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

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Best Ever

When I first moved into the Highland House, I wasn’t sure how it would go. I was moving in with a couple who shared a room and a single guy, John. I knew John from college, knew him as the guy who gave nice parties once or twice a year. Nice as in he offered real food (cheese and fruit and bread and desserts) and wine and everyone dressed up. The parties I went to involved hunch-punch that you paid for by the cup. The food came from a midnight trip to the Waffle House. If we dressed up, we wore costumes fashioned from thrift store finds. I wasn’t invited John’s parties but I crashed it once. John decided I had to dance with him and drunkenly dipped and dropped me so many times on his hardwood floors that our friends worried that I might get a concussion. At the Highland House, I had my own room, even my own bathroom. There was a spare room for guests—there was plenty of space. Still I worried that I might be crashing in somehow particularly with John who had such nice antiques and a fine sensibility. I was still going to parties without food and carrying my own cheap beer. I had a dog who liked to kill squirrels. But John was the best. Days off, he cleaned house, rearranged the furniture, and cooked an elaborate meal. He even liked my stuff, incorporating my thrift store finds into his arrangements. I loved coming home after John’s day off. I loved eating his food. I loved hanging out with him. I loved John. His mom loved me too. When John and I decided to move to Birmingham together, she insisted on buying me a bed frame so I could get my mattress off the floor. She said something then, I don’t remember exactly how she put it, something about how glad that John and I had each other that made me wonder how she saw me. She knew John’s boyfriend, adored him, in fact. She knew my boyfriend too. I wish I had asked now. But then, I took things for granted and didn’t want to wade too deep into emotionally fraught territory. In Birmingham, John still cleaned house, rearranged furniture on his days off. When I gave a party for my English professor friends, they were all impressed with John’s antiques and thought I was much more fancy than I was. When John got home, he got on the computer, pursued some porn, and showed it to anyone who would look. I wasn’t really paying attention. Who cares I thought. Apparently somebody was scandalized. Maybe John thought some of the people were staying too late. I didn’t care, he was the best housemate ever. He let my boyfriend move in rent free. He would let my dog out when he thought I had stayed away too long. “Her puss had to be hurting,” he’d say. After a year, I told John I was going to find a place with my boyfriend. John said he and his boyfriend were going to look for a place too. They bought a nice house. John moved out. And there was almost no furniture left in the apartment. Nothing in the dining room. No antique table and matching sidebar. No antique phone for the phone cubby made in the wall. It was empty. I felt empty. I’d given up the best housemate ever for a free-loading boyfriend. Of course, it wouldn’t last forever, but I wished that I had held onto whatever John and I were to one another longer.