I moved into my first ever apartment on September 1st, 2011, with two of my best friends. We were juniors in college in Boston, studying film and writing and TV and a million other completely ridiculous things. We had stars in our eyes in every conceivable way, and viewed the jump across the Charles River from a dorm to a cozy (cozy being code word for small) Big Girl Apartment in Cambridge as the first step of the rest of our lives. It was robbed about a month and a half later.
We had named the place the Boneyard; if you asked Erin why, she’d tell you with a completely straight face: “We bone a ton of dudes, and there’s a yard in the back.” We strung up fairy lights in the living room and giddily lined up empty bottles of the cheap beer atop the cabinet. We spent most of our time huddled over our laptops in the kitchen; friends who came over regularly knew to make a beeline there and settle into a stretch of free counter space. They’d swing their legs against the silverware drawer as we pulled our chairs in a circle at the center of the room. We’d sit and we’d talk and we’d marvel at how grown-up it all seemed, beer bottles and bills strewn on top of a toaster oven we barely used. It was hard to shake the feeling that we were faking it, all of it; playing house in a place that wasn’t ours. We’d stay for a bit longer and catch the last train home.
Any and all fantasies of Being A Sophisticated Grown Up went up in smoke about a month and a half later, when Andrea called us, panicking that she couldn’t find her laptop.
A laptop isn’t exactly something you just lose, after all. And as Andrea searched, she noticed other things of hers were missing, too; a hard drive, a Kindle, some scattered jewelry from her dresser. She called us in a panic, and within half an hour the three of us were lined up on our front porch, shivering, trying to talk about anything else in the world other than the cop we were waiting on.
He arrived in a blaze of anticlimax. We explained the situation to him in frantic, loud bursts; he made us slow down and explain to him just what, exactly, a Kindle was. Erin and I ran past him into our own rooms to survey the damage – I scanned the perimeter and did my best to compare it to my last mental picture from that morning, Highlights magazine style, to try and spot the difference. I took a step towards my dresser; amongst the stacks of books and bobby pins, something was definitely missing.
“My Kindle’s gone, too!” I shouted. I let out a small, bitter chuckle; in a dark way, this inevitability was kind of satisfying. “But it was broken, so fuck them! Good luck hocking that on the black market, assholes!”
That was really it in terms of collateral damage for me; for once, I was grateful I lacked the funds for most swanky, easy-to-steal technology. I had a cracked iPod Touch, four years old and held together by tape and a prayer, which they’d left on the bed. I guess everyone has standards, even criminals.
I walked back to the kitchen to find Erin, wide-eyed, holding her empty camera bag and her iPad. “My camera’s gone, but they didn’t find my iPad under my bed…Which is just great, because I use this way more. To, you know, watch Netflix.” (A few months after getting one for her birthday, Erin still didn’t know what she was supposed to do with an iPad. I’m pretty sure no one does.)
The cop lingered in the crime scene formerly known as our living room. “That window’s open,” he pointed. Our jaws dropped as he proceeded to poke around a bit more. “Oh, yeah, the screen’s torn. This has to be it. And there’s a stack of milk crates right beneath outside, see? And that’s why the TV is turned around, they had to move it when they were climbing inside.”
It was, admittedly, a small comfort that the cop had solved our crime in roughly the same amount of time it usually takes me to locate a clean tee shirt each morning. Maybe the American justice system wasn’t so fucked after all.
In the days following the robbery, we three mistresses of the Boneyard dealt in the only way we knew how: by slapping a large and blatant band-aid made of sarcasm over the wound. The next morning, Andrea famously blasted Super Bass and leapt out of her room just past 8AM, shouting, “I can still dance, robbers! You can’t take that away from me! Footloose!”
It was an easy and lazy habit – an inappropriate comment concluded with an eyebrow raise and a “Too soon?” Of course it always was, but what else were we supposed to say? Admitting that, yeah, it actually was pretty fucking upsetting when an undisclosed number of strangers violated your privacy and rifled through your worldly possessions only led to wide eyes and awkward silences. We found ourselves having to comfort our friends, instead of the other way around. For a week or so afterward, people would approach us and hurriedly apologize, say they’d heard, ask for details, hope we were okay. I’d be standing outside some computer lab, already five minutes late to class, talking to a girl from my floor freshman year; it wasn’t exactly an appropriate time to drop any truth bombs.
“Oh, no, yeah, it’s totally fine! They took over a thousand dollars worth of stuff and probably stepped all over the underwear I’d left strewn across my floor in the process, but no, I’m all good! So chill! The chillest! It’s kind of a funny story, really! We’ll all laugh about it!”
We were laughing about it, but only because we didn’t really have a choice.
A few days later, just past midnight, the three of us were gathered in our kitchen, hunched over our laptops, a heavy silence hanging over us. I looked up from my half-finished paper. Andrea’s eyebrows furrowed as she typed a little too loudly, as always, as Erin performed her nightly ritual of smearing cheese all over whatever grain she could get her hands on. I coughed. Keeping quiet wasn’t doing anyone any good. “Guys, roses and thorns?”
Roses and thorns was a game I’d learned in my years at summer camp – at the end of a long day, the counselors would gather together and share the best and worst bits of the past 24 hours. I’d introduced the practice to the apartment, and it’d become a sporadic tradition.
A little startled, they both nodded. I figured I’d begin: “We read my next ten pages, and my professor loved them. So, that ruled. As for thorn…”
“I’ve been nervous and jumpy all day,” Erin cut in. “I can’t force myself to relax. Even for a second.”
“Me either,” Andrea said. “I don’t even know if I have a rose. I’ve got a new computer? It cost a thousand dollars? Go team?”
“I was freaking out when I was alone here this morning,” I admitted. “Just sitting on the couch. I still didn’t really feel…okay.”
“I probably won’t for a long time,” Erin said quietly.
We couldn’t drink legally just yet, but we could rent an apartment and give it a dumb name and fill it with things from our childhood bedrooms that our parents had driven into the city for us. We could pretend we were the first people to ever turn twenty and talk about our freshman year of college as if it was buried so far in the past that it pre-dated the Titanic’s maiden voyage. We could create a haven and call it the Boneyard, and steadfastly refuse to ever fully accept that it had been compromised.
I pulled up a picture Andrea had taken on that oh-so-fateful day: Erin and me standing in front of Roxy’s, a gourmet grilled cheese truck that parks near the Boston Public Library every Tuesday. It was, for whatever reason, closed, we were bummed, and making appropriately pained faces. Half a week later, our disappointment was now soaked in a hilarious dose of irony; I turned my computer around so the other two could revel in it with me. “Remember when we thought not getting grilled cheese would be the worst thing to happen to us that day?”
Erin snorted. “Pain? We didn’t know pain.”
“They were taking my hard drive right as I was taking that, I bet.”
“We were so young!”
Of course, we still were. But there was no need to say outright something so obvious. We laughed for a bit longer, before lapsing back into an easy silence. Andrea continued to pound away on her keyboard as Erin dug around the fridge for the brie she’d bought last week. We settled into a night, just like most other nights, in an apartment that someday would feel completely like our own.