We walk out of the attorney’s small office, down shady stone steps, into August heat. Wait at the corner, until Jimmy Stewart’s recorded voice gives us permission to cross while the traffic waits. We pause there, in front of the half-circle of wide steps leading to the library’s front door. He’s going in, I’m continuing two more blocks, to the brick building that houses the presses that still run every day, where my desk and unfinished interviews are waiting.
“We’re homeowners,” I say, awed. I’m small and afraid and am saying it because that will make it true. Somehow, between the walking into the air-conditioned stillness of an attorney’s office and back out into the summer, we bought a home.
I’m still not entirely sure how it happened, this buying of houses. It wasn’t part of The Plan, the one that brought us here in February to conquer the doctorate while watching our pennies. I was reading the classifieds for Good Deals while eating my lunch one July Saturday, preparing for a weekend night of obituaries and crime news and listening to the scanner, when I saw it.
“We can afford this one,” I called to him, reading in the living room. “Isn’t it crazy that we live somewhere we could afford to buy a house?”
And just to see, to wonder what our money would buy us, we drove by. “It’ll be dumpy,” I said on the way. “Falling apart.”
But it wasn’t.
We went back, to look inside. “It will be trashed,” I said. “Disintigrating before our eyes.”
It was small, built in the 1950s and with carpet and colors of times long before mine. But it looked whole, solid, waiting to be lived in and cleaned and painted and turned into a home. There is a big living room opening into the open dining room, peeking into a kitchen with cabinets stacked on cabinets and a small utility hall off the side door. A brick fireplace is waiting for stockings and evergreens and the Santa of paintings. Back bedrooms have big windows looking over a fenced yard gone to seed, rhododendrons straggling through evergreen bushes; irises choking in weeds.
And we called and waited and dreamed and feared and hoped it all fell through because “no” is always clearer than “yes.” But it didn’t. And “yes” became louder and louder until it was time. We scheduled for 4:30, he asked for 12:30 instead.
“Are you sick yet, spending all our savings?” I whisper while our attorney makes us copies.
And as the silent room fills with the scratching of his pen as he writes the check, tears it free, my own stomach is hollow.
And we walk out of the air conditioning into the August heat, new keys in our hands, bank account empty. We wait, silent, at the corner for Jimmy Stewart to tell us it’s ok, it’s time to cross. We hold hands to cross the road.
“Bye, homeowner,” he tells me when he kisses me good-bye on the library steps.