“At the end, I just didn’t care anymore. No internet? Fine, I’ll take it.”
My friend AC, whom we had been staying with, had cautionary words for Barret and I about apartment hunting in Sydney. She warned that it was a humbling experience, like applying for jobs, and that it reminded you of things you’d like to forget- things like budgets and logistics. I understood what she was saying, but I also felt we were a bit more seasoned. Somehow, I knew, it would be different for us.
The first apartment we visited was a two bedroom, one bathroom on Sussex St, near Chinatown and right in the heart of the city. A slim Chinese woman greeted us at the entrance and led us down a dark, sad hallway. As soon as she unlocked the door my eyes honed in on the carpet. It was a scraggly unnatural black dye on what should have been a snow-white 80-year-old head; which is to say it was so hopelessly dirty that not even the landlord took her shoes off.
The bedroom door in front of us was ajar and we could see a couple surfing the internet.
“Come, this is the room.”
There were dirty clothes and luggage and paper shopping bags resting against the grungy walls. The current occupants left their computer mid-type and awkwardly moved aside as we entered the room. I sidestepped the mattress on the ground and followed the landlord onto the narrow balcony.
“See, from here?” She pointed off into the distance. “You can see the harbor, very famous fireworks every Saturday.”
I squeezed pass a laundry rack filled with faded underwear and searched in the direction she had indicated. “Hmmm….” I replied. Somehow the harbor had lost its enchantment.
We moved back out into the hall, past the large hole in the bathroom door, and into the kitchen. The lighting was dim and counter overflowed with dishes and crockpots and rice cookers and microwaves and pans and pots. To the right a wall of blankets cordoned off a large chunk of the living room, blocking the sunlight.
“That’s my room,”
A single table remained in what little space was left of the living room. As it was pushed against the wall and caught between the kitchen counter and makeshift bedroom, there was only space for one to sit down.
“Here’s the internet- it’s unlimited.”
The green light blipped against the black console.
I wanted to ask her if she were crazy; if she honestly believed that a single room in that apartment was worth $370 a week ($1,480 a month). Instead I said, “Uh… All bills are included, right?” I was too stunned to call her out on the price, it was first-rate squalor.
The second apartment we viewed was in the beautiful and gentrified neighborhood of Potts Point. The property was a three bedroom, two bathroom with a long wrought iron balcony that overlooked the tree-lined corner of Delicious Restaurant Street and Cute Café Parade. Barret and I were giddy at the idea of living someplace so nice for only $245 a week.
The young American guy who showed us the place had a curious habit of staring at the floor while he spoke. Every now and then he shot us a glance out of the corner of his eye to see if we agreed with his interior decoration master plan. He and the owner envisioned the kind of quirky retro-fabulous décor that exists only in the realm of gay men- so Barret and I knew the place was going to be EVEN MORE cute.
I could already see myself drinking tea and reading on the balcony, so we laid the charm on thick. We discovered that we had all lived in the same neighborhood in Wellington and when our host mentioned his upcoming trip to New Zealand, we quickly offered the use of our camping equipment.
“If it were up to me, I’d give you the room. But I have to check with the owner.”
The next day Barret and I crossed our fingers, gathered our things from AC’s house, and headed into the city. We went to store our luggage, but the office was closed. We went to McDonalds to search for hostels on their free wifi, but it was Saturday and every dorm room was booked. The air inside felt hot and sticky and just as I was desperately sucking the last bit of my McMilkshake, I got a text.
Sorry, the owner thinks a couple would make it too crowded.
Awesome. I crunched the end of my straw while I thought about what to do.
AC, I began typing, can we catch a bus back to your place, like two baby birds that tried to fly but broke their wings?
Where to find apartments and roommates in Sydney: Gumtree