I really, really hate retroactive justification, the self-delusions that state that all the crap you’ve gone through has led to the amazement and satisfaction you currently feel. To me this “everything happens for a reason” bullshit is little more than rationalizing laziness and/or masochism, and it isn’t much different than pissing away one’s life in waiting for a glorious Rapture.
That said, all of my current problems ended in the span of a single day. They didn’t end in the best of all possible ways, but the normality that is finally about to return is a very good one. While I won’t say that this single day’s payoff was worth the previous year’s cost, I once more feel like my life is running with a heightened sense of appropriateness, or at least narrative.
The day was the first day of summer, a good friend’s birthday, and I had no expectations that it would be anything but the usual timeless time wasting that characterized my year of ungainful employment. I was sleeping in my bedroom tent that once was a dining room when my phone, a new one that recently replaced the old wreck I finally euthanized with a washer ride in garbage-covered jeans, blared out the triumphant theme to the NES game, M.U.L.E.
It was the manager of an upscale fast food joint I halfheartedly applied to and interviewed for weeks before, someone I hadn’t expected to hear from again. He wanted me to drop by for another interview. After wiping the crap out of my eyes and putting on some less-wrinkled clothes, I walked into his place and was immediately given a job. Poof. Done. In the blink of an eye, I was once again gainfully employed.
I didn’t really know how to react.
I texted my friend and let her know that my birthday present to her was me getting a job. I’d have called it a cheap gift if I hadn’t been living below cheap for the past year. After that I went home and surprised my girlfriend (and tentmate) with the news. Maybe an hour later, she got a phone call of her own, and we had more surprising news. Her friends were moving out of their stately apartment, and they were wondering if we wanted to take it. This Friday, we move in.
All of this happened in one day.
I’ve lived in far worse situations than the one I’m about to leave. The tiny two bedroom drug den packed with five people, bongwater carpets, and shotguns sitting out in the open comes to mind. As does the place where people slashed each other for fun, ripped each other off for cheap profit, and attempted suicide from time to time. The apartment I lived in eight years ago in which people were too busy buying weed and pizza to pay our bills still casts a long shadow over my destroyed credit.
In contrast, the people who live in the house that houses Tent City are upstanding, beer-soaked Wisconsin transplants who (eventually) pay their bills and aren’t unduly dramatic or self-destructive. It’s bizarre and uncharacteristic that I’ve been the one who hasn’t been able to pull my financial weight and have been dependent on their charity. I’m excited to come back here and hang out once hanging out become a choice and not an enforced default.
So what follows isn’t about burning bridges. That said, I cannot wait to get out.
At first, Tent City wasn’t even a tent. After we cleared out everyone else’s stuff, what was left was a dining room with no walls or doors, indiscriminately letting in light and sound. After being sent my old curtains and tenting up the place, only the sound remained a problem.
My tentmate and I spent the first four months out here sleeping on a dimpled air mattress which made obnoxious fart noises any time someone moved on it. The acquisition of the simple, single queen mattress we finally replaced it with was celebrated with alcohol and chocolate cake.
There are rats in the basement of this house, massive gopher holes have ruined its yard, and the trashman eventually stopped collecting our garbage. Beer bottles breed like rabbits on the furniture. The television is never off, even if nobody is watching. If anything was ever cleaned in this house, it was usually due to me or my girlfriend, and we also had to be permanently on guard to make sure our baby cats didn’t get outside from the many ways out of this dilapidated wreck.
But the worst thing about living here has always been the lack of walls. With all my previous bad situations, no matter how bad things got, I always had a room to retreat to, a place to filter out all the noise and damage. In Tent City, that safety doesn’t exist. I hear everything. It got worse once it started getting cold and everyone started coming inside, worse still once my roommate who was living in the basement got flooded out and moved into the living room next to Tent City. Some of us have rooms, but none of us really have any space.
Along with the massive sense of paranoia I developed from not having a place of my own, I’ve pretty much abandoned hopes of normal sleep, and for the time being I’ve all but abandoned writing. Every word written has become a battle held between my brain and every outside noise and distraction, and fighting hasn’t been worth it. I admitted defeat while plotting my way out, and I saved myself further implosion and frustration.
But that’s about to end. I’m about to move into a place with no noise and no distraction. My own safe place. A place to get things done. I’m about to become myself again. I’m about to obtain the potential to become better than I’ve ever been.
Tent City, I’m pulling up your stakes.