Talia entered my life exactly when I needed her. Before meeting, we messaged each other a couple of times via Facebook, asking the necessary questions: What kind of kitchen utensils do you have? Where do I get my key for the place? What is our zip-code?
A few weeks ago, people began asking me about the girl with whom I was living for the summer. “Her Facebook profile picture is her canoeing into the sunset,” I would respond, “So I’m assuming she’s pretty cool.”
Really, I all I knew about Talia was that she was moving to Grand Rapids from California to work on an organic farm. For me, moving to our shared home was only a six-mile journey, in an attempt to live as closer to my friends in Eastown before leaving the country in August to spend a year abroad. Since everyone I knew already had a living arrangement, I moved in with a girl I had never met.
Is it really that strange to move in with a stranger? I suppose it’s odd to know someone for twenty-four hours and then find yourself yelling from the bathroom: “IF I’M IN THE SHOWER AND YOU NEED TO GET IN HERE TO BRUSH YOUR TEETH OR SOMETHING DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT JUST WALK ON IN BECAUSE I NEVER CARE.” After the fact, I realized that I don’t know which makes for a better first impression: being the kind of girl who locks off the entire bathroom when she takes showers or the girl who doesn’t wear pants until after she has had her morning coffee. Five years ago, when filling out the necessary housing survey prior to entering college, I checked the box that indicated that I was “very messy” although I am actually fairly neat — thinking that the housing gods would then pair me with someone messy and subsequently more interesting.
Talia and I became friends by sitting on the porch together every evening. Sometimes, we invite people I know over. “Bring out the vices,” Talia will say, and I’ll bring out a bottle of wine and a bag of chocolate chips—cold from being in the refrigerator, a preventative measure against melting in our old house that lacks air-conditioning. Together, we watch our neighbors across the street like a late-night TV show. They have a grill on their roof and use it daily. One night, we listened to the couple next door plan their wedding, laughing silently to ourselves when the bride-to-be repeatedly struck down her husband’s ideas with a playful but forceful, “Honey…just no.” One night we watched in horror as a baby chipmunk fell from a tree branch, only to see him scamper off happily along the sidewalk. In the afternoons, we see young men biking home from work, pausing to put a foot on our curb and a cigarette to their mouth. There are fireflies every evening.
I like Talia because she has a bumper sticker that proclaims, “The Day of Non-Judgement is Near” and she buys all her clothes from a thrift store. I once told her that I still found someone who once broke my heart irresistibly attractive. She told me, “There is nothing wrong with seeing beauty where it is.”
We feel strong because we stay up late and talk about God. We feel spiritual because we go to yoga in the park on Sunday evenings and our tattooed instructor tells us to “come as you are and breathe through it.” We feel dangerous because have a couch on the porch, which happens to be illegal in the city of Grand Rapids. The couch was a Craigslist find. We got it for free and covered it with a bright purple duvet cover. We are unashamed.
This life is simple and beautiful and temporary; we are only summer sub-leasers. The house is furnished with dressers and uneven tables we found in the garage, and late at night we eat forgotten boxes of macaroni and cheese which we found in the cupboard and cover it with Talia’s Mexican with hot sauce. Talia cooks everything in a cast iron skillet, which I love. I love her because she is here and I am here and we are together. To stumble upon such a true, unexpected, companionship is a blessing, especially after what had been a lonely post-grad year in terms of true, female companionship. That is what college does to you. It gives you amazing friends and then scatters them.
Author Leah Stewart writes, “Adult friendship doesn’t grant you an exclusive—isn’t meant to be ranked above romance and family. I couldn’t imagine ever living that moment again when you say with a shy and hopeful pride, ‘You’re my best friend.’ The other person says it back and there you have chosen each other out of everyone else in the world.”
Talia has lead to me to a renewed appreciated of having a truly good friend. I recently overheard someone say, “Caroline and Talia became really fast friends.” How lovely it is to have a fast friend and a summer day. So I spend another evening on an illegal purple couch, opening my whole heart to a girl I met two weeks ago.
Caroline (Higgins) Nyczak (’11) lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she spends the vast majority of her time teaching English Language Arts. You may also find her at barre exercise classes or playing (and losing) at bar trivia. She continues to be inspired by the energy and diversity of New York City and the beauty of that certain slant of light.