Where have you lived, Carolyn Yates?
Rue de la Montagne, second floor, Montreal, Quebec, $550/mo.
I picked my first post-residence apartment solely because it was close to school but wasn’t in the student ghetto. My roommate took the bedroom while I took the dining room and hung curtains for walls. I bragged to friends about the leather-studded door. My “bedroom” window looked over a scenic, cigarette-butt-littered parking garage that has since been filled in, and which was really easy to climb on top of—something I found out when I locked myself out one afternoon and had to break in through my own balcony. Shortly before moving out, we discovered my roommate’s hair had clogged all the drainage pipes in our apartment and the two below. Luckily, the building changed ownership every few weeks and we weren’t fined.
My Parent’s House, Toronto suburbs, Ontario, free
I lived at home for five months for an internship. I spent four hours on the subway and various busses a day, made awkward television-based conversation with my younger brother, and sweated in my attic bedroom—my parents believe in air conditioning, but only for the ground floor.
Rue de la Montagne, fifth floor, Montreal, Quebec, $675/mo.
Over the summer, my roommate moved us into a larger apartment in the same building. The day I was supposed to arrive, I got a text from her at 7 a.m. that read, “I’m on the way to Mexico but when you get to the apartment we might not have a bathroom ceiling.” When I made it there at around 2 a.m., the ceiling over the toilet was bulging and dripping greasy water into an overflowing bucket. I went to get the janitor and hovered awkwardly as he peered at the bulge and then stabbed it with his utility knife, making a huge hole in the ceiling. He said he’d be back in the morning to fix it. It was still there when I moved out three years later.
NDG, Montreal, Quebec, $480/mo.
Unemployed and unsure about whether or not I should stay in Montreal, I found this apartment, signed the lease, and moved in within 48 hours. It was a studio apartment with a small bathroom and one room that fit a bed, two bookshelves, a tiny kitchen table that I also used as a “home office,” and very little else. It had a kitchenette, which really meant a fridge the mice used as their home base, a hot plate, and a teeny toaster oven. The building website says my apartment was 350 sq. feet, and at least a third of that was a long, narrow hallway. I had to get rid of half of my stuff, but I was living alone for the first time and I loved it.
Two days later, when I was cleaning out the bathroom cabinet, I found a bag with vials of meds and several straight razor blades. Then I noticed that the doorjamb and deadbolt were broken, and, a little freaked out, I called the management company. A very apologetic receptionist told me that the janitor had broken in when the previous tenant’s social worker called because she hadn’t heard from him in a month, but not to worry, older people just slip in the bathtub sometimes, and they’d cleaned really well.
Which is how I found out the previous tenant had died in the bathroom.
I bought a lot of bleach.
The apartment also had bird mites, a cafe that installed their sound system on the ceiling below my headboard, broken heat until December, a window in the bathroom that faced onto a wall a foot away for no apparent reason, and a wall-sized window in front from which I watched three car accidents and an arrest in a bank robbery.
Starting in January, someone in the basement screamed loudly and apparently recreationally every day from about 4 p.m. until after midnight. The police came once, and left, and the screaming continued. That was when I decided to move.
My Current Place, Ottawa, Ontario, $725/mo.
My current apartment is the nicest place I’ve ever lived. It’s the third floor of an old house with two balconies (two!), a pivot door (doors!), a real kitchen, and trees out almost every window. Every time the old-fashioned doorbell rings I feel like I’m about to have a heart attack; the storage space consists of two tiny closets; and we’ve had to prop up, nail down, or otherwise attach every piece of furniture to something because the floors are so slanted. It is my favourite place ever.