This is just a story. I don’t have any conclusion that I’ve reached in the aftermath of this event, so I’ll just tell it in whole, and you can take from it what you want.
The water goes off in our apartment a lot. Daria probably never knows because it shuts off at hours that only partially employed people would get affected by. Up until now I’ve never been troubled by it because my reaction to this inconvenience is just to not shower.
However, I’ve never needed a shower more than I needed one on Monday afternoon at 2 p.m. I’d taken two four-hour bus rides over the weekend and hadn’t had time to wash the stench of McDonald’s and crunched felt seat upholstery off of me in between that time. I went straight to work from the second bus ride, and when I got home on Sunday night there was a sign on the door saying the water would be shut off from 9 a.m. to noon the next day.
I took this as an opportunity to go to bed, then get up Monday morning and run around outside in the rain for a few hours, getting both sweaty and rain-soaked. I had decided to let the dirt build up to a climax before I washed it clean. Once I felt that I smelled enough like a wet boot dipped in the Hudson River, I returned to my apartment in hopes for a scalding hot shower that would steam up all ten square feet of the bathroom.
To my horror, I turned on the faucet and a shrill Michael Jackson pitched noise escaped. The water was still off, even though it was well past noon. I had work in two hours and knew I couldn’t show up looking like I’d been playing in the rain all morning, which is exactly what I had been doing.
Immediately I called the maintenance department of my building and told them it was their job, no, their responsibility to get me showered and clean. I didn’t care if they gave me their gym membership to use, forced their friend to let me take a shower at their place, or got me a hotel room. It was their fault that I was this dirty, so they had to make it right, I said.
They must have been able to smell me from the other end of the phone because I didn’t even have to give them an ultimatum or threaten them in any way. After being transferred to some managers and having to say, “apology not accepted” a good number of times, one of the directors gave in.
“Okay,” she said. “We do have one vacant apartment open that you can use. It’s three blocks away and someone will meet you there to let you into the building. Just make sure you lock the door behind you when you go inside.”
I hung up the phone and packed my purse full of bathroom things. When I was on the swim team in high school, I would always shower after practice and forget to bring a towel, resulting in a wet mess in the carpool home. My freshman year of college, I would always take my caddy to the bathroom for a shower, but of course I would forget my towel and have use my jammies to dry off, but would still leave a trail of water when I walked down the hall to my room. As I chuckled at these memories, I threw shampoo, conditioner, soap, shower shoes and a loofa into my bag. Apparently I will never learn my lesson.
Before I left, I decided I didn’t want to be naked in a place that wasn’t my home. I rifled through my pajama drawer and found the closest thing I could find to a bathing suit, which was a gold lamé bra and panties. “Perfect,” I thought. I headed out.
There was a construction worker in front of the building with the famed vacant apartment. He was staring at a group of guys that were washing windows on the third floor. I asked him if he was supposed to let me in and he smiled at my and pointed at the washers. He was not my key holder, but I stood there watching the windows with him for about five minutes until I took the opportunity to slip inside the building when someone came out. I bounded up the steps to apartment 7 and went inside.
Immediately I noticed how much nicer the apartment was than my own, but quickly snapped out of it and got down to business. I turned on the shower, stripped down to my bathing suit and jumped into the scalding hot water. I noticed that there was an open window where I could see the pulley ropes for the window washers. They were a few windows below, but I stuck my head out and with a smile asked that they not come up here because I was showering. They started to laugh, and I wondered if it was at my gold lamé bra. They were very kind and said they’d stay down there, but I really think it was because they understood the degree of my smelliness and knew I had some work to do.
The shower was incredible. I washed away the rain and grime from my person and even scrubbed behind my ears. I was very pleased with my landlady and maintenance team for getting me showered. I thought about what I would say in the thank you note I would later write. Then I remembered I was showering in a vacant apartment that was not my own and decided that did not warrant a thank you note, but probably warranted a discount on next month’s rent. Some people sing in the shower, I think about saving money.
Thinking of my landlady then made me think of real estate. Wouldn’t it be funny if someone came in to show this apartment while I was there in the shower? The agent would probably call the police, right? Good thing I locked the door. Wait, did I?
No sooner did the thought enter my brain when I heard it; the latch of the front door released and I heard it swing open. I guess I’d forgotten the lock. “Ooooooooooh this is nice!” said a young, hopeful voice that probably just got a pay raise.
When you’re kissing someone and get walked in on, you freak out and jump off of your mate. When you’re peeing and someone opens the door, you stumble over the toilet and try to cover yourself. Not many people know this, but when you are in a shower in a vacant apartment wearing shiny underwear, you just stand there and close your eyes, waiting for them to take you to jail.
“Oh, I think the water is running in here let me just turn it off real quick,” said the real estate agent. I knew she was coming into the bathroom. I knew I hadn’t locked the door. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized I’d forgotten a towel, so I didn’t even have anything to cover myself with. She was just going to have to take me for what I was, gold lamé bra and all.
When she opened the door I stood there, water bouncing off my head, with that “yikes” look on my face that I usually only save for “funny” versions of group photos. She saw me and immediately said “oh! Sorry!” As if this was my apartment and she had walked in on me in my shower.
I turned off the water and wrapped my clothes around myself. I hoped for a gust of wind to quick-dry me and/or blow me out of there. I opened the door, and saw the real estate agent standing with a young hipster couple who held each other like I was about to take their child or something.
This annoyed me. I have a degree and a job. I’m not a crazy person. Couldn’t they see that? But in this city everyone has the potential to look like they live under the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s just the way the city wears on people. Perhaps my two months here has made me jaded when it comes to sketchy situations, and also has made me look more like a homeless person than I realize. And now my new home will be jail. Though I know my friends love me and cherish our good times, I seriously doubt that any of them would post my bail if I got arrested for trespassing on private property.
However, there must be a god, because when I came out of the bathroom with my leggings around my hips like a skirt, this agent looked at me and without a blink she said, “Did the water go off in your apartment? I know they’ve been lending this place out for people who need to shower.”
“YES,” I said. “I thought you were going to call the cops.” Then I left. I think we were all supposed to have a good laugh about it and then I would give a speech about having a landlady who cares, but I didn’t. I just said “Sorry again!” and booked it. The girl looking to rent kind of looked familiar so I didn’t want to stay long enough for her to recognize me.
When I left I saw the construction worker outside. He was laughing so hard he could barely stand.
As I was walking home, I ran into my boss. Of course. He saw me from far away, walking down First avenue in a gold lamé bra and green pashmina, black leggings and sweater wrapped around my hips. I assume he didn’t see that I was soaking wet until he got closer to me.
Before he had time to question, I said, “It is really embarrassing that I’m seeing you right now, but nothing can be more embarrassing than what just happened to me.”
He looked at me with big eyes and said very genuinely, “I wasn’t even gonna ask.” Two hours later I saw him again. I was clean, fresh, and ready to work. All had gone back to normal, and my life was really no different. I never told him what happened, and he didn’t ask.
The next day when I showered, I left my towel in my bedroom. I had to run naked through the kitchen to dry off, leaving a trail of water behind me.