The Cheers Bar, Central Perk, Luke’s Diner, even the Krusty Krab—every great plotline has a signature hangout. And ours happens to be Mac 113—a room of utmost squalor and supreme charm all at once, one that has seen everything and nothing over all the years it has housed the Heights newsroom.
The presence of a meeting place makes a whole lot of sense for a TV show. It presents an opportunity for the writers to gather all the characters in one place, and they often do so for happy endings, sad cliffhangers, and every episode in between. Nobody has this in real life—in reality, people are scattered. Many might have a signature spot, but it’s not inherently theirs. Other people, mostly strangers, are always present. In real life, your spot in your favorite coffee shop doesn’t always await you and your friends, as if all the other customers know it’s reserved, like in Friends. And unlike in Cheers, most bars aren’t places where “everybody knows your name.”
Somehow, after a last minute, on-a-whim transfer across the country, I stumbled across a group that has a real life, signature haunt, just like you see on TV, but with characters 100 times as eclectic and fun and caring as anything that could be thought up in a Hollywood studio. And at any given moment, a handful of them is sitting on horrendous couches, and if you ignore the years of scurrying mice, overflowing champagne bottles, and sleeping (as well as “sleeping”) editors who have made those frayed cushions their home, you can almost see its charm.
The office accumulates more knick-knacks and tchotchkes with every passing board, making it look like the set for a newsroom in some movie, but instead, it’s all very real and accumulating dust. Maeve, the printer (she’s French), and strands of purple and orange Christmas lights are relics of the newsroom. It’s a humble abode to abandoned group projects, 2014 copy tests, and stacks of CDs and books sent by publishers to review. New York Times pages, quotes scrawled onto Post-it notes, and tallies of how many editors threaten to quit adorn the walls, hanging on by peeling tape, blowing around in the draft that comes in by the sports desk. And while all these very important cultural artifacts matter more than they should, it’s the characters who reside in Mac 113 that truly give it heart.
Some of my favorite moments over the past few years occurred on random Friday afternoons, when everyone was getting out of class and didn’t have tests to study for or club meetings to attend, and wound up sitting side by side on the couches or aimlessly swiveling in circles on the desk chairs. Deflated soccer balls were tossed, and the painfully long cruise ship or strawberry ice cream story was told. Every one of these moments, the ones when we were doing nothing together, mean everything looking back.
I’ll end this column on an unsurprisingly sappy note, but it’s the only way I know how to conclude my time on The Heights. On May 28, 2017, I had just received an acceptance letter to transfer to Boston College. I was so incredibly stressed about it, and I pored over information about courses and dorms and majors, hoping some decisive fact would jump out and make the decision for me. At 11:29 p.m., I wrote down this message on my phone, word for word:
Pros of going: Better education, expanding horizons, different social scene, they say I will grow, picture frame. Cons: Jessica, Kathryn, Caro, Emily, and Monica, family at home, doing well in classes, winter, picture frame.
When I was younger I would often daydream about what my apartment would look like someday. It’s such a distant memory, and so much has changed since then, but I would always imagine who would be in the picture frames hanging on my walls. I so desperately wanted the frames to hold something different than what I knew back then, and it’s crazy how, in the blink of an eye, everything can come together.
To my family on The Heights—thank you for filling my picture frames. For gracing my walls with snippets of iHop at 4 a.m., wobbling (“very smooth”) canoes on windy days, and hours-long naps at the Maine House, where we crawled out onto the roof at sunset, watching the world go by through the warm glasses of cold beers. For the Arts corner where I spent countless hours beneath the most eclectic array of colorful posters, my running list of column ideas (and my unofficial beats—Cuba and unfair pay in the music industry), for Brandon Hooker and the Key West cover band that skipped over the drum solo in “In The Air Tonight,” and for back when The Heights still felt old-fashioned. Thank you for two years of Heights lore, two seasons of a soon-to-be hit sitcom, and two years of committing to an incredible whirlwind of a bit. And thank you—especially to Abby, Jacob, Steven, Kaylie, Jack, Colleen, and Jillian—for blessing me with more picture frames than I can possibly count.
Featured graphic by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor