An eager intern. With a zealous appetite for all things human rights, foreign policy and NGO-related. Washington D.C.'s bread and butter. It’s a greasy, smarmy place in so many ways.
That was me until I went back home to be the boring corporate lawyer that lurked in the periphery of my vision in D.C. Like the boogey man. I decided that maybe I should to get the corporate training that looked good on resumes. I was defeated. And for a time that was that.
I liked the pay and the prestige working as a corporate lawyer earned me initially. The free drinks and the cab charges, the slight dilation in pupils when I announced to strangers: I’m a lawyer. Muted respect dulled my inner turmoil.
Until one day I acted out all my Monday morning fantasies and, with a secret virility I didn’t know I had, resigned to my boss.
After much wandering, I returned to D.C. Because my most celebrated indulgence is nostalgia. The difference between the way things were and are is worth honouring. I wanted to see my old home. When I got off that raucous China Town bus at H street, reeking of other people's Burger King, I remembered all the wonderful things that broke 23 year olds do in D.C. At times buoyed with possibility or else despondent with fear. That you can do anything. But someone can always do everything better than you.
Despite this, D.C. was always my fairytale and I remember fondly:
Angry kids spreading their legs on the Metro. Taking up two seats, blaring music on iphones, Ensuring their bodies and clothes fill more airspace than necessary. Fiercely bearing brands, fat shoes, pants falling off because I just don’t give a shit. Fuck belts. I hate ‘em. Singing along loudly and badly and laughing so hard they snort. Waiting for the glance we are too fearful to give them, averting our eyes and pretending not to care.
The guys that pop up on the street to honor you with a pick up line (plump with overuse) that is always well placed enough to make me smile. “Beauty before the beast doll”, before offering me free reign on the sidewalk. “Angel you just fell outta heaven”, while I cross at the lights - red faced - and still in my gym clothes.
Mexican food. Margaritas. Taquerias. Chipotle. Julia’s damn good empanadas. Legit too. Made by smiling Latinos and proffered with authority in halting English. Eaten by the jolly group of men that drink beer on the front porch at the corner of Irving and 12th on Sundays. Tipping their caps and cans at you simultaneously, yapping like school boys on their way to camp. And when they hold a burrito, you know it’s the real deal.
Wonderland. Meeting place of the young and horny. Familiar RnB booty-shakers punctured by rock anthems. Lots of people. And lots of beer. Both of which dance together until they fall face first into the opposite sex and make out until morning, in each others beds, where they wake up and wonder how best to handle the walk of shame.
My house. My old New England house in Columbia Heights. We threw parties, provided nothing and invited people in from the street. Argued and laughed on one regal 3 seater couch and a litany of pillows on the ground. Battering hummus on everything because it was the only abundant item in the fridge, acquired from a housemate’s felafel frying job on Saturdays.
It was home to students, interns, baristas, chefs, entrepreneurs and ad hoc couch surfers. Boyfriends and musical instruments loitered in the living room. We had pot lucks with a colourful, yet rotating, guestlist. There was never any quiet, because the house was never empty. It ran steadily at a point close to spontaneous combustion. And I loved it. But it was never something that could last forever.
All the antics that went on behind the reserved exterior of 603 convinced me of all the secret histories lurking behind the other grand facades of the houses in the area. Whole communities of people could be living there, whole cults could be forming there and the walls were so secretive and impenetrable you’d never know. I lay awake at night on my mattress on the floor and smiled to think of all the strange things going on in the neighbourhood that would always remain a mystery to me.
When I went back and stood before the house, it seemed smaller than I remembered. Its walls a muted beige rather than the rosey mirage in my mind. And I laughed at how things grow in your memory to fill the space they occupy in your heart. At the foot of the stairs I smiled as I saw Armando playing the guitar, Greer reading and me eating watermelon on the porch at dusk. I summoned the weekend soirees, shared bedrooms and revolving door of one night stands. You can never recreate that kind of circus. But it exists in the cracks of the nation’s Capital. Running on broke 23 year olds, who’ll meet anyone, eat up anything and run the city on $10 a day.