Ever wonder what's behind your stove? Welcome to my hell.
Recently I decided to clean my entire apartment. Not a little vacuuming and dusting and tidying up; what I'm talking about here is a deep clean—the kind of clean that will have you confronting your biggest fears, like finding out what's behind your stove, and under your fridge. The kind of clean that, once done, will give you an accomplished feeling similar to one you'd have after an advanced pilates class, or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. The kind of clean that will tell you what you're made of.
In New York City, we accept that everything around us is a little bit more disgusting than it may be elsewhere. The sidewalks are dirtier, the air is thick with stench, and if the Health Department came into our apartment kitchens even right after cleaning day, we probably wouldn't get an A rating. It's not us, it's New York City. We just live in it.
My entire apartment measures around 212-square-feet, and I would argue this makes it even more difficult to clean the entire thing. The living area (also known as: the only area) is like a jigsaw puzzle—I need to take everything off the shelving unit to move it, which needs to be done in order to move the bed, which I do pretty frequently to clean underneath it (and just to, like, see what's going on down there?). This really settles my anxiety-ridden brain. Which brings me to the kitchen.
The kitchen is very small, and it's incredibly challenging to give it a thorough clean. There are cracks and dark places and crevices and areas I will never be able to reach and sometimes it feels like the whole thing was just Scotch-taped together. For example, there's a heat pole that goes through the floor and looks as if a log had been driven into soft soil, the flooring around it destroyed, cracked, crumbling. I am ill-equipped to make this area look nice and smooth and clean. Immovable rubble surrounds it. One can imagine, looking at it, that a miniature version of San Andreas was filmed here, and this spot is where miniature The Rock landed his helicopter for some climactic scene in the center of the destruction. I expect that one day this area will open up into a hellmouth.
The floor in general is unreal, and by that I do not mean it's amazing, man, so unreal. I mean that I'm pretty sure under the sticky vinyl tiles, it's not quite a floor, more like a lumpy mound of dirt and concrete. Michel Gondry has probably built a sturdier kitchen from cardboard boxes and construction paper. Still, I love this goddamn apartment and I will love it even more if I clean it to some Martha Stewart level standards.
You can see the tiling I mentioned in the above photo, it covers the visible part of the floor, and does not extend to under the fridge or stove. This little fact has made even the thought of cleaning under my fridge and stove an unbearable nightmare. I've been in this place for six years, and I'm still alive, maybe it's fine and I should leave it alone? That has been one thought I've had repeatedly. The other is, I've been in this place for six years and never cleaned behind or under the stove. What if all of my nightmares are commingling down there, and a cockamouse and its followers have been hard at work creating a Hieronymus Bosch cosplay experience just for me?
What's under you? What's on the side of you? What's behind you? I'M NOT SCARED OF THE TRUTH, STOVE.
Last year I was able to tackle the fridge mystery after mine broke and needed to be replaced. In short, it was fine. But the stove has remained a source of anxiety, so much so that I had a dream about cleaning under it a few nights ago. Dreams are for mental vacations and fantasies of living in Obama's America again. If this stupid shit is getting into my precious subconscious, I thought, it's time to face it head on.
So earlier this week I unplugged and moved my stove (very carefully, of course). And, since I quickly learned this is a relatable fear, I am here to tell you it was fine. Sure, I confirmed it really is just some lumpy concrete under there, but it was mostly just dust... and a knife I've never seen before that appeared to be caked in boric acid. I did take photos of what I saw, but when I checked them later, the images showed nothing but a phosphorescent reddish void. Weird!
The thing to focus on here is that there was not a heavily-armed colony of urban pests living in a radioactive village built of fallen kale leaves and a single spaghetto, as I'd expected.
I got down on the ground and scrubbed, put everything back together, and collapsed on my bed, glistening in a self-satisfied sweat. Your move, fellow New Yorkers (and take note: if you have a gas stove, be careful moving that thing around, or see if you're superintendant can help). When you're ready to confront the troubling mysteries behind your stove or fridge, send us a photo of the horror.