In middle and high school, I saw “RENT” constantly, and loved it madly, as did every other girl and gay guy in America at the end of the millennium. I loved the music and the emotion, the costumes, the characters, the love, the message, and the city. In short, not only I was about that life, I wanted it.
Be careful what you wish for. When I said I wanted to live like Roger and Mimi, I was thinking more along the lines of an existence that involved the struggle to create, the desire to feel, the necessity to connect, the bohemian search for art, beauty, and love while wearing an awesome oversized coat. I was most certainly NOT talking about the fact that they have no heat in their apartment. And yet, for the last 36 hours, that’s the situation in which I have found myself.
If anyone is reading this is lucky enough to be anywhere but the East Coast, it’s not particularly nice out. There’s about 7 inches of grey snow outside, and the temperature is 14 F (-10 C), though it apparently feels like 6 (-14.4 C). These are numbers that should be used for scoring at the Olympics next month, not for registering on a thermometer anywhere near me. Inside my apartment, it’s what I want to call minus one thousand, but is probably more like the mid forties. THIS IS COLD. I’m wearing three pairs of socks, two pairs of sweatpants, a long sleeve shirt, a balaclava, fingerless gloves, and a woolen hat; I’m also under a fleece blanket and a Level Two Ikea Down Comforter. I can’t feel anything below my knees, which is actually a relief. Three of my cuticles have cracked and are decorated with dry blood. The water is ice cold, and so are my makeup remover wipes, so I’ll probably be pimply by the morning, provided the blood doesn’t actually freeze in my body. Although I put chicken breast in the freezer and then it comes out fine a month later, so maybe I’ll just fill the bathtub with glacial water and freeze myself into it until March, when the crocuses start to come up.
People move to cities to prove their mettle, to convince themselves that they can conquer the grind, and make something of themselves. But do any of these people stop to consider the millions of people from the cities who struggle on a day to day basis not because of lack of artistic inspiration, or a feeling of being alone, but because it’s too fucking freezing in their apartments to even get out of bed? People who have negligent supers and haven’t had water in days? I bet the amount of money spent during this snowy night on booze and drugs in any given Williamsburg bar could easily cover the boiler bill for a Marcy Avenue building.
Trials and tribulations are all fun and games when you’re the one in control; the majority of middle class individuals struggle with self-created problems, meaning that they’re one hundred percent surmountable. You’ve gotten yourself into a jam where you drink every night, perform poorly at work, and are generally unhealthy? It’ll be tough, but you’ll turn that life around! You want to challenge yourself, you’ve gotten into a rut? You’ll find a way to quit your job and see the world, and you’ll come back well-rounded and open-minded! As a middle class person who generally only has problems of the intellectual variety, I’m not criticizing this but merely noting that conquering a problem of one’s own creation is satisfying yet comforting. Consider it analogous to how Mr. Rubik must have felt the first time he solved his cube. Problems that are out of our control, however, are debilitating and distressing. I’m lucky enough to have a shit load of hand-knit accoutrements, and a warm blanket. I will not die tonight. That said, I have no idea when I’ll next be able to shower, when the heat will come back on, and why this has to happen in the first place. I’m cold. Life isn’t fair. People are colder and will be colder for longer. I take solace in the fact that I sure as hell haven’t sweat in a couple of days so I feel relatively clean, and that I at least know how I’m going to pay my rent for the next month.
That said, if my parents feel like getting me a hot plate…