For the last couple months, I have been looking for a place to live. This past year I lived in an apartment of divorce: it was in the air, lingering in the fibers of my couch, my carpet. The rent was was divorce-settlement high and always, I knew it was not a sustainable option. It was a place to land for a little while, before I knew how to make myself a budget, how to scrape by without the security of a clump of money. It was a place my ex-husband co-signed on for me: a place with a gated entrance like a metaphor of how afraid I was of the large world which alone in, I felt so small.
After I graduated, I started working again, but part-time, as only I will since Holden is not in Kindergarten yet. I started adding to the clump of money in my bank account which felt good after all those months of only subtracting. I made a budget spreadsheet, opened my mail with trepidation, got myself health insurance, opened the windows instead of running the air conditioning. I started paying attention.
When I began looking for a place to live, I had a list of requirements that was too lofty and didn’t make room for sacrifices. The places I started at were not the right fit for me, but I thought they were. I cried in the university library when I was rejected for a house I’d applied to rent. I was denied in favor of a single man with a dog. This burned my eyes and I swallowed again and again. Being a single mother is not a ringing endorsement and sometimes it seems the world has energy only to pass us over.
My search widened to smaller places without garages, farther from my sons’ school, places with shared entries even. One place was so small that I could smell the sweat of the people who used to live cramped inside there: I could smell it in the bathroom mirror that doubled as a cabinet, I could smell it in the tiny closet that had been shoved full of all seasons’ clothes. I could see it in the many layers of paint on the baseboards: despair painted on top of despair on top of despair. I cried at the playground there, the playground they had for all the kids who lived in those cramped spaces. I thought of the little closets under the stairs with the pull string for a light switch, wondered how many children had used it as a room.
But despair repels me from itself, when I have the energy to be repulsed. So I went to this place right across the street from the lake I run at and I told the woman, determined, that I would have this place she showed me: the place with a den for my writing desk and a large closet and a giant room, the place that costs so much less than what I pay now but still has everything I need and more. I filled out the application and suddenly, I had energy for the first time in months so across the street, I ran around the lake, felt the wind on my face, beat music into my ears while blood pumped through my legs.
And today, after a week of waiting to hear back, I was accepted and I have a place to move that will be my own that no one co-signed on for me and I am doing it, this life that sometimes seems impossible but maybe, just maybe, it isn’t after all.
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