The apartment was particularly reticent when the property manager had showed it. The shelves separating the kitchen from the living room were cheaply made and bore years worth of neglect in the staining. Outside, leafless branches twisted and scraped against the gutters, and the worn-smooth stepstones leading to the door had been invaded by long, sloping blades of grass. It was the last room on a row of single-story apartments, sharing a wall with an encroaching forest, the exact border where civilization gave way to unknown wilderness.
Little maintenance had gone into this small efficiency on the precipice of the city, the owners were clearly telegraphing the fact that they never expected anyone to lease it, yet here I was. Spartan life had been appealing to me, desperate was I to locate a place that conformed to my own eccentric specifications: remote and utterly removed from the pounding of tires on roads, from dogs barking at faraway things in the night, and from the noxious breathing of other human beings, which crept down my neck with long-haired spiderlimbs. The only apartment that touched this one had been vacant for an indeterminate amount of time, so I was guaranteed sweet, blessed isolation in this small space cut off from the rest of the world. There was no other way I could attain a more serene solitude unless I ventured into the forest itself, using earth and wood as home, but unfortunately I still required electricity to power all my accumulated devices, along with the connective fibrous tissue of an Internet provider.
I was a writer, by trade. I had somehow along the long line of years living the proverbial life, convinced somebody important that what I did was worth paying me for, and the government, in response, decided my particular skill was worth being taxed. There was an idea I was chasing as the time, malformed in my head but just beginning to sprout a little nose, eyes, a tiny slit for a mouth. At this stage it couldn’t even be recognized as a living thing, but I was determined to give birth to it, no matter how monstrous nor how many villagers it scared. I needed a space to properly contain this budding story before it grew to unwieldy size and began destroying buildings in downtown Tokyo.
There isn’t a classified listing for “shitty but in an endearing kind of way” when looking for a place to live. Believe me, I checked. When you’re searching proprietors of ill repute such as realtors, or even when just attempting to buy anything through a public listing, you begin to easily translate that ever widening breath between the lines; for instance when somebody says it’s “quaint” it means it’s in shambles. When it’s “slightly used” you should probably get a blood test first. When they advertise a specific something as “looking for the right owner” it probably means you’re required to be a masochist. And when a space for rent, particularly an apartment building, is lauded for its “scenic view”, it means nature is slowly beginning to claim it back beneath a long grassy wave moving at a glacial pace, eroding everything man has ever built, but starting with this lot. That was the place I wanted.
The shoddy carpentry of the shelves was of little concern, as I wasn’t planning on burdening them with any trinkets. After a short tour of the kitchen, which consisted precisely of “well, this is the kitchen” with arms outstretched, nearly touching the opposing walls, I noticed a diminutive refrigerator, forced into a small enclosure beneath the kitchen counter. When they called this place an “efficiency”, I was impressed by their creative use of the word. It took a talent such as mine to so expertly mangle a word with surgical deftness, reconstructing its features into something essentially the same, yet uncannily different. This apartment was efficient in the same way firing someone was really “downsizing”. Yes, through a cunning manipulation of semantics you are technically correct, but it doesn’t make you any less evil.
I was basically sold when the property manager opened a door in the kitchen to a small storage room, motioning to an attic entrance in the ceiling and commenting on how it wasn’t very high inside, primarily made for storing boxes and just barely long enough to lie in.
“Perfect place for hiding the bodies”, I joked, cleverly in my mind, though she only pursed her lips and nodded. There was something grave in her expression then, which had been present since I first showed up and inquired about the vacant space. She had tried to dissuade me the entire way, mentioning other units they had available and at much better deals. This other one had brand new appliances, I was told, a strange fact to give away as it implied the other apartments were apparently still using mortar and pestles.
I didn’t care how archaic the room was. I wanted to be between society and the untamed vestiges of prehistory, I wanted to straddle the demarcation that separated us from our ancient origins, wanted to hear the calling of flora as it moaned in the earth, lulling me to slumber. The proximity to nature would help me write in the small hours of the night, it would induce creativity when before it had been stifled by urban noise. I would be alone with the wild things, but close enough to a nearby 7-11 for my frequent cigarette and alcohol breaks. She was still trying to talk me out of it when I told her I’d take it. Provide me a dotted line, I had said, and let’s make this union official.
(Continue reading The Chthonian Fridge)