The last time I visited Rob’s apartment in Long Beach kind of sucked, so I thought I’d tell you about the first time I was there, a week after he moved in last September.
I’ve never seen him look prouder than when he showed me the keys to his new place, and frankly, I don’t know if I had ever felt so proud of him.
It’s funny how you can juggle so many different emotions at the same time, because I also remember feeling scared and concerned. How could he possibly afford this apartment and all the pricey things that went with it, like internet access and utilities? How was he going to get to work from there, as it was definitely going to be more of a hike? Would he continue to go to AA meetings now that he no longer needed to follow anyone else’s rules? I kept all of these anxious thoughts to myself as we walked through an art deco lobby that led to the elevators.
It was one of those rickety old elevators where you have to slide a metal gate open and then close it before going anywhere, and as we slowly made our way up to the sixth floor, we were both a little amped up with anticipation. I really had no idea what to expect.
As it turned out, the building was a historic landmark known as the St. Regis, located right on the oceanfront in downtown Long Beach. The first thing I saw when I walked into the apartment was a big living room window with a postcard-perfect view of—you guessed it—the sand and the water.
“This is your dream place,” I said and really meant it. “This is where you’re supposed to be.”
“I know, right?” Rob said. “It’s really sweet.”
I poked my head into each room and was pleasantly surprised at every turn. It was nothing fancy, but perfect for Rob. He had somehow already managed to get a big brown leather couch for free on Craigslist just for carting it away from the previous owner, and bought a new bed with an unexpectedly tasteful headboard. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw new sheets on it!
The living room was a good size, with hardwood floors and mahogany window casings that reminded me of our old apartment in Forest Hills. The kitchen was small but clean and serviceable, and the bathroom was a bathroom. All in all, this was the best place Rob had ever lived in (other than when he lived at home with us), and what made it great was that it was all his. I, of course, was my usual overly enthusiastic self, complimenting him on just about everything, and all I remember was him holding back a smile for the entire time I was there.
We both plopped down on his cushy old/new sofa, which turned out to be the kind where you press a button and the seats become recliners. There we were with our feet up, lounging like stereotypical couch potatoes.
All that was missing was a big-ass TV, so he could hook up his PlayStation 4, and a small dining room table and chairs that he could place in front of the picture window. He didn’t really need anything else. I told him that the next time I came to visit, I’d bring over an old Pottery Barn rug we had stored, which would fit perfectly in the living room, and some framed photos of him and Zach to hang on the walls.
The whole thing felt like we were in some type of alternate Rob universe. It also reminded me of me when I was his age and just starting out. In that hopeful moment, I thought that maybe things would turn around and work out for him. I let myself get all caught up in his California dream.
To top it off, there was Rob’s cat, Biscuit! After hiding under the bed while I checked the place, she jumped on the couch to introduce herself. Rob had just brought her home two days earlier from the animal shelter he was volunteering at, but said it was a temporary arrangement. Of course, that statement turned out to be accurate beyond anything I could’ve imagined.
Rob said he wanted to show me one more thing before I split. We then went downstairs and walked to the back of the building, where there were two small patios on two separate levels that led down to the beach. We parked our asses at the higher one to take in the best possible view.
“You did good, dude,” I said, shaking my head in the good kind of disbelief. “This is exactly what you always wanted. Are you happy?”
“Roger that!” he said and lit up a congratulatory cigarette.
We sat there for the next 20 minutes or so looking at people walking on Alamitos Beach while a few swimmers braved the ocean. Little did we know that this idyllic day was the beginning of the end.