My first apartment was called the Laboratorium, and I think I really only moved there for two reasons: a) the landlord was a "no questions asked" type of guy (and, since I was only 17, this was exactly what I was looking for in a landlord) and b) I came up with the name while decending into the dank, basement dwelling and realized how great an apartment name it made.

Within a month I had realized the true horror of my hasty decision. The shower still wasn't fixed (though the landlord had sworn when I signed the lease that it'd be taken care of immediately), the flood damaged walls and carpet were twenty-four hour mold dispensers, and, between the flies (my upstairs neighbors never cleaned up after their dog) and the ants (I woke up one morning to see the cover of my copy of Great Expectations moving, and didn't realize I wasn't dreaming until I put on my glasses and saw every individual insect. Before this, there was never any trace of life in that place except for myself and the occasional guest), I was largely outnumbered. My only real friend at the time was a spider outside my door I had dubbed "Baxter the Invulnerable" after he survived an accidental powdering of ant poison, but he didn't talk much and never came up with his half of the rent anyway.

It was a really difficult time, too, because I was still going through a rocky senior year in high school, my family had all but disowned me (we're much better now), and most of my money was going to rent and not food. Every once in a while, though, I'd have enough cash to splurge on a CD or a record, and this began a long trend of shopping for happiness. To this day, record stores are the only places where I can feel truly comfortable.

The first record I bought while living in this dank pit of dispair was Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' "The Boatman's Call". Whenever I listen to this album now -- well, not so much the entire album as the first few lilting, but oddly somber, piano notes from the song "Into My Arms" -- I remember the smell of my first apartment and my heart balances between the triumph of freedom and the despair of reality.

Two and a half years later, I'd put this song on a tape for this girl who was largely responsible for my move across the United States. She thought I put it on because it was my way of justifying our relationship: she being religious and me being more stoic than anything else. She was wrong: I put it on because she made me feel like I was home.

I guess it's nearly impossible to make someone feel something important without the necessary context.

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