LETTER THIRTY-ONE

Dear Henry,

I may have just made the one of the dumbest decisions of my life. 

Do you remember the "one who got away"? The one apartment in Harlem you fell in love, but, after doing the math, decided to turn down, that you wrote about in Letter 3? Yah, well, I guess I now have a similar story.

I write this from home, in my mom's garage, with the door open. The wet driveway has almost dried from the last rainfall. This neighbourhood is so dead, the only street activity is from the occasional orthodox Jew walking to the local synagogue. [descriptive passage over]

The last few days I've been feverishly apartment hunting. Feverishly, because we're approaching the midpoint of fall, and I need something closer to work and school, now. I've tried all the different apartment viewing sites, only to return to craigslist, where strangely I've had my highest success rate, in employment and in love. Finally I stumbled on a post written by a real person, not just a spokesperson. Someone who made the admission that "this isn't a great room", but that it was a good location. And––where else?––the room was in Kensington. 

It's true that I've mocked Kensington in the past, which I believe to be brimming with phoney radicalism and failed hippies. But even so, I still believe it plays an important role in the city, educating us on what can be achieved in a neighbourhood that is genuinely walkable, and giving a taste of a neighbourhood in which the traditional boundaries between private habits and public restraint do not apply. Areas where Kensington clearly miles ahead are its liberal attitude toward drugs, its thriving community of small businesses, and the fact that it's actually walkable, and not in the sterile way that Eaton's is walkable. In its liberal attitude toward the 9-5. In its laissez-faire attitude toward clothing and appearance. Kensington proves that many of the boundaries good middle-class families care about, like public propriety and respectable employment, can flat out be disposed of, essentially to the benefit of all.

But even so, its over-inflated sense of radicalism, its transience, its unabashed commericialism, are a testament to its limitations. Kensington's greatest role, at the end of the day, might be to educate the youth in the balancing act of how liberal can you be while still making a profit.

As you can see, my feelings toward Kensington are a mixture of love and disgust. Love at the freedom it regularly displays, and disgust at its hypocrisy to consider itself radical while at the same time exhibiting no resistance to actual problems, like widespread deregulation, and the like.

I can't believe I'm using this forum to vent my political beliefs but there you have.

So when I was offered a bedroom in Kensington, I felt a mixture of excitement and dread. And only a couple hours ago, the roommate emailed me, telling me he needed a reply ASAP. And I told him no.

Immediately after clicking the send button, my face flushed, sweat broke out on my forehead, and I felt sick to the stomach. I threw my water on the ground. 

For years I'd been fantasizing and planning to get a room in a neighbourhood exactly like Kensington. Full of young people who didn't care about all the shit that daily stresses the fuck out of me. A place where all the rules I hated no longer applied. A place where people would actually want to visit me, and where I'd actually want them to come.

And I turned it down.

You're probably wondering my reasons. Well I don't know if they're good one, but here they are.

1) Budget. It was actually a very cheap room, but I'd seen listings on craigslist that were even cheaper, albeit not in Kensington market. Even though I'd rather be in Kensington than 95% of Toronto neighbourhoods, I also figured saving a couple hundred $s a month might be better.

2) Dynamic. The guy was very cool, but the apartment was on the intimate side. It sounds bad, but I'd rather have a relatively impersonal relationship with five people than a personal relationship with one person––in this case, with a young dude like myself who probably likes partying and so forth. It's not that I don't want roommates who I like, it's just that I would like at least a little bit of distance. I hope it wasn't irrational fear of intimacy that deterred me, but I can't rule that out, either.

All in all, it just felt too indulgent. All I need is a shitty room where I can sleep and work where the rent is cheap and flexible. Nothing else.

And this was shitty room with no living room and barely a kitchen. But I just felt I could do better, go cheaper. And so when he pressured me to make a decision, as of course he would, being under time constraints, I just said no.

I hope I don't regret this in the future. 

Best,

Sal