While this apartment is not the "nicest" place I've ever lived -- it has wall-to-wall carpet that's hard to keep clean with two dogs, it has little of what you'd call architectural character, it has low ceilings and is drafty -- I think I've felt more at home here over the last three and a half years than I have anywhere else I've lived as an adult.
I moved into this place after breaking up with my partner of eight years, with whom I'd lived for six. That was "our" home and yet not -- part of the reason I'm only now a homeowner for the first time. I lucked into this English basement apartment a mere twelve days after starting to look -- with a big back yard for the dogs' and my exclusive use, with lots of light in the living room (the bedroom has the more typical English basement cellblock-style window), with a friendly and accommodating gay landlord upstairs.
The first months I was here, I took lots of hot baths. The winter of 2004, I taught a graduate-school course (not my usual teaching fare), and I spent hours and hours at the desk at which I type this now, planning the class discussions, finding readings. When I think back on that season, I don't remember being anywhere but at this desk by my bed.
I didn't entertain here as much as I imagined I would. I remember saying, after the breakup, when people would ask how I was doing, that I was going to become one of those gay men known for their fabulous dinner parties. While there have been a few memorable gatherings, the song "Send in the Clowns" comes to mind: "Well, maybe next year . . ."
The dogs have been great companions. They'll be downgrading a bit in the new place, as it has only a small walled patio, not a yard. But I plan to plant as many interesting green things as possible for them to sniff and feel surrounded by. Fortunately, since it's only a block and a half from here, they'll still be going for their walks on more or less the same streets. I hope they're okay with the smaller outdoor space; they certainly adjusted to the joint custody three and a half years ago without batting an eye: "Two homes with our favorite people? And this would be a problem because?"
This apartment has been a place of healing for me, of solace, of sanctuary, of new friends and acquaintances. Letting go is always a little hard for me. I tend to feel a strange loyalty -- literally, loyalty -- to the homes and places I've lived in. When I moved into the city from the suburbs almost twelve years ago, I felt as though I were betraying my roots and the particular town I was living in at the time (Takoma Park, Maryland). Now I can't imagine wanting to live anywhere but in the city.
It seems significant that after looking as far afield as Capitol Hill, I ended up finding a place to buy just about a block away, in the same neighborhood -- Adams Morgan -- I've lived in since 1995 (in three different homes, both single and coupled). As I've put it to friends, I don't think Adams Morgan wanted to lose me.
The truth is, I don't think I wanted to lose it.
Today, after a week of spackling, sanding, cleaning, priming, and other tedious but necessary tasks, I finally put the first strokes of color on the walls of the new place. I can't get over how beautiful it looks.