I would dream of cockroaches in the room and wake with one thought — lift the carpet and see. There were always one or two, sometimes a dozen, and it was a blessing every time I failed to remember that there were hundreds just as close to me, only hiding. I poured bleach across the concrete under the carpets and cleaned the surfaces before even thinking of my morning coffee. I was writing my first novel. It was one of the few places I could afford, a seventh-floor apartment, pushed to the south of the city on the wrong side of the tracks, deep in the industrial district. The forgotten block was falling apart, and I was right at the top, along with the roaches, the cheapest coffee I could buy, and a novel to write.
The road was named ‘Nikola Vaptsarov’ after a Bulgarian poet. The district was Kichuk Paris — Turkish for ‘Little Paris’ — but I never saw any evidence of the apartment deserving a name with roots in poetry or Paris. Still, as abundantly as the roaches scurried into my dreams, I accepted my living conditions and perversely revelled in the experience. Was this my Down and Out in Paris and London? It wasn’t my Tropic of Cancer, because the high life was too expensive, and my innocence was still too much with me.
Living my ‘Down & Out in Kichuk Paris’ while writing my first novel
I don’t know what it was, but I knew it was mine. For the first time in my life, I was living alone in my own place. I was away from my family, the majority of my friends, and my history. A few months passed. I was making good progress on my novel, and I’d discovered the source of the roach problem. Some of the pigeons, nesting in the air vents between my apartment and the roof, died behind my walls, a self-governing breeding ground for more roaches.
And every occasion I discovered another dead bird, I went to the balcony, put my head in my hands, and felt sick. Sick because I had to reach my hand through the hole in the wall to remove the bird. Sick for every second of keeping my arm in the darkness where the roaches lived. And sick for spending my money on cleaning products instead of better coffee. Also, I had a novel to write. But at least it was my sickness, and I was living it.
A Little Reminder
Like the following ‘glowing’ review my novel would later earn on Goodreads — I don’t know how I feel about this book or the characters. — maybe I still haven’t made up my mind either. But I know precisely how I feel about its cover. It was a close-up photo of a screw from that very Kichuk Paris apartment I wrote the novel. The same apartment responsible for the roach dreams and bleach mornings. The cover of The Little Movements reminds me of the single-mindedness required for a shot of success. That close-up screw signifies the level I must reach again. Writing my first novel with that mad sacrifice, devotion, and love. Suffering roaches and sitting at a cheap desk with an empty stomach and a bouquet of bleach.