In the mid- to late-90s, I lived in a garage apartment built in the 1920s in the historic distric of town. It had many things to love and hate about it.
It had pretty hardwood floors, a picturesque setting among pecan trees, cool built-in cabinets in the kitchen, was five minutes from work, and was across the street from my best friend.
It also had no central heat or air, no doors on the rooms, the biggest flying roaches you've ever seen, mice, one tiny, musty closet, and was across the street from my best friend.
Being a garage apartment, it was a little box of five rooms: living room, bedroom, bathroom, "dining room," and kitchen. The kitchen, living room, and bedroom were all the same size. It had a high ceiling and bumpy plaster walls. I paid $400/mo. It had room in the kitchen for a washer and dryer, which I had, but the wiring was old and my dryer's plug didn't fit the outlet. I offered to split the cost to change it but my landlord said no, so I washed my clothes and hung them to dry.
When I lived there I owned a full set of Fiestaware. I had four colors: small yellow bowls, bigger blue bowls, orange breadplates, and turquoise plates. They looked cool through the windows of the white cabinets. The window over the kitchen sink was wide and I put an assortment of glass bottles on the ledge. It always made me happy in the morning to see the multicolors of glass against the mature, green trees in the backyard.
I was so poor when I live there. It was laughable. I worked a lot of overtime, but it was never enough. I remember going to my grandparents' house for Sunday dinner and gorging on fried chicken, beans, mashed potatoes, sweet tea and pie. I used to joke that I was going to store it all in my hump for the week, like a camel. Sometimes my mother or grandmother would slip me $5 or $20 and I would almost cry. I remember once making dinner with all I had left in the house - spaghetti. When I went to drain the noodles, my hand slipped and all the noodles slid into the sink. I washed it down the sink and went to bed; there was nothing else to do. This was not the happiest period in my life.
For air cooling, I had fans and a window unit in the bedroom. I bought heavy curtains and put them over the doors to try to keep the air contained to the bedroom, or to the bedroom and living room. I would sleep without covers of any sort. If I left the windows open at night, the palmetto bugs were worse, so I kept them closed and the air conditioner on. At 3am one morning, I woke up to a roach running across my leg. I got up and turned on all the lights - I couldn't possibly think of sleeping until he was dead.
For heat, I had a gas heater in the living room. It barely helped and cost a fortune. When I sat at my desk, I could feel the cold seeping through the walls. I would come home for lunch to find the cats snuggling together under the blankets on the bed. I got an electric blanket and would sleep with all three cats piled up on me.
I'm trying to think of good things that happened there. It's difficult for me to think about that time. I liked living there, but I hated my life. I hated my job. Actually, I loved my job but the people I worked for were ... not the most honorable. I had a boyfriend, but it was not a good relationship. I was mean to people; I was angry. I would cry myself to sleep and cry again when I woke up. I'd cry all the way to work and then keep it together for eight or ten hours and then cry all the way home. It was when I started actually waking myself up in the middle of the night crying that I realized I needed to change everything about my life or else. So I found a job an hour away that paid more - he hired me right on the spot because I already knew all the proofreading marks and gave me $1 more an hour than I'd asked for. At the time, it was the happiest day in my adult life. Sweet freedom! I commuted for over a year and then I finally moved when I got my tax refund.
So ok, yeah, it sucked. But I know that if things hadn't happened the way that they did, I wouldn't have taken the path I took that has led me to where I am today - which is a really, really good place.