The day I moved into my apartment was so hot that the dumpsters in the loading dock radiated the scent of sweltering garbage. Maura was the only other person who had moved in yet, so she helped pile the luggage cart high with my mini-fridge, suitcases, and Rubbermaid containers. That was the first day I saw the apartment. My feet, damp from the summer heat, left footprints on the dark wood floors as I ran from Maura’s and Rebekah’s shared room to me and MaryCath’s room. I pressed my face against the living room’s floor-to-ceiling windows, craning my neck to find Emmanuel’s campus from one window and Fenway Park from the other. I pulled open the laundry closet in our front hall, marveling at the machines that didn’t require quarters or removal of stranger’s socks. I turned circles in the narrow kitchen, taking in the stainless steel appliances and dark countertops that were yet to be cluttered with half-full coffee mugs. Even though my bags were still heaped near our small dining set, Maura and I settled onto the hard couch and drank Mimosas.
I had never lived in an apartment before this one. I spent the majority of my life in the same house while growing up and had lived in cramped dorms during my first three years of college. I soon realized that our view from the 12th floor would be distracting when we tried to do homework, especially as the sun set behind neighboring buildings. I realized after the first week and a batch of simultaneously burnt and raw pancakes that I didn’t know much about cooking. We realized that, if we squeezed together close enough, we could fit all four of us, lying side by side, in a twin bed. During the final days of fall semester, we huddled in Maura and Rebekah’s room. One by one, we jumped onto Maura’s bed, ending up piled on top of each other, belting Adele songs. I’m not sure how long we lay like that, but I remember thinking that it is entirely possible to be platonically in love with people.
I met Maura and MaryCatherine my first night of college. I remember making a joke about my passion for the programming on HGTV. Two years after that night, MaryCath told me that that joke made her want to be friends with me. Over the next several years, I met plenty of people, but none who mattered in the same way that Maura and MaryCath did. During our junior year, we lived across the hall from each other, but I was in their room more than my own. We stayed up until 2:00 AM on weeknights, finishing bottles of wine and seasons of our favorite TV shows, and went out to dinner with each other’s families, seamlessly blending among each other’s siblings. We disappeared on daylong excursions for donuts and nachos around Boston and brought each other to parties packed with strangers, cheap liquor, and the occasional unsolicited palm reading.
The three of us had been talking about living together since our first semester of college. Our school acquired leases prior to our senior year at an upscale apartment complex in the neighborhood. Maura’s coworker, Rebekah, needed a place to live after her roommate graduated, so she rounded out our group. I only met Rebekah once before she moved in. A couple weeks after move in, we were in the apartment alone for the first time. I felt myself searching for the right thing to say and tentatively flipping through the channels, unsure of what she wanted to watch.
“I won’t subject you to my taste in TV,” I said, stopping briefly on a dating reality show. “But I’m so into trashy reality TV.”
“Oh, I love bad reality TV,” Rebekah said.
Three hours and six episodes later, we were discussing the contestants by name and speculating about what they deserved from their relationships. After that day, I never had to search for the right thing to say to Rebekah.
The four of us spent the whole summer prior to move in sending each other pictures of the new dish strainer and throw pillows we bought. There was genuine excitement when Rebekah sent us a picture of the sunflower-shaped spatula she bought or when I suggested buying a banner that stated our self-proclaimed motto for the year, “Treat Yo’self.”
We never actually decorated the apartment with that banner. We also never got the tapestry we wanted for the bare wall in the living room. Instead, MaryCath hung up her impersonation taxidermy, a purple stuffed toy moose head. We hung a couple strings of Christmas lights over our two large living room windows. I put up a collage of photos on my side of the bedroom. For a brief period Maura tried to convince us to hang the Twister mat, which made an appearance at every party we threw, on the wall. Our apartment was mostly decorated with piles of coats, sweaters, and scarves slung over chairs, mismatched socks and shoes strewn across the floors, and no less than four loaves of bread piled high on the kitchen counters.
When we weren’t consuming bread in quantities that would alarm Jenny Craig, we were eating 2 AM pizza or trying the Reese’s brownies Rebekah made for us. We spent a good portion of the year trying to find the right ratio of cake mix to water for mug cakes. We started an intense obsession with donuts that persisted throughout the entire year. After finishing finals during the fall semester, it was an unseasonably warm December day, so my roommates and I walked through the Back Bay, Theatre District, Chinatown, and Financial District to get to our favorite donut shop. We each ordered two donuts, indulging in one as soon as they passed it over the glass case and saving the other for later.
