56: #104

56: #104

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

# 104

Peace — that was the other name for home.

~Kathleen Norris

When I met Tom he lived in a beautiful one-room apartment in Brentwood, California. His apartment was #104. It was small and there was nothing overtly special about it: cream carpet and white walls, a small kitchen, a small living room with a fireplace, a bedroom area, and a bathroom with one sink. But even though that description doesn’t sound like anything special, it was gorgeous. Tom loved this apartment and everyone who saw it said, “How beautiful!” Maybe it was the way the light came into the apartment. Maybe it was the ergonomic layout of #104 that made it so appealing. Or maybe it was the antique furniture. I don’t know what it was, but the apartment was peaceful.

I used to work in the entertainment business, and on one particularly tough assignment I collapsed. I’d been living in Las Vegas with the film crew and working on a 3D IMAX film called Siegfried & Roy: The Magic Box. Despite the fact that I loved Siegfried and Roy’s incredible rags to riches story and I was fairly experienced in production, I couldn’t keep up with the pace of this job. I was intrigued, but terrified, by the lions. I also wasn’t comfortable living in a hotel, hours away from Tom and my cat, Spot. The pressure was enormous. Wild animals, the most famous magicians in the world, and long workdays that always turned into work nights.

One night in the production office I started sobbing around midnight and didn’t stop for the next four hours. It was hard for me to even breathe. I alternated between calling Tom and my parents. They all tried to calm me down and assure me that I was just exhausted, but I felt sick. I was deliriously tired and decided I couldn’t complete this shoot. I felt ashamed and defeated when I resigned that morning but I had no choice. I was emotionally and physically depleted.

Tom told me to catch a cab to the Las Vegas airport and he’d have a ticket waiting for me. I was so disoriented from stress and exhaustion that it was all I could do to find the right ticket counter and get on the airplane. Tom met me at the Los Angeles airport and took me to his apartment. I took a hot shower, got into bed and didn’t get back up for the next two months. Tom went to my apartment and got Spot so I would have her with me at #104. We kept the lights low and the A/C high and Tom brought food into the bedroom for me as I recovered.

Once I recovered, I returned to being my normal sweet-but-kind-of-bossy-let’s-call-it-persistent-self. We were going to live together now, and I insisted that #104 was too small. I argued that we needed a larger apartment, and preferably one near the beach since I “rollerbladed every day.” Tom was hesitant — he loved #104, but wanted to make me happy, so we found what appeared to be a palace close to the beach in Playa del Rey. On moving day, I found Tom sitting in the now empty #104. He looked glum and said, “Sorry, I was just really happy here.”

I hugged him and reminded him that our new place had two bedrooms, a loft, two bathrooms, marble counters, cathedral ceilings, and a fireplace. I assured Tom that we would be even happier at this larger apartment… but we weren’t.

We were uncomfortable. Spot kept standing in the living room staring up at the tall ceilings as if to say, “What is this place?” Tom and I found it weird not to know what the other one was doing since we’d been used to living in closer quarters. We didn’t like it there, so we moved to a smaller apartment even closer to the beach. We actually liked that place a lot and lived there for close to ten years.

On occasion, Tom would look at my rollerblades gathering dust in the garage and sarcastically say, “So, are you going to the beach to rollerblade today?” The first few years I’d say, “Soon, but not today — I’m really busy.” Eventually, Tom and I would just laugh when we’d walk by my rollerblades. Tom and I loved living in Playa but on occasion he’d say, “I still miss #104. We really had a good thing going there.”

After living by the beach for close to a decade, Tom and I decided to move back to Brentwood. He’d gotten a full-time job at the Getty Museum and we wanted him to be closer to work. Tom said, “Let’s look in my old apartment building. Who knows, maybe all of the units are as great as #104.” So, after dropping Tom off at work, I stopped by and the apartment manager showed me around. There were several units available. All of them were nice but none had the magic of #104.

As the apartment manager and I walked by #104 I said, “My husband and I actually used to live in #104, many years ago. It’s where we first fell in love so that’s the apartment we really want.”

The apartment manager raised her eyebrows and practically yelled, “I didn’t know you used to live in #104! You’re not going to believe this! The tenant in #104 gave notice just forty-eight hours ago, which is why that unit isn’t even being shown yet. The current tenant is sad to leave because she loves that apartment too, but this will make her feel much better knowing you guys are moving back in!”

When I told Tom we were going to move back into #104, he started yelling. “I get to go home! I get to go home! Put the deposit on it right now!”

#104 has less storage area than the apartment Tom and I’d been living in by the beach so we had a garage sale. My rollerblades were the first thing to go but we also sold books, clothes and CDs because we didn’t want to bring any clutter to #104.

We didn’t sell any of our furniture, though. As it turns out, we still had the same couch, bookshelf, and dining room table that Tom had bought when he first moved into #104, all those years ago. So when we arrived back at #104, we knew exactly where everything would go. The couch went where it had sat ten years ago. The bookshelf went where it’d always been and the dining room table went back to its rightful place. Our new bed went where Tom’s old bed had been. And #104 felt exactly as it had always felt — fantastic!

It was an incredibly strange, but good, déjà vu sensation to wake up the next morning in the exact place we’d lived ten years prior.

“It seems like a dream that we lived at the beach for ten years,” I said.

“This feels so right!” Tom replied.

Some say you can’t go home again — but Tom and I did, and we’ve never been happier!

~Rebecca Hill

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