SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
December 26, 2010

Greetings From The Bunker

 

In April I was informed that the house in which I had lived for the past twenty years was being put up for sale. At first I thought little of this—given the housing market, after all, everything was up for sale these days, but nobody was buying. Everything would be okay. I would stay put and life would drag on as usual. Then the sign went up out front, and people began stopping me to ask about it as I took my garbage out. I ignored that, too. In August, my upstairs neighbors moved out, leaving me the only tenant in the building (apart from the guy who kept shuffling about the newly-vacated apartment every morning). It was kind of an exciting time—it was almost like it was my building, except that all the doors on all the other floors were locked. Still, I could walk around the hallways naked if I wanted to.

            Then in early September I was informed that four separate people were interested in buying it, but it was unclear if they wanted tenants or not. It was possible that I could just stay where I was, and legally my rent wouldn’t be able to go up that much. Everything would be okay, I kept telling myself. After all, who in their right mind would want the moral burden of tossing a blind guy out on the street?

            Then in early November my landlord told me that a young couple had, indeed, signed the initial papers indicating that they wanted to buy the place—and that (in their own words), “they didn’t want some creepy blind guy lurking around upstairs all day, being all blind and everything.”

            Well okay, they weren’t quoted as saying that, but that’s what they were thinking. In any case, it meant I had to leave. A week later I was told I had to vacate by the twentieth of December. Reluctantly, I began looking at apartment listings and boxing things up.

            On Monday November 29, I called the movers and my landlady to tell them I intended to move in a week—on Monday December 6. Then I was informed that no, in fact, I was going to be moving that coming Thursday.

            Needless to say, this was unexpected, and forced me to scrap my plans for a leisurely, stress-free move. In the end, maybe it was for the best, as it would slam me headlong into the inevitable and erase those last few days of leisurely fretting. It would all be over with before I knew it. I might be dead—I would definitely be bloodied—but it would be over.

            After being told I needed to be out in three days, I spent a confounding afternoon on the phone with the phone company, the bank, the electric company, the gas company, the post office and the government. I spent the rest of my time unplugging things and throwing things haphazardly into boxes. I was proud of myself for only puking randomly once.

            Thursday arrived much more quickly than Thursdays normally arrive, and the movers showed up several hours later than they said they would (which I guess is typical).

            The move itself from Park Slope to Bay Ridge—about seventy blocks—took four trips and nine hours, all the heavy lifting being done by a trio of fun-loving Dominicans with a pickup. It wasn’t so bad; in the end I only had to forfeit three bookcases, two tables, a bed, and a futon frame because they wouldn’t fit through the door to the new apartment. I guess that’s what you’d expect from a bunker—small doors and low ceilings. An evil tree which the movers refused to move stayed behind. A standing fan and yet another bookcase, for reasons unknown, somehow never made it from the old apartment to the new one. I have no idea what happened to them. On the bright side, all that forfeiture has seriously cut down on the clutter.

            Over the next few days I made several trips back to the old apartment to haul back forgotten boxes, clean out the fridge, and drop off the keys. Morgan met me there one afternoon and we hauled the computer down (given all that went missing during the move, I’m glad we decided to do that ourselves). Upon her insistence, we made another trip and saved the evil plant. Can’t say I’m too thrilled about that, but it’s here now, and the battle of wills will continue

            Moving is perhaps second only to war in terms of horror, stress, and chaos, but once the dust had at least started to settle, I finally had a chance to look around The Bunker. I’d really only visited it once on a cold and rainy afternoon before agreeing to take it. To be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was renting at the time, but I must say, I’m pleased with my frantic and desperate decision.

            The Bunker rests six steps below ground. The front window peeps out at sidewalk level and is covered with a heavy iron mesh that blocks most of the light. There’s another, smaller, recessed window in back from which, if I stand on my toes, I can see a storage area beneath a deck. That’s as far as it goes for “natural light,” which is fine by me. The kitchen is equipped with new appliances, including a stove with digital controls, which means I’ve been eating a lot of sandwiches. I had to leave Marlowe’s sink in the other apartment, but the new bathroom sink is awfully nice in its own right. There’s a side room which I first imagined would be my office but which presently remains filled with boxes of books towering nearly to the ceiling. Unfortunately since I lost four bookcases in the move, they may be sitting there for awhile.

            Another weird thing I’ve been discovering here is that none of the walls meet at right angles. The bedroom in back is octagonal, and I can’t for the life of me figure out how the rest of the place is shaped. At times it seems to be four dimensional. Plus, for some reason, there is a monolith—I’m not joking—a real monolith about three feet tall parked solidly below the front window. I don’t know why this is, but I keep waiting for it to start humming.

            The place on the whole is dim, and strange, and menacing. With stone floors and difficult access, it’s a beautiful place designed to hold the outside world at bay, whether in the form of a stroller brigade or a nuclear war. The old place was exploding with memories. I’d spent nearly half my life there. My cats lived and died there. I’d written all my books there. A marriage dissolved there, and Morgan and I had many happy hours there. I’d also spent a goodly many hours passed out on the floor there.

            But this new place is bigger, and cheaper, my new neighbors are as good as they come, and I will no longer need to deal with that fucking Park Slope attitude on a daily basis.

            Now there are two codas to this story. First, as I was packing (like most people), I carefully labeled each box to make unpacking easier. For instance, “Movies—Dir. H” meant the box contained films by Herzog and Hitchcock.” “Books—Nietzsche” meant the box contained, um, books by Nietzsche. I spent a lot of time labeling every side of every box.

            It was only after the movers left and I got down to unpacking that I remembered that I can’t read. So this unpacking crap may take awhile.

            And second, before leaving the apartment for the last time, Morgan took one more look to see if I’d forgotten anything. As she was about to leave the front room she looked up. The ceiling was sagging something serious, and was clearly set to collapse unexpectedly at any moment.

            So you see? Being wrenched forcibly and unwillingly out of my home by fuckers may well have been the best thing that’s happened to me in a long time. Plus I finally get to live in the bunker I’ve always wanted!

 

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