Living Other Lives Through Craigslist

When what you have isn’t enough, go to Craigslist.

I can’t afford any of these apartments, but that won’t stop me.

Sometimes when there’s no toilet paper in my apartment or when something in my apartment feels off in a way I can’t quite place, I look at my savings account, do some quick math and dive head-first into Craigslist to see what I could do if I believed in both financial insolvency and impulsive actions.

The great news about living in New York is that any apartment that I would want to live in is so laughably expensive that moving is purely fantasy. I have a very good deal now and though I could pay more money to live alone further out, I have come to realize that living close to things makes me a happier person. But when the urge to throw all of my things in a bag and leave in the cover of night strikes, Craigslist’s apartment listings usually calm me down.

It’s a strange self-soothing mechanism that operates on the same level as online shopping without actually purchasing or spraying myself with $200 perfume at the store down the street from my apartment and leaving empty-handed. I’m window-shopping, but for a life that is tantalizingly within my grasp.

There are hardwood floors and kitchens that seem larger than they likely are; there are bathrooms with tile and a bathtub that would ideally be used by one person only. Too much HGTV has done nothing but fuel this desire — a beautiful apartment in a desirable neighborhood for $1,100 a month is clearly a scam — but I see curtains and tables and rugs and plants, dropping in from the sky like they do on Property Brothers when Drew and Jonathan are showing a wary couple in Westchester how the fetid den they’re standing in could become the house of their dreams.

Once I found the apartment of my dreams— Brick! A decorative mantel! A kitchen that fits a table! Laundry in-unit!— for $1,600(a bit high, but I’d make it work)in a neighborhood that I have wanted to live in for the entire time I’ve lived in New York. I scoured the pictures for hints of a scam; I mapped the address and stared at the exterior of the building.

“Does this look like a scam?” I asked Team Billfold, sparking a lively conversation about how the apartment itself probably didn’t have a roof and contained a dead body mouldering in the linen closet because my god, it was really too good to be true.

I texted the number provided, already preparing to drop everything, get on the train and throw cash at the broker. I waited fifteen minutes or so and got a response: “Someone’s already put in an application. Sorry.”