By Aliyah Kovner
City on a Hill Press Columnist

It’s a good thing I don’t believe in eternal damnation.

Because if I did, I would have to live in constant fear of the hellfire awaiting me: a Jew living in a church-turned-party house that has now become the daily adventure I call home.

The six of us live poised off Bay Street, between a questionable boarding house and an elementary school. We represent the new era of the building, which in the past has been host to drug-dealing tenants, wild parties, a stabbing and more in the way of general seediness.

We call our current domain the Bay Street Revival. And though we are trying to give our dwelling a new and more respectable life, it’s hard to overcome the sins of its past.

I once met a girl at a friend’s house, and we started talking about where we lived. When I described my home, she immediately launched into a story about how she had once been there during some random party the year before. Long story short, it’s quite disconcerting to learn from a stranger about some guy throwing up in the corner of what is now my dining room.

Most UC students go from the close quarters called dorm life to a grueling search for an affordable and decent living space off campus. The result is often cramped yet again. We have the opposite problem, as strange as it may be to actually call that a real problem.

For the first three months of living there, despite frenzied garage sale-ing, we could not obtain enough furniture to convert our vast, 25-by-50-foot living room from a sea of carpet into something resembling a home. One housemate would sit on a chair, as another perched on the futon couch across the room. We would conduct an awkward shouting conversation, as though we were trying to avoid some horrible communicable disease if we got too close.

One day, my friend and I set up her 10-person tent in the living room for no particular reason. The tent, possibly designed for huge family camping trips due to its generous proportions, stayed up for two weeks.

Why? It wasn’t really in the way of anything.

Some students continue to believe we are drug dealers, perhaps because they’ve heard things about some of the previous tenants. One morning as I stared, disheartened, at the mess in our kitchen, the doorbell rang unexpectedly. To ring the doorbell, a visitor must approach the front of the house. With its imposing double doors, flanked by two large, glass crosses and inner atrium, it’s an entrance we usually skip in favor of the side door.

I went to investigate, wearing pajamas, glasses and a look of confusion. I opened the door to a fidgety and nervous boy about my age. He wore clothes designed for the cocaine-thin, yet he was not quite emaciated enough to fit them. After a few moments of staring at each other with curious bewilderment, something seemed to dawn on him.

“Did you just move in here?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“Oh, OK — OK, never mind,” he said and zipped off down the street. I was still baffled while I closed the door. Then it struck me that the boy had arrived hoping to score something a bit more illicit than a Saturday morning sermon.

Despite the perks of my home, it comes with a few downfalls, like the drug-seeking boy. And the fact that the police probably know our address by heart, expecting us to have a heroin den-themed extravaganza at some point. This means that the six of us live in constant paranoia about the decibel level of our antics — which, for the record, do not involve drug dealing.

And though a choir of angels has yet to burst into my living room and enlighten me, there is something a bit profound about living at the Bay Street Revival. We can’t help but feel blessed, in some way, to call it our home. But don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing poetic about it. Our piles of dirty dishes are no more inclined to teach a moral lesson than any other form of unkemptness. I do not have epiphanies on the importance of not coveting material goods when the refrigerator freezes my grapefruits. I do not improve my grasp of eternal forgiveness when a belligerent houseguest single-handedly, and almost impressively, shatters my toilet with nothing but her own (albeit wasted) cranium.

I am not yet saved, but I continue to pay my rent on time.