169 Square Feet in Las Vegas

From The Paris Review:

The Las Vegas apartment complex was advertised as a fresh start, a place to reinvent oneself. With only 169 square feet in the so-called “micro-studio,” there was simply no room to bring much of my past life with me. I was not seeking reinvention, but I was looking for cheap rent.

I arrived in late afternoon on a warm fall day. New friends had invited me to go camping in Utah and were soon to depart, so I tossed my few belongings into the studio without taking much stock of the space. I did, however, note what I would come to call “the bathroom situation.” Along the apartment’s eastern wall stood the shower and the toilet, both separated from the rest of the space by only a curtain. The only sink was the kitchen sink. Well, I thought, that pretty much eliminates the possibility of anyone staying the night. I showed up to my friends’ doorstep tired and sweaty, and as we chatted, the last member of our camping caravan emerged from his bedroom, hair damp from a shower. I snuck a glance into his room. His apartment was basically the same size as my entire micro-studio, and contained many more things—paintings from Chile, philodendron cuttings in blue glass vases, and, in the living room, even a large white rug and a recliner.

My tiny apartment, as I named it, was fine for the time being. Utilities were included in the price. I had a desk that doubled as my dining table, and enough cabinets to use for my clothes. There was a kitchenette with a mini fridge and a two-burner stove, where I made, nearly every day, toast and eggs sunny-side up. When I showered, steam filled the room, and the dracaena I’d just bought seemed to like the humidity.

One night, I invited my new friends over for dinner. I owned very few kitchen essentials, so I used a Crockpot Express to steep risotto in wine while I used my only pan to sauté onions. It would take a full day for the smell of caramelized onion to dissipate from the apartment, and, over time, I began to worry that the scents of all my meals had fossilized in my linens. The philodendron man made a comment about a YouTube video he’d watched on micro-studios in New York. Why, we wondered, were there micro-studios in sprawling Las Vegas, where subdivisions and suburbs were more common than even regular-sized apartments? When we left to go eat in the courtyard, our arms full of pots and plates, one of the friends said she’d stay behind. She needed to use the bathroom, but didn’t want anyone else inside at the same time.

Because I lived alone, I normally didn’t close the curtain to use the toilet. I closed the curtain only when I had visitors, which seemed like a performance of modesty, since the toilet was never going to be private. But there were not many visitors. One of my only guests was the philodendron man. The first time he visited by himself, I was nervous. I ended up overcooking the shakshuka I’d planned for dinner, and when he arrived, the place smelled of burn. We drank wine on my bed, and he left. From a friend, I learned he was anxious about the bathroom situation.

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

4 thoughts on “169 Square Feet in Las Vegas”

  1. You will sleep in tiny bedrooms and like it.

    Much like you will eat bugs and like it.

    Why are people like this willing to settle for indignity on this scale? It’s more than just price…

    • Because they are that desperate to live somewhere, usually when trying to break into some aspect of the creative or entertainment industries.

    • Price matters, especially if your labor of choice doesn’t support anything better.
      Starving artists exist everywhere but most notably in the “meccas” like Hollywoodland and Manhattan.

      Life choices vary and as long as people are willing to live with the consequences without woe-is-me-ing or demanding a bailout from unca shugah, I’ll just shrug. Life is tradeoffs.

      Now the OP seems to be casting self induced inconvenience as some sort or virtue so I’ll just snicker. Riiight.

      Those apartments look to be about right for college students, maybe even in pairs. Most dorms are actually smaller on a per capita basis. And approriately so. Builds character. 😉

    • Thinking back on some of the rental places I lived in when I was in college, they were serious dives, likely illegal under nearly anyone’s residential/building codes.

      However, it didn’t really bother me. It was what I could afford and within walking distance of campus. I pretty much used those dives to shower and sleep and spent the rest of my time in various campus locations, including where I worked.

      After I graduated and had a real job, I definitely upgraded in size, furnishings, location, etc., but I never resented living in various ultra-down-market places when I was in school.

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