Over the weekend, Coffee and I went to tour a house that’s for sale down the road from us. The listing price is about $120,000 more than we paid for our home (6 years ago) and, from the photos online, it didn’t look particularly fancy.
We are not planning to sell our home, or move, and we don’t know anyone who’s in the market for a home – we just like to snoop through. If you put up an “open house” sign in our ‘hood, there’s a decent chance we’re going to show up.
I like to look at people’s living spaces. I have to be reminded that people’s houses are (usually) somewhat staged – all the clutter has been boxed up and put away into storage, windows have been cleaned, furniture has been carefully arranged, etc. But I like to see how people fill their rooms, where they hang a mirror, how they decorate their rec room, and how they organize their garage.
I especially like it if the house in question has even the tiniest resemblance to my own home – like, holy shit, THAT’S what we could put in that weird little alcove! That’s what our bathroom would look like if we moved things around a bit!
In this case.. well.
The layout was similar but the house is much smaller – so the rooms had a weird Alice in Wonderland feel to them. The stairway was narrower. The bedrooms each had one window, not two. The kitchen was teensy.
Walking through the place, I would put money on it being a single father living there, post-divorce, with at least 2 teenagers. Coffee thinks maybe they have to sell as a result of that divorce. I got the vibe that no adult women had lived in that house for a few years – and one was definitely not living there at the time that they put the place on the market. I will admit that I am basing this on stereotypes.
When I was a kid, my parents smoked. My grandparents smoked. Everyone smoked, everywhere, all the time. In the car. In the house. In restaurants. I spent a lot of my formative years choking on tobacco smoke and gasping for air while someone, cigarette clenched between tight lips, tried to find my inhalers. At my grandparents’ house, I would often be told to “go stand outside for a little while”, even in the cold, if my barking cough started up.
Look, I understand addiction on some levels, y’know?
Eventually my mother quit smoking and my Dad was relegated to smoking in the garage or his workshop (or his truck). The air in my childhood home cleared up. (I basically held my breath at my grandparents’ house.) After moving out on my own, I lived with people who smoked – but who either did it in their own rooms or outdoors (with the exception of weed which wafted everywhere, all the time).
From 1996 onward, though, I lived in spaces that were almost completely smoke-free. And my lungs got really, really spoiled by that. No more inhalers! It was hard to visit my Dad, who was back to smoking inside (because he was single) and my grandparents who still smoked like it was the only thing keeping them alive.
Since 2001, though, most of my time is spent in non-smoking environments. And that’s all well and good, truly, but holy shit am I ever sensitive and aware of smoke now. I visit clients’ homes and I want to die. I start to feel like I’m dying of suffocation. I have a few friends who chain smoke indoors – and that’s okay! it’s their home! I’m a guest! but.. holy fuck. The smell is like an oil slick – it coats everything. I can smell it on my skin, hair, clothes.. it’s awful. I can’t wait to come home and shower and put all my clothing into the washing machine.
(I don’t know how I survived bars in Toronto in the 90s. Was it because I was drunk?)
So, as we’re walking around this house that’s for sale, I am only slightly distracted by the weird room sizes – but I am vividly aware that while the lighting is quite yellowy, the walls and floors are also quite yellowy. Everything smells like rancid smoke. And I start thinking about how, when my grandparents died, my Dad had to hire a professional painter to deal with the interior of their home (which he wanted to sell) because the walls were so heavily coated in sticky, yellow, rancid stank. He tried to apply special primer and watched as the yellow nicotine just oozed right through it. 60+ years of multiple people chain smoking will do that.
We came home after the open house, I changed my clothes and washed myself off and pondered just how different my adult life is, in some ways, from my childhood.
And I wondered who would buy that house for that amount of money.