127. Househunting

THERE WAS A TIME in my youth, a crazy time, when all I ever seemed to be doing was househunting. I would stagger blindly from one share house to another, perpetually discontent, always on the move. I found most of my houses online – I must have visited dozens of share houses during that period, all kinds of share houses, hippy houses, professional houses, depressed people’s houses, neat freaks’ houses, even a house in which one of the housemates gave me a numerological reading and pronounced me a spectral white wizard. I made a couple of friends during my periods of househunting, was invited to join someone’s band, and on one memorable occasion the househunting even led to impromptu mid-afternoon sex with a girl I never saw again. Then it stopped – I finally settled down. It's strange, putting it that way. It makes a slow and difficult thing seem normal and almost breezy. Moving to the burbs after living in share houses for all of my adult life was a shock. My wife had a long commute every day whereas I worked from home. I had a lot of spare time, which has never been good for me. When I was online, I found myself, very naturally, going back to those tried and true real estate websites and typing ‘share house’ into the search box. I liked to read the ads to try to imagine what lives were unfolding inside those houses. There's nothing more everyday than a married couple living together, however pleasant it may be, whereas a share house is a miracle of social organisation. I don’t know if it was a form of nostalgia for my bachelor days, or a sign that I wasn’t dealing well with married life, but surfing the shared housing personals felt like ordinary, harmless fun – the habit of a lifetime, or at least a previous lifetime. This time, I wasn’t really looking to move – I was just browsing. One afternoon, in between jobs, I came across a post advertising a share house that was located in the same part of town I’d lived in at one stage of my nomadic existence – just one street over, in fact. That old share house had been one of the happiest times of my life, at least until the landlord evicted us to build a block of apartments. This house reminded me of that previous house, not just visually - the two buildings must have been constructed at about the same time - but also the way the post was written, the combination of housemates and their respective ages, the way their personalities shone through, as well as their hopes, their foibles, the way they worked out their problems... It was all there, so much so that – almost out of instinct – I replied. Of course, I had to tell a few lies - I couldn't tell them the truth, that I was replying out of boredom, or habit, or voyeurism, or nostalgia, or whatever the reason was. I had to invent an alter ego for myself. It didn't come all at once - I had to think about it. My wife was more-than-usually late, and so I could take my time with the reply, not out of any sense of wanting to be invited for an interview but simply for the pleasure of it. I wanted my reply to honour the spirit of the post. I invented a story for myself, tried matching my personality to the personality of the house, at least as it was described in the post. I must have done something right because, although I sent my reply late on a Tuesday night, the following morning the reply was already in my inbox, asking me if I could visit that same evening at 6pm. Yes, delighted to, I wrote.

To be continued.