I moved into my apartment after I got divorced, along with (apparently) every other newly-divorced person in the Portland metro area. As it was situated in an impeccable school district and had a shit ton of storage space. . .*
*Not that you have all that much stuff to store after a divorce, but I digress.
. . .my apartment complex is a veritable mecca for single parents. So much so that it is fondly referred to as "Alimony Alley". Apartment living was a reasonable concept while I was in graduate school and getting my feet firmly planted in reality, but that honeymoon period is over and it is time to jump ship. First of all, there is never any available parking and I invariably find myself schlepping six bags of groceries, two backpacks, and a gym bag across two counties like a deranged Sherpa. Secondly, my downstairs neighbors have a particular penchant for standing under my window and chain-smoking, so if I dare to open the door to my patio my apartment becomes flooded with enough second-hand smoke to suffocate a French poker game. And last but not least, every month I write a hefty check that goes. . .nowhere. No equity. No investment. Just. . .WHOOSH! Gone. Basically, apartment living has become akin to living in the primate house at the Oregon Zoo: there's a lot of high-pitched screaming, excessive nit-picking, and sooner or later, some shit will get flung. It's time to move on. So, I gave notice at my apartment and called my old high school friend (and uber-realtor) John and began the hunt for a new home.
After a good five minutes of hugging, "squee-ing", and general "Oh my God, I haven't seen you in AGES!" we settled in at Starbucks to peruse some possible homes.
"Okay," John said, clapping his hands together officiously "we have about seven places to see today. Some of them I'm psyched about, some of them. . .not so much. But you never know, you might like them better than I do."
I raised my eyebrow dubiously. "Thus implying that your taste is somehow superior to mine?" I asked.
"Oh, I'm not implying it, Sweetie," John said, taking a sip of his latte "I'm stating it outright."
"Pfft!" I snorted. "Fine. I'll see these 'inferior' dwellings, but I won't be happy about it."
"So, business as usual?"
"Yeah, pretty much."
John sighed and gathered up his folders and we made his way to the car. "Let me clear out the front seat" he said, shoving aside a stack of papers.
I stepped around his and climbed into the backseat instead. "Never mind, I'd rather sit in back. That will make it easier to choke you if you show me some ghetto crackhouse."
John sighed dramatically. "Oh, I can tell right now it's going to be hell trying to make YOU happy."
"Greater men than you have tried and failed, my friend." I replied, clapping him reassuringly on the shoulder.
The first condo we pulled up to was nondescript; a three bedroom unit with a fabulous view of Mt.Hood. "This one just came on the market" John told me as he jimmied open the lockbox. "The couple who own it are VERY eager to sell."
"Why so eager?" I asked.
John's mouth twitched as he attempted not to laugh. "Apparently the wife came home to find her husband taking a culinary tour in the 'South of Pants' with her brother. Suffice to say, they're splitting up."
I laughed until I was shaking like a spastic colon but still couldn't rid myself of the niggling doubt that some negative marital ju-ju might be hovering around the condo. As it were, ju-ju was the least of my fears when I discovered the appalling lack of closet space.
"How could this place POSSIBLY have been owned by a woman and a latent homosexual man?" I cried in horror. "Sweet Jesus, where did they put their SHOES!?!?"
John shrugged dismissively. "I guess you'd just have to keep some in storage. Or. . .you know. . .get rid of some of your shoes."
"Shut your whore mouth." I gasped, leveling him with an icy stare. "Forget it, Babe. Those closets are a deal-breaker."
John sighed and we walked out to the car for round two. "Not a chance." I stated firmly the moment we pulled up.
"Don't you think we should, you know, actually LOOK at it before casting judgment?" John remarked drolly.
I snorted indignantly. "It's got a hoopty Home Depot door, the color looks like the inside of a diaper, and I swear to God I saw that dude next door on 'To Catch a Predator'. HELL to the no!"
"You're acting like a princess." John countered.
"I'm NOT acting!" I cried. As John has known my family for approximately a quarter of the century, he was smart enough to remain silent and put the car in reverse. The next town home we visited was in a lovely tree-lined neighborhood and had a twee little patio in front. OK. So far so good. Then we went inside. Ho. Ly. Shit. The walls were plastered with obscenely large cabbage roses, the exposed brick had been painted a garish yellow and the cabinets hadn't been updated since the Nixon Administration.
"Well?" John ventured, watching as I trailed my fingers over the silver-flecked harvest gold counter tops. "What are you thinking."
"Oh, not much" I replied, taking in the burnt orange ceiling fan and avocado green linoleum. "Just wondering when Mr. Roper will leave the Regal Beagle to check on our wild shenanigans."
