In April of 2006 I went to pay my rent plus the late fee of $25 I'd gotten very used to tacking on by this point. This day was in fact the very last
April. I walked in with the cash.
But it wasn't enough.
Without telling me, the landlord had tacked on new late fees. I was almost $80 short. Desperate, I called a friend who then fronted me the cash. The landlord warned me that my credit rating was getting hurt by paying rent late; if I tried to move, it would be difficult. No one else would take me, he warned.
I walked away from him half scared to death.
The months came and went. Always I was late--usually very
late--with paying the rent. A few times I paid it with just three minutes left in the last possible hour of the last possible day in which I could
But pay it I did. All of it. Every month. Without fail.
Segue to this January, the last day of which is today.
Of all the difficult months to find money, this one was the toughest. And that's saying something. A few clients dogged me; a few others simply disappeared; a couple of others ran out their accounts and chose not to re-up.
My best and dearest friend moved in with me a year ago; she too struggled hugely with making any money whatsoever. As the end of January loomed and not a penny of rent was gathered, outright panic set in for both of us. I'd been here before, in this situation, many times--and always survived to see the next month free and clear. But this time has been distinctly different. There's been a taint to the poorly concealed mendacity others have showed me: phone calls not being returned; e-mails not being answered; short responses; lies; avoidance; even sneering glee in the hope that I was about to fail.
It's been different. And the rent money never came.
Desperate to get help, several days ago I called a low-cost legal clinic based out of the University of San Diego. A day later--yesterday--an aide called back. We talked. My eyes were opened.
It turns out I've paying far more than what is legally allowed in California in late fees. And for years
. Worse, I never signed a new agreement acceding to those late fees. At the bottom end, I've overpaid my rent to the tune of nearly $800. At the top end, that number approaches $2,500.
In other words, this month, January, has already been paid by my hard work long since passed. And possibly February and March, too.
But my days here in Apartment #235 are at a close. As I write this, me and my roomie are boxing stuff up, gathering it, preparing it for a move uptown. I have been extorted from; my trust in the management company is now nil. They are a faceless bunch--as all corporations are--and, as such, refuse to see my side of the story: the human side. I owe no rent. They owe me three months' worth of already-paid apartment living. No deal.
Time to move.*
I will miss this place more than I can put into words. My
apartment: Apartment #235.
What we are and who we are is intimately tied to place and to what we put into that place. Attention. Time. Love. Authenticity. Joy. Sorrow. The place comes alive--or not. It depends, ultimately, on Who We Are.
Most people--and nearly all Americans--couldn't care less about place beyond the utilitarian, financial, and status-seeking or -producing aspects of it. They live where they do because the schools are such and so; the mortgage (or rent) is such and so; the place has two bedrooms, two bathrooms; the neighborhood is high-end; the neighbors are white; the corporates they work with or for approve; and so on. If they "love" a place, that's how said love is defined. Which means it isn't love at all. But this is no surprise, since authentic love, as I have written before, exists in very few. One's living space is as alive as you are. But you are likely dead--and thus, so too your so-called living space.
Apartment #235 is alive. It is deeply, deeply loved. It saved my life: one, from the gloomy streets of Greeley, Colorado; and two, from the vile clutches of a hateful woman who can only call me son because I came from her womb, and for no other reason.
She didn't want me in the first place.
And so I leave here with a very heavy heart. I want this little apartment to know how much I truly love it. Because I do.
The radiance of the passing day, one of our very last together, filters through my grief.