Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Four Houses Down - Part One




Who moves four houses down from their ex-husband and his wife? I mean it was ridiculous to even consider it (wasn't it?) Hypothetically speaking, he and I could pass each other every morning as we left our respective houses. He would be able to see what lights were on in my house as he drove home from work. I knew I wouldn't be able to resist peeking in their brightly lit picture window at night when I drove by. Voice mails from him might start like : "I know you're at home — your car is in the driveway."

My phone call to my best friend went something like:
"You know I've been looking at houses for almost six months now." "Really, has it been that long?"
"It's hard, because I'm looking for something in their neighborhood and there's nothing. Art, my realtor, says that most of these people have lived in their houses since the fifties. NO one is moving!"
"Maybe you should look in Calabasas" she said distractedly.

"I thought about that" I said. "But check this out!" ​I was sure she could hear my smile through the phone.
"Today I found an amazing house that I can afford and it's in their neighborhood!"
"Okay, good" she said dryly. "And?"

"And it's four doors down from them."
I checked the phone-screen to make sure the call was still connected.
"Are F#@%*#ING INSANE? That's a terrible idea!"
"I know" I said.

But
I just knew this was MY house.

Conversation with # 1 (all quotes are approximate because I was nervous don't remember exact words, but this is the gist of it):
"What's the good news?" He asked.
"I found a great house."
A beat.
"It's in your neighborhood. It has everything I want and I can afford it."
"That's great! What street?"
"Funny thing about that" I said. " I'd been following Art around all morning, looking at houses. It wasn't until we pulled up to this one that I realized it was on your street."
I heard a sharp breath. ​Was that a gasp or sigh?
"Really?" He said. "Well, it's a long street."
"See that's the thing - it's four doors down from you guys."
Silence. ​Until that moment I didn't realize the desk clock in my office actually made a ticking sound.

"There are four other offers on it already" I continued quickly. "I've put an offer in because I didn't want to miss it, but I'll withdraw it if it's too weird."
"Four doors down?"
"Yes."

"Which side of the street?
"Yours. Same side."
"The one with the long driveway?"
"No, the one with all the ficus trees, on the corner."
Tick, tick, tick...
"I'll have to discuss it with..."
"I know". I was over-talking him. ​Of course he needed to discuss it with his wife. It was still strange to think of her as his wife. But they'd been married for almost two years. I had been his wife for 13-years and now she was his wife. He needs to talk to his wife about me, his ex-wife moving in four houses away from them.

Nervous words began pouring out of me like soda from a shaken can.
"I wish I could give you guys more time to think about it, but I only have until 12:00 noon tomorrow. Do you want to talk to her and then get back to me?"
"Ok, I will."

I felt my heart slow down as I ended the call. But my mind began to race when I thought about the real risk. Loss of privacy was one thing. But what was really at stake, the thing that I was most of afraid of was much bigger. He and I were in a really good groove. We'd been divorced for a few years now and our kids were happy. Most "kids of divorce" got to have one parent that attends their basketball games or school ceremonies. Our kids have both of their parents with them at every event. Their dad and I talked regularly, texted regularly and didn't argue (of course, there was the occasional differing point of view, but nothing major). It was a relationship that I didn't even know was possible. Why risk it now by becoming his neighbor?

But I really, really loved this house.

Later on that evening, I received a call from my business manager. I could tell by the tone of his voice that it was bad news.
"What?!?"
"We ran the numbers again, Laura. I'm sorry. But you really can't afford it. Not with the renovation you'll need to do."

I could feel the shards of my broken heart scattering into my chest.
"But earlier you said..."
"I know" he sighed. "I'm not sure what happened the first time we ran the numbers. I wanted to tell you before it was too late."
I could tell that this was hard for him. But I could feel a swell of self-righteous self-pity beginning to envelope me. I fought the urge to make him feel bad for misleading me.

"It's okay." I lied. Inside I was already scheming a way to get the house anyway. I​ knew this was my house! Nothing else mattered but my getting it. I would spend money I didn't have if necessary. I would go into my savings. Forget being smart. Forget the future! I wanted this house and I wanted it now.
"Okay, so you'll be back out looking with the realtor tomorrow?" he asked.
"Looks like it."
I didn't want to sound sarcastic​, but there might have been "a tone". Again, I reassured him that I was okay.
"It's not your fault. Must just not be my house, I guess."

I couldn't sleep that night. Around 2:00am I walked to balcony doors and pulled back the drapes. Looking up at the sky outside, I closed my eyes and tried to feel myself releasing the house into the universe. I"m letting you go, I'm letting you go" I chanted quietly. I pictured the house on the horizon, getting smaller and smaller until I couldn't see it anymore. I said a final goodbye to it and got back in bed. My plan had been foiled. I squinted my eyes shut and clutched my arms to my chest. I just knew that I would never find another house in that neighborhood like that one. I felt as though I'd been robbed.

As the night went on I kept checking the clock to see how much time had gone by. My sheets were wrapped around my ankles from tossing and turning. I must have finally fallen asleep, because I was woken up at 6:00 am by the shrill sound of my land-line ringing. Suddenly, my heart beat was a bass drum. Who could be calling me this early?

When I saw the name on my phone display, my hand lurched for the receiver in a panic.

To be continued on Friday, May 6th...

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