Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Healthy Habits

I’ve married a masochist. This has become all too clear to me in the past few months, when any sane person would simply bear down, head lowered against a strong wind, and weather his time on the West Coast with as much humor and bravery and patience as humanly possible. One would not, one would imagine, spend much time looking at real estate listings on the New York Times website, since such listings would serve not only to remind one of being far away from home but also to rub one’s face in the very life that one is not presently leading.

But Andrew apparently likes inflicting this sort of pain upon himself. Every now and then during the week, I’ll hear his grim voice call out feebly from my office area, beckoning me with a somber “Come and look at this.” It’s always a fabulous brownstone in Park Slope or a stunning five-bedroom home in Connecticut or a bookshelf-lined co-op on the Upper West Side or an eighteenth-century farmhouse in a town within spitting distance of the Hudson. Grimly he clicks on every one of the pictures, forcing us, faces blank and steady, to admire moldings and stained glass and porches and alcoves.

Because I am his wife, I go along with the viewings, but not without my usual, horrified versions of Why are you doing this?

There are lots of nice homes in Sacramento, too, particularly in Midtown and in the “Fabulous Forties” neighborhood, where I would, in theory, be happy to buy any one of the large, character-ful houses on the wide, tree-lined streets. But we are not going to buy a house here, so what’s the point of thinking about it? Our dining room table is always littered with sales fliers from for-sale houses Andrew passes on his runs, and he’s managed to strike up relentless email solicitations from more than one real estate broker. For a while I was devouring articles about what a great time it is for first-time buyers; now I focus instead on the articles that say the best time for buying is yet to come--in, oh, eighteen months or so.

Yes, I prefer to live in ignorance of the many lovely homes that will not be ours, and of the life that is, right now, operating at its usual, pleasant urban pitch very far away. For a long time after leaving Spain and moving here, I couldn’t even read the Travel section of the Times; it hurt too much to remember Barcelona, and any pictures of European cities were simply unpleasant triggers. As I said, this is the time to just bear down, recognize the means-to-an-end aspect of it all, and live in the here and now. (The Travel thing has passed, thankfully. There are even fun articles about California once in a while.)

And Andrew…Andrew will continue to grit his teeth and search New York real estate listings and summon me to share in his hideous ritual. And then we will step away from the computer and rub some rock salt in our gaping wounds by watching a few rousing episodes of House Hunters International, then finally collapse with copies of the New Yorker and New York. Healthy habits indeed.

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