I have shared many houses. There was the cross country, international checkerboard of my young houses. Cedar shakes by the seaside, the missing paternal housemate following the call of duty, the tightly bonded older siblings who shoved over and made room for me. The French two flat with its long sweep of garden and elderly caretaker couple who offered my small self bites of berries and the heel of baguette.
Seventeen and sharing Malaya meets mid century modern house with an affluent bumiputra (sons of the soil) Muslim family who knew less what to make of me than I did of them, but we shared stories, rooms and endless dishes of curry and thermoses of hot coffee sweetened with condensed milk and many spoons of sugar. I shared the Victorian funeral home turned grand apartments with Nikki and Kari who were sweet, upright and intellectual and not prepared for the number of men and bottles of wine I’d be bringing into that stained glass, bare wood space. But they looked in on me when my wisdom teeth came out and my cheeks were swollen beyond a cartoon chipmunk look and tipped their hats at graduation and once in a while we talked books.
I shared the 4th floor walkup with a balcony overlooking the hippest street in Rochester, with Deirdre, who grew larger and stranger throughout the year and whose shy sweetness led her to some odd almost cult and soon I shared with the man she found there and however many of their fellow travellers turned up for the night. But they left me the kitchen and I painted my room pink with a blue ceiling and made my through my father’s death with a now and then hug from Deirdre. And then I shared my first house of love, a room to let, where I idled my way through mornings before waiting tables and found a great cache of pornography in the store room. We left that house behind, we stuck, we found a place of our own, and added another housemate, a kitten, and that’s the one that stayed constant for me over the next almost 20 years. Except for his unfortunate habit of prying my eyelids open with one soft paw about 5 in the morning, he was the best of all possible housemates.