Places I’ve Lived: Sleepwalking, Mice Herding, and Craigslist

by Katherine Coplen

Where have you lived, Katherine Coplen?

Lincoln Street, Bloomington, Ind. — $375 plus utilities; August 2008 — July 2009

Oh, to look back on the beautiful duplex that I filled with my junk during my sophomore year of college. I moved into the two-bedroom, three-floor (seems incongruous, no?) house with three girls I met my freshman year. It was, as I look back now, the highlight of my college housing experience. We had a deck! A washing machine! A kitchen that we periodically overflowed with bubbles from the dishwasher! We had private parking. Of course we also had duplex-mates that loved horrible EDM music and put a joint in the pumpkin’s mouth they carved for Halloween (I cannot explain why this offended me so much), so it wasn’t all good.

I shared the massive finished basement with one of the girls, who swore up and down if I ever continued my “Paul Simon while I’m showering” wake-up ritual, she would slay me. Hey, I’m not responsible for how excellent Paul sounds in the morning.

Lincoln Street, Bloomington, Ind. — $350 plus utilities; August 2009 — July 2010

The next year, we carried our stuff across the street one very hot day in August to a pair of apartments that would allow us all to have separate bedrooms. I’m not attributing this all to Paul Simon, but he definitely played a part. The apartment was fine — cheap, reasonable-sized kitchen. My roommate and I, without the influence of the more balanced ladies from the year before, quickly devolved into a bacon-eating, Iron Chef-marathoning cabal. We painted the walls purple and bought Moroccan lanterns on eBay late at night.

One night, after demanding snacks, I fell asleep on the couch. I later woke up in my bed. In between, I had apparently slept-walked through the complex and let myself into a downstairs’ neighbors’ apartment. Had I met them? Ooooh, no. But that didn’t stop me from just marching right through their place and into their bathroom. Luckily I was chased down by a friend — same one who had earlier provided me with snacks, I don’t deserve him — who then locked me in my bedroom.

Henderson Avenue, Bloomington, Ind. — $325 plus utilities and ratfinks; August 2010 — July 2011

This trash house was built at an indeterminable time in the last millennia; the walls in the basement caved in so deeply, I felt like I was in a just-popping house bubble. The previous tenants had left power tools and a partially finished bar in the bubble basement, situated right next to a sink hole, which I was later informed was an awkwardly constructed sump pump. There were three bedrooms of varying sizes and shapes. One had a door both to the hallway and the kitchen (a snack door, obviously). There was a miniscule bathroom with a wall so thin you could see the sun shine through the shower.

All doors could be unlocked by twisting the doorknobs hard enough and the back door led directly to the basement in a way that always felt vaguely menacing. I became half-convinced there was a man living in the basement bar. I named him Ralph. I did not check on him.

Between the hallway, the bedrooms, and the bathroom, there was a grate — a massive metal grate with a smaller grate set inside that led directly to the basement. It was like a constant game of The Floor Is Lava (does that game have a name?); I would try and bustle around in my usual ways, Paul Simon playing in the background, from bathroom to living room to bedroom to kitchen to bedroom, each time side-stepping the grate. But I knew my time would come. And come it did, on the night of the 2011 Grammy Awards. I watched Matthew Morrison do a strange performance, decided I’d had enough, took out my contacts, decided to head to check the backdoor lock (for Ralph reasons), and promptly fell through the grate. I got stuck up to my knee and hollered loud enough for trash house occupants three blocks away to hear. I was not the first and would not be the last to fall through that grate.

That fall, we could hear something running through the walls and under the snack door. My critter tolerance is not high. We called an exterminator over fall break, who, hilariously, decided to tell us there was a six-inch solitary cockroach living somewhere in our walls — and that it probably lived in or around the open sump pump hole. And was probably eight years old. The horror.

I lost my mind a bit. Moved across town for a week for the same friends who had chased me out of the apartment I slept-crept into the year before (good friends) and plotted my revenge. I plodded around the house only in thick men’s work boats (for crunching bugs) and carried a saucepan (for swatting). It was the most like Thor I’ve ever felt. I stomped over the grate, for I had finally found a more worthy house foe.

Turns out, it was mice. I hope it was worth it, troll exterminator.

Prospect Hill, Bloomington, Ind. $425 August 2011 — November 2011

After my roommates left for the East and West Coasts, I moved into a dollhouse with a comedian I found on Craigslist. We spent most of our first meeting staring at each other, waiting for the other one to say “I’m not a murderer” first. Probably me. It was 2011; The Craigslist Killer had just come out on lifetime. We were all worried.

She put up with a lot of stuff from just-graduated, underemployed me. I was waiting tables, freelance writing, job hunting, trying to figure it out. Sometimes I wore only a poncho around the house. I came in and out at weird hours. I listened to the Gladiator soundtrack a lot.

Maybe I was mimicking the house’s strangeness. It was a two-story house in a historic neighborhood surrounding a cemetery. The first floor was a garage converted into a workshop and the the top floor had the lowest ceilings of anywhere I’d been before or since. Everything was painted butter yellow. Supposedly, a theremin maker lived there in the ’80s, making theremins in the workshop and living like a doll upstairs. Then it was maybe a flamenco dance studio? We were not entirely sure.

Suburbs of Indianapolis — free; Winter 2011 — Summer 2012

Of course, after taking over a sublease in the dollhouse, I found a full-time job back in my hometown. So it was back to the parents I went while settled into my job. I kind of can’t believe my parents took me back in — I was a little insufferable in the first few months I started my new job and it was an election year. But I saved enough money to move out into my own cockamouse-free place later the next year.

Pennsylvania Street — $570; Fall 2012 — present

I have a kitchen, a bathroom, a living room, a bedroom, a cat, two bikes, one thousand coffee mugs and six rugs. It’s carpeted and has great air conditioning and big windows. Solid apartment.

I got a new neighbor a month or so back. I keep pretty strange hours, so we hadn’t run into each other in the hallway until last week. We exchanged greetings and she apologized if I could hear her yelling at her cat through the wall. I said something to the effect of, “Oh no, I haven’t heard anything. Sorry if you hear me watching 30 Rock at 4 a.m, etc., etc.” To which she responded, “I haven’t heard anything since you moved in last month, but the girl before you sounded like a demon.”

I have lived there for a year. I will make attempts to quell demon sounds, but send up a little thought for my next door neighbor.

Katherine Coplen just wants hardwood floors again.

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