off. What followed in the first few weeks was minimal sleeping and a lot of sitting in a chair in harsh overhead lighting listening to the refrigerator click away like someone knocking on the closet door from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Little did I know the best was yet to come. Let me set the scene.
The second day of my move in I gathered the heaping pile of unnecessary things I had amassed to take some of it to Goodwill. On my way there I stopped by my old house to do all of the last minute cleaning. Feeling proud and accomplished, I headed back to start putting all of my tables away. I rummaged through my pockets and was met with a sense of dread. I didn’t feel my keys. I looked around on the ground and I didn’t see my keys. I went back to my old house and didn’t see them there, either. I pulled out my phone only find that it had 3% battery. Having no other solution in mind I made my way down to my place of employ to charge my phone and to call my landlord of 1 and ½ days to admit defeat. I called, I waited 2 hours for her to call back, and as she did, I jumped up off the barstool, flipped the hood of my sweatshirt on and hit myself in the head with…my keys. OH HEY KEYS. I must have forgotten that I sometimes keep my keys in the hood of my sweatshirt because I WOULD NEVER KEEP MY KEYS THERE. It must have been from all of the cartwheels I was doing on my way to Goodwill. It must have been when I threw my keys up into the air and struck a pose and never saw them hit the ground. It must have been from the time I’m an idiot.
Thank heavens my landlord didn’t seem to want to rescind my lease agreement. I got over that hurdle with minimal embarrassment and went back about my business of sticky tacking pictures to the wall because I’m too cheap to buy multiple sized picture frames. I got into the swing of realizing that any food that I left in the fridge in the morning would still be there when I returned in the evening. I reveled in the fact that if the trash was overflowing and poisonous it was because I made it that way! I came home one evening, took a shower WITH THE BATHROOM DOOR OPEN BECAUSE WHY NOT, put on pajama pants and started to make a burrito. This day coincided with the darkest time period in my life, ie the time my bike lock was frozen shut for days on end, and while my sleeping bag of beanz warmed to perfection I decided to go see if I couldn’t smash that lock open. I grabbed my keys and went out the back door, wet hair and pajama pants covered by a jacket shell, and spent a few minutes cursing at my bike and making my new neighbors think I was a very oblivious, inept thief. Defeated once again, I made my way to the door, keys in hand, only to realize that I had grabbed the key ring that had 7 different bike lock keys on it instead of my actual house keys. My bike mocked me from its prison on the fence. I ran up and down the back stairs a few times and tried to use my impressive arm muscles to wrench the door open. I contemplated smashing the window. I pounded on the communal door. HI IT’S ME YOUR NEW NEIGHBOR YOU’VE NEVER SEEN I PROMISE I LIVE HERE. I didn’t have my cell phone on me because this wouldn’t be funny unless I didn’t have my cell phone on me.
I decided to go to the church next door and see if they had a phone. While I was trying to pry open the gate a voice boomed out of the darkness, ‘are you trying to get into the church?’ God, is that you? I really need you to open up my door for me. Do me a solid God. Or ask Jesus to come if you’re too busy. But it wasn’t God. It was a man sitting in the back of a parked car for some inexplicable reason. It was at this point I started to sort of weep, imagining that I was going to burn down my new apartment and kill everyone inside. I crazily rambled into this man’s face about what had happened and he said, ‘we should call the police.’ Right. That makes the most sense. He called 311 and was placed on hold as I imagined all of my personal belongings being destroyed by delicious, delicious melted cheese. The man sat on hold. I stared at the man. I pretend calmly said, ‘now if I could just find a PHONE I could call my landlord.’ The man sat on hold. I willed the man to read my thoughts FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST GIVE ME THE FUCKING PHONE. At this moment one of my new neighbors popped her head out the front door and I ran over shouting my landlord’s name and saying I live here I locked myself out do you have her number get out of the house now have your pets suffocated yet? She shook her head at me a la the cleaning lady from Family Guy and said, “I don’t speak English.” REALLY THAT SOUNDS A HELL OF A LOT LIKE ENGLISH TO ME and I’m pretty sure my landlord’s name sounds the same in every language do you understand burrito en fuego? I ran back to the stupid man and said BYE NOW I’M GOING TO GO HAVE TO FIND A PHONE and he shouted good luck and waved at me as though this were a cartoon and he was a friendly stranger on my journey to find myself.
I ran up the block and in my madness was spotted by a bouncer from a bar. We made eye contact and he sensed my insanity and asked what I needed. He looked a little like Jesus so maybe God did in fact answer my query. Maybe God was the man in the back of the car and because I didn’t rip the phone out of his hand and slap him in the face I passed the test! Bar Jesus let me use his phone and I called my work to get the number of my friend who had my spare. The plan was in action and all that was left was for me to walk back to my house and watch it burn to the ground while I formulated a plan. Once the spares arrived I ran into my apartment only to find that that fucking burrito was not only not on fire but it was perfectly cooked, further proving that it is one of the most glorious foods known to man.
What did I learn from all of this? I learned that living alone means you can’t blame all the stupid things that you do on your roommates. I learned that a burrito isn’t going to start a house fire. I learned that Jesus works at the bar down the street and he has unlimited minutes.