Every post-graduate dreams of the day when he or she can officially leave the nest and have complete freedom. I could not have been more excited when I moved into my very first apartment, but what I thought would be an amazing experience, ended up being a complete nightmare.
I moved into a one-bedroom apartment in a nice suburban area where parking tickets were the only crimes. I knew the neighborhood well, so I assumed that I would have a pleasant experience—I could not have been more wrong.
On move-in day, I discovered that my bedroom window screen was broken, so I informed the main office and had the secretary submit a work order. She told me to wait a few days for the new screen.
A few days easily turned into weeks. This wouldn’t have been much of an issue if I hadn’t been spraying Raid in the bedroom every day to exterminate the copious ants.
Since I didn’t have a screen, I couldn’t open my window to rid of the toxins from the Raid. After a week, I called the office secretary again to ask for the screen, but she told me that this was a very laborious task that would require the repairmen to get the big ladder, put it on the truck, and then carry the ladder to my apartment, which was on the second floor.
I informed her of the issue with the ants and of my asthma to which she replied, “You have two windows. Open the other one.” I was not pleased with this response, so she added, “I know you think this is a big issue, but it really isn’t. It can wait.”
I know I could have called my parents and asked my father to demand a new screen immediately, but since I was on my own, I refused to seek his help. I had too much pride in my newfound freedom, so I decided to be completely self-sufficient and fight my own battles.
Two weeks later, I finally got my screen, but the ant problem persisted. The repairman caulked some holes, but to no avail. I now had large centipedes throughout the apartment, so I requested an exterminator.
I missed work so I could meet the exterminator and show him where all the bugs had been. Around 3:00 pm, I called the office to ask where to the exterminator was only to discover that he had quit. No one called to inform me of this.
I continued to live with bugs.
About two weeks later, I had a rather unique experience in the middle of the night.
I was reading a book in bed until I heard a woman repeatedly yell, “Please stop! Please stop! I’m begging you to stop!” I didn’t know what was happening, but the voice was too loud and distracting that I put aside my book aside and tried to sleep.
At 4:00 am, I was jolted awake by a loud knocking sound. I knew it was too loud to come from the front door, but I assumed that I was just dreaming. With my heart racing, I tried to sleep, but then I heard that familiar voice.
The woman reiterated, “Please stop! Please stop! I didn’t do anything to deserve this!” I assumed that the couple next door was having an argument, but then the voice yelled, “If you don’t stop, I’m calling 9-1-1!” At this point, I contemplated calling myself, but I recoiled.
Minutes later, my doorbell rang. Someone must’ve reported the fight, and now I was being asked to verify—or so I thought.
When I opened the door, two policemen asked if I was okay. Apparently someone reported that I was being attacked by a guy with a knife. I said they had the wrong apartment, so they went to the next door.
Upon investigation, they returned for more questioning. I reiterated my story and asked who called. It was my downstairs neighbor who—as I learned from others—is presumed to be schizophrenic. Now everything began to make sense.
The voice I heard was definitely that of my downstairs neighbor, and the knocking didn’t come from the door—it came from the floor! After this revelation, I shared everything with the police, and a few minutes later, an ambulance arrived to bring my neighbor to a hospital where she remained for the next three days.
The next morning, I called the main office to inform the secretary of my experience and to continue my fight for an exterminator.
A week later, I finally had an exterminator, but the extermination was futile. The ants were everywhere—my bedroom, the bathroom, and even the kitchen. I called my father for some help, so he examined every room and caulked every hole that he saw. This eliminated the number of ants, but they still existed.
One afternoon, I noticed the sun was shining through my bedroom wall. After investigating, I discovered a large hole, so I used some extra caulk and filled the hole. Seven months after I moved, I finally resolved the ant issue.
I thought my biggest problem ceased, but once again, I was wrong.
Occasionally, my apartment had a terrible odor, and after emptying my entire refrigerator and all trash cans, I finally realized that the odor was coming from the downstairs apartment. I purchased several plugins from Bath & Body Works to mask the repugnant smell.
But there was one odor that was no match for any plugin.
I thought it queer that my neighbor’s lights were on late at night, but because I hadn’t seen her since the incident, I assumed she had a new routine. My plugins continued to quell all smells, but on that fourth night, I was inundated with an obscene odor. With my plugins almost empty, I replaced each one.
At work the next day, I received a daunting text message: “The lady below u is dead. Has been for days.”
I began to tremble.
I immediately called the office to share this latest news, but a non-native speaker answered the phone. I told him this was an emergency, but he said to call later.
Exasperated, I yelled, “Sir, there’s a dead body in the apartment below me! THIS IS AN EMERGENCY!!!”
He hung up.
I rushed home after work to find three police officers standing on the patio. The windows were open in the downstairs apartment, but only for the officers’ sakes. Four hours later, the morgue took the body.
Before the police left, they closed all windows in the apartment, allowing the vile odor to permeate the building. I called the office to inquire if the repairman could spray something in my place to alleviate the odor, but apparently, he wasn’t permitted in my apartment because the downstairs was a crime scene. I was told to open windows and to basically deal with it.
A few hours later, the death was officially ruled a natural cause, so the crime scene was lifted. I asked the office if a company would fumigate, but was informed that only the downstairs would be treated, and not till Friday—four days after the body removal.
The stench hadn’t dissipated, but since the superintendent didn’t smell anything downstairs, he declared I wasn’t suffering. However, he failed to open closets, so the trapped odor dispersed into mine.
With the odor emanating for over a week, my father asked the fumigation men to assess my apartment, and when they opened my closet, the odor fully exposed itself. My closet required fumigation and my clothes required dry-cleaning.
Every time I complained, I was dismissed. When I asked to break my lease because of this ordeal, the secretary replied, “The adult in me has to tell you that this is life and you just have to deal with it.”
My father was the one who got my apartment fumigated. My father was the one who got my clothing reimbursement. And my father was the one who got everything he requested.
In my first apartment, I endured more stress and anxiety than I have ever had. I had to rely on my parents more times than when I lived with them. And I was mistreated and patronized more times than I was as a child.
My first apartment was my first real-life nightmare.
Amanda EL has been teaching high school English for seven years. Her works have been published in literary and educational journals. She also has her own personal blog that can accessed at the following link: aelentino.com/blog. She has two upcoming publications in the mental health section of sheknows.com.