When I’m born, my parents live in the back rooms of my dad’s music studio. I only live here for a year, as the life of a baby does not mix well with the lives of raucous musicians, late nights and loud music that come with a studio. My mother can’t wait to be out.
My childhood house is small, but with large yards and a huge basement. My dad builds a model train room in the basement that becomes famous amongst my friends. I share a room with my little sister, after I become convinced that ET is waiting outside my bedroom window. The house has no air conditioning, so my mom would fan herself under the swamp cooler in the over 100 degree summer weather. Our backyard is only separated by a chain link fence from the neighbors’, so we play with their boys all the time — bike races, exploring the creek at the bottom of the street, baseball, water gun fights.
My parents buy a larger house on a couple acres when I turn 11. I hate it, missing the neighbors of my old house. I have my own room for the first time since the ET debacle. I become a teenager, hating my hometown and counting the days until college. I cover my walls with photos of NYC and Broadway show advertisements, because that’s the plan — move to New York and work in the theater. Animals live in the woods outside. Coyotes eat our cats. Foxes scream at night. I’m terrified of the possibility of being attacked by a mountain lion.
My dorm room during my first year at UCLA is the size of a shoebox and holds three girls. On a clear day, you can see the ocean from our window. I love my two roommates, and they remain my best friends and biggest cheerleaders to this day. The rest of the people in our hall are our crew. We get to be so close, that the RA has a special meeting telling us that we really should make new friends so we don’t hate each other. The hating each other thing never happens. We eat together, study together, sleep together, drink together, and basically just be silly together. We share bathrooms and have sing alongs in the showers. We make up games like “How close can you throw an orange at the ceiling without hitting it”. It’s like being at summer camp.
My two roommates and I can’t figure out how to separate, so we go for a triple our second year of college too. This year, we have a stunning view of campus. It glows pink at night when the sun sets. The marching band practices on the field directly below us and plays the fight song as loud as possible early on Saturday mornings to wake us up.
I move to a university owned flat in Bristol for my year abroad. Not only do I have my own room, but for the only time EVER I have my own bathroom. It’s basically a pod with a shower over the toilet, but I love it. I share a kitchen with six other girls, and we cook and eat dinner together every night. I learn to cook here — lemon chicken, enchiladas, fajitas, roast chicken. I also learn to drink here — Malibu, blue cocktails, cider, vodka. A pub is next door, and couples scream at each other in the parking lot under my window after closing. One February day, the British weather goes from cold but sunny, to raining, to hailing, to snowing and back to sunny within 15 minutes. I watch from the window.
I sublet from a friend while taking a summer class at UCLA. On my first day there, I scrape the side of my car against the building as I pull out of the very tight driveway to go to the grocery store. My car still has the giant scrape. My roommate isn’t great about scraping food from her dishes into the trash can before putting them in the sink or then washing those dishes. Soon, white, fat, squirmy maggots are growing in the sink.
I move in with my two lovely roommates plus two more girls from my first year of college floor. We live in a 1950s run down apartment next to campus. The stairs that lead to our door are covered in green AstroTurf. We watch endless amounts of reality tv, especially America’s Next Top Model and Bridezillas. I know that every day when I come home, someone will be there to talk to. We make our own band, mostly so we can start a ridiculous Myspace page. We fight over parking space with the jerk who drives the giant Tahoe and parks next to us. The manager lives in the building and creeps us out. He also is the manager of the arcade in town. All of our friends live in the neighborhood, which means there are lots of late nights and fun times. I get my wisdom teeth out here. I can’t understand anyone when they talk, thanks to being all drugged up. This was the golden year.
I live in a hostel room with 17 other girls in Swiss Cottage London while trying to find a flat. I sob into my pillow when a girl tells me to be shut up, even though I wasn’t making any noise. I’m incredibly lonely. One night they don’t have any space for me, so I have to cart all my stuff out to Bristol for the night to stay with old roommates. The hostel does have free breakfast and internet though, so at least there’s that.
I move into a flat in East London near North Greenwich. The bathroom is sinking into the ground, so every time it rains, there are puddles on the floor. We have a mice infestation. After the landlord puts in traps, we catch three within hours. I’m the only one not afraid to take the traps outside. Slugs also come in the house all the time, thanks to the door not meeting the ground. All the dampness causes toxic mold to grow on the walls. Girls get sick. The landlady unexpectedly comes over and cries because we’ve complained too much about the living conditions. It’s cold. The kitchen has wallpaper with pictures of lemons on it. I count the days until I move back to California. After I move out, the other girls get evicted after an electrical fire happens. I remember the way that the landlords had “wired” the kitchen so wires were taped above the stove and sink. I’m amazed I made it out alive.
But we could see the laser projected Greenwich Mean Time Line from the end of our street. I did like that.
I move in with a girlfriend of a friend of a friend in a gorgeous, CLEAN apartment in Santa Monica. We have very different ideas about cleanliness. I don’t like to squeegee the shower every time I take one, for example. That’s very important to her. I see a homeless man walk by the front window with a squawking wild crow in his hands. The rent is astronomical. When my old roommate moves back from Spain, I’m gone.
The roommate and I find a sunny, large apartment in a neighborhood we love. It has original 1920’s and 1930’s art deco details. It’s perfect. The ceiling does fall in twice, once for no apparent reason and once because pipes break above it. On nights when I can’t sleep, I stare at the cracks that run through my entire bedroom ceiling, wondering what would happen in an earthquake. The electricity goes out whenever too many appliances are plugged in. The plumbing is unreliable, to put it nicely. It’s really all we can afford, and the neighborhood makes it worth it. There are restaurants we love, bars that are ok, and a fairly well stocked news stand on the corner. An old Orthodox Jewish man uses the computer at the newsstand to watch porn.
My roommate and I live here for 4 years, which makes it so we have 7 years total of living together. She is my longest, best relationship. We watch TV together and chat almost every night. Weekend morning coffee time is sacred. We have two adorable rats as pets, and then, after they pass, the Trix. Trixie spends her time watching the loud neighbors from the windowsills. Our friends move into an apartment a few streets down. It delightfully feels a bit like college again. This is the apartment in which I become an adult. First long-term adult job, first adult relationship, first adult break-up, first almost everything. I cry in my car after we move out.
By the time you read this, I’ll have moved into an apartment near UT in Austin. I haven’t yet seen it, but I know it has hardwood floors, a dishwasher and a washer and dryer IN UNIT. I will live with two girls I have yet to meet. I hope I love it.