Leah was in the middle of cleaning when I arrived to pick her up for lunch. She was sweating, but that’s to be expected when it’s almost 90 degrees outside and the house you signed for only two days ago doesn’t have any form of air conditioning yet. Still, grinning from ear to ear as she came to the door, you would have never guessed she had been scrubbing down an empty kitchen all morning. Since we became friends in high school, Leah has always seemed to dread cleaning as much as I dread weekends, hamburgers, and finding fifty dollars on the street.
“Welcome to my home!” She exclaimed as she let me in. “Sorry about the boxes. We don’t officially move in until the end of the month.”
“It’s already cleaner than my apartment.” I pretended to joke.
It was also much larger and better fit for people to live in. The main floor had a kitchen, a spacious living area, a beautiful, half-covered patio and a room that was created for the sole purpose of sitting down.
“Where does the television go?” I asked.
“There’s no TV in this room.” Leah explained. “Just chairs, a couch, and we’re thinking about putting some bookshelves over there.”
“That will look beautiful. So the television will be tucked away in a cabinet?”
“Nope. No TV at all actually.”
“Wow. I can already picture the layout in my head so vividly. So the TV will go up on the wall?”
The basement was also impressive, with a home office and an area that Leah set aside as a man cave for her husband, Matt, who she married last fall. Seeing the space made me jealous until I remembered that the only part of my apartment that isn’t a man cave is the shared laundry room.
Our last stop was the upstairs, where I caught of glimpse of the three bedrooms. One for Leah and Matt and the others for guests.
“That is until we have children.” Leah chimed in.
I was careful not to mention babies before she did. Back in high school, Leah had her perfect life all planned out. She would be married and have at least four kids by the time she turned twenty-three. She is now twenty-five with no children yet. Standing next to the financially stable, happily married woman in her three-bedroom home on a quiet suburban street, I didn’t have the heart to remind her that her dreams were dead.
“That was the grand tour.” Leah announced as we returned to the kitchen where we started. “What do you think?”
“It’s big.” I said.
And I meant it in more ways than one. Leah and Matt were the first friends I grew up with to actually invest in a real house. Walking from room to room, I knew I was witnessing the beginning of something. Back in high school this was lifetimes away. Now it was easy to picture the bedrooms filled with kids. It was easy to see me visiting the same home ten years from now with my future wife. I could see the kids playing in the yard while we sipped wine on the patio before retiring to the sitting room to talk about life and stare at bookshelves.
“So what were you thinking for food?” Leah asked, interrupting my all too realistic vision of the future.
I figured we could either grill steaks on the kitchen floor or go out somewhere. I opted for the latter option because it meant I could be of use finding a local establishment where Leah and Matt could become regulars.
In high school, this was the T.G.I Fridays at the mall. This was mostly because, for our first couple years, we needed a hangout spot where we could kill more than a couple hours before our parents came and picked us up. When we finished eating, we spent most of our time playing at the arcade, reading in the book store, and watching fights between white, over-privileged middle school gangs.
We continued eating there upon returning home from college for summer and winter breaks. Almost six years went by before my arteries grew too clogged for that kind of lifestyle. But if you had told us Freshman year that this mall restaurant would play a significant part in our most developmental years as people, we would have probably laughed. And I would have ordered a salad every now and then.
This time I was ready. We found a local place a couple miles down the road. Having learned nothing growing up, I ordered a bacon cheeseburger with peanut butter. Having learned more than I did, Leah ordered a salad. And for the first time since graduating high school, we talked more about the future than we did the past. We imagined Leah and Matt eating here after watching their kids play soccer. We imagined that they would each have a special item on the menu that they would order every time. Maybe someday they will even be that little old couple, sitting in the booth they’ve sat at for years, feeding each other during the early bird special at four in the afternoon.
It may be many years down the road, but it’s something to consider. After all, when we were teenagers sitting at our usual table and eating our usual food, touring each others first homes seemed like nothing short of an eternity away.