I moved into this Stewart Road apartment at the beginning of my second senior year. I was 22 years old and had recently met with my advisor to tell her that I STILL didn’t know what I wanted to study in school. (I had already changed my major six times—piano performance, communications, elementary education, industrial psychology, nutrition, and nursing. Sometimes these were official changes in an office. Sometimes they were done in my head just because I was so embarrassed about my desultoriness. So many interests! Impossible to choose just one!) She studied my class history and grades, sighed, and said, “I can get you out of here in a year with a degree in Psychology and an area of concentration in Religion. Anything else will take more time.” Psychology it was and psychology it is! With an area of concentration in religion!
This apartment was my Final Year apartment. This was the place where studying was KEY, because one mistake could bump me back another year, and that was unacceptable.
On my first night in the apartment, the manager (whose uniform consisted of Hobie shirts and puka bead necklaces) came over with a wine cooler and told me that I was the only American girl in the place. “It’s you, a couple of American guys, and a bunch of Asians.” (The manager was a bit of a tool, although I do believe he meant well when he visited from time to time to “check in” on me.)
A few months into the semester, he knocked on the door (with a wine cooler) and asked, “Well, are you ready for the story about your apartment?”
Of course I was.
Four years before I moved in, an American girl lived in Apartment 306. She had a boyfriend and their relationship was pretty rocky. One night, the boyfriend came over for a visit. He was drunk, they got into a fight, and he swung an ax at her. Sadly, he had ax skills. The neighbors were freaking out and calling the police and eventually the guy was hauled off and the girl was dead.
Hobie with a Wine Cooler (HWC): You look like you don’t believe me.
Me: I’m not sure I do.
HWC: Then let me show you something.
He lifted up the framed emergency stairwell plan and removed it from the wall. AND, there was the tip of what looked like an ax still embedded in the brick. (Was it really brick? It may have been concrete. I can’t quite remember. Anyway: YIKES.)
HWC: It gets better! TWO years ago, an American girl lived in this apartment, and she went missing. We don’t know if she was kidnapped or what, but the door was wide open and she’s still registered as a missing person. I had to help her parents clear out her stuff so we could rent the place out again! SO, four years ago, and two years ago with zero incidents in any other apartment. I wonder if this will be another crazy year in Apartment 306!
(Edited to add: Both stories were verified by the ROTC guy who lived a few doors down, and I trusted him for three reasons. One, he often wore military fatigues, two, he had lived in his apartment for five years, and three, he wrote really bad poetry and was always willing to read it out loud, which resulted in many awkward “That’s a great poem! Well, I need to get going!” moments.)
((Edited AGAIN to add: His poetry may have actually been very good. I have no idea. Similarly, I sometimes can’t distinguish between Good Jazz and Bad Jazz. Onward!))
And it WAS a crazy year in Apartment 306. It was the year that I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for some friends and was able to cook a 36-inch turkey in a 27-inch oven, all while stomping the roaches that had traveled over from my neighbor’s apartment. (When I reported the roaches to HWC, he came up and we walked over to the next apartment. When he unlocked the door, roaches scattered away from what was probably 38 unwrapped and half eaten snack cakes that Tan (the neighbor) had left on the floor. (I’ll never know why he couldn’t finish a Little Debbie treat. I can eat a Star Crunch in three bites.)
About a week before my graduation ceremony, my best friend and another friend came over to watch movies. At around two in the morning, it suddenly struck me that I had never streaked and there is no time like the present and no present like time! I went into the bathroom and changed into my robe. The plan? Stand in the back doorway (pictured above) to make sure no one is coming. Hand the robe to Best Friend (who promised to keep her eyes closed and to stay at the back door), RUN LIKE THE WIND to the front door and actually enter the front door if anyone was out but if no one was out? KEEP RUNNING all the way around to the back door.
I’ll never forget that run. Not because it was amazing and freeing and TO LIFE! TO LIFE! L’CHAIM!, but because I could hear my heart beating in my head and I was no runner and what if my heart explodes and HEADLIGHTS! DAMNIT!!! sprinkled with a hefty dose of What In The HELL Am I Doing?! I am a BAPTIST!!!
When I returned to the back door, Best Friend handed the robe to me and if I remember correctly, I got dressed and we headed out for Swiss Mushroom Burgers or Ham and Cheese Melts, as we often did.
I was definitely changed after my year in 306, and I’m pleased to report that I made it out alive with a diploma and although a little lost, very much Not Missing.