Places I’ve Lived: Baby Mice Murders, Late Night Television, and Illegal Subletting
We’ve all lived in some places. Where have you lived, Alisha Lovely?
High Street, Bellingham, Wash.: Roughly $1,000/month (dorms, man)
The first place I lived in that wasn’t my parent’s house was a dorm that I shared with another girl. We shared a bathroom and closet space with two other girls who lived on the other side of the common area. My roommate was a compulsive liar, and suffered from depression and attention deficit disorder. She sold most of her Adderall since she didn’t have a job, which led her to have these bizarre and disjointed conversations with me that never made any sense. When she was taking her medication, she would fall into a fog that left her sitting in the dark all day in her underwear. She didn’t wear pants on these days—even when I had guests over. I wasn’t allowed to open the door or window ever and the lights had to stay off when she was feeling blue.
The girls who lived on the other side of the bathroom were artists who filled their room with beautiful curiosities. They were cool until they got into the swing of partying, and then I spent a lot of nights trying to stealthily carry them past the resident advisor’s room, keep them from running down the hall to do more drugs after quiet hours, and generally making sure they didn’t drown in their own vomit.
The room itself was small, square, and had the lowest ceilings. I think they were barely seven feet tall. The heater broke during a cold spell when it got down to -2 degrees Fahrenheit, and I spent time both inside and outside wearing two pairs of pants, two pairs of socks, boots, and a winter coat. We also had a mice problem and no one seemed to believe us so my roommate took to catching them in an empty garbage can and throwing them off the balcony outside the door. I had never been an accomplice to so much animal murder before.
High Street, Bellingham, Wash.: roughly $1,000/month
After one quarter in my awful dorm situation I moved in with a friend. She also lived in a dorm, but her’s was a lot better than mine. It was in an older, charming building and she had high ceilings. We got along great, except for when she watched late night television. Which was every night. I could never sleep with sound or light in the room. I spent a lot of mornings hating my life and wishing that I hadn’t had to listen to yet another episode of Friends at two in the morning the night before. Some nights I would lay awake until 4 a.m. listening to the infomercials that would come off after all the sane and responsible people were asleep. I could never turn the TV off because she slept with the remote.
Other than the television situation, my roommate was fine. The girls we shared a bathroom with were not. One of our suitemates (as we called them) was an international student. She didn’t speak any English and spent a lot of time in the bathroom cutting and dying her hair. She never cleaned up any of her hair from the bathroom so it looked like we were saving up for a hair shirt. The other girl was socially inept and we would hear her trying to converse with her roommate to no avail. This awkward girl would also wake us up in the middle of the night quite often with this loud retching sound. We never figured out if she just coughed a lot of if she was throwing up. Either way, it was disgusting.
N. State Street, Bellingham, Wash.: $775/month
After my first year of college, I was sick of living with other humans. I moved into my own one bedroom apartment near downtown. It had a giant window in the living room that overlooked the bay. I bought an obscene amount of Ikea furniture and felt like a “real adult.” My bedroom was oddly shaped and had only a small light on the wall near the door. The window was high up on the adjacent wall, which made the room look like a prison. They turned the water off all morning once every week or so for vague “repairs” but I didn’t care. I had a bay view.
My neighbors were okay. The guy who lived downstairs would fight with his girlfriend a lot, and every time my window was open—which was a lot of the time—I got an earful of their rows. After she left, he would turn on Eminem and let out his frustrations by scream-rapping along.
There wasn’t a lot of noise from my other neighbors, but there was somehow construction happening the whole year that I lived there. Most mornings I was roused from bed my men yelling at each other and the screech of power tools. If it wasn’t the saws and hammers, then it was the recycling, which I swear was picked up randomly and only on the few days I could sleep in. The sound of bottles being dumped into a truck at seven in the morning will forever be etched in my brain.
I spent one month in this apartment alone before meeting my boyfriend. After that we spent a lot of time at his house, which he shared with four other guys.
Franklin Street, Bellingham, Wash.: $0/month
I didn’t technically live here, but my boyfriend did. He had the only upstairs room in this old, beat-up split level in an alley behind a Chevron. It was charming, in a gross way. The downstairs toilet was finicky, the upstairs bathroom didn’t have a door, the kitchen was almost unusable, and my boyfriend’s bedroom door didn’t latch. Three guys lived downstairs in tiny bedrooms and another guy lived (illegally) in the attic.
The attic dweller was unknown to me, until one day he jumped down into the hallway just as I was walking out of my boyfriend’s room. I almost died on the spot, thinking he was a shirtless burglar. He calmly walked into the kitchen to make rice. He was the only brave soul to use the kitchen, which unsurprisingly was full of dirty pans filled with caked on carbs.
The stairs that led into the main level of this house and I were enemies. The carpet was coming up in many places, which led to the stairs becoming a death trap of unevenness and nails (or staples or whatever holds carpet down). This, paired with being drunk and clumsy, caused me to fall up and down these stairs a lot. I got a lot of cuts on my feet. I probably should have gotten a Tetanus shot.
Even though this house was pretty gross, I still miss it. It holds the beginnings of my relationship and a ton of great summer nights that are deeply associated with my first summer away from home. I walk by it sometimes.
S. 32nd Street, Bellingham, Wash.: $0/month
A couple months after my boyfriend and I met, he moved in a giant, four-bedroom house on a hill. It was only a few years old, and nicer than my parent’s house. I was thrilled. There was a giant master bedroom downstairs with a jacuzzi tub that my boyfriend and I used when the roommate that lived in that room was at work. Upstairs were three bedrooms and one nook that housed a fifth (again, illegal) roommate. My boyfriend’s room was the one that shared a wall with the nook dweller.
All of these guys, minus the one in the master bedroom, had lived together previously so they got along pretty well. On average, there were usually about eight people or more in the house since everyone was always having friends or girlfriends over. I was probably there a lot more than most people because they had a giant kitchen, and I liked to use their free laundry room since I didn’t have one of those. I made up for it by cooking them food every so often, and not flipping out when they woke me up at three in the morning after coming home from the bars on a Wednesday when I had class in the morning.
The house had a big deck with views of Mount Baker and I still marvel some mornings at how gorgeous it is out there. Yes, I have to circumvent empty beer bottles and cigarette butts to reach a chair, but I think it’s still worth it.
24th Street, Bellingham, WA: $340/month
I’m currently (illegally, which is apparently a theme here) subletting a studio from a friend. It’s on the ground floor and has a set of glass doors, which makes me fear for my life some nights when people walk by, but it’s supposed to be $545, and she’s helping me out by giving me a discount since I’m a recent graduate and poor.
It’s cute, but there’s some mold and rust damage near the doors, and the kitchen is comically small. There’s a partial wall separating the sleeping and living spaces. I pushed my bed again this quasi-wall to save space and every night I’m there I punch that thing in my sleep at least twice. It sounds hollow, so it’s loud and I’m pretty sure I’m doing some damage to my hand because of it.
My upstairs neighbors are typical college-aged humans, and invite over girls who yell “woo!” at all hours. It’s not that bad and I’m barely there, which is evidenced by the fact that the only things in my fridge are a container of bean dip, a half empty pizza box, and assorted condiments. That is also because I’m unemployed, and keep all my food in the nice kitchen at my boyfriend’s house. This isn’t necessarily convenient, but at least they have a real stove.
Alisha is a recent graduate of Western Washington University and currently resides in Bellingham, Washington. She is an expert at living in two places at once and still knowing where all her possessions are.