Tag Archives: apartment

Dear Future Tenant: Nothing You Do is Original

Oh sweet damp and dusty nights to come

One day, future tenant, all this will be yours. The house plant, the wobbly table, the bizarre equipment in the corner of the balcony that may have been used for torture….it will all be yours, to keep and to hold forever until your lease runs out after a year.

I remember when I was like you, wide eyed with wonder as day by day I discovered the rich variety of ants in our apartment and the necessity to keep everything as sterile as a freshly boiled set of vampire teeth. I, too, chuckled as I realized that none of the lamps in the apartment were equipped with light bulbs and ruined the Italian coffee maker by putting the top part on the stove, causing it to produce water permanently scented with burnt rubber.

The bathroom was a stranger to me as well, especially the shower square with its curtain that you must encase yourself in like a sausage while watching as water still shoots onto the floor despite your best intentions. And yes, I recall the nook, that precious nook in the corner of the first bedroom where I would while away the hours drawing both straight and curvy lines and think about to whom I could send them to as a time-released prank.Those were some of my better years. The ashtray of my mind was not yet full and I saw with youth’s vigor and hope.

And the balcony. Yes, I remember that balcony very well. I had dreams of buying a soccer ball and juggling on it without pants. Sometimes I walked to the edge of the balcony and looked out over the empty street, bad pop music sounding from a distance. It was my world. It will never really be your world, since it was mine first.

And of course, the bizarre bed contraption in the corner. I can see it in my mind’s eye and on this webpage very well. When I first laid eyes upon it I thought it a dilapidated piece of junk, good for nothing except soccer ball storage or unwanted guest accommodation. Upon closer inspection, I found it was something much more special, as if God himself had sent it to us, His final touch on creation and the 2nd greatest gift to mankind. Yes, future lessee, you will be the proud temporary owner of this bedswing, perhaps the only one in the entire world. And yes, the mattresses will be continually damp and half their mass is an accumulation of dust and previous tenants’ skin cells absorbed into them over the years.

But don’t let that take away from the experience of lying on the bedswing, moving slowly yet haphazardly both forward and side to side. As you absorb the view of the roof’s underbelly, perhaps you could imagine the man (or woman) that created this thing and why they did so. Were their beds too dry and dust-free inside? Did they want to reinvent the waterbed with chains, nails, and wood? Were they trying to make a cabinet and didn’t read the instructions correctly? Did they wear glasses? Love their mother?

I’ll let you think those thoughts for yourself, though I’m sure I’ve already thought of all of them since I was here first. I am not the original tenant. Nor am I the owner. But make no mistake, this apartment will always remember me, since I’m going to build a larger and even more bizarre device that will leave the generations to come wondering what happened to that girl and where did she get enough peanut butter to fuel a rocket launch. Just you wait.

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Six Stages of Packing


It is finished. I have moved and am now in a magical place called Mohandiseen, where the honking in the distance almost sounds like crickets, the sky has 3 more stars, and cotton candy grows on trees.

I don’t care if I have to eat beans and toothpaste for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and tea time snack in order to live here. It will be worth it to have this haven where I can literally cocoon myself away from the craziness of Tahrir, in order to appreciate it more fully.

While packing, I gleaned some impressive information on the emotional phases of the moving process. Allow me to elaborate.

Time to Go

The day has come. It’s time to move out of your apartment, the apartment where you have lived. You saw this day coming because you signed the lease and chose this day yourself. Still, it strikes you like a thunderbolt. You squirm in your shoes, you pace up and down nervously as your palms sweat and your eyes swim, but you can’t avoid what’s coming. It’s time to pack. As you begin the laborious process, you start progressing through the six stages.

Stage 1: Despondency

As you survey the grotesque bulk of your possessions, your heart is stricken with an iced lightening rod. Hercules himself would have trembled at the sight of what must be squirreled away…unworn clothing, laughably ambitious shoes, three partially used deodorant sticks, two cans of tuna, etc. You experience earth shattering, heart breaking, soul sucking hopelessness. “Might as well give up now,” you think, as you check to see what’s on television.

Stage 2: Elbow Grease

After weeping briefly, you pull yourself together and realize that today is the first day of the rest of your life, and that if you don’t pack your landlord will confiscate you and your possessions. You start puttering around the room, rearranging and evaluating things, and all the while hope slowly wells within your chest. “Maybe this can be done,” you think, “and where did those cans of tuna go?”

Stage 3: Sweat

You’re really moving now. The hot Cairo sun is beating down upon all the Cairene earth. In the AC-less room, your temples and back grow damp as the pile of material possessions is slowly organized and moved into seal-able spaces. You are happy in your delusion that things are actually going to get done. “I’ll even be able to fit in my cans of tuna,” you contentedly state to yourself.

Stage 4: Despair

Your bags are filling fast and you there is no end in sight. Your forehead is sweaty and you feel like crap for some reason, even though you got three hours of sleep and have only eaten chocolate. Emotions run high as you recall past loves and wonder where they are now. Are they packing too? Do they know what this is like? As you look at the miserable pile of crap your life has become, a mere anchor to a place you are no longer attached to, you begin to wonder what the meaning of it all is.

Stage 5: Rejuvenation

After looking at a tree, you realize things aren’t so bad. You decide to throw away the yards of velvet you wanted to make into a magician’s cape for your niece, and that makes you feel better. Now there’s just the odd shaped things like packing tape left, most of which can be thrown into your backpack. “Wait a second, ” you think to yourself, “WHERE ARE MY CANS OF TUNA?” You lay your eye upon them and a chorus of heavenly angels sings as you nestle them into the perfect spot in your suitcase. The end is in sight and it looks like a celebration at Pizza Hut.

