The Bond House: Degrees of Separation

It’s funny how quickly we bond, to the point that we get so used to life together that it seems impossible to live any other way. The Bond House is a place where that happens with some regularity. When we got started in early 2018, there were 8 of us: 8 strangers who agreed that living in a totally-not-haunted house was a good idea. We were the ones who put the House’s heart together, helped shape it into what it is now, and have become closer than many people are with their own families. Now our rooms are full, but the cast is different. Most of the original 8 are gone now, or are permanently traveling, and I have to say that it’s hard. Even harder still is that this original number dwindles still. Theresa is leaving today.

That’s right, folks, our sweet little schnitzel is going home for good. And even though Theresa is setting off on her very own PhD adventure (and I am happy for her), my heart is breaking. Not that this is a surprise given that my heart is remarkably soft. But my heart doesn’t have to be soft for this to hurt, because Theresa has become a sister to me. This is me processing my emotions the only way I know how: schmaltz.

I won’t lie to you and say that I remember the moment I met Theresa, because I don’t; but I do remember getting to know her little by little. I’m not entirely sure that she spoke much the first three months she was here, except to drop a little comment that had us all in stitches. Of the people who’ve lived here, Theresa holds the record for making me fall to the floor with laughter. She doesn’t lie (or if she does, it’s impossible to tell). When she tells you that you look good, you look good. If she’s bored, she’ll speak up. Her honesty is fresh and endearing in a world where people so constantly want to impress one another.

You’d think that after all of these years of coming and going that I’d have mastered the art of saying goodbye.

Human ritualize everything, and so we have done the same. As we prepared for Theresa’s departure, we started clicking things off her American bucket list (eat a bunch of American junk food, go to Golden Corral, go on a road trip, etc.). And with her leaving imminent, we all knew that jamming us much as possible into her schedule was the only way to get anything done. So we’ve had lavish dinners (we celebrated the Autumn Equinox with an outdoor feast full of pomegranates, mushrooms, nuts, and wild waterfowl), gone out to breweries, attended talks, watched movies, made bread, eaten cheese, and anything else we can think of.

On Friday night, I somehow convinced Lark, Brennan, and Theresa to go with me to a Cosmo Sheldrake concert, a show that did not start until well after our bed times. I was excited to share the weird experience with them (if you’re unfamiliar with his soundscapes and nonsensical lyrics, I highly recommend). Everything was set up for a fun night: we were dressed for a dive bar, the bus arrived on time, the venue was interesting, we each had a drink. But when the first act started, I was sure that I had made it mistake. Let me get out in front of this and say that individual components of this group had a lot of potential (great percussionist, solid bass work, cool guitar, and even some interesting melodic interludes from the lead singer when they weren’t being distorted by the wamp-wamp), but what we got was, at best, an experimental master’s thesis.

I felt responsible for our having a good time, especially since it was apparent that everyone was exhausted in the first place (T told me later that she slept through two songs while sitting). But I pushed through the feeling because I hadn’t forced anyone to come with me (maybe Brennan, a little bit), and tried to focus on the show instead. For better of worse, these guys were really into their music. Like, “Wow, aren’t we clever” levels of into their music. And, honestly, that was admirable. To be so obsessed with your own work that you can’t imagine it being anything other than good must be a delirious sort of freedom. Was the band good? No. But were they free? I’m not sure they knew how to be anything else.

Luckily, Cosmo Sheldrake killed it. Honestly, there’s a real musician. Before each song, he explained the samples featured (endangered birds, machine presses, slate being broken–just marry me already, Cosmo, we can be obsessed over really specific things together); but the really impressive part here was the moment he sampled himself gargling his beer and twisted it into a sick beat worthy of dancing (y’know, if anyone danced in Boston). Over the course of that set, though, all three of my companions retreated to the back of the bar where they could sit and listen. It made me feel like they were only staying because of me, which makes me feel guilty because I feel like they’re not having a good time but is ultimately sweet.

The next morning, hungover only from a lack of sleep, the four of us and the dogs piled into a rental that smelled like an attempt to cover up a nasty smoking habit. A few hours later, we were in a McDonald’s drive-thru getting milkshakes and fries so Theresa could have the very American experience of dipping salty starch into sweet milk (something she’d been resisting since we told her about it several months ago). We got out in the parking lot and leaned against the hood as we conducted a very scientific investigation to determine which was better with fries: chocolate or vanilla. Here are the results: Chocolate milkshakes are better for drinking and vanilla milkshakes are better for dipping. Bond House Boston: We do the research so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

When we got back into the car and Gideon put his head on T’s lap, I tried not think about the fact that it was one of the last times that would happen for a long while. To distract myself, I got carsick. Eventually we arrived to the national park where we intended to look at the stars later that night. We walked the dogs around the woods and waved at unfriendly people until we decided it was time for dinner. I’ve never gone to a restaurant with Gideon before because he can be a handful (we’re working on the barking at strange dogs thing) and I feel weird for having an actual therapy dog given his energy levels, but he and Jelly pulled through okay and were showered with affection and treats from the staff. We feasted on wings, pizza, burgers, fries, a giant Bavarian pretzel hung on a hook, and plenty of beers. Granted, my head was a little fuzzy because of distraction and booze, but it was still a nice way to spend the evening.

Later that night we went back to campsite we had tromped through earlier, and found a clearing near a volleyball court where we could lay down and look up at the stars. Well, with no moon in the sky, it was dark. All we could hear were night birds and bats singing somewhere we couldn’t see. The clouds kept most of the stars from us, which meant that my thoughts were crystal clear. Which is terrifying.

We were eventually shooed away from the campsite by a, I’m assuming, well-intentioned groundskeeper who asked us to “keep it down” despite our whispering and just made the dogs lose their minds. Theresa and I shared a motel room with avocado-colored walls and heinous curtains. Neither one of us really slept, those same walls being so thin, until we eventually got up because Gideon wouldn’t stop growling at a pigeon.

When it was nearly time to head home the next morning, the four of us ate cinnamon buns and drank coffee and watched the dogs jump from bed to bed. Then we got in the car and went home, stopping only for pumpkins (now proudly displayed in the foyer). Later that night, after a series of naps, we watched Gattaca while eating popcorn and drinking Flap Ear. And our last few hours together faded away like all of the ones that came before it. I wouldn’t change a thing.

I have been thinking about memory a lot lately. Sometimes I worry that I’m developing dementia or Alzheimer’s because remembering what happened yesterday is a lot harder than remembering what happened when I was 12. Is that what depression does? Am I living in a moment? Or am I going through the motions? Why do I remember where every type of mustard is in the refrigerator when I forget who was with me on a particular day? This is why I keep a very strict diary on Google Calendar: event, time, place, person I was with. When I see it written down, the memories come back instantaneously. Looking at the calendar now, Theresa’s presence in my life is evident–a rough guess would say about 52 adventures independent of the House. That’s a lot of time to spend with someone who isn’t yourself.

So yes, Theresa is leaving today and that makes me sad; but I’m trying to gain a little perspective. Theresa being back home in Germany not only means a new spot on the map that I get to visit, but also a lifelong traveling companion that I can count on for wry wit and a love of bread. I’ll always have someone to make memories with. I’m already planning my trip to see her so this isn’t so painful. As I’ve said time and time again in these Bond House blogs: You may not be in the House right now, but remember that you’re always home.

Safe travels, T. We’ll see you soon.

bam

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