First of all: I had no idea so many people had such strong thoughts about the city vs. the suburbs. You all scare me a little, but it’s a good kind of fear. I love you. Don’t hurt me.
So this weekend we drove to the UNNAMED SUBURB in New Jersey. (I don’t know why I’m not revealing the location. Maybe I’m afraid their town council will read this and come to my home with pitchforks? Maybe I just like to be difficult?) We had time to kill before our realtor appointment, so we got some lunch and wandered around the village square. What can I say about it? It was a village square. There were Cute Shoppes, and Not-So-Cute Shoppes, and some people who looked like people we could be friends with, and then other people who were probably nice too except they looked maybe a little inbred, and I'm sure that's not their fault so I shouldn't judge but I don't want to live near them there I said it. (You’d think, the way I’m talking, that we live some kind of Prospect Heights: The Musical! existence, in which we do-si-do'd with our neighbors every time we went out to catch the train. Like there are no weird people in Brooklyn. Frankly this should be the borough’s motto. “Brooklyn: Where the weird people are at!” Except I think it’s something like “The borough that loves you back” or something equally creepy.)
As we looked about, our emotions were running high. “This town doesn’t make me want to kill myself as much as I thought it would! I think!” I would say. “If that home up there had a broken picket fence I would impale myself upon it immediately,” my husband would reply. And then we’d wander some more, and it would be my turn to despair. “Don’t make me live here,” I’d whisper, and by then Scott would be squeezing my hand and saying, “No! This could be okay! Look, I see a comic-book store!”
It was like that for a while. Then we met with the realtor, a lovely woman who showed us every single home that has ever been built, ever. Did you sense a presence in your home? Yeah, that was us. We wandered through homes for hours. We wanted to stop her but our will had been utterly broken and all we could do was trail along, nodding obediently at the charming details and original woodwork and whatever the hell else she told us to look at.
The first house was so small, it made me angry: not at the realtor, just at the house. It made me want to punch it. No house should be that small. I didn’t think it was possible to cut our apartment in half and put one half on top of the other and call it a house, but they did it. Stupid house.
After that things get a little blurry. Most of the houses were dark and squalid and just plain too small. Some houses were large enough and otherwise fine, except they screamed SOMEONE DIED HERE to me. Maybe I’m morbid. But when the furniture is from the ‘30s and the appliances are from the ‘20s and adorning the walls are gauzy photos of grandkids and 50th wedding anniversary photo collages and the place smells like talcum and cat pee, with something cloying and unwholesome underneath… well. It was all I could do to keep from running away and screaming PLEASE I WANT TO LIVE AGAIN. In one house Scott stood in a windowed nook in a bedroom and announced, “This is where the ghost watches you when you sleep.” So it wasn’t just me.
We saw more of the insides of people’s homes than we ever wanted to see. One place was rife with Christian paraphernalia downstairs, and had a tanning bed upstairs. (Hey, Christians can be tan, too! Why not!) One had many different signs announcing the family’s name: the Danglers. “The Danglers live here!” “Join the Danglers for a Dangler reunion!” “Dangle gently in the breeze, the Dangler way!”
Finally we escaped and drove back, exhausted and hysterical. We could do it! We told each other. We could live here and have a yard and go to the city whenever we wanted and some of those places weren’t so bad and maybe the ghost will be friendly! We don't really want to do it, do we? But we could! Yes! But then we went home, sat down, and looked at the cold, hard facts. Moving is expensive. Homes are expensive. And say all you want that city living is pricey, but friends, you suburbs people have expenses that have never occurred to us city folk: cars and insurance for cars and heating and garbage collection and whatnot. And we can barely afford our thrice-a-week burritos.
Once we realized that we just plain couldn’t afford it, my god, how happy we felt. You mean we get to keep living here? In Brooklyn, the City That Touches You Inappropriately? So this is where we should be. And here we’ll stay, for now. Maybe for a long while. The best part is that I can stop thinking about real estate. And my obsessing ends…now. No, now. Wait, no. Nnnnow.