I moved into the apartment on Oliver Road in the fall after graduating from art school. I had spent the summer working at my family's campground, feeling held in place by the enormity of the milky way and familial bonds. I moved back to the city to make a better life for myself, to be a part of the connected independence of strangers again. The first few months there were some of the darkest in my life. I had massive student loan debt, no job, no lover, few friends.
This picture is a view of our kitchen counter, the afternoon sun making streaks of shadows from the crumbs of hurried breakfasts and the amalgamation of four lifetimes of combined stuff. Casero, the law student, was the coffee drinker. Jones, a self-professed jaunty rogue who lived in a constant state of mischievousness, was the manager of a test preparation center and owned the water bottle, microwave, toaster, and had been grandfathered into owning nearly everything else in the apartment. Penney, a willowy AmeriCorps worker who loved Linux and cats owned the plants. I had made the print of the basketball players and wasn't sure if that meant I owned it or not.
Penney was a bright flame of intellectual vigor and staunch independence. She knew how to take apart her computer and put it back together again, both the hardware and the software. She could make pie. From scratch. She had flings with interesting men and owned at least ten fall jackets, which were her favorite thing to wear. Knowing her eccentricities allowed me to embrace my own.
Casero was a clean man. He had a military-style buzz cut and was clean-shaven the whole time I knew him. He built simple, sturdy wood furniture for our common room and stapled gossamer fabric over christmas lights on the ceiling for the sky we missed while being in the city. He made huge batches of the freshest salsa known to man, which I constantly pilfered from. He owned a pickup truck, listened to a lot of Tori Amos, and had six-pack abs with a mind as sharp as a tack.
Jones. Jones, Jones, Jones, Jones, Jones. The man was a scoundrel in the best of ways and my friend before he was my boss. You'd think that would make things awkward but it didn't. He had a way about him that drew people into his circle of double-entendres and wiggly eyebrows and made them forget that life wasn't fun. There was never a serious sentence he uttered that didn't have the faintest of winks crinkling the corners of his big blue eyes. Educated at Harvard and on his way to his first million when I met him, he was a man who knew the world was and would always be his oyster and delighted in the infinite tastes.
They were all older than me, and at different stages of their lives, busy learning and doing. They had entered the gulf stream of adulthood and were flying quite nicely while I was just moving my arms up and down. As it often happens those movements gained momentum and by the time we were celebrating Jones' promotion and Casero's graduation I had found a place in the V of our entwined lives, only to see it break apart and stretch so thin I could barely see the bonds left to strangers.