Melissa’s mother and father began having problems with their marriage and the two of us decided to move into our own place despite the recent loss of vision in my right eye and my being unemployed. We took our daughter and moved into a low rent apartment using Melissa’s Administrative Assistant income to escape her family members who were choosing sides and becoming increasingly antagonistic and argumentative with each other.
The apartment really didn’t have much to offer being a two-story design with linoleum covering the floors throughout. The lower floor consisted of the living room, a half bath, kitchen and dining area. The upper floor had two bedrooms and a full bath. It certainly wasn’t much to look at but it gave me some memories that I would carry with me for a lifetime. What follows are a collection of those memories from different points in time while living in the apartment.
One of the worst aspects of the apartment was the cockroaches. They were everywhere despite our keeping a clean house and filling it with roach traps, we couldn’t get rid of them. In the daytime we would see a handful around the apartment but at night, when we turned on the light, we would see them all over the floors and walls, scrambling to get back into the darkness. The apartment manager contracted an extermination company that would come in every six months and fog the entire complex in an attempt to kill the pests. We would have to make sure that we had all of our dinnerware and cookware covered in plastic bags with the cabinet doors left open before the exterminator arrived. We were then ordered to leave the apartment and not return for at least eight hours. After waiting out the time and returning home, we would open the door to still find the fog lingering in the air and the roaches walking through it seemingly unfazed by its presence. We caught the exterminator on his way out once and he complimented us on keeping the place so tidy but warned that as long as we lived next to “that man” pointing at our neighbor’s apartment, we would never get rid of the roaches.
Another memory I have is from a cookout I hosted. It wasn’t anything fancy, just some burgers and hot dogs on a rear patio grill with a few friends. I was cooking and talking with two of the guys outside when we were approached by a group of five children roughly ranging from 8 to 12-years in age. I had never seen the kids before and had no prior acquaintances with any of them but they were there because they smelled the grill and wanted something to eat. Melissa and I had six friends at the gathering and I might have been able to stretch the 8-pack of hot dogs and the pound of hamburger meat to give the kids something but I instead instructed them to go home and tell their parents they were hungry. It wasn’t one of my better moments but I’ll never forget the look on those kids faces when I refused their request and sent them on their way.
And then there are the memories of our pets, which we weren’t supposed to have in the apartment to begin with. Melissa brought home three kittens from work one night; two sisters and a brother that were found on one of the shipping trucks from Mexico. They were just a little bigger than the palm of my hand and their eyes were open. One of the sisters was a short haired calico and the other was black with long hair. The brother was orange with pale striping. I noticed that the black kitten was having some trouble breathing but I thought it was just my imagination and we went to bed. When we got up the next morning, the black kitten was soaked in sweat and the fur was matted to it. We rushed it to the veterinarian who told us that it had inhaled some fibers that had become embedded in its lungs and our only option was to put it to sleep. I hated that option and protested the decision but when all was said and done, we were left with just the two kittens. We named the calico Callie and the orange kitten Turd; more of an informal nickname for him actually because Melissa was always calling him a Turd when he got into something that he wasn’t supposed to like shimmying up the drapes and hanging from the curtain rod.
Melissa also had another cat that I met the first time I went to her house. He was also an orange tabby and we just called him Friend because I was sitting on Melissa’s front porch when he approached for some petting and she said something along the lines of, “Looks like you’ve found a new friend.” When we moved to the apartment, we left Friend at her parent’s house and later found him there severely malnourished and sick with diarrhea. As it turned out, Friend had contracted the mange and Melissa’s father, with all of his redneck wisdom decided to treat the poor animal by pouring motor oil over its skin and rubbing it in to kill the mites. What the idiot failed to realize was that motor oil contains both arsenic and lead and subsequently poisoned the cat. We brought Friend to the apartment and bathed him, washing away as much of the oil stain as I could using a pet shampoo. I sat on the bathroom floor with Friend until I couldn’t stay awake any longer and went to bed. We found him dead the next morning and I my dislike of rednecks grew even deeper. I wanted to rip Melissa’s father apart with the outrage ignited by his ignorance.
Not all the memories from the apartment were bad however.
I had just woken up one Saturday morning and Melissa handed me our daughter while I was still in bed. I sat up holding my daughter in front of me and began playing patty cake with her. She was only a year old at the time and didn’t know how the game was played so I held her hands in mine and sang the song while she laughed at her silly daddy. I was so focused on my daughter that I didn’t notice Melissa walk out of the room until she came back in and said, “Say cheese” while pointing the VHS video camera at us.
At one point, I bought my daughter a Bumble Ball and she was absolutely terrified of it. Every time we turned it on and it began bouncing around, my daughter would start screaming until we turned it off and calmed her down. Eventually the toy was donated to charity with the hope that another child would gain more enjoyment from it.
After my daughter turned two, she went through a phase of never wanting to sleep. We had never had any problems with her sleeping before but it suddenly became a chore to get her in bed. One night I had the brilliant idea of allowing her to stay up as late as she wanted in hopes of her tiring herself out but when I got up around 4:00am, I found her in her room still wide awake. She had pulled every single toy she had out of her toy box and was lying inside of it with her feet poking out over the edge. I very quietly entered the room and peered over the edge of the toy box to find her staring back at me, wide eyed and sipping on a milk bottle completely content with the situation. I could swear she had a mischievous grin on her face when she realized that she had been caught.
I had forgotten all about that night when I wrote The Cats in the Cradle entry but I am getting ahead of myself again because there was a lot going on outside of the apartment as well. I will have to backtrack again when I write about that next time.