In November 2006, I was in need of some healing. My dad died after being in the ICU for four months – he fell asleep while driving and survived. He wore his seatbelt, which saved him, but ultimately killed him as well. The seatbelt punctured one of his lungs, and there were many infections that followed. This was all happening in Arizona, where I’m from. I wasn’t there – I was in my last semester at Emerson College, living in the North End.
This was when I was living in a tiny apartment with a verbally abusive boyfriend. At the time, I didn’t know he was verbally abusive – I just thought I was stupid. After a trip to Arizona for my dad’s funeral, I graduated in December, received a poetry award, and kept writing. I knew I was no longer in love with the mean boyfriend, but I craved stability. I got a job in January at a children’s book publishing company in Porter Square. I focused on everything else but my grief, and I also became addicted to my sadness.
One summer night, after a Harry Potter movie premiere, I told my asshole boyfriend that I wasn’t going to live with him after our lease ended. We broke up and continued living together for one month. Yes: more sadness addiction! Luckily, I started hanging out with some friends that lived (or basically lived) in the North End – Shereen, Anna, and Andrew. Shereen was moving to New York, and Anna and Andrew needed an apartment – I became their third roommate, and we all moved to Somerville together.
Somerville became this magical land for us. We moved to a second floor apartment in a big blue house on Morrison Avenue. We lit a bundle of sage and cleansed the apartment. We stayed up all night when we first moved in, learning more about each other, smoking the sheesha, drinking wine. Anna and I went on several walks to discover our new neighborhood. We took photos of the tiered cake houses, lush bike path, bathtub Mary’s.
There was a muffin factory (well, that’s what we called it) on our street. We smelled it out and met a bunch of men from Guatemala, and they gave us muffins. We ran off, laughing. The muffins were delicious and warm.
On another day, we found an abandoned paper mill (now Maxwell’s Green) and snuck inside. We took photos of the tall green walls made of windows, graffiti, dusty stairs, rusty pipes.
We felt sneaky and free. Afterwards, we ate grapes and peaches from someone’s yard.
On weekends, we’d go to Soundbites and order the fruit plate, which was even more awesome than the one at the Otherside Café.
Every Wednesday, we’d go to the Farmer’s Market in Davis Square. Our vegetable pile was always bountiful. Anna, Andrew, and I cooked together and for each other almost every night. We shared closets and music, everything.
I had never felt this grounded and so in love in my life. These were friends, and this is what it felt like to be whole and alive.
Not only did I discover friendship in Somerville, but I met my future husband Jake by crashing a party across the street from our big blue house. Our first date started at Sabur and continued throughout the night on the streets of Somerville – I showed him everything Anna and I found. When we reached the grapevines near the paper mill, we shared our first kiss under the leaves.
In February 2009, Jake and I moved in together. We’ve lived (and still live – for now) on Hancock Street (which we’ve deemed the “gateway to Somerville” because of so much foot traffic from Porter Square).
Then – out of nowhere — I was laid off. The sadness came back. Everything felt unstable again. I applied to almost 300 jobs, and got nowhere. My solution was pie. I applied to work at Petsi Pies on Beacon Street. Renee (the owner) hired me and saved me from a downward spiral.
I worked as a barista and prep-cook at Petsi’s (ended up at the Cambridge location) for almost two years. My favorite scone is definitely the blackberry ginger. Also, they have the best iced coffee, ever! During this period of my life, I volunteered at the Mystic Learning Center as an editor/mentor for Books of Hope, a poetry and publishing program for Somerville teens. Volunteering there inspired me to apply for an AmeriCorps position at 826 Boston, a youth writing center. I ended up serving in AmeriCorps for two years at 826, which sparked my interest in youth work, nonprofit work, and community service.
Now, here I am, a Somerville resident for six years (all of my mid-twenties + more)– and all of a sudden we are moving out in two weeks. Jake and I decided to buy a condo in Roslindale because the housing prices in ‘Ville were out of our league. I am comforted by the fact that Rozzie is a place with yummy food and has a sweet farmer’s market. Plus, we’ll be right next to the Arboretum.
However – because of the intensity of this change – it added to my reasoning for quitting my job. I am now starting completely fresh. I’ve felt safe and comfy for so long, and I am finally ready for the excitement of transition.
Even though I’m sad about leaving, I’m also proud of myself. Somerville has cradled me and rocked me into a welcome home lullaby for long enough. It is because of the winding streets, lively arts community, colorful festivals, foodie excursions, and grounding force of this place that has kept me healthy and happy — and now, I feel safe enough to leave.
Thank you, Somerville. It is because of you that I can heal and move on. Villen for life!