No two apartments were exactly alike, and that drove me crazy. I wanted to know if there was exposed brickwork or a non-functioning fireplace that I was missing out on somewhere.
It was Emily who showed me the best way to explore the building: when an apartment was vacant and waiting to be rented, the landlords didn't bother locking the door. Since the building had a security code and the apartments in question were empty anyway, I guess they just didn't see the point.
Emily and I took the liberty of touring those unlocked, vacant apartments. Our motive was mostly innocent curiosity, coupled with an almost obsessive love of the building itself. Every crooked floorboard and weirdly-slanted ceiling provided a tantalizing glimpse into the days of yore. And on some level, we harbored secret hopes of finding the coolest apartment and renting it ourselves.
Our apartment-stalking activities gradually evolved into a carefully honed, slightly creepy hobby.
Eventually, we had seen almost every unit in the building. I started to mentally identify my neighbors based on the architectural features of their apartments. Sometimes not so mentally.
One afternoon, I noticed my neighbors moving out of their apartment. That night, I slipped inside and did a little reconnaissance.
The very next day, I brought Emily to the empty apartment. Leading the way, I opened the door, which was, as I expected, unlocked.
For the rest of my time in that building, I could never look that neighbor in the face.
I still don't understand how he managed to move all his furniture into the apartment immediately adjacent to mine without me hearing him. He must have been some kind of ninja.
And that is why you should always lock your door: not because of robbers or rapists or serial killers, but because two complete strangers might just walk right into your home for no apparent reason while you're trying to watch TV.
I was inspired to tell this story after reading this post by MOV, who is a much more savvy trespasser than I am.