What is it? There’s a toilet in the shower, mate. So I don’t really know what this is. I suppose this is: "a complete erosion of all previous rules"
Where is it? Whitechapel, The Famous Home Of Murder™
What is there to do locally? I quite like walking through Whitechapel (a little bit about me. A lot of fans are calling out for this – “Please, Joel!” they beg, “pour more of yourself into the articles! I require a further peek behind your psyche’s curtain!” – and what I am saying is: I like walking through Whitechapel). It’s horrible, like. It’s just one long street with no real boundary to it. There’s a quite a good Big Sainsbury’s. There’s a little street market thing. Some pubs there that really spin out my (normally infallible) internal pub radar, pubs that put me on edge, pubs that exude the almost visible vibe that they would be a good place to get bottled. There’s still a sort of atmosphere about Whitechapel, like something gruesome might happen, over the ghosted out blood stains of all the gruesomeness that came before. But there’s an art gallery! There’s a stand that sells samosas! There is always, always, always a lad with a gigantic – and I am talking the size of a cow – violent tethered dog. A lot of London is being smoothed over and turned into the same generic high street you get through the rest of the country – Foxton’s then Pret then Franco Manca then Foxton’s then Pret then – and Whitechapel is still a shithole where the pavement is still dark and sticky with unknown juices from unknown foods and meats. I like it. This didn’t answer the question, I acknowledge that.
Alright, how much are they asking? £870 p.c.m.
The constant terminal ringing in my ears is actually just the following question, at a high and contorted shriek, inspired by years upon years of sifting through London’s rentiest opportunities, week after week after week, the question spooled out like cassette tape now to something monstrous and disturbing, like a howl, like a whine: how does anyone shag in these places? And to this opportunity – this week – I ask: how does anyone shag in this place?
Like, look at this. A pretty good red flag on a listing for a flat is if the photographer (or, more likely, estate agent, crouched on their knees with their phone in the air, desperately trying not to get reflected back as themselves in the mirror) is if they have to break out the fisheye lens: the fisheye says, "There is no real available space, here", the fisheye says, "I have had to ram myself into the highest corner of the flat to try and get a top-down, god-like view, and I need a special lens to encompass all of that". Another red flag? Another red flag is "literally having to stand on the bed just to get a photo of the room because there is so little space in it":
Or, like, look at this: look at this floorplan and try not to feel your breath catching hard like a bullet in your chest:
Here is a photo of a lamp:
And then here is a photo of the bed, stripped and delicate and naked, and the adjacent shower, which also has your sink in it – you brush your teeth in the shower, now, you wash your face in the shower, you run yourself a glass of water from the shower – and: holy goodness, yes, that is a toilet. In the shower. A toilet! In the shower. Your toilet is your shower and your shower is your toilet. You make a messy business and then you wash yourself in the wake of it. Your toilet is in your shower. Your shower? Your shower is your toilet:
(Every stink you make clings to you like glue here in…. the shower-let!)
“Opportunity to have your own furnished space minutes from the City,” the advert says, “with excellent transport links across London. All bills included: including weekly cleaner.” Quite how long it would take a cleaner to wipe around a 10m/sq flat – a little larger than the Council of Europe’s establishments for a legal prison cell, but not by a fucking lot – especially when every possible mess is being made in the same shower-toilet combo space, I don’t know, but I’m not sure how this place is worth £870 p.c.m.. Additional information: the advert boasts that this "micro flat" was newly refurbished – “The studio recently underwent renovations with a new luxury shower set added together with fresh paint and flooring” – meaning it has been deliberately made like this, that a number of contractors and fitters and builders and planners have been in this room, taken the money and done the work, freshly repainted it and fitted a shower, to make it this way. This room did not happen by accident. It is the result of hundreds of evil little decisions.
Anyway, shagging. The scenario is this: you are out having drinks, and you are smooth and soft like you always are after three beers and a wine, your arms are moving out of your control, you are dancing, you are being flashed with pulses of pub-club light – blue, red, bright brilliant white, yellow thru green – you are in a bar you don’t remember the name of and you don’t remember the steps to how you got here but you are here, anyway, feeling huge and brilliant and bulletproof, on nights like this no one can stop you, and someone takes your hand and leads you to the dance floor and you let them take it, three songs in, four, staring into each other without a word spoken, and then you get close to their ear, both of you sheened with the sweat of dancing, you are young, you are vibrant, you are fire and you're electric, you get in close, to their neck, that smell – the adrenalin bolt that shoots through you when you smell an attractive neck! – and try to whisper but end up shouting “WHAT IS YOUR NAME?”, and they pull back, and look at you, and go to tell you and kiss you instead, and now it’s grasped hands and wet lips in the Uber, keys in the door, you float up the stairs, they chase in behind you, you are giddy, giddy, giddy with the thrill of the shag, and then—
Lights on, keys on the bed, turn to them and face them. “Could you—“
You say. The light in here is so bright. Suddenly the magic has worn off. This room is so small, so small. This room is as small as a prison.
“— could you, um. Check your phone or something? Turn and look at the wall, something like that. I just need to piss and I don’t want you watching through the shower cubicle.” And you play a Vine compilation really loud off your phone to mask the sound. You smash, yes, but it’s not as good as it could be. Stay up in the ink-blue hours of the post-shag early morning and stare and the ceiling and sigh. A stranger with their spit on your junk sleeps quietly beside you. “Maybe,” you think, as distantly a landlord laughs and grows fat on the cream of your £870 per month, “Maybe it’s time to reassess my life.”
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.