the one that got away. (almost).

We all have these stories.

Mine, however, is about an apartment. An apartment I visited once two years ago in San Francisco. Emily and I were second in line to fill out an application. And in San Francisco, second in line may as well be last.

It was not perfect. The kitchen was too small. Galley style, with no counter space and about three cabinets. But it had a small garden in back. A park to the right. And a bedroom so small only a bed and nightstand could squeeze inside. It had floor to ceiling built-in shelves.  And it was perfect for me. Someone else is living there now.

I will probably be talking about the apartment I never rented until the day I die. My grandchildren will hear about this phantom place. They will think it sounds dumpy. Inconvenient. And overpriced. It wasn’t. But they will think it was.

I thought about that apartment tonight in the shower. I was washing my hair. The image popped in as I was lathering my scalp. I rinsed and called out to Dayton while fixing my towel turban, asking if I had ever told him about the apartment I almost lived in in San Francisco. Of course I had. Many times before.

I smiled. The memory likely surfaced because we have spent the past two days house hunting. We looked at two yesterday. The first house was quirky. It had a neglected garden in the back and mustard colored shag carpet in one of the bedrooms, strange wooden paneling in the living room and a window to nowhere inside. Nevermind that I don’t garden (yet!) and have less than any experience stripping carpet. Or walls. But I could …

Still, it had nice light. Hardwood floors. And a spare room for spare things and spare people.  It felt like a place we could easily make ours. So we put in an application. The second house had even more space. Perhaps even better bones. But it felt old. And unloved. And we could tell. We left without even going upstairs.

Today after work we took advantage of the sunlight and explored new neighborhoods on foot. We found a trail in the woods and followed it to steps of a home already rented.  It was adorable. And somebody else’s. We kept walking, looking for ‘for rent’ signs on lawns. In windows. Everywhere. We didn’t see much.

We walked until we walked far enough I didn’t want to live that far away. Then we found a house. Dayton crossed the street for a closer look. I stepped back. That is not my house. But that is my boy, I thought. And he is not perfect either. Or at least, I did not think so at first. (Shockingly, neither did he.) But I guess what is true of houses is true of people.

Because we all have quirks that don’t make sense to anybody else but the person who takes the time to look in our basement. Climb our stairs and inspect our windows to make sure they are tough enough, sturdy enough to keep us warm. To keep us safe. They check us for evidence of past damage, past life lived. And we hope for a tenant who will accept the scratches on our floors, the lack of available counter space, the overgrown backyard and does not think: I can live with that. But rather, at last! I am home.

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