Last Tuesday I wheeled the luggage across the battered front-door threshold and fumbled in the darkness for the right light switch. When the ceiling fan started to creak, I surveyed the now-lit room, and the summer's reality began to settle, a wave of dreaded expectation finding its shore: Except for 10 days in mid-July, I'll spend the next four months living alone in a four-bed, two-bath, brick house with a kitchen much too big for someone who can barely fry bologna.
I'm not in exile. I didn't seek out a place where I could spend the season tapping out the Typical American Novel or writing overwrought songs about the friends I once had. In fact, as recently as four weeks ago, you had to search for solitude in this house. For eight months, I shared the space with three close friends—Bradley, Vernal and Will. We gave the house a name (Brome, a portmanteau of Brothers and Home) and constructed a crude welcome sign with an ink pen, a torn scrap of white printing paper and a nail driven into the front door. We built a Web site to chronicle our (mis-)adventures, made household dinners, took road trips and fulfilled ridiculous dares. We didn't do dull moments.
Vernal, who I'd met only the summer before when I crashed at his apartment during an out-of-state assignment, lost his job at the Independent (because of a flagging economy, not faulty reporting) in December. He spent the subsequent months looking for an increasingly rare journalism job. When a fellowship in Seattle came calling, Vernal started planning the lonesome drive west. Will—who turned 20, abandoned vegetarianism and first loved Tom Petty in Brome—fell in love by phone with a Brooklyn woman he'd never met. Soon after they said their first hellos and goodbyes in person, he headed north. Brad finally completed the transition from record-store clerk to full-time musician. Between tours with his own band, he accepted an offer to moonlight as a bassist in Europe before hitting the American interstates for two months of hustling his own tunes. He'll occasionally sleep in his back bedroom.
I suppose Will and Vernal will make their way onto the old couch at some point, too. After all, Tuesday night I was returning from a Pacific Northwest tour with the band I'd been covering when I first met Vernal. In Seattle, I saw him at one of the band's shows; he was cavorting backstage before writing about the band for his new gig. I'd taught him their tunes.
That's why—dramatic prelude granted—this isn't a pity party. The best new friends augment your perspective, unsettling what you thought you understood. Losing them to circumstance is frustrating, but it fosters the feeling of a hidden turnstile: Spin, stop, get off, get on, spin. Hopefully, you'll reconnect with those who meant something soon enough.
So, when I implied I didn't have goals for the summer, I lied. I'm going to cook curry (Bradley), organize hard drives (Will), and say, "Yeah, I could fucks with that" when something sounds interesting. That's for Vernal, who laughs every time he sees me borrow his favorite phrase.