The Planet It’s Farthest From

A year ago this weekend I moved into this apartment, a two-bedroom one-and-a-half bathroom townhouse located on the very eastern border of the city limits of Portland.

I originally moved in with my nephew, Max, which is why we chose a two-bedroom place. The price was OK for us, even if the location was a bit far away from our friends and family, for both of us.

That weekend was bittersweet for me; I can’t speak for how Max felt about it. I felt I had very little choice. Other townhouses in the same price range and closer in had turned us down—me for bad credit, Max for no credit. This was his first-ever apartment.

I’ll always be grateful for the help of my friends and my family; helping me out after I couldn’t afford the apartment I’d lived in for almost two decades, a victim of rents rising faster than income and my own prolonged unemployed and under-employed status.

But damn did I hate not being in Sellwood anymore.

Max and I called the new place The Treehouse, a reference to Finn and Jake’s Tree Castle from Adventure Time. And that winter was a fun and yet frustrating time. Fun because Max is a very good roommate, but frustrating because as the weather got colder, we discovered the heat did not work at all. We suffered through many a cold night, fighting with the strangely hands’ off management company trying to get it repaired.

My friends all joked that I lived in Gresham, which I laugh off but does sting a bit. I’m a native Portlander, and my current address is a Portland address. I vote in Portland city elections. I’m inside the border.

But only just inside.

Max spent most of November and December house-sitting for his parents and wasn’t around, and I felt a little lonely; far from my friends, no one else around to talk to or play video games with, dealing with the cold weather. They did finally repair the heater, and within a week or two the managers announced that the property had been sold to a different management company, which, in retrospect, explained some of the odd goings-on with repairs.

I felt more than a little anxiety as the year wound to a close because my work contract was ending at the end of the year, and I had begun looking for a new job. But at least I had a car that worked and a place to live and a roommate to split the costs with.

In December, Max announced that he was planning on going back to school and that he would be moving into a room in West Linn, to save money. He promised to help me out with a month or two of rent, knowing I was losing my income in January, which to his credit he did not have to do. I figured I could afford a month or two on unemployment but I had to push for a job as quickly as I could.

After he moved out I moved my bed into the bigger bedroom (he got the big bedroom and I got the single parking space; a fair split between us) and turned the smaller one into a computer room and office space. That reminded me of my two-bedroom in Sellwood. It’s nice to have the extra space.

I started my new job, at a moderately higher rate of pay, just two and a half months into the year. I hoped I could make enough to move back in closer to town, but the rise in pay was not quite enough for me to build up my savings.

Meanwhile, since it was only me in the townhouse, I began calling it Tattooine, because, if there’s a bright center to Portland, I was on the block that’s farthest from it. I nearly always have to go to my friends’ houses or neighborhoods; it rarely makes sense for them to come to mine. They have visited, from time to time, but normally… it’s just me.

I know many of my neighbors in this complex by face but not by name. Is that normal for Portland, though? This isn’t the South, where people introduce themselves and get involved. Portlanders are polite but stand-offish.

There is a very cute cat that I see sometimes. She is a grey and cream tortoiseshell color, and she is very sweet, and sometimes she tries to come in my apartment and I have to stop myself from letting her. I know she has an owner because she wears a collar, and they would miss her. Maybe I should get a cat for myself. My friends all think it would help me.

I’ve put up some art, but not everything. I have decorated a bit, but not as much as I could. In my mind, this is a temporary space. I want to move out—or, rather, move in, closer into the center of Portland, closer to my friends, possibly even back to Sellwood. My resistance is knowing I don’t have much savings, and that I have a bad rental history; I am suffering the consequences of my decisions, and it’s very easy to beat myself up with them.

But maybe with a year of good rental history, I can demonstrate I’m back on track. Tattooine can be a waypoint, one stop in my journey. For now, I’m just remembering a full year in this place.