Our first apartment was a hovel. And I mean that very literally. It was a dilapidated "junior one bedroom" which amounted to a 1950's motel off the freeway that was later converted into apartments. It was a little less than 500 square feet, which included a separate bedroom (but no door), a tiny kitchen (one person at a time) and an even tinier bathroom that was situated in the living room area. Ryan and I were in a rush to move out. We wanted to be together and live together and were both anxious to escape the childhood homes that we had relapsed into after failed relationships and roommate situations left us homeless nearly a year ago. Moving from the exquisite freedom of a three bedroom apartment, shared with friends, filled with parties, and grilled cheese sandwiches into a tight-fit bedroom, to be shared with Dear Pre-Teen Sister is a culture shock to say the least.
We scoured the newspapers, the Pennysaver, message boards. We drove through neighborhoods, called every phone number posted on an apartment building. There weren't any that we could afford. Ryan was working at the local art store and I was a receptionist at a law firm. For as boss n' bitchin as we thought we were... we were desperately broke. On Saturday, we drove around Tustin, a city unfamiliar to us, even though we lived only 5 miles down the freeway. We cruised back and forth through the neighborhoods, filled with apartments. Toured model units, decorated by Ethan Allen. Squeezed hands and choked back tears when we heard the asking price. Deflated, we drove away from the last set of apartments. In my confusion, I missed the turn to the freeway, and started down a side street. A timid "for rent" sign was staked in the dead grass. We stopped to talk to the Manager. She was very glad to see us, as they all were. She knocked on one of the doors and a friendly Vietnamese couple who spoke very little english agreed to let us tour their apartment, since the vacant apartment was being cleaned. We didn't need to even step inside. The entirety of the apartment was visible from the door frame.