We were elated. It was a silly, spontaneous act but we agreed that moving in together made the most sense; the time and money we were wasting getting to and from our respective abodes and the amount spent in eachother’s company was getting into silly territory. This way we could spend time with each other as a by-product of doing all the little daily things we’d be doing anyway.
The house-hunt was mercifully short as we settled on the second place we’d come to view; a large room in a flat-share with a brand new kingsize bed, lovely wee kitchenette, two work-desks and access to the gorgeous rooftop terrace which looks out onto the cute behinds of Tufnell Park’s houses and flats. The location was great (Tube station less than 5 mins away) the price was sweet and the room had the potential to fulfil our cutesy dreams of being hip, young poverty-stricken urbanites so we giggled a bit, said yes to the hilariously combustible Greek family that rents the flats, and giggled some more, planning to invest in necessities such as wall hangings, fairy-lights and incense.
Some things are just too good to be true…
Oh why didn’t I heed your warnings BBC3’s The Real Hustle!
Soon after we’d dumped our stuff in our new room we bounded down the stairs, eager to acquaint ourselves with the area and perhaps with our new housemates. We bumped into one on the landing below ours, a handsome young chap who was just exiting his room. We pounced on him in unison, shaking hands and declaring our arrival with goodwill and were met with a friendly but oddly tired response. He was just moving out you see, oh that’s a pity we said, trouble with the neighbours he said, oh dear we said, now getting worried, no need to worry he said, the culprit was in Room 7, our room, so he was gone too. Oh that’s a relief, we sighed, yes, he agreed, though with that same weariness, we were safe as he was now behind bars. This strangely didn’t make us feel safer. Oh dear, we said. Yeah, that’s why he and his girlfriend were moving out.
“She can’t come back,”
In hindsight this last line should have stuck with us a little harder but at the time we were too concerned with politely issuing “oh dear”s and “that’s awful”s as we quickly wound up the brief interaction bounding off to other more light-hearted fare.
It was a line that began to haunt us, just a tad.
We tried to keep the idea far from our minds and out of our new room but little left-over pieces of evidence kept drifting into our peripherals. For example, the casual mention of how No.7’s former occupant had smashed the intercom phone by the technician who came to fit us a new one; the empty packets of wooden flooring (even the floor in our room had to be replaced?!) and now even our brand-new, still-in-the-plastic kingsize bed became conspicuous.
We refused to let our wild-running imaginations tarnish the room but as we snuck under the covers on that first night it was impossible to keep those persistent doubts from creeping into the bed with us to the extent that at one point Girlfriend aimed her saucer-like eyes at me and said:
“Will you come to the bathroom with me? I’m scared.”
The next day, our detective work continued. Girlfriend had managed to intercept some mail for Room 7, and using the name of the intended deliveree and this web-zone called “Google”* she ascertained that he was indeed in court (his preliminary hearing had fallen on the same day we had collected our keys!). The internet knows a scary amount of things.
The recentness of the whole affair increased our sense of unease but what irked us the most was the revelation that our room had not just been the lair of the Accused but also the scene of the crime.
After interactions with some of our new neighbours and after a delightful BBQ on the terrace with the occupants of Room 2 we were finally filled in on some of the details. Adding to his horrendous crime he had also been a drug addict who had refused to pay rent for over 6 months. Now we know why our landlord demanded good references. Good for us but for her, alas, too little too late.
With confirmation we could finally move on and our sense of unease began to give way as the room slowly became our own. Not as many fairy-lights as I would like for the moment but the ghost that haunted us has been exercised to some extent. Our fridge is packed and cupboard stacked to bursting with caramel wafers (from LIDL. So. Fucking. Good.) and a pattern of daily life is emerging, Girlfriend making me sam-ges in the morning before I jet off to work (some feminist she is).
Finding normality, for us, is relatively easy of course and I only hope for the couple that were below us, for the woman especially, that they too can regain some sense of normality and balance.
*to find out more about this website you can visit it by typing double you, double double you google dot com (all lower case!)