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The Lying, The Rent, and the Walk-In Wardrobe
Nonfiction. About Moving Out.
*Author’s note: There’s no ‘Lying’ here, an original and much longer draft had a whole thing about… umm… creative rental applications, which I took out. I couldn’t find another word that fit the title well, though, so kept it in. Enjoy!*
I think it was when I had my second nightmare about putting out the wrong coloured bin that I felt true self-reliance for the first time in my life. In the dream I was dragging a wheelless green bin up a never ending driveway, and I could hear the garbage guys laughing at me from the top of the hill, and they started launching recyclable projectiles at my head, and it was then that the hot, horrific realisation that because of the fortnightly collection schedule our already overflowing yellow bin would not be emptied for fourteen entire days dawned on me. Also there were spiders. Not only was the green bin now actively fighting against me as I strained to drag it upwards, i.e. the lid was snapping at my hands and it started shooting wilted rose thorns at my eyeballs, but now the garbage goons had driven away with a hoot and a screech, making my already futile task even more futile. The spiders were really big. So I let go of the bin and it slams down the driveway, exploding at the bottom with a loud crash, and out of it pours all manner of creepy invertebrates and cockroaches and a couple of little birds that all race into the underground parking complex. The spiders just watch me, by the way, which is in many ways worse than if they were actually trying to get me. And it’s around about the time that the underground parking complex’s automatic door closes with me on the wrong side of it without my clicker thing that the screaming starts, and all the thrashing begins, and the giant creepy voyeur spiders just look at me expressionlessly as I become violently awake.
I’ve also had a couple of dreams about being chased by a possessed internet modem, but I don’t want to get into that right now.
Being in the second layer of a row of identical townhouses that is only accessible by a small, very easy to miss gate, Uber Eats drivers have around about a 60% strike rate. They go flying past the property. They go to number 13 instead of unit 13. Some of them wind up in the lane behind us that we can’t access. And you can watch their struggle play out, to-scale, on the little map on your phone, compounding the regulation Uber Eats Guilt (i.e. the expensiveness of the shame of the privilege of the laziness of the refusal to just go get the food myself) with all kinds of commercial-morality stuff thrown in on top. Like how much suffering do I off-set with a $5 delivery fee? Is it better or worse for the deliverer if I live an 800m walk away from the restaurant? What kind of tip would make me a Good Person? Or would it just make me seem like a Good Person? And is there a difference?
Other deliveries have blown hot and cold. My mattress came no worries but the bedframe guy got lost. Amazon stuff is pretty good. Car insurance magazines from previous tenants seem to have no trouble at all getting jammed into our mailbox. The Good Guys have been the only business to actually refuse to deliver to us, either because of the crippling of Australia Post’s delivery network in the lead up to Christmas or because the name I gave them was ‘Gussy McMicrowave’. For the record, Booktopia were very happy to deliver to Sir Angus McBooks.
If you ignore the flickering bathroom light for long enough, and I mean really it’s only about two weeks of properly bad strobe-light flickering and one week of sad sporadic flickering and maybe three more weeks of occasional completely random one-at-a-time flickers, if you can just hold out and not have a seizure every time you shit or shower, if you can metaphorically and literally close your eyes to the problem, if you can just ignore, blissfully, then eventually, through your total inaction, this problem will fix itself. The lightbulb will die. Isn’t that amazing?
Is there a better feeling than that first trip around Woolies? Is there anything in this life that is more fun than that first full shop that’s truly just for you, where you can buy the brand of milk that you like, where no one else will complain about and later steal your yoghourt-topped muesli bars? Does there anywhere in the world exist a more naively ecstatic moment than when you throw a specific (and often exspenny) kind of deodorant or biscuit or fancy-shmancy juice that’s one day shy of it’s Best Before into your trolley, not because it’s on special, not because it’s responsible or smart, but because it is what you and you alone want to drink and eat and smell like?
I was playing idly with our garage door’s remote control in my pocket. I think I may have been pressing the buttons while watching TV. Suddenly there’s a knock at the door. The whole young family in #11 are outside — apparently our garage clickers are on the same frequency, and they’ve come over to warn me that there’s some sort of weird short circuiting going and their kids nearly got decapitated while riding their skateboards and they want to make sure I’m okay and they offer to physically hold our door open if I need to get out and they say it’s nice to meet me. I forget all of their names.
My real issue with Ikea is not the commute there or the parking or the torturous maze through spooky but well-interior-designed bedrooms that have been chopped in half to make room for more fake bedrooms; it’s not the decision fatigue that hits so hard by the time you get to the lamps section that it’s all just pain and light; it’s not the (generally) stupid, hideous, disgusting people in front of you that somehow go your exact speed so you can’t shake them; it’s not the fact that the staff sometimes use secret passages to get away from you if you look “questiony”; it’s not the airport-aesthetic or the meatballs or the price tags, which after about an hour feel like completely unreal numbers anyway, devoid of any relationship to legal tender or the equally unreal number that defines the value of your savings account; it’s not even that fact that Ikea is a globally dominant flat-pack force, meaning that there is probably, at any given time, thousands upon thousands of souls trapped just like yours in various timezones and cities, wandering besides identical spooky fake half bedrooms and nursing stress-migraines among the lamps; it’s not the fact that when you do finally make a decision, even though it feels like one you might regret because of the seemingly infinite number of marginally unique bookshelves that are here—the law of averages says that one of them is the perfect dimensions and colour and aesthetic for your new bedroom that you’ve been inside of exactly three times, but that very same logic also says that the perfect bookshelf mathematically probably is not the one that you have chosen—even after that decision has been made you have to go and find your item’s exact code in a gigantic warehouse of flat cardboard boxes, and though this is theoretically simple you’re tired and it’s harder than it should be and it feels like your new independent life will be basically completely ruined if you accidentally pick up a Malm instead of a Songesand. None of that is the worst part, for me. I think the worst part comes after you pay and jam the thing into your car then haul it up two flights of weirdly slippery wooden stairs, when you then have to build the thing yourself.
But you don’t get really jaded like this until the second or third trip. That first lap around Ikea, when you have literally nothing to sleep on or sit on or do in your entirely empty new room is fun. Really fun. Full of possibility. Every lamp seems like a good idea. You get to ask exciting questions like ‘How many glasses do we need?’ and ‘How many drawers should my chest of drawers have?’ It feels like you get to reinvent your entire personality with your choice of hand towel.
Ask anyone, ask the staff (if you can catch them): The first lap of Ikea is truly very magical. Not only do you get to choose your dreams from a showroom of infinite potential, you also get the great privilege of assembling those dreams with an allen key.
So too will other Adulty-things become less and less fun the more you have to do (and pay for) them.
Did you know that when they give you the keys to the house they do not also give you WiFi? Or a mop?
The weird discount internet company will not care about you nearly as much as your parents did, when they paid for and troubleshooted the internet all your life. And the mop thing is just a daily battle between how much you can tolerate sticky jam stains versus how much you don’t want to ride back from the shops with a mop under your arm, as if you’re on your way to a very shit, low-fi joust.
The flickering light at the end of the lonely tunnel of self-reliance, though, is that getting the internet to work or paying the first gas bill or identifying the source of the smell in the cupboard as some very old onions can be genuinely euphoric. So is finding shit but usable furniture on the side of the road. So is the council picking up your overflowing recycling bin. So is doing a three-point turn to get around an inner west roundabout in the hire van, then smashing the back of the van into a letterbox.
And one unexceptional day after a few weeks, once you’re used to the rent and (most of) your stuff is in the wardrobe and you use the right keys to open the right door, you will say, ‘I’m going home,’ without any disclaimers.