22nd and Chestnut Streets, Phila., PA
This was the location of the smallest apartment I’ve ever lived in. It was one room with two windows and a kitchen, one closet, a door to the fire escape, one bathroom where my brother-in-law often slept in the tub, and the largest roaches I’ve ever seen, coming through a vent in the kitchen. We called them water bugs to make ourselves feel better about it.
Despite it’s diminutive size, this place was always packed with people. We had two cats. We had Sticky rehearsal. We had dinners where Dave made roast beast in the toaster oven. We had impromptu parties with people crowding the fire escape and the bathroom. Once we woke up on our futon to find a vacant wheelchair parked casually at the foot of the bed. It was a third floor walk-up.
There are some gruesome details of my life that I associate with this apartment.
That summer I was reading Crime and Punishment. It was a a hot Philly summer and we had no AC. We slept with the fire escape door open. The place was like a prison for us and we were always glad to leave it. We were doing Sticky at Bar Noir down the block and we went there every night. They had AC, and DJ Bobby Startup who as it happens played Revival, the all ages club I used to go to in high school. He avoided Brittney Spears (as much as a pop dj can) and played The Smiths for us while we danced on tables before turning into pumpkins and stumbling home at midnight.
I’d quit working theater admin jobs and decided I wanted to be a receptionist. Access to a computer, down time to write and read, these were my basic reasons. I remember the bright sun reflecting off Dostoyevsky as I walked to work. I remember sitting at my desk and turning my head to look at the row of people behind me. I remember dread.
Valerie was still alive then. It was 2000, and she died that summer. I died my hair magenta and named my alley-found kitten Mae Avdotya after Raskolnikov’s sister.
Val spent alot of time at our place. She slept in the reclining chair. She demanded we get a garbage pail, and when we didn’t she bought us one herself.
She said to me: “everyone thinks you have your shit together but only I know you’re a disaster.”
We went to her funeral, but we were late to the funeral home because of a smash-up on the highway. We sat in the empty funeral home amidst the remnants of her life and death. Turns out she’d been prom queen.
It took me about a year to start mourning, then it took two years to stop.
|Dave in the tiny apartment we crammed full of books pretending we were Jean-Paul and Simone|
|Me at work.|
|Me in the apartment.|
|Mae Avdotya Romanovna. She’s 13 this year, and sitting by my feet right now.|
|A fish I found and put int he dishwasher. Photographed in my office.|
|The orchid on my desk.|
|Me and Mae after Valerie died.|
|The view from the futon. Closet to the left.|
|Valerie in the apartment.|