"What color are you painting it?" she asked me.
"A combination of brown and a sort of chartreuse-y green" I said.
My apartment is in Queens, two stops from Manhattan via the R train. Kristin lives in Brooklyn's South Slope, which is a good hour away from where I live, so I was surprised she wanted to come help me paint, especially since I hadn't offered her any treats, like a butterscotch candy from the bottom of my purse or a jar of old washers to shake at passing cars. I figured she just liked the smell of paint fumes, like any red blooded American girl.
It had taken me a couple months to find a suitable apartment in New York. Naively, I imagined it would be as easy as it had been in Portland, where renting requirements are lax and brokers are unheard of. I lived in three different apartments in Oregon, and with each one the rental process was similar: I walked in off the street, took a look around, hastily scrawled my information on an application form, and was approved within half an hour.
Part of the reason it took me so long to find housing in the city is because my expectations were too high. I knew I could never afford Manhattan, but I was ok with that. I figured Brooklyn was my best bet, though my understanding of the city's boroughs was decidedly lacking. I knew Manhattan well enough because I took class trips there in college, and I vaguely knew of Queens as the place Ugly Betty lived. Other than that New York City was laid out like this:
After seeing about a dozen or so apartments in Brooklyn and feeling underwhelmed with what my limited budget would afford me, I decided to open up my search to Queens, a borough I had almost zero information about. I think it's where 50 Cent got shot 9 times. Besides that I was clueless, but I decided it wouldn't hurt matters to look around.
I found a place in Astoria that I liked, and the landlord said I could paint the walls, so once I was moved in I invited Kristin over to keep me company while I painted. I told her she didn't have to help if she didn't want to, but she insisted on doing so. She seemed excited about it, even. "My dad is, like, a professional carpenter, so I know my shit," she later bragged in a text. "Oh, and I may or may not paint some dicks on the walls. You've been warned."
"Eh, maybe one dick," I responded. "One small dick, but you need to paint over it."
"DICKS!!!" She texted back, and that was the last I heard from her.
When she arrived that evening I was already busy painting my walls something called Japanese Fern. Kristin wasted no time in desecrating my apartment.
I don't know what I expected. I understood years ago when I friended Kristin that it would ultimately lead to destruction.
Kristin painted a few more dicks on the wall, then laid her face down on the carpet, loaded up Spotify on her phone, and moaned along to Taylor Swift for half an hour.
I let her serenade the floor for a bit and continued to paint. Her iPod cycled through Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Mumford and Sons, back to Justin Bieber, then Taylor Swift again. After some time laying motionless on the floor like a vegetable, she spoke. Sort of.
"Mmmgry. Fwan terferd." She mumbled into the carpet.
"What?" I said
"MMMGRAY. FWAN TERFERD." She repeated, but louder.
"I can't understand you." I replied dismissively.
Kristin lifted her head from the floor. The carpet had made a million tiny indentations on her face, giving the distinct appearance of a burn victim who's halfway through an extensive round of skin grafts.
I hadn't realized it before but I was ravenous. I put down my brush and grabbed my orange parka from the back of the door. "There's a Thai place a couple blocks away. I can't pronounce the name, so it's probably good."
Outside my apartment, Kristin and I milled about on the sidewalk while I checked GoogleMaps on my phone to double check where we were heading. As I did this, a white bus rolled up in front of us and paused at the intersection, waiting for the light to turn. I noticed Kristin tense up next to me. For a moment I wasn't sure why, but then I noticed the bus had thick mesh grates on all the windows. The word CORRECTION was emboldened on the side. The bus was full of convicts. Directly in front of me, not ten feet away, a grisly looking man with a shaved head and facial tattoos was glaring out at me from his ironclad window. His gaze was unwavering. I couldn't look away.
The light turned from red to green, and the prison bus switched gears and rolled away. The tattooed inmate kept his gaze on me the whole time, until finally I was out of view.
"Um..." I muttered.
"Yeah," Kristin agreed, then added, "He was memorizing your face, you know. For when he gets out. He's gonna come find you. He's gonna hide out in your apartment while he waits for the heat to die down."
"Well, I'm sure all the dicks on the walls will scare him off," I responded.
"See? I did a good thing," Kristin said as we walked. "If it weren't for me, that dude would settle right into your apartment. I totally saved you by painting dicks everywhere."
"I'll still be dead, though," I said.
"Yeah," Kristin said.
"Yeah," I agreed.