Returning home from travel is often bittersweet; the warmth of the familiar also signals the end of a period of excitement. But knowing that I have a home to return to, especially in these troubled times of massive forced migrations–I am humbled by whatever stroke of luck brought me here. And yet, this is not what I was thinking on my return to my brand spanking new apartment in March after being away for two months.

Imagine my dismay when I walked in and saw survey-maps of mildew crawling around the apartment windows and occupying huge corners of the bedroom. The paint around those surfaces had bubbled and cracked with the moisture, making it seem like the apartment was slowly turning into a cartoon monster. Turns out that the windows form such a tight seal, that while I was away, the heat from the radiators under the windows had caused moisture to condense on the sills and then gather mildew. It felt like a disaster. Even the presence of an Amazon package at my door (containing the cutest shower curtain ever—a pastel sketch of the NYC skyline) was not enough to ward off a sense of doom.

After a restless night, my call to the super led to his inspection—mostly him looking grim and saying “Yeah, this is not good”—of the water damage. But in a day or so, two handymen showed up to take care of the problem. They scraped off the mildewed areas and appeared to have painted over it with some sort of mildew-eating mutant paint. I suspect I should be more afraid of it than the mildew itself, which did add some character to the starkness. Even so, every time it rains, I worry about the corner of the bedroom that juts out from the building and gets the most exposure to the elements. But so far, so good. Mutant paint 1: Mildew 0.

As for “decorating” the apartment, it’s been a ragtag combination of old Ikea posters, prints picked up from museums and Christmas markets, and framed images from thrift stores. Amazon, Ikea, and furniture stores have made a steady pilgrimage to my door, dropping off everything from spice rack carousels to sofa-cum-beds and dining sets.

For now, I’m getting used to leaving the windows slightly open, tuning out the sirens from the firetrucks that scream down the block, and watching the phenomenal sky afforded by my east-facing view.


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