In the Days of Spottswood Ave.

At 2:30am Monday morning, I was wide awake listening to the sounds of J breathing and one of the dogs smacking, lost in some dream of doggie treats I suppose (the dog…not J). For some strange reason, I began to tell myself a story about a place where I lived back in 1996. Spottswood Apartments on Spottswood Avenune in Memphis, TN was the place.


Although not at all like this picture, Spottswood was just three rows of plain brick town homes in the shape of an I. Only a few blocks from the University where I attended classes, much of the apartments on Spottswood Avenue were havens for students.

I had just moved out of the dorm in December, and moved into a one bedroom apartment with a girlfriend (she was a girl, she was a friend, we never slept together although she would have wanted to, let’s leave it at that). Four months later, the so-called friend met a man and they planned to wed despite us being in a lease. Where does that leave the third party gay friend? Out on the streets, had it not been for a lesbianic-looking coworker named Suzy. Suzy and I worked at Party City, one of the funnest jobs I ever had filled with balloons, halloween costumes, and silly string, and cute high school delivery boys. Suzy lived in Spottswood Apartments with a roommate named Jen who had just graduated to be a teacher.

Suzy was a short chubby girl with a blondish brown bobbed haircut and a nose ring. Jen was a sloppy tall fat girl with badly curled hair; they were not lovers. They had shared the two story two bedroom town home at Spottswood for about two years now, and when Suzy offered to convert the dining room into a bedroom for me, I couldn’t resist. Between 3 people, the rent would be $150 each. How cool is that! Jen became jealous as Suzy and I became closer friends. We worked together. We went out to eat together. We even went to 80s night at a club called Red Square together.

About a year later, Jen moved out and I moved upstairs. It was just me and Suzy for maybe a year and then I had a different friend named Jen who needed a place. So, our Spottswood dining room became a bedroom all over again. Unfortunately for me, Jen and Suzy became better friends and pushed me out of the equation about a year later. They lied and said they’d found a house and were moving. I could stay in the townhouse if I could find a roommate, or I could move out. I moved out, and they ended up staying in the townhouse anyway, at least until Jen tried to kill herself and Suzy graduated and moved home to Illinois.

There were two lesbian neighbors who moved in next door with their cat named Frank shortly after I did. Both played in and worked for the Memphis Symphony. Suzy went next door to visit them often. Nothing sexual. Just neighborly. By now, I was completely convinced that despite the way she might have looked, Suzy did like men. I remember a particular boy crush she had on a fellow Geography classmate, who also waited tables at Cafe Ole, a Mexican food establishment we visited quite often. But I believe it was those carpet licking lesbians next door that were responsible for my banishment.

One December, I started seeing a cute young boy named Wesley (I was 22 or 23, he was 18 or 19) who lived out of town with his Grandmother. On weekends, he’d drive to Memphis to stay with me and bring his best friend. The best friend was an ill effeminate tragic drag-queen wannabe with a weird name like Gage or Tristan or Jarren or something. This was during the holiday break when both Suzy and Jen had gone home to be with their families for a few weeks. So, Wes and I had the town home all to ourselves while I gave my key to Gage so he could hit the bars. I’m pretty sure the lesbian neighbors spotted Gage coming or going from Spottswood one evening or one early morning, and probably mentioned it to my roomies. Nothing was ever said to me, but I’d bet money that’s what happened.

Oh well…the relationship with Wes lasted only through Christmas. And my days at Spottswood were numbered. I didn’t make enough to live on my own just yet. I was not longer working with Suzy at Party City either. I ended up renting a room from some old fag with grass wall paper. I stayed there for 4 months and then moved into a house with another young guy named Spencer over on North Parkway between the zoo and downtown Memphis. He was lucky enough to have the whole bottom floor of a huge two story house. Three bedrooms, huge living room, huge kitchen, lots of old house character…for 500 dollars a month and that included utilities.

With troubles of his own, he moved out just a few months later. I took over the place and a friend from work moved in with me. I lived there for 3 glorious years before leaving Memphis for St. Louis. My friend stayed in the apartment, and was eventually given the opportunity to buy the whole house.

So many stories in between, so many places…but those were pretty much my days on Spottswood. I ran into Suzy here in St. Louis once. She was now an urban planner in Illinois somewhere. We hugged and laughed that of all places to run into each other….she told me Jen was now in California working for the Game Show Network. We exchanged email addresses. I emailed her and Jen. They emailed back. I replied and never heard from either of them again.

People…places…funny how they come and go… we don’t always mean to lose touch with those we’ve known. It just happens for reason or another. Or..maybe we do mean it.


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