January 13, 2007

The Renters' Dirge

I'm done. I've had it with beige walls, vertical blinds, outdated stoves and minuscule mailboxes. I want to do aerobics at 6 am without worrying about waking up the tenants below. I'm sick of guessing what the smells are that lurk in our kitchen cupboards from past occupants. And what exactly are those stains that won't come out of the bathroom tile? We didn't make them. I hate the guilt that accompanies each nail I drive into our walls that we are under contract not to violate. As much as I love our neighbors next door, I really don't need to hear their bedroom conversation every night as I drift off to sleep. I'm through mourning the premature death of every plant I bring home because of the lack of sunlight in my apartment. I have to walk down two flights of stairs, across a concrete courtyard and go through two sets of locked doors just to get to my car.

My home is a rented storage unit that floats two stories above the street and will have no memory of us after we leave. I've taken down most of the ratty window fixtures, upgraded all the cabinet knobs, removed doors, and installed shelving. But each of these improvements needs to be carefully undone when we leave so that we aren't fined for our thoughtful upgrades.

Most renters have grand aspirations of home ownership. None of us plan to stay long. But some of us never get out. It could happen to me. Since high school graduation 10 years ago I've lived in four shared homes and nine different apartments. I'm disgustingly urban. Good for me. Now where's my 40 acres and a mule?

Yes, I'm of course grateful to have a roof over my head, live in a nice city and have a wonderful circle of friends. Let's just blame this little nesting attack on my pregnancy and leave it at that. Or chastise me for my whining and greed. You know you want to.

I'm in good company with my grief. Apparently our friend Maya Angelou was a renter too:

A free bird leaps on the back of the wind
and floats downstream till the current ends
and dips his wing in the orange suns rays and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage
can seldom see through his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom.


Th. said...



High school ended 1994....

to '95 with my parents.

95-97 (mission) six places, one more than once

97-98 with parents

99 with cousins

99 apartment in Provo

00 dorm in Illinois

00 bounced week by week between three locales

00 with cousins

00-02 first apartment with Lady Steed

02 second

02-03 third

03-04 fourth

04 with parents

04-06 apartment in Tehachapi

06 apartment in Lancaster

06-07 house in El Cerrito

Still don't own.

momflake said...

She's a poet. Her refrain is haunting. Give me the wide open spaces that I love . . .

FoxyJ said...

I'm going on over ten years of apartment living as well. We've still got a year more of school for the hubby and then maybe we'll buy something. Actually I don't care so much about renting, I just want a house. Preferably something with a yard and with a little privacy. I wish for vertical blinds every day, because the only options we have for our living room are nasty old drapes or having our sliding glass door wide open to view the parking lot of the fancy shopping center behind us. All the trendy Seattle-ites with their lattes walk by and stare at me all day.Sometimes they even wave. When we get a house I'm planting 10-foot tall hedges around the entire thing.

Rachelle Black said...

I love that poem.
Let not your heart be troubled little bird, someday you will have a big house with lots of grass and trees surrounding it- all to yourself.

Pray, pray, pray. And you will be amazed at the results, I know I was.

yer old mudder said...

How 'bout you come home to MY nest awhile, dear little caged bird? You will be set up like a grandee in the Luxury Suite, with your own bathroom,satellite tv, a lovely view of the treetops, and cheerful room service from your adoring Mumsy, and baby-rescue as well (we take the baby off your hands in the middle of the night every couple of nights so you can sleep undisturbed). You could just hole up here until the whole peripartum affair blows over!

Think about it. I am not kidding you, dahling. Oh, yes-you do have a two year old...not so easy, there, but we could work something out.

Lisa M. said...

I did not do well in apartment living.

Lovely poem.

Th. said...


I actually don't care about owning either. But it's one of Lady Steed's most important somedays.

Bex said...

I also wonder if I will be stuck, renting for life. It's a depressing thought. I want a yard. I want to hang my huge mirror on the wall and not worry about the huge holes it will make. I want to paint my walls.

I've been a renter for 8 years. I don't see us buying anytime soon either. :( So sad.

Anonymous said...

Hey, this is Carter. Durham. Anyway, uh, don't chalk up your renter's frustration to the pregnancy -- it honestly sucks. Hard. We've been in our new house in Utah (which others may argue sucks hard in its own way) a few weeks now and are so, so, so, so happy. It is the coolest.