Stage 6: Jubilation

After cramming the last pair of socks through the crack of your suitcase and zipping it shut before it could escape, you glance around your room and realize you have done the impossible. You have packed your life into measurable square feet, and you have done so with only a mild breakdown. Come hell or high water, one thing is for certain. As soon as you get to your new apartment, you’re unpacking everything and cracking open a can of tuna in celebration. Champagne is for squares and people who don’t eat enough protein.

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Remembering the Frenchman Who Showed Us His Apartment Today

Here was the bed he slept in. And this was the kitchen he would always make his instant coffee in. Do you remember how much he loved instant coffee? He would always offer us some even though we never accepted. And do you remember how he would let us wander in his apartment as we examined it, awkwardly standing by as I took a few haphazard photos? His complete lack of facial expressions was so disconcerting!

This was the bathroom he showered in and the toilet he used, the sink he sometimes shaved over and the black-splotched mirror he would look into as he brushed his teeth.

These were the books he read, and oh! There was the one he was currently reading: Modern Trends in Post-Colonial Interpretations of Revolutionary Artwork. He was such a scholar, getting his PhD I believe.

Remember when he told us in his endearing French accent about the crazy lady who lived in the vacant building across from his apartment and how she would scream at the people in the subsidized bread line as they were fighting? How we nervously laughed and laughed! We were so unsure of what the proper response should be!

And when, right after meeting him at Hardees, I asked him what his wife does and it turned out she was the lady sitting right next to you? Wasn’t that funny!

The way he asked us whether or not we wanted the apartment was certainly charming as well. He inhaled deeply and said, “So, do you think this is something like what you are looking for,” and as we looked at each other we both knew that there was no way we would ever want to live somewhere the kitchen is the size of the bathtub.

As soon as we’d seen the kitchen, we heard the death knell of our relationship. There would be no second meeting to sign the contract or determine the final details of the lease. There would be no exchange of phone numbers with the real estate agent or the bowab, and no other semi-firm handshakes.

And so it is with fondness I remember those awkward moments we spent in his tiny apartment, examining his home and finding it wanting. Though our friendship, and I hope we can call it friendship, lasted only a painful 30 minutes, I know I will be unable to forget the complete lack of comfort I felt while in his presence. It may have been the fact we were not speaking in his native tongue, or perhaps he had forgotten how to interact with humans other than his wife and research subjects because of his time spent buried under PhD work. Whatever the reason for his particular brand of charm, his company was priceless. I do hope he finds someone else to rent his apartment quite soon.

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If these family members could speak

Recently we hired a cleaning lady for our apartment since the amount of filth that piles up around here in a matter of days is simply incredible. Dust coats everything in record time and if one so much as sneezes in the vicinity of the white tile floor, it instantly turns brown, the moist droplets propelled out of the nasal cavity attracting every dust particle within a ten yard radius before becoming permanently attached to the ground. Keeping the place clean would be a full time job, and since none of us brought our mothers (just kidding) or our roombas with us, it was necessary to find a solution. Having maids in Cairo is very common for upper class families I think, and though we are not necessarily upper class, we are certainly a family so we thought on that basis we might as well try the culture out.

Our cleaning lady, who I will call Nancy, was wonderful. The two times she has come, the apartment feels like it sparkles after she leaves if ratty carpets, embroidered artwork, and Louis the XIV style furniture could sparkle. But something strange happened last week: Nancy didn’t come. We waited for her knock at the door, but heard nothing. We called her cell phone and she didn’t pick up. In fact, it was turned off. We waited a little bit longer, but still no Nancy. Then we began to worry.

She had become like family to us, kind of, like one of those family members you don’t really talk to that much. Like a family member that asks to be paid in return for cleaning your entire apartment. Like a family member you can’t really communicate with because they speak a different language and are busy most of the time they’re around. Like a family member that randomly disappears and doesn’t call to let you know that they’re okay but not going to be able to make it to the apartment because of an emergency on the other side of the family. Like a family member that you thought was really reliable and then turns out they sometimes just don’t show up to their expected appointments even though there hadn’t been any change of plans.

In other words, she was almost a sister to us. She is supposed to come tomorrow, and we are all holding our collective breath and crossing our fingers that she makes it and not only for the sake of our apartment’s level of cleanliness. We really do hope everything is okay with her. If not, then not only will I have to spend hours wondering what happened to her, but we’ll have to find another family member to replace her, and that’s never easy.

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There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother

It is a mosquito.

An entire day passes in my apartment and I see no Cairo wildlife, i.e. insects of various sorts, dogs, cats,

This is the enemy

weasels, or small badgers, but as soon as the hour approaches when I consider beginning the long nap I take at night, my old enemy confronts me once again. Indeed, as soon as the very thought ekes its way through the fabric of my mind, I hear the familiar high pitched whine that signals the presence of a creature desiring to partake of my flesh.

Nothing could be more dangerous than this foe. Left unattended, I am faced with the frightening reality of awaking in the morning to as many as five or six bites upon my feet, face, and claws. That is a reality I do not wish to experience.

And yet, night after night, the dastardly devil proves nearly impossible to kill. I have only successfully killed one mosquito in my time here. In that case, the little lady had feasted too heartily on the blood of yours truly. Slowed down by the weight, she could not avoid my slowly approaching, slightly moist palm which after the fact was graced with a bright smear of body fluid complemented by mosquito appendages. Of course I ingested it, making my revenge complete.

The war continues, however, another thirsty female eagerly filling the last one’s place. How does it hover so slowly and closely to my ear and spring away with the precision of a gazelle when I go to slap it? What mad science is this that the mosquito is perfectly adapted to inflict both physical and mental pain in its victims? Why do I leave my windows open and breed mosquitoes under my bed?

The only solution is continual wakefulness until every mosquito is gone. A disguise must be sequestered. I have work to do.

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