John sighed. "Just make sure you take off your shoes before walking around."
I looked at the stained and threadbare carpet in amazement. "Are you SERIOUS?"
John pointed to the 'PLEASE REMOVE SHOES' placard by the front door. "Didn't you see the sign?"
"Yeah, I saw the sign" I said "but after I saw the carpet I assumed the sign was just being ironic. You know how signs can be."
John simply shook his head and walked slowly out the door with me trailing (shoes firmly in place) at his heels. The next location looked promising; three bedrooms, good location. . .and a lockbox that wouldn't open. John spent a good fifteen minutes cursing, yanking and attempting to McGuyver that little bastard with a ballpoint pen and some nail clippers before finally jimmying open the kitchen window and dive-rolling into the unit.
"Huh" he said with disappointment as he opened the front door "that always seems way more bad-ass when Stephen Seagal does it."
"Probably because Stephen Seagal is a 7th-dan black belt and not a gay real estate agent." I replied, judiciously ignoring John's raised middle finger. "Oh, I'm kidding. Lighten up, Francis."
John smirked dismissively. "Chicks dig me because I rarely wear underwear. And when I do it's usually something unusual."
"Do you have something in a low-rise bikini?" I countered. "Mesh, if possible."
"My name's Dewey Oxburger." John continued seamlessly "My friends call me Ox. You might have noticed that,
uh, I've got a slight weight problem."*
*OK. This? Right here? Is why children of the eighties are rad as shit. At any given point in time we can burst into obscure 'Stripes" quotes with amazing alacrity. Huzzah!
"All right then" I said, walking through the foyer "Now that we've had our little ABC Family bonding moment let's start ripping this place apart."
We walked through the home in abject silence. The layout? Awkward. The spiral staircase? Ungainly. The locations of the bathrooms? Haphazard. I turned to John and simply said "No."
John gaped at me in shock. "No? Just. . .'no'? Where is the snarky rejoinder? Where is the obscure reference? Where is the cleverly fashioned retort?"
I heaved a dramatic sigh. "My apathy is dramatically inhibiting my ability to form hyperbolic and comedic analogies. Please take me away from here before I start speaking in cliches."
Suffice to say, the remainder of the afternoon was not a success. We saw homes that had mildew, homes that had dry rot, homes that stank of old lady and despair, and most disturbing; a home that looked like it had been decorated by Ann Rice.
"I think we've officially found the home that would make Edgar Allen Poe pause and say 'Damn, that's some creepy shit, yo.'" I mumbled to John as we made our way to the car.
He nodded solemnly. "I'm relatively certain Edgar Allen Poe wouldn't say 'yo', but I get the sentiment. The red velvet drapery was a particularly interesting touch."
"Oh yeah!" I snorted with laughter "All I'd need is a dancing midget and a pair of bobby socks and we'd have an episode of 'Twin Peaks' on our hands."
John chuckled and tossed me the flyer for the final place on our list. "OK, Kid. Last one."
I looked at the flyer and gasped. "I know these places! Oh my God, I've always LOVED these! I actually went to a dinner party in that complex; the townhomes are gorgeous!"
"It's an end unit. The owners had been renting it out but they really want to sell." John said as he navigated his way through the traffic. "Three bedrooms, completely remodeled last year, gas appliances, built in 2005. . ."
"Wait, wait, wait." I cut him off "Why hasn't this beauty sold yet? Someone died there, didn't they? Someone died and they stashed them under the floorboards and they're still trying to air out the stench of decaying flesh, right?"
John gave me his patented 'you're bat-shit crazy' stare. "OK. Seriously? You need to lay off the 'CSI: Miami', Babe. It hasn't sold because the last few offers were low-balls. It's on the higher end of your price range but you can swing it."
I wriggled in my seat with excitement as we pulled up to the town home. Oh. My. God. It was bright, airy, sunlit, and the kitchen glowed with warm cherry wood and brushed steel. As I walked through the unit I could envision every couch, every bed, and every other little treasure I intended to procure at IKEA place lovingly within its homey walls. This was it. This was the one. I whirled around to grab John's arm, grinning madly.*
*I may have also bounced up and down. . .and squealed. . .and maybe kissed him. Don't judge.
"So, is it possible?" John asked with a smirk. "Have I actually found the home that could render you speechless?"
"Oh, John!" I gasped breathlessly. "The closets. . .you had me at the closets."
John grinned smugly. "And did you happen to notice what's across the street."
I walked over to the living room window and peered through the trees. And there it was. A mere four hundred paces from the front door, gleaming like a beacon of hope.
"John," I said, turning to him with a smile. "Get the paperwork in order. Mama's comin' home."