15 years ago, I graduated from college. In a complete departure from everything I had ever known, I moved to Boston to live with my sister. Shortly after my arrival, I got a job and met a girl named Caroline. We had an instant bond for some strange reason. About the only thing we had in common was the color of our hair. She was Catholic, I was protestant. She lived in the northeast and I, the very different midwest. Her closest sibling was 18 years older than she, while mine was my roommate, only 5 years my senior. We were polar opposites in many ways, but for some reason, we became inseparable.
One year after moving to Boston, my sister got transfered to Los Angeles and I found myself on a precipice, staring out at the rest of my life. I knew that after only one year in Boston, my life would never be the same. For many reasons, which I will never go into here, I was not the same naive, innocent girl who moved to Boston from Indiana twelve short months before. Then Caroline changed everything. She moved to Washington, D.C.
I was lonely after she moved, but felt that I was simply standing off stage, waiting for the next act in my life to unfold. And I was not disappointed. Caroline soon called me and suggested I move to D.C. and we’d get an apartment together. I took the shuttle to D.C. frequently in the months after she left, just to try D.C. on for size. I liked what I saw.
I moved in June of 1992 into the apartment Caroline had found for us. We lived in Roslyn, Virginia, just down the street from the Metro stop, the Quarterdeck Restaurant (which we frequented), and just across the Potomac from one of the world’s most powerful cities.
I took a temporary job and ended up filling in at a company called AES. Within a few hours of the temp job I knew I wanted to become a permanent employee. It took a while, but eventually I got a job there and was in heaven. I thrived, even though I was working under my potential.
Two years and a horrible relationship later, I decided D.C. had had enough of my soul and I packed up and moved out with my tail between my legs…back home to live with mom and dad. Certainly not the triumphant return I had always dreamed of. But it was a safe haven…a place for me to lick my wounds from the devastation of my shattered heart and try to heal and move on.
Six months after moving home, I got a phone call from a former co-worker in D.C. The company had opened an office in Atlanta and was looking for someone with my qualifications. Ready at this point to move on (translation, out of mom & dad’s house and back into my own), I quickly applied for and got the job. I started my new job with AES Power in Atlanta on January 3, 1995.
My boss was a man named Lou. He was just a couple years older than I and we hit it off right away. He was professional but fun and easy to work for. I also met a woman named Rita who was an instant friend. For three weeks it seemed as if all was right in my world. Then things took a turn I could never have anticipated. The president of our company sat us all down and announced that due to a lack of success in the company’s progress, there was either going to be a massive reduction in work force or the office was going to shut down completely.
I wondered aloud, who was going to pay for the lease I had just signed? Who was going to help me find a new job in a city where I knew no one and had no connections except for the ones in front of me. And clearly they were not ones I should attempt to utilize.
After a few weeks of pandering about and upheavals, one by one, the upper management began to fall away. The future of the company was definitely uncertain, but I was not about to jump ship so soon after arrival. I held on with all my might and before I knew what was happening, there were only three employees remaining: Lou, Rita and me.
I’m still not certain how or why it was just the 3 of us that survived, except that God had every intention of the 3 of us spending the next six months in each other’s company day in and day out. After the dust settled, and the upper management had moved out, I took over the Vice President’s office while Rita took the President’s place. Our offices overlooked downtown Atlanta from the penthouse office space of the premier office building in Buckhead, just north of downtown. It was a sweet set up. Gorgeous views, cushy office space, and little work to do. Plus, we got paid for it!
All these years later, in this post-Enron era, we laugh and say, “Hey! Enron stole the idea from us! We imploded first!” Lots of money was spent in an attempt to get the company off the ground and not as much effort, it seemed, went into getting the actual business in the door. Hence, the pseudo-implosion. But I stray off-track.
So for six months, Lou, Rita & I did little else than goof off. Oh, occasionally, there was random work to be done, but it rarely occupied more than a day at a time. In the meantime, we did whatever was necessary to pass the time. The things we did ranged from board games, computer games, and hide and seek, to trips to the mall, and much more. No one I met could believe it was real. And still, we got paid. We were all just waiting…waiting for the last brick to fall.
Before this happened, Lou’s wife gave birth to his second child, a daughter. I got the privilege of holding Lou’s daughter when she was a mere 8 hours old at the hospital. Rita and I went to visit him, feeling lost and forlorn without his goofball presence in our daily lives at work. This was one of the brightest spots in the six months we worked together. But finally, the last brick did fall and by July, I was out of a job and looking for new work.
By then I had met my future husband and we were well on our way to marriage. He was living in Chicago and I knew I would end up there. So in August of 1996, I moved to Chicago to marry my sweetheart.
I saw Rita once in Chicago and we kept in touch via email and letters, and our friendship continued to grow. I also kept in touch with Lou but he was now a father and our lives took very divergent paths.
In October of 1998, my husband & I moved to Florida and started our own family. In 1999, I saw Lou for the first time since I had moved from Atlanta, three years before. His son was 5 and his daughter, the one I had held on her birth day, was now 4. I had just adopted two children and was reeling from the impact of motherhood. Our visit was brief and quite unsatisfying. After that visit, we lost touch for a few years until one day I got a phone call out of the blue and it was Lou.
We talked and laughed as if the years had not passed and we were back in that ridiculous work setting all those years ago. So our friendship was renewed. At this point, Lou had moved to Indiana and, remarkably, was still working for AES. We exchanged Christmas cards for several years after this.
Why, in the world, am I laying down my entire life’s story here? Because when I moved over a week ago, it was to house within walking distance of Lou’s house. I had not seen him since 1999…7 years had passed! It was so bizarre and yet so stinking cool to see him after all those years. And now, he’s my neighbor!
We have been to a couple social gatherings with Lou and his wife, and then his daughter, the one I held, invited my daughter to her birthday party…she is now ELEVEN! Anyway, as I sat on the front porch the other night with Lou, drinking wine, watching our respective daughters play together, Lou looked at me and said, “Ok. NOW it’s weird.”
And he’s right. Who would have ever thought all those years ago…eleven and a half, to be precise, that I would be living so close to Lou. Rita and I have been very close all these years. Her husband worked with my husband for a brief stint. We attended the same church for years. We celebrated New Year’s Eve together every year. We even flew to Dallas one year after she and her husband moved there. The ironic thing is that Rita and her husband moved back to Florida in January. We moved out of Florida in June. Our paths diverge once again.
And now it seems it’s Lou’s turn to be my neighbor. I have no idea what shape our friendship will take in this new setting. I know we are both vastly different individuals than we were almost twelve years ago. I think we are still sort of getting to know each other again. We only knew each other in that one capacity and our interactions afterwards were brief and more reminiscent than anything. Now, we must decide, do we like each other enough to be friends? I find myself getting to know his wife in a way I never really knew before. Nothing is the same. Everything is different.
Yes, it’s weird. But it’s LOU! How cool is that?