birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

360 Beacon St.

I lived in Boston for a while. Actually I lived in Somerville, and if you know that area you know there’s a difference. “What’s the difference in Somerville girls and trash?” the joke went. “Trash gets picked up.”

My folks helped me settle into a big, three bedroom apartment. I did some cold advertising for roommates, hanging posters in spots around Harvard Square. My first roommate was Cristine. She was a lot like me, only she was from Connecticut, her mother was a junkie, and she was trying to make her own way through school. So I guess she wasn’t a lot like me, but in other ways we were so much alike. We loved horses, we both owned VW Beetles for our first car.

The next roommate was Robin. Robin worked at some very chi chi restaurant, wore lots of rhinestones, and had a modeling portfolio. She was also kind of dim. In the morning, she’d play Madonna as loud as she could and clap along. One morning as I was walking to the subway stop, bundled up against the freezing snow, I ran into her walking home, walking the walk of shame, a thin black shawl around her shoulders, her high heels sinking into the snow, and her red lipstick exaggerating a sallow face.

Once Robin met a guy she didn’t like. In her wisdom, she invited him into the apartment for us to meet so we could not like him as well. He assumed she liked him of course, and asked for her phone number. “We don’t have a phone,” she said.

“What’s that?” he asked, pointing to the phone.

“Oh, that’s the phone. It’s broken.”

Then the phone rang.

“Why is it ringing?” he asked.

“Oh it does that all the time. That’s what I mean, it’s broken.”

Then, after telling us this story, she rolled her eyes. “I wish you could have met him! He was so dumb!”
Robin didn’t last long. My girlfriend from high school moved up, Susan, and eventually Cristine’s ex-boyfriend Phil moved into the living room. It was a full house, and mostly, a happy house. We kept an open book in the kitchen, named it The Open Book. It was like Facebook only analog. Everyone who came over was invited to write in it, and we responded to other’s notes, doodled, made lists, very similar to Facebook without the photos and the links. I wonder about those Open Books now.

Housemates.

I was the only one really in school, and I was always jealous of them for having free time when they got off work. I’m sure I was a bitch. Cristine was very cool, smoked cigarettes in the window, very beautiful. Susan was busy working and doing her own thing, which somehow led us to not get along as well as we had when we were best friends in high school. One time she complained about the toilet being broken and Cristine and I painted a big handicapped symbol over the toilet. We then went on to paint Dylan Thomas and Gregory Corso poetry all over the bathroom walls. What a pain in the collective ass we were.

Phil remained good natured and playful. Sometimes he’d put on his roller skates, grab his hockey stick, and skate up and down the hall shouting plays and keeping score.

We sort of lost Phil for a while. Just last year we found him through the miracle of Facebook. He and Cristine live near enough to see each other. Her kids call him Uncle Phil. Susan and I remained besties and our children call us Aunt Susan and Aunt Mary. I saw Cristine once after I left Boston, when I went out to California. I was supposed to see Phil last year, but he cancelled his trip to Alabama because my dad was dying.

At one time, when we all lived together, they were my world. I’d love to have us all together in one place again.

31 Years

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