Please welcome today’s guest writer, Meg Schmidt. Meg graduated just last May after studying writing and art history. Her interests include attempting to cook paleo, reading through McBrien’s Lives of the Popes, and landing the wittiest joke in a conversation. Currently she works with Eerdmans Publishing in the publicity and children’s departments, and is loving every moment.
Fair warning: I’m going to start with our wedding. Now please, don’t worry, this isn’t a story about me wrestling with what it means to be married, or graduated, or me. In fact, I don’t really wrestle with anything at all in this story, except for our bathroom plumbing.
But I’m going to start with our wedding day, which happened just as the heat of the summer season became tight and close. We were surrounded by lights and loved ones. I drank a lot of wine and felt very pretty and lovely and danced until the night was ended.
However, we wouldn’t move into our first apartment for another month.
This meant, of course, that by the time the landlord finally called us, we were desperate for home, and didn’t particularly care about how nice our new living situation was. Besides, it was a sweet enough apartment at first glance—one bedroom and one living room with white walls, and big windows to let light in. We bought flowers to celebrate, and moved in the same day.
We would realize our mistake almost immediately.
It started with our downstairs neighbor, Bill. Bill is the Elmo to our Grouch, the Christmas to our Scrooge, the friendly “Hello” to our surly silence.
In short, he is annoying.
He’s often tragically trapped us in the parking lot for a conversation about cars, the weather, or the dreaded question: “Why do you guys seems so shy?” At least he, however, is fairly quiet and avoidable, unlike our upstairs neighbors. I imagine them as fierce debaters of thought, almost Shakespearean-like in their passionate speeches describing how much the other person sucks. You may think we would be embarrassed to overhear these fights, but in the end they seem to usually make up, and it’s what we overhear in the middle of the night from our noisy and—erm—affectionate next door neighbors that make us blush.
And then there’s our nervous fire alarm, which is very concerned with our well being. So concerned, in fact, that it will scream if it senses steam from dinner cooking on the stove. I’m convinced that at times it sounds the alarm just because something could be burning, and we should probably check just to be safe. We do our best to soothe our alarmed guardian by fluttering fans and opening windows for fresh air. Grateful as we are, you can imagine how trying this experience would be in, say, January.
The dishwasher, however is the direct opposite, and actively seeks to murder us. Its pitiful attempts at cleaning a dish leave any and all food remnants lodged to the plate, and it complains loudly at us too—groaning about how hard it has to work and gurgling with the effort. Occasionally, the door will unlatch, taking out anything in its path downward. This is in an act of revenge.
More often than not, we decide it isn’t worth the fight, and we wash the dishes ourselves, calmly in the sink.
We had been bearing all of these trials patiently enough, however, until the day the toilet started belching. I want you to imagine what that must sound like, and after you have, I want you to imagine me hearing those sounds alone in the apartment—which coincidentally, did not contain a plunger.
I rushed into the bathroom to wrestle with what we have named the Great Plumbing Disaster of 2016, and almost ran immediately back out again when confronted with the Even Greater Stench. I won’t ask you to imagine this, it is the kind of thing that can only be experienced, and only then in punishment. Even after the plumbing had been repaired and the workers had gone, the smell still lingered—heavy and unceasing. Needless to say, that was the night we bought several large scented candles, the most helpful scent—somewhat ironically—being the floral-noted candle named “Wedding Day.”
So these are the stories we tell about our first apartment. Of course, you can call it nostalgia, but as we begin to surf around (with a more critical eye) for our next living space, I wonder if these are the stories we’ll tell about our first home together.
I kind of doubt it.
Because instead, I think we’ll remember how sweet it was to do the dishes together. How friendly—if weird—our neighbors were. We’ll look at the candles on the shelf, and remember we’ve had them since we were first married. Those red flowers, blooming again, are the flowers we bought so happily on the day we moved in together, and every time we use our new plunger, it will be with at least a small, fleeting sense of gratitude that we possess one.
Right now however, as we start to make dinner on the stove, I’m still eyeing that fire alarm.