Friday, July 01, 2005

Group House

On my way to work on this last semi-work day before a holiday weekend, I saw a lot of young women in capri pants and flip-flops pulling suitcases on wheels or toting bags large and heavy enough to render them into the shape of the Elephant Man. Many of them, no doubt, were going to go directly from their office jobs to summer houses in the Hamptons or Fire Island that they shared with a dozen other young single people.

I had a share in a group house one summer half my life ago. I got it through a secretary at a company I'd interviewed with for a copywriter's job. I didn't get the job, and the secretary was looking for more single people to share the house a friend of hers was renting.

I figured the price was right and since I wasn't actually friends with any of these people, I'd have nothing to lose if it didn't work out.

It turned out to be a bad fit. My housemates, like just about every other house in the community, spent their weekends getting wasted on booze and stoned into garden sculpture on Qualuudes. The guys all wanted to screw me, not out of attraction but because they all had quotas. The women wanted me to get eaten by a shark because I was competing for the limited supply of actually desirable men.

When I wasn't trying to whip up an actual conversation with them or reminding them that besides recreational drugs, food must also be consumed, I was in the community's one teeming disco shouting inanities at my slackjawed dance partner that disappeared unheard into a deafening void: "Whose howwwwse are you in? Do you have a haaaaalf-share or a full?"

When I had made sure that my housemates and their related tribe of houses had seen me doing enough "normal person" things to keep me from being considered a total geek, I would go off by myself to read a trash novel or take a quiet walk on the beach.

My favorite walk was to a community called Lonelyville. There were no luuded-out disco singles there, but despite the name it was far from deserted. There were usually enough people around to have a short conversation with, including guys who flattered me by telling me I didn't seem like the group house type. I found out later that they told that to all the sweet young things from the group houses.

Every time I went to Lonelyville, I kept an eye out for a fabled pair of residents.

"That's Mel Brooks' and Anne Bancroft's house. That one, right there," I was told.

I would cast the house a surreptitious glance, lest Mel and Annie think I was a stalker. I always hoped to see them, maybe even meet them, and longed to have the genius of Mel and the class of Annie.

I never did meet them. And most mere mortals will never reach the heights of Mel-and-Annie-ness. But at least after that summer, I was no longer a misfit with a half-share in a stoned beach house.

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