It’s 3 PM on a Saturday and I’m in the dark spare bedroom of my sister’s apartment. I’m completely horizontal save for my head, which is propped against the wall at an angle so ungodly it would make my Pilates instructor mother cry. My right hand is on its 5th hour of scrolling and clicking and right-clicking and back-clicking and copy-pasting from the depths of Craigslist’s “rooms/shared” section.
My laptop rests on my stomach and whirs at a cool 3,000 degrees (that’s Fahrenheit), making me wish I was on my period because at least then it would serve as a computerus instead of just a sweat-inducing torso prison.
But actually, I skipped my last period. Because I’m stressed. Because I’ve been doing this for six weeks now. Six weeks that have done little for me beyond teach me a painful lesson about the difference between requirements and preferences.
I require a room to sleep in; I prefer one that fits a full bed.
I require roommates that aren’t serial killers; I prefer ones that are nice.
I require four walls; I prefer one of them has a closet.
I require a bathroom; I prefer one free of rats.
See the difference? Clicking around Craigslist is the unpaid internship of tough love I never applied for.
My phone buzzes. It’s an unknown number.
An unknown number in a sea of unknown numbers because the only people I text now are 24-year-old leasing agents who aren’t sure they want to do this forever but like the flexible hours.
“im be there tmrw at 1:30 come if u want”
My text feed resembles that of a drug dealer. I start doing the math in my head. If I’m seeing another place at 1:15 PM, will I have time to get to — wait, where is this place?
I reread my original text, which unfolds like a madlib I now know so well I could type it from an anxiety-induced coma that might actually hit at any moment.
“Hi! I’m Haley, 26, a writer working in Soho. I’m looking for a room for me and my cat Bug and saw your listing for the place on Jefferson St and-”
Got it. I map it. 43 minutes. That won’t do.
“How about 2:30 pm?” I shoot back.
“sry, wont b around then”
Rats! (But not literally.) (I hope.) I need to push my 1:15 up. I spend the next 25 minutes jumping back and forth between my phone and Craigslist and Google maps until I have 3 showings lined up with proper navigation-time allotted and a healthy dollop of cynicism applied because my expectations are somewhere between the gutter and Earth’s outer core.
I’m so profoundly bored.
Why am I even talking to all these agents? With their swindling and their fees and their bait-and-switches? I think about the hour I spent waiting for one on S. 4th Street last week where I imagined my future there like a hopeless romantic imagines a long marriage with the stranger across the bar.
I’ll go to that little coffee shop on Sundays, that bar on Fridays, that store for organic groceries because I’m going to learn to cook! And look! The bridge! I’m probably going to walk to work now because it would only take me like…80 minutes! Wow, I’m going to be in super great shape. This apartment is going to change everything.
When the agent finally showed, she quickly snapped me out of my fantasy and then promptly lit it on fire by way of an apartment that was significantly more murder-ish than its photos suggested and a bedroom the same size as the commercial-grade freezer my uncle jokingly locked me and my cousins in when we were kids. At least that one had ice cream in it.
I silently hated her and then asked her to text me if anything else popped up.
And then I cried.
But only a little!
I click over to my email to see if any non-agents have emailed me about rooms. Inbox says zero but in the worst way. I wonder why normal people don’t email me back so I read my 17 outgoing messages with a more critical eye. I said I liked “snacks and memes” — is that weird? Am I insane? I look at the photo of me and my cat Bug and try to spot an offensive dealbreaker that has heretofore escaped me. Like, I don’t know, cat shit in the background? I study my face. Do I look mean? Am I mean? WAIT A MINUTE, what do I even look like? Is my cat even cute?
Who the F even am I? Would I want to live with me?
The Craiglist-borne questioning of everything I knew started around week 3, peaked around week 6 as evidenced in the above, and carried me through to week 8, when I texted a woman who — no joke — was named Gift.
Gift showed me a four bedroom that didn’t have rats (good) or roommates yet (risky) but a roof (cool!) and one shower (okay). So maybe the kitchen is curiously placed 6 inches inside the front door and maybe we didn’t get hot water for the first ten days. Maybe the oven looks like it might be detached from the wall and the lease literally said “the basement should not be used as a room” while my roommate literally signed said lease on the basement as his room.
But to be honest: I’m in heaven. I’m home. And like a woman giving birth, I almost forget how awful it was getting here. I’d say I can’t wait to be re-acquainted with crippling self-doubt the next time I move but I have a feeling I won’t have to wait that long.
Love you Craigslist. Thanks for keeping it too real.
Collage by Emily Zirimis.