Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Places I've lived

In the 18 years (almost exactly) since I was almost 18 years old, I've had 12 addresses.

1. University residence. The 9th floor, or maybe the 10th. My roommate arrived in the middle of the night. After depositing her stuff, she and her mom sat on the floor and drank beer. Heather negotiated a trade a few weeks later, scoring a much cooler roommate than myself. And so Nikki moved in. Nikki slept with her oboe.

Some floormates were good as friends for a couple years, some longer, as study buddies or clubbing partners. But for 8 months we were sucked into each others lives and, ultimately, looked out for each other.

2. The other, apartment-style residence on campus, for the summer. These were real roommates, real people who didn't go "home" for the summer, working at real jobs to support themselves, maybe taking a course. Desperate to be one of those people, I took a job at a bakery, and brought home bags of bread and croissants at the end of the day, thereby gaining acceptance into the household.

3. The rooming house. A huge, old stone mansion, housing about 20 people, mostly students. Ed Broadbent lived on the corner — we'd see him mowing his lawn.

Every morning Mark's stereo down the hall would blare Depeche Mode — my cue to put the kettle on for tea. We talked, and talked, and talked. I miss him.

Al, was the oldest in the house, pushing 50, living next door to me. He was a fixture, a big tough guy — don't get on the wrong side of Al — and on welfare. He borrowed money from time to time. Al still owes me a 100 bucks.

This is the house I lived in when I first fell in love. I mean truly, deeply in love. He flicked pebbles at my second-story window to announce himself. This is also where my heart was broken.

4. My first bachelor apartment. In the basement of a family home of old-world Italians who grew tomatoes and grapes in their frontyard — a fairly striking feature in this part of town (not Little Italy). Bags of fresh tomatoes. Near Christmas, a couple bottles of potent "wine," which seemed decent compensation for the stench I'd endured post-harvest.

Conveniently between campus and the market, around the corner from the cinema and old Zaphod's. Windows at toe-tapping height. This is the place where people came at all hours to pour out there hearts, bare their souls, listen to Ella and Billie.

5. A real apartment, shared with a good friend, even though everybody told us it wasn't such a hot idea moving in with a friend. It wasn't such a hot idea. But we're grown-ups now, and better for it. She had furniture and a cat.

That summer I worked nights at an animation studio, loving my walks to and fro through Chinatown.

6. Another bachelor apartment, but one that was designed as such, not simply someone's extra, converted space. A dead-end street.

Small. Two guests at a time was crowded. Small. There was no other way but to sit on the toilet sidesaddle.

The light fixture pulled away from the closet ceiling and sparked, resulting in the largest ever gathering of guests (all firemen) between these walls at one time. The hole in the closet ceiling was never fixed. Through this hole, the bat made its entry. The first time, he scared me silly. I eventually named him (Clive).

I lived here for years. This is where I lived when I went to Paris the first time, for a weekend. This is where the travel bug infected me. From this apartment, I saw wondrous pieces of the world.

7. I gave up that apartment because I was going away for the summer. It seemed silly to pay rent for months I wouldn't be there. I moved all my crap to my sister's place, where I stayed for a little more than half a year, causing her a lot of inconvenience, if not grief, misery, and embarrassment. I was a little lost.

8. A one-bedroom apartment on another dead-end street.

The one with the pink and purple kitchen. On Perkins. Provoking p-based pleasantries with pals in pubs, prior to Princess Prunella's publication (permit us to put Peggy's proboscis in its place).

Got a cat. I was daunted by the responsibility of being a pet-owner, but a friend thrust him upon me. I'm glad he did. Calvino walked me to the busstop when I left for work and met me halfway down the street when I came home. Little children asked if the big black panther belonged to me. Calvino was king of that street. He brought mice and sparrows to my doorstep.

Eventually got a boyfriend (almost exactly 9 years ago) who moved in after a couple months.

9. Our first apartment together, which ironically was smaller than the previous place. The "coachhouse" — the old barn out back. Winding staircase, mezzanine. A bathroom too small for a tub.

This is where I said goodbye to my career as a civil servant, found the strength and courage to start to know and follow my heart's desire. This is where I learned to love, really love.

10. Conceivably an apartment of the kind grown-ups live in. Dishwasher! A balcony that inspired great conversation and secrets (to forget the view, perhaps). Got another cat.

Joseph the mailman lived on the third floor, but spent an inordinate amount of time in the laundry room. Joseph knew everything about everyone. Directly upstairs from us lived Stompy. Stompy liked sex, a lot.

This is where our respective families met each other. This is where Helena was conceived, tho' we didn't know it till after we'd left.

11. Montreal. Known from the start to be the transition apartment, easing our way into a new city, a new life. Centrally located. Across from the park. With the great windows: fabulous light and infernal heat. A drug-dealer downstairs; he always held the door for me. The building owned by two now-warring Portuguese families.

The pregnancy test. The home Helena was born into. So many of her firsts.

12. Current address. Owners.

As much as I hate moving, and for all the promises that this would be it — a place we own, we would never have to move again — I know this is not the case, I know this is not our forever house. Still, there are pictures on the walls now, curtains. It's good to be home.


Anonymous said...

In the past 18 years, almost to the day, that I was 18 years old I have lived at 10 different addresses. I only figured out the other day that my current address, at which I've lived for five years, is the longest I've resided anywhere as an adult. Scary.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful, reflective post about all the places you've called 'home' in your life. I've counted and I come up with 17 addresses in my 34 years. My adult years have been lived in 12 of them, 9 of those with my husband.

I understand the simple joys of having curtains and pictures on the walls of your home. We are currently in transition mode as we wait for our 'forever home' to be completed (we lived in the 'just for a while' home for 4 years and we are ready to never ever move again.) When I get in there and get the shutters up and hang the first pictures I'll probably cry with happiness.

Very sweet photo.

Anonymous said...

I remember some good times on that balcony of yours...and plenty of wine..

Hey, didn't you used to live with "J"? I thought so...I'm being deliberately cryptic; I have no idea if she reads your blog, but I somehow doubt it. Anyway, why take a chance?