The start of the long and winding road. In retrospect, as the memoir nears coming out, I’ve thought about this hard and long and wouldn’t recommend this road to any young person who had so much life in him or her to live. Residential. Housing. At its finest. Or not.
One fall day as warm as mulled apple cider, I moved to Apt. 2L at Arlington Terrace. Suzy was to be my roommate. She wore leopard pants and a pink fluffy sweater. Her hair was in curlers like a science experiment. Suzy sat on the couch and chain-smoked, watching Columbo on the TV, which was turned up loud.
It was a Sunday afternoon, and I followed in my car as Brett drove my stuff over in the Lake House van. My new counselor, Viola, met us outside the lobby with the keys.
As I waited for the elevator, I saw a beefy guy palm a bag of crack to a stringy-haired woman.
I unpacked my sole suitcase, which was crammed with everything I owned in this new life. Brett installed my stereo in the living room. My bedroom had a walk-in closet, and as I inspected it, my new counselor nearly killed my joy.
“You’re to keep your meds in the tin box in the dresser,” Viola told me. Always rules. Always restrictions. I dumped my supply in the box. I wanted to live life on my own terms.
Brett left shortly after to go back to Lake House. I was glad he let me stop off at the Key Food so I could get something for dinner. I made macaroni and cheese with broccoli because it was easy, and I had no energy to cook.
Viola chatted with me at the dining table for a while. I took in her doe eyes that seemed interested in me and her perfectly coiffed bob. I wondered what she heard about me through the staff grapevine. I did my best to impress her, though I worried she wasn’t impressed. I wore boyfriend jeans and a rough sweater and sport shoes—my casual classics now. The new clothes were kind of a uniform that I hoped protected me from her scrutiny.
“I hear you were a disc jockey.” She smiled. “What kind of music did you play?”
My reputation was an open book. I wondered what else she knew about me. “Oh, modern rock,” I deferred.
“Wynton Marsalis is more my speed,” she confessed.
I realized I couldn’t go wrong as long as I kept things innocuous and spoke in a pleasant voice. She seemed satisfied after twenty minutes and left.
The living room was a cloud of smoke, so I stayed in my bedroom after I was done eating and straightened up. I stored my sweaters in the dresser. I arranged my clothes in the closet by color, type, and season. By ten o’clock, I was exhausted, so I peeled off my jeans and sweatshirt and sunk into bed.