I left my apartment on Water Street a day early. I’d had five weeks to move after my landlord (illegally) asked me to leave after I refused to sign a yearlong lease, having lived in the apartment for two years without having to sign such a lease. They wanted me out by the first of the month and I returned the keys on the 29th for good measure. It was a blessing though, forcing myself to leave that nightmare building; where Groton police were frequently dealing with issues in the parking lot, where my landlord was constantly leaving the front door wide open, where kegs were stacked outside my door blocking me in, among other things. It was April and thankfully it wasn’t raining those last few days as my mother, brother, and I carried box after box out the door and stacked flat pieces of Ikea furniture inside a 10 foot U-Haul truck. I was leaving a day early, on a Friday, and getting the hell out of dodge—as my mother would say.
The apartment itself was a real gem. The whole town is basically a tourist trap and an expensive one at that. Lots of the homes in the surrounding area are divided into two or three apartments, some legal and others not; the businesses deemed “multiple use” get away with a lot it seems, and the issues of parking spots and onsite laundry facilities become major talking points for landlords. I fell into this apartment on accident and I fell in love with the old wide beam floors, the seven huge windows along both walls, the proximity to my work and favorite coffee shop. It was one of two one-bedroom apartments above a pizzeria and a dentist’s office. But what seems perfect rarely is. In my defense I had looked at maybe a dozen apartments in town, each of them scarier than the last. Finding Water Street felt like a relief.
After my property manager informed me that they would not paint the apartment before I moved in, nor would they pay for the paint and materials it would take for me to paint the place myself, I should have known things would be difficult. When I took the apartment it had dirty walls that were painted a dark orange, making the place seem darker than it really was, and it was covered with tons of white patches from where someone had spackled over holes. I pointed this out to my property manager, who could not even produce the matching paint color for me to touch up. I decided to bite the bullet. My mother came for a long weekend and we painted the place a light yellow. Afterwards we realized that the ceiling was actually a pale blue. We decided to save the energy and skip painting that, since it was that popcorn type ceiling and is a real nuisance to deal with. I even liked the blue. It didn’t take long to move in my hand me down furniture, and it didn’t take long to make the place my home.
My total time spent on Water Street was 30 months. I lived through major construction, dealt with various plumbing issues, witnessed several drunk-driving accidents, and fought with the restaurant manager when people took my parking spot. About a year after I moved in they began construction to expand the restaurant, including adding in a basement level bar. The construction was loud and inconvenient obviously, but the worst part was definitely the three weeks I went without water in my kitchen, as they claimed to be rerouting the major pipes in the building. During this time they relocated all sorts of boxes and music equipment into the hallway and staircase leading to the two apartments. The floor outside my door was still ripped up the day I left. I pointed all this out to my property manager several times, surely this has to be a fire hazard?, but the boxes of Guinness glasses and extra sweatshirts stayed stacked next to amps and wires and speakers for the live music. I suppose in all their plans and building they forgot to account for storage space. Not exactly unsurprising coming from these people.
Having the full bar two floors below me changed everything. The restaurant stayed open later, people got drunker, and it turned the parking lot into a circus. My own car was hit overnight right before Memorial Day last year, and as it turns out, was hit by the manager of the restaurant who later admitted to me that he’d been drunk. Groton police were in and out of the parking lot every week it seemed; once to help handle a belligerently drunk man refusing medical care after taking a fall in the bar, and another time to chase a man who drunkenly fell in the street off his motorcycle as he attempted to drive away. The list goes on. But at the same time, my windows offered me great vantage points and an excellent location to eavesdrop on conversations, fights, secrets, anything happening on the sidewalk or the street. People rarely look up and notice anyone peering out their windows, even as I leaned my head and shoulders out to get a better view. It certainly was never dull.
Leaving was easy in a lot of ways. In the last few months I became more and more vocal to my property manager and the manager of the restaurant about the parking lot issues, the kegs constantly blocking the door, the unreasonably loud music after midnight, etc. Honestly the last time I pulled the manager out of the bar to chase away someone in my spot might have been the breaking point for them, realizing that it was finally time to get rid of the mouthy bitch that lived upstairs. My property manager called me on Good Friday to say they were raising the rent a hundred dollars, which didn’t make a difference for me, and then as an afterthought threw out the part about signing a year lease. I refused. She told me to get out in five weeks. And I did.
Probably the worst part about moving in a small town is that sometimes I forget where I’m going. I automatically leave the YMCA and head towards the drawbridge, towards home, before remembering that I don’t have to cross the bridge anymore to get home. I realize too late, sometimes, where my new turn is and end up overshooting my street. It isn’t necessarily a problem, more like a joke almost, that even in a town this small I lose my way. What I think is that home is something that constantly shifts, and even a bad living arrangement can become a good home. Some of my lowest lows and highest highs happened in that apartment. And while my property manager might never become a good person, and maybe the manager of the restaurant will never get arrested for driving under the influence, at the very least I’m relieved to be done with them. It also doesn’t hurt that I took with me the light bulbs I purchased when I moved in—all of them—because leaving those bulbs behind felt like doing them a favor, and taking them with me gave me such a Grinch like satisfaction, even if it didn’t really matter at all.