This is my last Monday night in my murky, beloved English basement apartment in Mt. Pleasant in DC— blue carpet, ill-considered Sun-Drenched Denim walls. Not that there is any magic about Monday. I just popped across the street to the liquor store to buy Diet Coke and paused a moment to savor the hummus selection in the cold case. I can’t believe I’m moving — AGAIN — to a neighborhood where all the bodegas have bulletproof glass and off-brand paper products.
One step forward or two steps back? I bought a house in one of the most expensive and competitive real estate markets in the country. It’s a sweet little duplex with a sunny addition on the back, in upper Northeast. I am incredibly, almost unimaginably fortunate that I was able to do it. And this is what adults do, right? We buy houses and pore over samples of white paint (I went with Ivory Glow, a peachy and nearly pearlescent cream that I hope will, well, glow in the sun that streams through my new skylight.) (Home inspector: There are two kinds of skylights: the kind that leak and the kind that don’t leak yet.)
I closed on Friday, and it was anti-climactic. My real estate agent said that means this isn’t my dream home, and I was stunned that he thought that was even an option. That I should have a dream of any sort come true! Ha! Halfway through the process, as I waited to sign my name for the umpteenth time, he passed me his phone to look at a funny news article about a library copy of Fifty Shades of Grey that tested positive for herpes. His eyes are, coincidentally, a dark shade of sun-drenched denim blue. We totally hit it off from the moment we met. Somewhere between my offer being accepted and closing I realized that a big part of the reason I liked my new house so much is because he was always in it with me. He talks a lot about his girlfriend. I’m sure she is lovely, slim and tidy and responsible. I have a feeling they will get married.
I am on guard, lately, against the idea that everyone else’s happiness is robbing me of a chance at mine, that we are all in constant competition for an increasingly scarce amount of sweetness in life. One of the many things I don’t want to be is bitter. I don’t want to give up. I don’t want to cry when friends get engaged or pregnant. I want to be purely happy for them, and I want to feel how lucky I am that my slice of the pie is so decadent — my family, my friends, my cushy job, my beloved Jeep, my new house, my trip to Mexico over Christmas with my mom and sister. It’s a glut, really, an embarrassment of riches. Intellectually, I know this.
I bet there is a word, probably German, for this condition of having so very much and yet never getting the thing you really want. Sauergrapesen, perhaps. Bratseben.
My ex, the devastating one, emailed me twice this summer, chatty, light missives you wouldn’t think could come from someone so fiercely intelligent, given the reality of our situation. I finally did a little Google stalking and figured out that he recently bought a house on a lovely block in Bloomingdale, new hipster paradise, with a woman I am too much of a feminist to describe as horse-faced. I would have liked to own a house in Bloomingdale, but you know, for a single person, the prices are completely prohibitive. With two incomes, it’s a different story. A happier one, I’d imagine.
I cannot be your casual email pal, I told him. Hearing from you does not make me happy. Please don’t contact me any more.
When I met him, he couldn’t have found Bloomingdale with GPS. He was a suburban kid who’d never lived in DC and never wanted to; the city intimidated him. I’m glad I left him better than I found him. I guess. I hope she appreciates the hard work I put in, because Lord knows he never did.
I feel like when you buy a house that costs as much money as mine did — especially when you could very well have remained, as you once were, a night-shift worker in a junk mail factory or a waitress in a trashy bar on a man made lake — you should have an orgasm. Not at the closing table, obviously, but shortly thereafter, on the floor of your new house, sweaty and fearful and exhilarated and, most crucially, not alone. The day I bought my house, I went to Home Depot by myself and bought paint samples, and oh I know, truly I do, that I was lucky to be there and buy that paint, in this great city in this great nation in this great era of western civilization. To think anything less is so hubristic and ungrateful it’s immoral.
I just get so lonely, lately, and I’m tired of it.