Floating Away on a Strange Day

Content Warnings: Homicidal Ideation, Capitalism, The Housing Market

So I’m looking to buy a house for the first time.  A butterfly just fluttered by.  What was I saying?  Oh yes.  I’m looking to buy a house for the first time or, rather, a condo – because it’s the only thing in our price range that isn’t a dilapidated pile of weirdness or vacant lot.  This search has brought me back to my hometown – not the place I was born, but the place that I spent most of my formative years, from junior high through high school, to fast food and living in attics and basements in my twenties.

I have an appointment today for viewing a place at 4:00.  It’s on a street where I used to live, a street I walked many many times.  I can remember losing some drawings there on a snowy night, retracing my steps, and finding them in a puddle with half the water soluble ink washed away.  This was the street I lived on when my oldest nieces were taken from the family by CPS and went through very bad times.

But I might live here again, in a condo this time.  I say here, because as I compose this, I am in that neighborhood.  But I want to start this story earlier in the day.  I work from home three days a week and go to the office on Tuesdays.  We’re required to come to the office on a different specific day of the week for an in-person meetingcovid spreader event once every three months, and that happened yesterday.  So my laptop was packed up in a bag this morning and I didn’t feel like unpacking it just to do a half day – I also have Monday off because of a doctor’s appointment – so I took the whole day off from work.

To save a little dosh I took the bus instead of an uber.  The first step of that trek was a fifteen minute walk along a busy thoroughfare in my grey smear of a suburb, no sidewalks.  Across the street is the chamber of commerce building, which is in the bottom of a paved ravine for some reason.  The sign looks like it’s falling, because it’s on the ramp down to that pit.  It just struck me as a fun metaphor for capitalism, especially contrasted with the side of the street I was on.  There is a vacant patch of land that is, for the moment, overgrown with trees and high bushes.  There are trails there, not unlike the trails deer create as they push their bodies through the woods, but these were created by homeless humans, of the losers in our shitty game.

I’m a different tier of loser in that shitty game.  The cost of rent here is jumping so quickly that the only way to have any hope for the future is to buy a home fucking immediately.  High as interest rates on home loans are, it will be the equivalent of taking a two hundred dollar rent hike one year in exchange for not having a hundred-plus hike annually forever.  I’m finally in a position to make this happen.  Five years ago I wasn’t, and prices then were half what they are now.  It’s kind of miserable to see what I missed out on.  Anyway,

I got on the bus, took it down to my hometown, got off at the transit station.  A little old lady – probably not ten years older than me – was trembling on the platform, in the bright sunlight.  I smiled at her through my n95, hoping in a moment that my eyes had been smiling.  Then again, maybe I shouldn’t have done that, because she had some words for me.  I can’t tell if she was begging for change or telling me I’m gross, because her language was a mysterious babble, inaudible above the noise of train tracks and freeway nearby.  Even though there was plenty of room for her to sit somewhere else or move away from where I was sitting, she just stood there, trembling away, a few feet in front of me.  I got uncomfortable of that awkwardness and moved myself to another bench.

The bus from the transit center to my old neighborhood runs half hourly.  Could be worse.  There were just a few people on it, cute-looking gay &/or polynesian mans, and they got off before I did.  Then I was there, on the street of my grody late childhood.

There are a lot of mobile home parks down here – more than I remembered.  The tree where our siamese cat got stuck has been cut down, and the fence hole we used for a shortcut to the 7-eleven had been sealed up, and covered with bushes.  I got to the place too early, and so I set out to time how long it takes to get from the condo we are considering to the nearest grocery store and park.  Spoiler, twenty-five and twelve minutes respectively.

Along the way to the grocery store, there’s a spot where you can turn left or right.  Right keeps you going towards the grocery store, left now leads to a private freight road that wasn’t there when I was young.  But also in that direction, there was once a way you could walk down to the river over some rough rocks and thorny bushes, and I wanted to see if you could still do that.

That was a mistake.  It’s private property, but you can tell it’s never attended by anybody.  The sign says the police are contracted to enforce against trespassers, but where were the cops?  Hell if I know.  The fence was smashed down around some mossy boulders.  I went inside.

The way down to the river was just clear enough that I could tell people still used it regularly, but it was grown over.  Based on the vines I suspect nobody had used it for at least a few days.  It’s a twisty hike through blackberry bushes, bamboo, spider webs, fallen logs, abandoned mattresses, emptied beer kegs and cans, used condoms, syringes…  All the good things in life.  When I reached the water I could see that it was white for some reason.

The last time I went down there I was probably seventeen?  There was a lot less overgrowth back then, and you can see garter snakes slipping in and out of the boulders on the hillside.  Around that time my sister got pregnant, and I knew she was going to destroy the life of any child that she gave birth to.  For years after she proved that to be true, I used to (creepily) tell people that I should have brought her down to that piece of river and put a knife in her heart.  Prebortion.  I never did that, so several lives were ruined, and my own was spared.  I used to regret that more.  Note: If your siblings have counted not murdering you as one of their life’s regrets, you done fucked up.

I crawled out of that disgusting patch of land, all my preparations to look presentable gone to waste.  The spider webs glued all sorts of strange things to my new black pants and they won’t come off.

I walked on this hot shitty day to the local grocery store.  It had changed from albertson’s to safeway, and the AC was not adequate to cool me down after all that exercise.  Sticking my head in every cooler and getting it misted in the produce section, also totally useless.  I went looking for a restaurant with adequate AC, hit up the mcdonald’s and the subway, before I settled on a Mexican bar & grill that was one of the last businesses standing from my youth.

The counter was sticky but you could get cold beverages and it was on the shadowy side of the strip mall, so cooler than the franchises in the front lot.  I watched a rebroadcast ladies soccer game from several years ago and consumed a few non-alcoholic margaritas before I set out again.  Now I’ve timed the trip from the condo to the nearest park, and I’m laying on a metal bench in a large gazebo…

Coming back to this post after having toured the condo and come home, and having put in our bid.  It’s got central AC and the price is as right as possible given the circumstances.  If anyone outbids us though, we have to keep looking.  No wiggle room in our budget.  I feel partially cooked, even without significant sunburn, like I’m on a grade to the status ailment “sweet juicy meat falling off the bone.”

Eager for this journey to reach an end.


  1. Jazzlet says

    Rob Grigjanis
    Yeah, that was where my brain went too.

    I hope your bid is successful, house hunting is one of the big three stressors in our lives apparently, up there with a loved one dying and . . . damn, old woman brain not working . . . anyway I hope the stress is resolved jolly soon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.