The Cost of a New Life: Part Three

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A friend of mine, himself divorced a few years ago, asked me recently how I was doing. Was I still measuring against how things used to be, or was I able to start rebuilding and making plans for my new life?

I’m rebuilding, I told him. But I’m nowhere near the “making plans” stage of things — my only plans right now are to furnish my apartment.

“That’s fun,” he said. “Do you enjoy it?”

Do I enjoy it? The question baffled me. I enjoy window shopping and online browsing. In a perfect world, I’d love picking out the perfect piece of furniture to complete my vision.

But that’s not how it works. I sort low-to-high, I wonder if I should buy now or wait for the next sale or discount code. I enjoy the piece of furniture I end up with, sure. But is it fun?

No. It’s not fucking fun.

Do I enjoy it? Sure. Right up until I have to pay the credit card bill.

I found out my house was for sale last month.

It’s not like I’d been living in it since December, of course, and the sale was agreed upon as part of my divorce. We had selected a realtor and signed the listing agreement. There was only one problem: the house had been for sale for over three weeks.

It would be unkind to name the realtor in question, but suffice to say I won’t be recommending him to anybody — he seemed to think that, though the house was jointly owned, it was enough to communicate with my estranged husband about the listing arrangements. “You could have reached out to me at any time,” he offered. It must be nice to be that naive — to know you’re selling a house as part of divorce proceedings, and to assume that both parties are still in communication with with each other. (I’m sure that’s true for some people. It isn’t true for me.)

I was at work when I found out. The listing agreement had been signed weeks before, but I knew the house needed some repairs, so I hadn’t expected to hear from the realtor anytime soon. Then I got a text message: “Drove past your house today and saw a for sale sign, are you guys moving???

I stared at my phone and promptly googled the house’s address. There it was — listed on Redfin, Zillow, Trulia, et cetera. It must be recent, I said to myself, but each site agreed: the listing had been active for 23 days.

The listings had photographs, of course. Some of them hurt, to see how rooms had been rearranged in my absence. Others made me angry — really, you couldn’t have done a better job of staging that? You couldn’t straighten the comforter so the bed actually looks made?

I didn’t even like the house that much, and certainly the bad memories outweighed the good, but I felt tears welling in my eyes nonetheless.

“I’m not feeling well,” I told my boss. “I’m gonna take the rest of the day off.”

It’s a hot real estate market right now, but no one’s made an offer on the house yet, even after we dropped the price by $10K. It doesn’t surprise me — none of the repairs I had been anticipating were made. The realtor keeps sending questions like, “A potential buyer agent wants to know: the water stain on the wall of the den, is that an ongoing issue? Or has it just not been repainted?”

It’s been fixed for at least three years. We just never got around to repainting it.

I am the kind of person who notices details. It’s entirely possible I’ll miss the big picture, but I’ll remember that we were discussing the big picture in a room with blue curtains and crown moulding, and that there was a cobweb in one corner. If I notice something, I don’t forget it. If it remains in the same place, I’ll see it every time. That water stain in the den happened right after we had finished some other repairs, at a time when we couldn’t afford to get to it right away — but it was so ugly and so obvious, and so devastating because I’d thought all our home repairs were finally done.

I didn’t go into the den for months afterwards because of how much it upset me. I got over it eventually, because that’s where the TV was. But every time I happened to glance at that wall, at the three-foot-long water stain, I felt my stomach clench.

There are people who don’t notice details, or who will notice them once and then gloss over them. My husband was one of those people.

So I saw the stain every time I was in that room. I’m not sure he ever saw it at all.

The couch that I have in my apartment is the couch we bought at IKEA right after we got married. It’s red, attention-drawing, perfect to build a room around. He always liked to say that he convinced me to get it, and I never understood that — I was just as enthusiastic about the purchase as he was, to the point where I bought a pair of checkered velvet throw pillows that would have looked garish anywhere else, but matched the couch perfectly. Was it just because red was his favorite color? Was it because everything else we’d been looking at was in neutral shades?

Seventy-five percent of all furniture is in neutral shades. No one would buy it, otherwise.

None of the furniture I’ve bought for my apartment has been in neutral shades, at least not when I’ve had a choice — my bedframe and kitchen islands are black, and that’s fine. But the armchairs I’ve bought are blue, with a cream-colored ottoman patterned with peacocks and red flowers, and another one is teal with the footstool to match. It’s easier to be colorful with upholstered furniture, anyway.

The last email from the realtor included the number for a contractor, just in case we wanted a second opinion on anything — or just in case we wanted to do any work on the house.

Gosh. Who ever would have thought we needed that?

Furniture still needed:


End chair

Couch/love seat

Furniture acquired so far:

Dresser: $0, but will need to be replaced

Three standing lamps: $202.47

Two table lamps: $54.22

Litter box/nightstand: $66.49

Kitchen islands: $268.58

Kitchen shelves: $19.97

Curtains: $39.99

Bed and headboard: $142.49

Mattress: $388.79

Chair (bedroom): $218.69

Ottoman: $63.79

Chair (living room): $212.49

Ottoman: $66.49

Corner cabinet: $132.99

Corner cabinet replacement: $0

Not making repairs before selling a house: $10,000+

Total: $11,877.45

Annie Morgan has always been a city girl at heart, and is excited to be back downtown. She lives in Philadelphia with her cat, Parker.

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