When I was almost twenty years old my life had come to an interesting impasse and I was forced to make a few very difficult decisions in a relatively quick time frame. As I look back on those days now I do nothing more than chuckle, grin slyly and thank whatever greater force brought all of those experiences into my life because I would in no way be where I am now without having had them.
Just a couple days before my birthday in June of that year, my mom kicked me out of the house. In the six or so months prior to that day, many things in my life had changed and that moment was the proverbial straw everyone talks about; the world seemed to cave in and then explode back outward as if an entirely new universe was born. And it was. Life seemed to check and balance itself in a most peculiar way; intertwining moments one might call fate.
I was going to college full time back then and working part time at a record store while I lived at home. A few of my friends and I were commuting everyday to a community college in the area, working towards our Associates degrees (which we all planned to apply towards a Bachelors at the four year university of our choice upon completion). School and I were never ideal bedfellows so I felt uncomfortable most of the time I was there despite the 3.8 GPA I was carrying. I had no idea what I wanted to do however so college appeared to be the only way to go. Hell, everyone else was doing it. Everyone I knew went to school the fall following graduation but I waited until the following January to start since I was so unsure about going at all; I only made it through three semesters, and only two with that killer grade point average, as the following year everything changed.
My grandfather passed away late winter the following year and it affected me hard because he was the first of my grandparents to have died. He had suffered the effects of Alzheimer’s and since it was my first experience with the disease I had no idea what it was all about; it saddened me that he no longer had any idea who I was and I felt uncomfortable visiting him at the nursing home because of it. Around the same time frame a very close friend of mine joined the Army and although Desert Storm was over, I was extremely nervous for him (sadly the Army effected him so much that he was never the same jovial guy he had been before joining). In addition to both of these things I was seeing someone who even I knew I should not have been with.
After my grandfather passed away, my school work started to suffer; I withdrew from a couple classes and those I decided to stay in I dedicated little or no time to. I wanted to get out and live, to remember that I was a young person, to have fun. I met some fantastically spirited people and began what would be many years of drifter partying. Some of these people came attached to my then boyfriend, some to the collegiate experience and some I have no recollection how they came to be but boy was I glad they showed up.
Once my grades plummeted that was pretty much the end of living at home, my mom gave me two days to leave. Happy birthday to me. My aunt let me crash for a week while I frantically tried to find somewhere I could afford to live on my tiny paycheck.
I have absolutely no idea how we had met, if we knew someone in common, or why either of us were even at the school the day we chatted since it was summer break but for some reason right around this time period, Keith came into my life. I distinctly remember sitting on the radiator in the hallway between the cafeteria building and the courtyard as we discussed the fact that he was looking for a roommate and the rent was $200. Even on my teeny salary I knew that was a doable figure and within a week I was moving the small number of items I had into the second bedroom of 18 Williams Street.
Keith was an energetic guy and always full of humor and life. We clicked instantly because we were both just crazy enough to be normal; on some freakish cosmic level I think we knew we had to be friends. He was a great friend who put up with my (to put it kindly) less than stellar boyfriend, crazy friends, polar opposite musical taste, late rent payments and complete distaste for washing dishes but he never, and I mean never, judged me for it. Well at least not to my face.
From the outside, the house was just like any other house in Arlington -- single family, colonial style box with brown siding and concrete stairs -- but inside that house memories were made that never in my life will I ever forget. Then again I may have already forgotten most of them, since it was my first apartment with an older roommate and I was just about to enter my twenties -- that place was party central.
If someone passed by the house on a Friday night and there was not a party going on it may have made them question who was sick or out of town. In fact that question could have occurred on any random night of the week that the cops didn’t knock to tell us to turn the music down. There was always someone there, something going on. The best times though were the ones when after a crazy night of partying everyone had passed out wherever they fell but Keith and I (and frequently Derek, my sister and a few other very close friends) would have made it through the whole night so we chatted quietly with a cup of coffee as the sun came up and we watched it rise through the big bay window with the blue curtains. The one that always had that “keep winter out” plastic attached to it. Of course just like anything, it was never meant to last forever.
Since that time I have lived with a lot of people, some romantically, some as roommates, as well as in a few places on my own and now with Matt, but there was something so completely magical about my first place out of my mom’s house that none of the other situations since have been able to come close to matching. After about a year with Keith I ended up getting work as a live in nanny and moved out of Arlington and into a room in the family’s house in Brookline. In an almost symbolic act, the Williams Street house was sold and the new owners tore it down to build a monstrous McMansion duplex. I am glad that the times there will never be able to be replaced and that the house as it was back then will live on in my memory through photographs never fit to print.