The Shakey Mover
I met my love at first sight and we moved in together three months later.
Our first apartment came to us serendipitously. My friend Nicole suggested that I ask the owners of a local bookshop about renting their basement apartment. They said yes, and within days, I was moving into my very own apartment with my newfound love. The house lay on a cozily mature tree-lined street just off the main uptown strip. A red brick century home bursting with quiet love and the sound of a piano being played passionately yet unskillfully every Sunday morning. We lived in a basement unit, of course, with a leaky shower and an abject decorative mismatch of chocolate brown shag carpeting, fire-engine red kitchen paint, and kitschy blue folk-art bathroom walls. We loved it.
We slept on a cheap mattress on the bedroom floor. The bedroom “window” looked out under a deck into darkness, at a bunch of cat piss and dirt. After a few months we realized that the bottom of our mattress was covered in black mold.
Next door - in another towering, impeccably gardened, ivy-clad century-old dwelling - lived our good friends: a couple including the aforementioned Nicole. We drank and smoked and occasionally partied together, ever-so-tamely. We and our friend group were a mixture of musicians and their partners; my closet musician status was blooming into full performer status. The closet door was always ajar, both literally and figuratively. I was either too lazy or too uncertain to keep it open or closed.
Elliott Smith died while we lived in that apartment. We got high for the first time together in that apartment, and stayed that way for a dozen years. A detective once pounded on our door, waking us in the (then unimaginably early) morning light. By the time I crawled up off the bed and reached the kitchen door to answer it, only an ominous post-it with his name and number remained. We went vegan in that apartment, and stayed that way for fifteen years. We adopted our first kitten; we had our first tearful disagreements.
We grew up just enough in that apartment to make living there worthwhile, but not enough that we left any wiser than when we’d started. We just…grew. The grey matter in our brains. Our book and record collections. Our culinary skills. Our friendships, our craft, our pastimes, and our emotional fortitude.
One night ten years after we moved out of our first apartment, we drove down George Street in our minivan packed almost to the ceiling with our musical gear. We’d just played a show nearby and, in lieu of staying with some spectacular new friends on a perfectly tenable living room floor, we parked as close as we could to our first apartment. We locked up the van, crawled up onto an air mattress on top of our instruments and slept, more comfortable near our past than in the present.
When we met our new friends the next morning for breakfast a few blocks away at the infamous 24-hour University hangout and 3am waffle mecca, Mel’s Diner, I didn’t feel guilty for forgoing their invitation to crash in favour of heading out and holing up on our van. Sleeping next to the first home we’d ever shared felt like hanging out near the grave a dear distant relative: an aged aunt who’d smelled of lavender and always given sage advice.
We left that first quaint apartment in favour of a newer, bigger, more sterile and soundproof modern apartment with A/C, an elevator and a dumbass swimming pool that nobody used. The Me of today prefers character over modernity, but like I said: we were just mature enough to stay alive back in 2003.
We were just kids.