About 10 years ago, while in graduate school, I lived for a time in an old house that had been converted into four apartments. There was a woman who lived below me, entering her home through an awkward backyard entrance, with her children; one time she ran out of water, and came up to get some from me. I wanted to be friends with her after that, but we never were; in fact, I didn’t see her again.
Across from me, splitting the main level of the old house, was a woman around my age, somewhere in her mid to late 20s. Once, for some reason, I found myself in her apartment, which was incredibly different from mine, both in layout and in décor. She bartended downtown, and wore a lot of black, in dramatic fashion. Something about her felt dark and intriguing.
When I first moved in, a couple lived above me; they often fought loudly enough, and viciously enough, that I would cower in an interior room of my own apartment, far from the closet that held within it a hidden door into their apartment, and call the police. Once, when they came, they arrested the woman for domestic violence.
After they moved out, a single man moved in; he was incredibly fit, seemed capable of anything. For hours at a time, though, he would play a Boyz II Men song – End of the Road – on repeat. I wondered who had broken his heart. I never knew his name, but this is what I remember of him.
Today, after time with friends, time with words, time with dogs, I made a playlist, and am currently playing it far too loudly, enjoying the fact that I share walls with no one. Mary Chapin Carpenter, Maxwell, Donny Hathaway, Sara Bareilles, Dawn Landes: these are artists who, right in this moment, touch my heart. Some are from my past, some are brand-new to me.
10 years since I shared an address with those strangers, I wonder where they are now. Have they found their way? I wonder what their lives have included since then, and what they include now. Happiness, family, adventure, illness, sorrow? Wherever they are, I wish them well, even as I marvel at the passage of time, even as I wish more than anything that I could slow it down.
What will my neighbors now remember of me? And all those people I’ve lived near in the rentals I’ve inhabited in my adult life – in Maryland, California, North Carolina, DC – do they think of the woman who once caught their attention, in whatever way I might have done?
How strange to think that we move constantly along in this world, touching lives here, making impressions there, dashing in and out of people’s experiences, and never being the wiser for it. Doesn’t it seem, in that way, that our lives are infinite?
My house, right at this moment, is practically vibrating from the music.