“Guys, I am an innovator,” Maura declared when we got home. “I’m going to put my donut in the toaster oven. It’ll melt the glaze and toast the marshmallows.” Rebekah, MaryCatherine, and I were already halfway through our second donuts, but we acknowledged her inventiveness. She popped the donut in the toaster oven and then slipped out the front door to make a call.
We smelled the smoke right before the fire alarm went off. Maura walked back into the apartment just as the rest of us sprung up from the couch.
“There’s a fire!” I yelled, pointing to the flames that were eating away at her donut. “It’s on fire!” I made no effort to staunch the flames or quiet the smoke alarm.
“Don’t open it,” MaryCath instructed Maura, whose hands were on the oven door. “Adding oxygen to it will only feed the fire.”
While Maura, MaryCath, and I ran through the apartment to open windows and quiet fire alarms, Rebekah opened the oven door and threw some baking soda in, extinguishing the flames. I was probably still yelling about fire when she shrugged and said, “Happens all the time at home.”
We often complemented our donuts with Mimosas. We drank Mimosas a lot throughout the year. We drank them for Marathon Monday and whenever we had breakfast for dinner. We drank them for our Gal-entine’s Day brunch and whenever someone spontaneously brought home cinnamon rolls after a long day.
We never needed a special occasion to bake our favorite treat or drink cocktails typically reserved for Sunday brunches. We didn’t always need it to be a weekend to blow off homework in exchange for $5 margaritas and $.25 wings or family game night. One Thursday night, we opened a couple bottles of wine and played hide and seek in the apartment for three hours. I still laugh when I think about Maura sprawled out on my bathroom floor after failing to hide in the linen closet or whispering from under my bed to MaryCath, who was settled behind a pile of laundry in our adjoined closet.
We perfected weekends at the apartment. On more Fridays than I could count, we’d play the same playlist, meticulously crafted by MaryCath, and travel back and forth between the bedrooms and bathrooms, swapping lipsticks and shirts. By the time we left for the our favorite bar, a small place in Allston that played ‘90s music courtesy of DJ Phat Mike, sliced limes and sticky residue from spilled drinks littered the counters. On Saturdays, Maura had work and Rebekah typically went home, so those days belonged to me and MaryCath. When we were feeling motivated, we’d go to the gym or for a run together. Other Saturdays we immediately jumped into day-long marathons of Breaking Bad. In between episodes, we’d stand side-by-side at the stove, MaryCath flipping pancakes while I cooked the eggs.
Even when we had a lot of homework or were annoyed at each other for leaving dirty dishes in the sink, we were together nonstop. We would spend hours around the dinner table, talking about the pretentious kid from our classes or our crises about grad school and full time jobs. We cultivated a strict schedule of television programs to watch every night after dinner. I would usually wait too long to shower each night, nearly missing the start of the Bachelor or How to Get Away with Murder.
“Do you even need to shower? I mean, you showered yesterday,” Maura would say. “You know, studies say that humans really don’t need to shower every day.”
“Jordo, you have nine minutes to shower- we will time you!” MaryCath would say, clicking the watch she always wears as I jumped up from the kitchen table.
“Just pause the show when it starts!” I would call, yanking clothes from my dresser.
“Oh weird, Jordan. It doesn’t sound like you’re in the shower yet,” Rebekah would say in her usual deadpan tone.
MaryCath and I were always the last to go to bed after our shows. For us, there was always time to watch one more episode of Breaking Bad or listen to one more song. Each night, when we finally conceded to go to bed, she’d walk around to turn off lights and I’d start the dishwasher. As we neared graduation, there were often evenings when she was working an overnight at the hospital, or I stayed up later than her to finish a paper.
One night in late April, when she was already in bed, I started the dishwasher and turned out the lamp but left the Christmas lights illuminated. I looked across the room, where you could still see the mismatched paint Maura used to cover the wall she scuffed. I made brief eye contact with MaryCath’s purple moose head. I sat down on the couch next to a pile of folded blankets, and I swear I could smell Rebekah’s coconut-scented hair products. One day, the moose and the blankets and the marks on the wall wouldn’t belong to me anymore. The next tenants would paint over the scuffed walls. MaryCath would pack away the moose and hang it at her next place. The blankets would eventually smell like laundry detergent or someone’s perfume or moth balls. But I smiled because for that moment, and all the moments before then, those things were inextricably mine.
About the Author: Jordan Gosselin is a recent graduate from Emmanuel College. "1254" is essentially a love letter to her EC roommates. Her work has appeared previously in Dirty Chai Magazine.