David Moves Out- Part One
My friend Timothy and I were standing outside a mental institution. It was May 2011.
“This has been a horrible year,” he said.
“It’s been an interesting year,” I said.
One of our best friends was inside the mental institution, and had been for over a month. We were one of his only means of emotional support, which was messing me up pretty badly.
Timothy had been suicidal for most of the winter, and had barely avoided getting chucked in the bin himself. A few months before that, I’d dropped out of university.
Standing outside the mental institution with Timothy, I assessed my life.
I have to turn things around, I thought. I have to do something drastic.
That evening, my parents and I sat in the family room watching T.V., eating dinner off of plates in our laps.
“I’ve decided to move into Toronto as soon as possible,” I said. “Probably at the start of July.”
“Wait, what?” my father said.
I tried to explain to my parents why I thought this was necessary: my friends lived in the city, I was starting work at the U of T in the fall, I was almost twenty-four.
But my explanations fell flat, because I was running on instinct. I’d been running on instinct for several months at that point, which was one of the reasons I was feeling tired all the time. I was used to being a brain instead of a heart, but something had changed inside me. Or around me. Or maybe both.
I talked to my therapist about it.
“I think this is a wonderful idea,” he said. “I’ll help you figure out what you have to do, of course. Have you thought about budgeting?”
I told my parents that my therapist supported the idea. They were not pleased, but reluctantly accepted that this was indeed something which was going to happen.
We started looking for apartments. I had very little money, because I was unemployed and relying solely on ODSP (a government stipend for being retarded, crippled, or crazy).
“We’re going to have to find something under 600,” my mother said. “And that’s not going to be easy.”
“You’re going to end up way out in the boonies for the amount of money you’ve got,” said Timothy. “In this city, you can have either price or location. Not both.”
There were plenty of apartments available in Parkdale, a neighbourhood with a reputation. One of my friends lived there, and I remembered her telling me about it.
“I don’t understand why everyone thinks Parkdale is so violent, like everyone gets shot all the time,” she said. “Nobody here can even afford guns!”
There were apartments on the outskirts of the city, too: far away places surrounded by highways and strip malls, connected to downtown only tenuously by complicated bus routes.
After an intensive search my parents and I found one place only a few kilometers from where I’d be working. It was in East York, a neighbourhood I wasn’t overly familiar with.
We didn’t set up a viewing- I wanted to scope it out first. I set out by foot from a subway station, walked north, and kept walking.
Things got depressing fast.
Soon I was surrounded by strip malls, gas stations, and run-down mom and pop shops. I found the apartment building on a street crowded with apartment buildings. Everything looked wilted. The neighbourhood grocery store was filled with unhappy-looking people. I noped the fuck out of there.
“You can’t afford to be so picky,” my mother said. “Not with your price range.”
“I can afford some basic standards.”
My mother sighed.
“We’ll keep looking,” she said.
We were in early June now. Thoughts of moving into the city at the beginning of July seemed increasingly implausible.
My friend was still in the mental hospital. Timothy and I visited him often. They came up with a harebrained scheme to check him out on a day pass and take some E. When I heard about this, I lost my fucking mind.
“This is the stupidest goddamn idea I’ve ever heard,” I said to Timothy.
“He’s an adult, he can make his own decisions.”
“He was involuntarily admitted!”
“You believe every idea the mainstream media feeds you about drugs. That’s your problem,” said Timothy.
My friend’s therapist worked at the university- I’d be working in the same department in the fall- and I contacted him about the situation. He put a stop to it pretty quickly.
My mother found an apartment listing in the newspaper, in my price range, and in the Annex- a neighbourhood directly north of the university.
I checked out the apartment with my sister and my mother. It was in a three-storey walk-up on the edge of the Annex, on a quiet tree-lined street.
The landlord brought us inside and led us to the basement.
The newspaper ad had said the apartment was upstairs. I exchanged a puzzled glance with my mother.
The apartment was fine- tidy, basic- but I didn’t want to live underground.
“We’ll think about it and call you,” my mother said.
“Okay, but contact me as soon as possible, because I’ve already had a few offers,” the landlord said.
The three of us left the building and stood on the front lawn.
“Nope,” I said.
“Nope?” my sister said.
“It’s in the basement. I refuse to live in a basement.”
“Everything else is perfect!” my mother said. “You’re not going to find a better place.”
“There’s that other apartment just north of here,” I said.
My mother took a deep breath, turned around, and walked back to the front door of the apartment. She buzzed the landlord. He opened the door.
“Hi?” he said.
“We were wondering whether there were any other apartments available in this building,” my mother said. “The newspaper ad mentioned one on the third floor.”
“Oh.” The landlord hesitated. “I don’t, uh, I don’t own this building. There is another apartment available, but it’s not ready for viewing. According to the owner.”
“Can you call us when it’s ready?” my mother asked. “Because we’d be very interested in seeing it.”
“Yeah, I’ll do that,” said the landlord.
A few days later, the landlord phoned us and said the apartment was ready to be viewed.
This time, my father drove me into the city.
The landlord led us down a maze of hallways to a tiny apartment which had no furniture and no carpet.
“There’s a lot of work to be done in here,” said the landlord. “We might not be ready by the first of July. It comes pre-furnished and we’re bringing in all-new furniture.”
The room was tiny, and the prospect of living in such a cramped environment terrified me. But I knew it wasn’t going to get any better than this- the price was right, and the location was perfect.
“I’ll take it,” I said.
We filled out the paperwork in the landlord’s apartment. My father and I walked outside down the street to a pub and ate lunch on the patio.
“How are you feeling about all this?” my dad asked.
I shrugged. I felt numb.
The next day, I turned twenty-four.