Almost five years ago, when I broke up with Ex-Ex, I moved into a shithole apartment. Actually, it wasn’t a shithole – it was big. And it had nice windows. And wood floors. But it wasn’t my house with the arts and crafts tile fireplace, and I didn’t have a yard for my dogs, and the walls were very thin. The walls were very thin and my next-door neighbor got a booty call every night at 4 a.m. and it never sounded like it felt good.

The maintenance supervisor for the apartment complex had a pretty open crush on me – like, he brought me chocolates for Valentine’s Day. This made me sort of uncomfortable, but, if there was anything that needed to be done around my apartment, you better believe it was done in a hurry.

Because I walked the dogs around the parking lot three times a day, I got to know the maintenance guys, one of whom was kind enough to pull a live baby bird out of Foxie Doxie’s mouth on my 31st birthday. Best birthday gift ever.

I also go to know Barbara, the very rough woman who cleaned the empty apartments. Barbara loved her some Foxie Doxie, and, in the midst of loving on him in 2-minute increments, told me bits and pieces about her life – about how her husband had cancer and she was afraid he was giving up; about how her father used to beat her and she once told him to go ahead and kill her; and about how she couldn’t get through the day without Pepsi.

I felt so alone in that apartment, but really, I just had to step out the door. I became friends with people in my building. And I got to know the other dog owners in the complex.

One woman had a problem and when Foxie ran up to her dog and sniffed at him, she lost her shit. She screamed, “Don’t DO that to MY DOG!” And meanwhile, the dog just stood there, totally nonplussed. I wonder how long it took for that dog to become neurotic like his mama.

Then there was the elderly woman two buildings down. I can’t remember her name to save my life, so let’s call her Vera. Vera had a Scottie dog, and that dog was mean as hell. He had pulled on the leash and caused Vera to fall and break her shoulder. This happened before I moved in. She had rehabbed the shoulder and got her dog back, but every time she saw me and my dogs, her face contorted into a most terrified expression – terrified that her mean little dog would get crazy over Foxie and try to pull her arm off again. I can’t say that I blamed her.

Vera was the only person to have ever lived in her apartment. The complex was built in 1949. She moved in when it was brand new and had lived in the same unit ever since. This made me wonder if she would get her deposit back when she moved out.

I drove by the apartments the other day and there were tarps and black plastic in the windows of Vera’s apartment – all the symptoms of heavy-duty painting and apartment cleaning.

It made me sad – sad that Vera either died or could no longer stay in her home. And I felt a little guilty, too. I couldn’t wait to get out of that apartment complex. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t where I wanted to be, and felt like a giant step back in my adult life. But there were good people there, and I’m sure Vera didn’t want to leave at all.

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