Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Orange Flyer on the Door

I recently moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Portland, OR. It is my first time living by myself. It feels weird. Not so much the living by myself, but living in an apartment complex with people who, judging by the spare glances in the parking lot and laundry room, are all in their late 20s. I did not live in an apartment complex when I was in my late 20s. I was married with a kid, in grad school. Me, not the kid. She's a senior in high school this year. We bought a house when I was 28 or 29. I know we lived there in late 2001 because I put a flag up on 9-11. I don't know who these people are. What are their lives like? What do they dream of? I know so little about them, my fellow Barbur Heights denizens. I'm sure they work. They all own mid-level cars. Some of them bike. My neighbor upstairs showers every morning at 5:30 am, which makes a very effective alarm clock. I could make my guesses. I cold speculate on how you end up in a semi-suburban Portland apartment complex at 27. I don't. I just wish them the best.

It has occurred to me, of course, that if anyone bothered to think about the 41 year-old, apparently single, overweight guy driving a new car who moved in with absolutely no furniture and a picture of his wife and daughter, well it wouldn't take much of an imagination to guess that I am newly divorced. Life in a spiral. On the way down. I'm not, but that would be the logical guess. I take some consolation from the fact that no one actually thinks of me. I live in my box from six to six and am free to be what I will. The apartment complex is no smoking. Absolutely no smoking. The parking lot is not distance enough, but the sidewalk is ok. I returned from a road trip to find a note about this policy taped to my door.
There is absolutely **NO SMOKING** permitted on the property. That includes on your back patio, and that includes your guests. If you need to smoke, please step out to the curb.
I've no idea if the apartment manager, T, put this on every door, or if I was the only one to get one. I don't smoke, nor do my guests. It's been three days and I still worry. Does she think I was smoking? Were there butts on my patio from a previous tenant? They're doing work on the siding and I know people have been on the patio. Am in trouble? I feel like I should call. Clarify. Explain. I have this need to have this woman who I have only met the once not thinking ill of me. Not thinking of me at all is fine. Thinking that I am breaking the rules, that I am somehow bad is not.

Maybe I need to tell her that I am not a lonely divorced guy who smokes Winston's. I have wife, a house, a good marriage. I don't smoke. I have a job. A good paying one. I am not the guy you think I am. I am not the guy my father was. Cause there's a guy I can judge. There's someone who I know about. There's the guy you're looking for. I am not him and won't be. My life can't turn on that dime. I won't wake up one day and have everything be different. My employer is not going to up and announce a massive wage cut. My wife isn't going to leave me. My kid won't mock and pity me. Those things are double plus unpossible for me. Because I am a good guy. I'm doing everything right. I try. That's all it takes, right?

For now, I am letting it go and telling myself everyone got the flyer and no one is thinking that I have done anything wrong here. For now. I may send an email tomorrow, just so she knows.


ash said...

We are very much alike in this regard, you and I. Like you, I at least make a nod toward acknowledging that I should "just let it go" when other people are (unfairly/incorrectly) judging me. But also like you, most times I can't and I don't. I don't need people to view me favorably...I just need them not to think of me unfavorably. Even through I know I should not care.

lex dexter said...

I very much like the idea of you (buying and?) flying an American flag in the wake of 9/11. 'Would never have guessed. Those were charged times.

I very much identify with the urge to disabuse people of the notion that one is merely living a semi-stereotypical life of quiet desperation. The day my shrink told me how bad my depression was I wanted to get a copy of his diagnosis in writing so I could wave it in the faces of people who thought I was just a slacker or some other basic fuckup.

One obvious flaw in this thinking is the presumption that the imagined public cares to think about us long enough to form judgmental opinions. However, recognizing that flaw does little to fight loneliness or loss or whatever the fuck makes us wanna convince people of whatever we wanna convince them.

To borrow a phrase from AP, my social anxiety is like a gas station toilet lately. Par example, last night I was at a beer-y film screening with 3 pre-established acquaintances who were laughing at my jokes and enthused about nervously chatting about records. Nonetheless I had to eject myself merely 47 minutes into the engagement: too much spiky internal monologue-ing and thought-tics! I then spent a long ruminative walk home analyzing things I'd said that hypothetically could've offended somebody. At the moment the anxiety I feel in these kindsa situations is bad enough that I almost feel lonelier in public than I do stewing at home and listening to a voice from a podcast. Still, as I outlined on that last confessional boatzone3 post, I am pretty much convinced that (figuratively) promiscuous socializing is my only way outta the horror of gnarly self-talk and apocalyptic projections re: what the world is and what it might want from me.

lex dexter said...

A less self-y, more 'architectural' comment:

I have a softness - not a weakness! - for apartment complexes. While they run a diverse gamut from lowbrow to luxe, they are almost always anonymous and utilitarian (half the property is given over to parking spaces!) Style-wise they come off like a cross between a motel and a dorm, which is appropriate for the litter of late twentysomethings to whom you expressed your best wishes!

Anonymous said...

In the spirit of this thread, I want to point out that when I invoked the gas station bathroom I was talking about our coffee maker (which seems hell-bent on splattering coffee on itself diarrhetically) and not on Lex's psyche (which I esteem, admire, love, etc).