She was standing outside a loft in Pilsen, a worried look on her face and a tiger’s head in her hand.
“Hi,” I said. “Here for the film?”
The tiger head was of the mascot variety. She and I had both volunteered to be in a mutual acquaintance’s student film, a love story about furries.
For the next several hours, that spring day in 2012, I wooed a pregnant woman while dressed as a polar bear. I would stride down the street, hand in paw with my leading lady, my wizard’s cap flapping in the breeze (the polar bear costume was a wizard for some reason) and spend breaks chatting with the nice woman with the tiger head.
I couldn’t stay for the final scene — a furry dance party. I had to go early. It was a Saturday and I had to make sure to be back in the suburbs for work.
I won’t go into bitchy, years-old details about the job that kept me working seven days a week at odd late hours for a bit of money and a lot of shame at any sign you weren’t having the time of your life. I hated that place. That comes in later.
I got a Facebook friend request from the tiger-headed woman. I clicked yes and didn’t think much of it. I didn’t know at the time she would become my roommate for two years.
Aside from the tiger head and the polar bear wizard, another key player in this story was the shitty job. It got worse, I got worse and in the middle of a meeting about my performance, I quit. I felt the words spill out of my mouth, followed by a deep sense of peace. This was right. I had lunch with a friend after the meeting and immediately started planning my new life.
A couple days later, I even went Facebook public about the quitting but more advertising the fact I was going to move back to Chicago.
Then I got a Facebook message from the tiger-headed woman. She wanted to be roommates.
After the obligatory jokes about one or both of us being serial killers, I started to consider it. After all, my decisions based on reason and logic had landed me in the job I nicknamed Coming Darkness. Maybe it was time to just spin the wheel, see where it landed.
We met for coffee at a Caribou in the suburbs. I noticed she brought her own silverware rather than use disposable plastic ones. Huge environmentalist, that one. The silverware sold me.
We talked for a long time. She was a copy editor at a daily on the Indiana side of the border. She was looking for her own reinvention, her own spin of the wheel. We had similar budgets and lifestyle requirements, but more than that, we got along. I could tell she was a good person. That goes a long way with me.
Then we moved in. Spun the wheel. This was followed by two years of roommate stuff, of bills and rent checks, of struggling with that damn toilet, of late-night bourbon in the back yard, of midnight conversations about life, the future and Joss Whedon’s “Firefly.”
My plan to get a new life worked better than I expected. Over two years, through some setbacks and an annoying amount of invoicing for freelance work, I muddled out a nice job, this site and a girl. As for that girl, I’m sitting in our new apartment right now.
We’re still in the process of setting up house. The pictures are leaning on the walls where they’ll someday hang. I’m living out of cardboard boxes and I still have to get my furniture from the old place, the one where I spent two years living with a stranger I met at a student film shoot.
It’s not a goodbye to my friend, just a goodbye to that time of my life. It was two years of roommate stuff, late-night talks and a dear friendship with the tiger-headed woman.