Maine Stories Volume I: State Street

Memory Lane
Home Sweet Home

May 2002: I’m sitting on a plastic lawn chair in the bay window of our new apartment on State St., just off Longfellow Square, in Portland, ME. My fiancé is by me in her lawn chair, and we’re relishing the feeling of escape and liberation. We’re only days removed from leaving Boston, after sharing a borrowed twin bed and a pillow for nine months while a commune of pot-befouled roommates floated in and out like driftwood outside our door. Now we’re in our own place and starting over for ourselves.

The new place is a dream. First floor of a three-story brick building in a row of similar buildings, on a street with brick sidewalks, low wrought-iron fences and flower beds. French doors, 10’ ceilings, crown molding, chandeliers, two gigantic non-working fireplaces and, best of all for a couple of avid bookophiles, the entire wall of the living room is a built-in book case. The decorative flourishes are enough for us to sign the paperwork before we notice the complete lack of storage, camp shower stall, inhumanly cramped kitchen, the stove that blows up when our rental agent turns it on in front of us and the freezer with layers of frost that will require boiling water to begin the thaw and Paleolithic chipping with butter knives. We will notice those things, but not now.

The apartment was obviously once part of an enormous single-family dwelling, and as we sit in our lawn chairs, eating peanut butter sandwiches and cracked pepper kettle chips, with boxes of books strewn across the hardwood, we speculate about the past. Perhaps a sea captain lived here. Perhaps the living room was once the ball room. It’s not an impossible lineage we’ve assigned to our new home: we can certainly feel the presence of a privileged past here.

The windows are open to a warm early summer workday, and the wisteria vine just outside our window is blooming. The smell of the flower mixes with the smell of the sea, mere blocks away, and we are incalculable miles removed from where we were only days ago. We sit in our lawn chairs, shaking our heads at the seismic shifts of our current lives, imagining the past of our building and pondering what’s to come next. Our new life together begins in this magnificent new home in our stately new neighborhood by the Atlantic.

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21 comments
  1. writerwendyreid said:

    Is this taken from your life or made up? I’m never sure, which goes to show how your writing has such a realistic feel that it reads like you’ve been there.

    This was nice. Made me want to be sitting in that chair surrounded by boxes of books. :-)

    • This is, as they say, ripped from the headlines. The yellow bay window on the left side of the door in the long view shot was ours. I miss that wisteria vine like crazy!

  2. I’m jealous of where you are in your life, lots to look forward to. A big adventure ahead. Your building/apartment looks absolutely charming. It’ll become a member of your family in no time.
    Hopefully, I’m not inappropriately responding to fiction? ha!

    • Ripped from the headlines! We lived here from May 2002 until we bought our current house in May 2005.

  3. clownonfire said:

    From these pictures, Portland looks a great deal like Montreal.
    Loved your post, Brian.
    The Clown

    • Thanks, man! They are similar, actually, although substitute the St. Laurence for the Atlantic. I think the Old Port in Portland would remind you of the St. Louis Square area.

      • clownonfire said:

        Brian,
        I did visit Portland last time I was in Kennebunk, and you are right, there’s a great deal of Montreal, and of Ottawa.
        Eric

  4. Rebecca Booth said:

    You have such a vivid way with words! You really know how to make the reader feel like they were there and the house is beautiful!

    • Thanks so much! Come on in!

  5. I tagged you: http://wp.me/p1Cvgh-RC

    • awww, thanks!

  6. I want to live there :)

    • It was a good run. ;)

  7. Lily said:

    That sounds really lovely. It’s always fun to let your mind wander and think who came before you. You painted a good picture for my mind with the peanut butter sandwiches. I think I’m going to have one right now… :)

    • I try to inspire…

  8. Do you think it’s haunted? It kind of looks like it could be. I guess it depends on what books they are reading. Love it as usual.

    • They never said… ;P

  9. hello, brian,

    the neighborhood and the house looks really charming from this end. but most of all, i love the story – simple yet moving. :)

    • 35, thank you so much. I’m so glad this one resonated, and that you commented!

      • you’re welcome. :) yes, your stories usually do. sometimes they’re so apt, i don’t want to disturb them by my comments. ^_^ hope your week’s going on fine…

      • Comment away, m’dear. I love having my community here.

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