The Castle, Flowers, and Hannah in the Attic
by Hannah Binder
Point Blank Perspective is a blog addressing common places, events, and experiences that we encounter in life. These are described in a column-style with a blunt and one hundred percent upfront attitude.
There are many milestones that you encounter while in college: the first time you deem a banana and a handful of pretzels a suitable dinner, the first time you try to fit two people in a twin bed (though this may come before college for some), the first time you fail a class, the first time you have to do your own laundry and pray that ‘cold for everything’ advice your mom gave you really does work, making your own doctor’s appointment (that one is especially terrifying). But one of my favorites so far is moving into your first apartment.
As if the dorms were equally traumatic for all of us that first mandatory year of college–funny how that works–it seems that everyone I know, ranging from best friends to brief acquaintances that I squint at to try and recall their name or maybe the color of their backpack in hopes that might trigger some memory of how I know them, moved into their first apartments the same time that I did. On my walks to and from work or meetings or the grocery store–the luxuries of not owning a car–I have encountered several classmates from my first year at college squatting on their newly rented porches or stoops or struggling to move a three-seater couch with gawdy rose prints and an unusual coloring acquired from their grandmother (the previous owner) who has smoked for fifty years up three flights of stairs too narrow to even fit a broad-shouldered man. But wouldn’t you know it? We’re all practically glowing with pride to have our own addresses now.
I’m completely guilty of this–momentarily laughable, but with time, nostalgic–pride in my own, as so many have thoughtfully worded it, ‘quirky and cozy’ first apartment. I live in an attic, you see. Really, it’s the second story of a house that most likely was only meant to have a second story in the 40s when people were shorter. I have delivered several ‘watch your heads!’, like an airline stewardess on a 3-across puddle jumper, as my guests come up the stairs and realize just how dramatically the ceilings slant. I’ve considered painting those yellow lines along the floor of the middle of each room of my apartment so that friends and family know when they’re straying too far from the center of the room and risk hitting their heads on the impending roof. You know, the same lines they paint outside classroom doors in Elementary schools where kids haven’t quite learned where to stand? Precisely those.
I love to cook, so I try and use that as an incentive for people to look past my hobbit-sized home. I keep my naturally loud volume of speech especially high during these culinary times, to talk over the ruckus of my oven, banging its arthritic fists against the crooked racks so loud it sounds like it’s going to blow up (this only happens above 350 degrees though, I don’t see what the fuss is about). So I’ll seat people at my kitchen bar (it’s in the tallest part of the house) and hope they don’t get up to get themselves a glass of water. My faucet works great! It’s new! However, it’s best suited for the dyslexic or those that aren’t used to indoor plumbing and therefore don’t have ‘cold on the right and hot on the left’ ingrained in them yet. I believe in keeping things interesting and going with the flow (of which is strong with my backwards faucet, thank you very much).
Luckily my heater works stupendously, like a trusty little engine that could. I know this because I haven’t touched my heater since moving in, due to the summer heat, and every night I hear it crackle against my baseboards. One evening I was in my bedroom and there were two squirrels chittering in a tree outside my kitchen–I didn’t know this truth until getting up to check–and I genuinely believed the noise to be my heater. While some might find this concerning, I prefer to think of it as an added element to the symphony that my apartment conducts for me quite consistently. Not to be out-shone by the heater, my door frames tap their fingernails against the pine beams and I have to convince myself, nightly, that it’s not a rapist or ET, a certain fear from my childhood, finally coming to get me. It’s just my old apartment trying to make enough noise to get me to move out so it can finally retire to a dilapidated state its age deserves.
I’m not the only one that wants to show off their first pride and joy. Some friends of mine, one a regular croucher on his porch, update me on their ‘project’ home, complete with recreational mementos of unsavory activities and weapons stowed in unusual places. They love it there and describe their cleaning processes with beaming faces. Another friend of mine has to use a chair in his shower because the ceiling juts out at a corner–old piping you know–creating enough space for someone of approximately 4’10 to cleanse themselves. He’s 6’3.
Luckily, the landmark of renting your first apartment comes when you are old enough to remember all of the oddities and important, though humorous, details for the rest of your life. Any sooner and immaturity might block out a few of the really good nooks and crannies of this memory. Any older and you just might not put up with everything that comes with an imperfect first apartment.
Although, no matter how young I was I don’t think I ever would have forgotten everything about my first apartment. Especially the irony I felt settle on me like petals on the wind while standing in my new living room, shelving my copies of V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic series. As long as rat poison, somewhat questionable romantic decisions or an abusive Grandmother doesn’t show up in my story too, then I’m perfectly fine with living a Dollanganger life for the time being.