Something awful happened in March. Brennan and Lark—longtime housemates and very good friends—moved out of the House. This is awful for two reasons. The first being on a personal level because they are in Chicago and no longer readily available to hug and watch His Dark Materials. The second, however, is more ephemeral in nature. Seeing someone every day naturally means that you will come to take them for granted. The second they’re gone, their importance stands out with so much brightness that you almost have to close your eyes against the glare.
Their leaving has left a hole inside the House that will be very hard to fill. And maybe filling it isn’t even possible. I am the last original housemate that Michael and Claudia invited into the Bond House in 2018. Since then, I think I’ve had thirteen or fourteen different roommates, though that number may be closer to twenty these days. Everyone leaves a little something behind, whether that be wisdom or a random piece of furniture—but long-termers like Lark and Brennan are hard to recover from.
Their departure, however, allows for a sliver of sunshine.
Six months ago, in a maddening moment, I thought Richie and I would have to leave the Bond House in search of our own space. When Michael and I first discussed adding Richie to the mix, I was crestfallen because I had been told no. “There are just too many people. In fact, if you don’t mind, could you make sure that Richie is only here on the weekends?” He didn’t say it like that (he said something much more reasonable), and, at that time, the House was full to bursting with people that were running hot with cabin fever. It was hard to breathe. I understood well enough. I was still angry, though.
Months later, when L&B announced their decision to leave, we found ourselves in a unique position. Instead of moving into a one-bedroom apartment in JP for $1600/month, Michael asked us if we wanted to move into the Chalet (a large carriage house independent of the main house). Instead, we were offered a huge room with a loft, two walk-in closets, a big bathroom, a kitchenette, and a living room. More importantly, I wouldn’t have to leave the community. “How would you like that? Will you stay?” The trade-off, of course, was that Brennan and Lark would still be hundreds of miles away and that my relationship with the House would be different because it’s strangely hard to be warm when you’re mourning.
We accepted the offer because we would be foolish not to. The Bond House is my home and hearth. However, Michael and I agreed that some major work would have to happen in the Chalet to be hospitable. After going through the Chalet with him, I think we were both overwhelmed by the sheer number of projects that would have to happen in the next month. The bathroom, for one, would have to be refitted, the floor redone, and its nauseating black and white checker walls painted solid white to prevent epileptic fits. And there was the matter of the kitchen with its bottom cabinets that opened into dirt instead of wood. Oh, and insulation would have to be added. And don’t forget to mention all of the walls needed to be repainted, plus the staircase. Don’t we need a new lock on the door? Did anyone tell you that screens need to be put on all the windows? What about curtains? Do we have enough furniture for this space? This will be fun, right?
I’m not scared of work, and neither is Richie. When we talked about what needed to happen in the Chalet, he jumped at the chance to paint. “Y’know, if I hadn’t gotten into music, I would have painted houses professionally,” he told me.
Go and Godspeed, my love.
Last weekend was a big push to get the painting done. At first, Richie was going at it solo, convinced that all the offers of help were out of politeness and not sincerity. When roommates came to me and offered those same services, I promised them pizza the way you’re supposed to. So, last Saturday, the Chalet had a revolving cast of characters who either pitched in for an hour or a day. Our newest roommate Mary put in her whole Saturday painting and washing brushes. Apparently, she, too, once had a summer job painting houses. We learned a lot about proper painting techniques, even though more than one wall has its fair share of drips.
In the evening, Ana and Sergio joined us with their brushes, and we all listened to Shania Twain because, according to Mary, that’s the only thing you can listen to when you paint a house (this sage wisdom comes from the man who ran the painting business she worked for in her younger years). I’ve got to admit that there is something to it. Also, why do I know all the words to an entire Shania Twain album? When did that knowledge get stuck in my head?
Little by little, the Chalet filled with fresh light. Michael has seen that the bathroom has been retiled and a new fancy showerhead installed. The fraying electrical wires have been tamed. In fact, I think most of the upstairs plumping is now up to code. It’s funny to see the repair people come in and laugh at whatever was left by their predecessor. The tile guy shook his head at our bathroom floor and just said, “This is no good.” The fact that I can see into the electrical room from the staircase that leads up to my new bedroom makes that sound like an actual understatement. Guess I’ll have to get good at installing baseboards, huh?
At any rate, the Chalet is becoming a home. Sometimes I feel guilty for changing things, but I do think that Brennan and Lark would be happy to know that I am making a home in a place that they called home. I guess I could just ask them that because they aren’t dead.
As the last original Bond House Bostonian, I can say that people leaving is hard but not unbearable. Mostly because those departures mean that there are places in the world that I can go that would have been closed before, like Germany or Turkey. More importantly, departures leave room for introspection as I think about the things my previous roommates have taught me (which is a lot). Brennan taught me how to meet people where they are. Sometimes you can push someone for more, be it vulnerability or insight into their lives, but sometimes you need to know when to stop trying to draw blood from a particular stone. Lark taught me that making yourself happy comes from curiosity and enough integrity to live with whatever truth you discover about yourself. They taught me how to love new foods, especially vegan cuisine (not just kale sandwiches), and challenge myself for no good reason other than to see what I can do. I miss them every day but marvel at how big my world is.