The first time I visited 1110 Main Street in Grinnell, Iowa I was 18 years old, a freshman at Grinnell College. My best friend, Laura, was a sophomore and had friends who lived there. Every time we hung out there, I would repeatedly say to myself, "Act cool, Vikki. Don't do anything stupid."
There was a room upstairs and they had covered all the walls with newspaper and they'd write funny things that people would say on the walls. I loved sitting in that room surrounded by words spoken by real live people, words that had been turned into wallpaper.
Act cool, Vikki. Don't do anything stupid.
The first time my words went up on those walls was when I set my bangs on fire smoking pot from a bong covered in an animal pelt. I don't remember the exact words but I know it's not cool to have your flaming bangs extinguished by someone you had hoped to impress.
When I was a junior, two of my good friends from the rugby team moved into the house. I remember sitting downstairs in the living room with the dark red walls playing guitar and drinking beer. I remember seeing my friend kiss her girlfriend and feeling that little something that would lead to my own realization later that night that I was queer.
I moved into the house with good friends, including my first girlfriend, when I was a senior. We cooked together and argued over who had to do the dishes. There was the Great Silverware Standoff of 1991 when my girlfriend and I decided we would no longer wash our housemates' silverware. Our friend, Anthony, didn't like to wash silverware and we drew the line and refused to do it for him. Within days, we were buying plastic silverware with the hope that our moral victory was near. The funniest part of that story may be that I don't even remember how it ended.
On graduation weekend, we hosted a party for our families there and, when I look at that picture, I can still imagine us all standing awkwardly on the wraparound porch. I had come out to my mother the previous summer and things between us were not good but she came and she was standing on that porch with the other parents and that meant something. It was tense, though, and she called me close and said, "We are going to need something to get through this." She put money in my hand and said, "Go get a keg." My mom was wrong about many things but she was so very right about that keg.
After graduation, most of our friends moved on but my girlfriend was only a junior so we lived in the house for another year and then moved to Minneapolis.
When I went back for reunion in 2012, the house was boarded up and the paint was peeling and the back porch looked as if it might fall off. I stood there with friends and we wondered aloud if it had always been shabby. Had we just not seen it?
I wanted to sneak inside, to imagine walls covered in words, to remember the taste of bad beer on my lips while singing, to feel once again the excitement of first love. I wanted to have a moment with the ghost of my younger self and tell her that everything would turn out better than she could have ever imagined. To that old house on Main Street, I simply wanted to say, "Thank you."
This is a post for Ann's Rants #WhereILivedWednesday.