It’s a vicious, wild animal, wrapping its claws around my lungs. Squeezing tighter and tighter, like a python suffocating its prey. Its bite is debilitating and the poisonous venom infiltrates my system. Panic washes over me, a tingling sensation pricking my fingers and toes, flowing inward to my limbs, until finally my entire body is numb. Paralyzed by fear, I am enslaved to the beast. It follows wherever I go. The longing for direction and certainty aches in my belly like a plaguing virus. I close my eyes and wait for it to pass.
She leans over, her mouth wide and gaping. She lines the circumference of her lips in one fluid motion, flawless from years of practice. She flattens her hair until it’s glossy, sleek and straight. The young woman straps on her bra, tightening it until her breasts throb. She wiggles into her jeans, a repetitive little dance to get them up and over her hips. She’s worked tirelessly to fit into that size 24. She slips into her heels, one foot at a time. She slings her purse over her shoulder and reaches for her keys. As she turns to go, she catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror. She stops for a second and turns to face her reflection. She sees years of judgments staring back at her, projections of societal illusions. She has starved, bleached, tweezed, bronzed, moisturized and manicured. Her love is conditional, dependent on acceptance and validation. Relentlessly in pursuit of perfection, she has been chasing an elusive carrot, always just slightly out of reach. Not yet sunrise, this is just the first of many battles. She turns to leave. The weight of her world rests on her pretty, slender shoulders.
Seattle summers are hotter than hell in my apartment. Built in the 1950’s, this little abode of mine is not equipped with central air… nor a dishwasher, microwave or laundry in unit for that matter. But that’s not the point. Anyways, staying cool becomes a full-time job, so from June to October my balcony door remains permanently open. As a result, the sounds of the city waft into my apartment alongside the breeze. At night, I sleep with earplugs to combat the noise. However, even the durability of silicone earplugs can’t block out what I heard last night.
A little past 2am, I woke in a panic to the alarming sound of incessant gagging. Heart racing but not fully coherent, I bolted upright, not quite sure what was happening. I ripped out one earplug and craned to listen. Over and over came the continued gagging, obnoxiously and inconsiderately loud. The gagging was then followed by the straining sound of someone struggling to hock a thick, phlegmy, loogie. Finally, as a grand finale to end the charade, came a violent splatter of vomit hitting the pavement.
By this point, I’m experiencing a mix of emotions. I’m furious by the rude awakening, yet slightly concerned for the person in question and also just downright curious to see what is happening. So, I get out of bed and tiptoe to my window, peering through the blinds like a Peeping Tom. A man, staggering and clearly drunk, if not also high, is examining the remains of his stomach, now emptied in the back alley. Holding a bottle of brown booze, he tips it back in his mouth and continues walking. He chuckles, very pleased with himself. I on the other hand am not.
This post was inspired by an outlandish text thread I started with my friends shortly after I moved into my apartment in August 2017. It began as a documentation of bizarre encounters that occurred in the alley directly behind my flat. Eventually, I hope it will evolve into a stream of stories about my life as a single, young woman in Seattle.
Like many other broke 20-something-year-olds, I sacrificed square footage for a prime location on Capitol Hill, a trendy and progressive neighborhood in downtown Seattle. Ergo, I reside in a studio apartment the size of a tuna can in which I trade roughly 70 hours of work for a month’s rent. Despite the size and cost, I’m still dazzled by the populous of Ubers, pubs and pizzerias accessible day or night. Everything I need is within a block radius or can be delivered in an hour, thanks to Amazon Prime. This ideal location affords me the luxury of a speedy commute to work on foot, rather than forfeiting an hour in traffic each morning only to expand my carbon footprint.
More often than not, I’m smitten here. Whenever I leave my apartment, I’m swept into a frenzy of chaos created by cool city dwellers, bustling establishments and the buzzing culture. There’s as much excitement on a Monday night as there is on a Saturday night. Eclectic mom and pops litter the streets juxtaposed between music venues, pop-up art exhibits and cafes. I live smack dab in the center of the libertarian universe, where public restrooms are gender fluid, rainbows replace white cross walk paint and AIDs tests are free.
However, despite my adoration with of all this, what the lease agreement didn’t tell me is that city-living also comes with many less-than-glamorous drawbacks. Upon my arrival, I understood this quickly. The most notable realization was that the alley behind my apartment also doubles as vortex for degenerates, providing narratives that can be classified as either hilarious, disturbing, grotesque or all of the above. I will share these stories with you here.