Despite being chained to a mountain of debt, Jess and Lexi set out after college to escape their vapid Jersey hometown in an attempt to find the underbelly of a city where the people are provocative, the environment is stimulating, and the whiskey is cheap.
Lexi and Jess searched the internet for potential apartments, picking through various cities that boasted a happening nightlife and daytime outdoor activities alike. Jess wanted a city where she could sample the world’s cultures while walking down it’s main strip. Lexi wanted a city on fire with art, music, and manly-men. Most cities, especially those who met their firm criteria, quickly proved to be out of their price range, however, without searching for additional roommates online- a gamble neither Jess nor Lexi were willing to take. The choices were eventually boiled down to Austin, Texas or Charlotte, North Carolina, with Lexi voting heavily on North Carolina.
“It has everything within driving distance- bars we can party at, mountains we can go hiking on, and beaches where we can just chill out at on the weekends. What can be better than that?” Lexi argued.
Lexi convincingly further proposed that an affordable, unglamorous apartment she found – that just happened to sit across the street from a lively gastropub – was the perfect apartment for them. “Look, we have the best of both worlds- a place we can drink at night that’s in quaint little neighborhood.” Lexi said to Jess as she scrolled through the suspiciously close up photos of the apartment.
Jess suspected that Lexi was glamorizing the idea in her head of living “in the country” when Lexi began talking about all the “country chic” outfits she’ll need to buy in preparation for the move. And yet somehow still managed to settle the matter by reminding Jess of her love of cutoff denim shorts. Once they did finally make the move – Lexi with her parents and a moving truck in tow and Jess with her belongings stuffed into three trash bags that were tossed into the back of her Buick – they learned in exactly five days that they accidentally moved into the ghetto.
The first sign that they moved into a less than desirable part of the city started on day one.
DAY ONE: Covered in a thick sheen of sweat in the middle of August, while unpacking boxes that Lexi’s dad reluctantly drove down in a small rented trailer, Jess heard the first in a series of endless knocks on the door. An apple-shaped stranger with wiry brown hair tried to sell Jess a magazine subscription that promised a fabulous vacation package of some sort. When Jess politely declined, the woman ignored Jess’ rejection and continued to sputter out that the purchase of each subscription would help pay for her college. From that point on, the knocks came day and night- an assortment of people trying to sell Jess and Lexi an array of once in a lifetime opportunities that only came in the form of a magazine subscription purchase. And each subscription, of course, was the only opportunity these strangers had to attend college. Jess was actually so relieved the day a 20-something brunette, with a long island accent and undeserved arrogance, offered something different, a 20oz bottle of knockoff perfume, that Jess made her first door-side purchase.
DAY TWO: The second sign came the same night that the noisy gastropub lost all its appeal- night three. Just as Jess ignored the sounds of the partygoers across the street long enough to lull herself to sleep, the sound of crashing glass sprung Jess up out of bed. She initially thought the noise came from inside, perhaps Lexi crashed into something on her way for a midnight tinkle or something that was carelessly placed on top of the refrigerator finally fell over. But then Jess heard mumbling coming from outside, and she crawled on her hands and knees to the window behind her bed. When she peered out her blinds, she saw an attractive woman with disheveled hair and mascara running down her face, looking like so many drunk college students Jess had seen stumbling out of fraternities after an all-night rager. The woman wobbled on one pink heel, holding a matching heel in her hand, the weapon of choice to break the window next door.
Maybe she lost her key? Was Jess’ first thought.
“Hey, fuck head, I know you’re in there. I’m not leaving, so you might as well come out and tell me her name!”
Ah, just a lover’s quarrel, none of my business. And with that, Jess crawled back to her spot in bed and slipped into a deep sleep.
DAY THREE: Day three was the day that Lexi met Bob – the homeless who lived in the laundry room – while lugging in their first load of laundry.
DAY FOUR: Was the day every washer machine smelled of vomit, supposedly from Bob who got sick on another drunken bender at the gastro pub.
DAY FIVE: It was day five, however, that made crystal clear that Lexi and Jess moved into the slums for sure. That was the day Jess walked into her bedroom and saw the wall collapsed over her bed. When she reported the damage to the housing office, a peppy, freckled-face property manager, who appeared too young to be legally working in the office, laughed at Jess’ findings. “Oh, you know what,” the girl quipped with a southern twang, “that’s because your neighbor’s truck drove into the apartment accidentally. But, ya, we fixed the wall on the outside, guess we didn’t even think to fix the wall on the inside.” The housing assistant sat there with a smile on her face in the what-are-you-going-to-do-about-it sort of way that made the blood in Jess’ veins boil.
“So…” Jess paused, debating to ask for money off their rent or to move apartments; but what came out was merely, “What’s next?”
“So, we’ll fix it. Don’t worry about it. We’ll get our guy out there in the next couple of days.” And with that, the child manager returned to her computer screen, a signal that the discussion was over.
When Jess returned back to the apartment to explain what happened with their damaged wall, Lexi asked the obvious question, “Did we move into the ghetto?”
“I think we did. I had no idea when we were looking at places. In New Jersey the ghettos were so obvious. It’s the whole broken window theory there. Like, you literally know you’re in the ghetto because of the number of broken windows and homes that are trashed. But, this place is freshly painted and has a mowed lawn of sorts and has all its windows! This place just looked so cute and harmless. Not to mention I thought we’d be safe amongst all these country folk.”
“I guess the insultingly low rent should have gave it away. Also, I don’t think we’re in the ‘deep south’ like we thought we were.” Lexi said, correcting their glaring misrepresentation of the local population.
“Probably. Still though, I feel lied to. Like they hid their depravity behind a fresh coat of paint.” Jess responded despondently, knowing that they didn’t have enough funds to pack up and move. For better or for worse, this was their new home. “Do you think you’re parents knew?”
“Oh ya, for sure. They can spot a hell hole a mile away. Guess they were more ready to have me out of the house than I realized,” Lexi said, smoking a roach she bummed off of Bob.