In my last column, I started telling you about meeting my first love, my first house, on Hill Street. Our relationship had been great for several years when things began to move in a new and unexpected direction.
A couple of months ago, my friends Jay and Terry had invited me over to their house for dinner. They live on a private cul-de-sac with about ten other families. The homes on the street are all very attractive; I’ve always thought so. They are newer, but still in keeping with the Victorian style of Grant Park, where we live.
At one point, the conversation turned to the goings-on in the neighborhood. Plans for the big benefit at the zoo were being finalized and new houses were springing up on every vacant lot around. Almost in passing, Jay mentioned that the couple across the street was being transferred. They were about to put their house on the market.
On my way home, I paused for a moment and checked out the house. She seemed nice enough, fairly standard for the neighborhood. I continued on my way without giving the situation much thought.
A few weeks later, I was heading back to visit with my friends when I noticed the sign: FOR SALE BY OWNER. I’m available. Come to think of it, she really was a nice house. There was a large balcony off the master bedroom with a little table and two chairs. Why hadn’t I seen that before?
Over cocktails, one of the other dinner guests brought up the house across the street. The couple living there was really eager to introduce her to someone new. That night, when I left the dinner, I casually walked past her. Nice landscaping, cozy layout, pleasant neighbors. I found myself distracted on the drive home thinking about just how quaint that little street was. When I pulled into the driveway, I had to compose myself. I didn’t want my thoughts to betray me.
The following week while at work, I took a call from one of my friends from the dinner party. We were chatting away, when I offhandedly mentioned the house across the street. “Oh, I have some news about that place,” he said.
My heart sank. We hadn’t even been formally introduced, just eye contact really. She must have met somebody already. How could I have let her get away? Damn me for moving so slowly.
“The price has been reduced. I think you should take a look at it.” I let out a barely audible sigh.
Emboldened, I called Debbie, the matchmaker who helped me before. “We have to meet. I’m interested in seeing the house on Oakland Park.” She found out when the house was available and set up a date for the following day.
As the afternoon passed, that old, familiar blend of nervousness and excitement started stirring. Would we be a good fit? There’s nothing wrong with my relationship, now. Why am I doing this? It could just stir up trouble. She does seem great, though.
Feeling somewhat guilty for sneaking around behind Hill Street’s back, I met Debbie at Oakland Park. As soon as I walked in I knew. She was made for me. For the moment, the old house didn’t exist. So far as anybody else knew, I was single again. The opportunity for another commission ensured that Debbie wouldn’t blab.
Our courtship was brief. A few more visits, some negotiation, and it was all complete. During this time, I hardly thought about the old place. It wasn’t until after I had committed myself to Oakland Park that I thought about the repercussions.
As excited as I was about starting a new relationship, I dreaded ending the old one. It was time to confess, though. I had been unfaithful. Worse still, I was leaving because of it.
As breakups go, ending things with the house on Hill Street was pretty tough. Without question, this had been the longest relationship of my life. It was all the harder knowing that I was the reason we could no longer be together.
Sure, things had been great. We had some fantastic times. But, after a while, sometimes two people just grow apart. “It isn’t you; you’re terrific,” I told her. “Everybody loves you. It’s me. My job is taking me away more and more. I can’t take care of you the way you need to be, the way you deserve to be. I promise, I’ll find you someone special to stay here. I’m not going to just abandon you.”
The words rang hollow in my ears. The fact of the matter was that I had found a better place. The old house wasn’t good enough anymore. Nothing I could say would make either of us feel any better.
I started moving out slowly. A couple of boxes here, a potted plant there. I thought it would be easier that way. If I moved some smaller items, the ones that seemed like clutter, maybe she wouldn’t even notice. It’s not that I’m moving them out; I’m just cleaning. As the house began to empty, though, it hit me again. A chapter in my life, our lives, was over. I had made a decision and now we both had to live with the consequences.
Eventually, the big day came. Moving day. The beds, the couches, all of the furniture were taken out, piece by piece. There was no denying it. We were through. That night I lay awake in my new bedroom. Curled up on either side of me, the cats tried to comfort me as they, in turn, looked for comfort. I couldn’t help but wonder if they were afraid that one day they too would be left behind.
I’ve finished moving now. The dishes have been unpacked, the books are lined up on their shelves and everything is as it should be. I go over to the old place two or three times a week to rake the lawn and dust. I’ll keep my promise to take care of her until someone else falls in love with her as I did.
I’m almost embarrassed during these visits. There is an awkward silence between us. I don’t think there is anything I can do to keep her from feeling betrayed and abandoned. As much as I try to make things easier for her, she gives me the cold shoulder.
The housewarming party is next weekend. I hope you’ll be able to stop by for a while. I’ve invited the old house to come, too. Somehow, though, I don’t think she’s going to make it.
IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
1.29.01 @ 12:31p
Isn't this always the case...older men...younger women. ;+)
1.29.01 @ 12:37p
This two-part story makes me question my world in so many ways...
1.29.01 @ 4:11p
What does it make you question, jeff? Your commitment to your current dwelling? Or, like me, the fact that you haven't even gotten to the first house, let alone the second?
1.29.01 @ 8:20p
No, jael... my housing situation is crapp. I still have the same couch I bought for $20 that I had through undergrad in the dorms. I'm 26 now.
I think more of the overall attaching of human traits to objects. I even get sad when I see "rent me" signs on U-Haul trucks.
1.30.01 @ 10:06a
Just an update: I still haven't found anyone nice for my old house. It seems that I really do have odd tastes when it comes to relationships.
1.30.01 @ 10:08a
Oh, come on. Anthropomorphism is fun!
1.30.01 @ 11:41a
Ah, go peddle your anthropocentrism elsewhere. I decry the evils of anthropopathism!
Oh, c'mon, nobody thought I was going to pass up the chance to use words like this, didja?
1.31.01 @ 10:22a
I decry the evils of anthropopalopism too!
Allison and I had been living in an overpriced dump in Raleigh. Within minutes of walking into our current house in Chapel Hill, minutes, we made an offer.
So... other fish in the sea? Probably doesn't help to hear now but it will get better.
1.31.01 @ 3:46p
Oh, the humor value of discussing my unsatisfyingly small apartment... I should probably look for one that treats me better, but I'm too complacent to put forth the effort to look, and there's something to be said for something so easy.