About one month ago …
“Beep-beep, beep-beep, beep-beep.”
I rolled over quickly to grab my phone and turned the alarm off. I had been lying on the bed awake, waiting for it to go off. My head was pounding like a pile driver, my throat was dry as sandpaper, and my sheets were soaked: I was ill. On top of that the hotel had informed me, the night before, that I had to get out of my room within two days. Great, only fourty-eight hours left, and no outlook on any semi-permanent place to settle.
I had viewed a couple of houses in the preceding week. However, by now I had run out of time, energy and willpower: no more viewings. The night before I decided to simply go with the best option so far: the top floor in a family house. I had sent an e-mail to Sophie, the landlord of that place, the night before. So, I closed the alarm application and opened up my e-mail to see if there was anything new. And: yes, I got a response. Since she was out of town her in-laws would take care of business and hand me the key. Their phone number was included.
Hastily, and only half awake, I dialed the number. It was nine and if I’d manage to get out of my hotel room before eleven, I would not have to pay for yet another night. I had spoken to one of the in-laws before: Jack. He had picked me up with his small red car for the initial viewing.
“Hi, this is Jack”
“Hello, good morning, this is Almer, how are you?”
“Doing fine, thanks for asking.”
“Look,” I paused briefly, “I’ve decided to go for your option.”
“Okay, that’s great to hear, you’ll enjoy the place, I am sure.”
“So, where do we go from here? I mean …”
“Let me put on Laura, she handles the details.”
As my nose was clogged I snorted briefly to remove the blockage.
<rumbling as the phone is passed>
“Hi, this is Laura, so you will be the new tenant, great to hear,” she sounded excited. “Where are you now and when do you have time to move?”
“I am in my hotel. Ideally, I’d be out of here by eleven …”
“Okay, hold on,” she interrupted.
<In the background>
“Honey, he needs to be out of his hotel by eleven. Can we make that?”
“Sure, sure,” Jack was still audible, “I can pick him up in the car.”
“Wait, so, let me put Jack back on so he can arrange to pick you up.”
“Hi, so do you have a lot of stuff?”
“No, only a bike, a suitcase, …” I pondered. “Oh yes, and a backpack of course.”
“Okay, no problem, that’ll fit in the car I think, perhaps I should bring the bike mount. I can come and pick you up whenever you’re ready,” he assured. “Just give us a call as soon as you are good to go.”
“Great, thanks. I’ll call you in a bit.”
It was already half past nine. All my stuff was still scattered across the hotel room. I had to be fast: I quickly jumped out of bed, picked up the nearest set of clothes, and put them on. I collected my other pieces of clothing, which were randomly draped over various pieces of furniture, and hastily stuffed them into my suitcase. I went into the bathroom and saw all the stuff that I had neatly laid out there: toothpaste, deodorant, razor, etcetera. Breaking the composition, I put one arm around all of it and shoved it into my toiletry bag. After packing every other thing, and forcing the messy suitcase to close with my knee on it, I started moving my stuff into the hallway. The backpack, the suitcase, and finally: the bike, which I had put in the hotel room next to my bed leaning against the wall. God, I was happy to get out of there: living out of a hotel room is definitely no fun.
I called Jack. He assured me he would be there in five minutes. So, I made my way down to the lobby, moving stuff down in two phases. Checking out was messy due to some confusion over a discount, supposedly that was factored in, but I still felt screwed over for some reason. I went outside with my stuff just as Jack came walking down the driveway.
“Hi, how are you? My car is parked around back”, he pointed. “Let me take your suitcase.”
“I did not bring the bike mount, I think it’ll fit in the back”, he said as we approached his (second) car. It was white and somewhere in between a huge car and a small van. We managed to fit everything inside it quite easily.
As we stepped in the car Jack’s phone rang impatiently. He picked up.
“Yes? we just got in the car, we’re on our way”, he said wile fastening his seatbelt. “Okay, yes, I’ll ask him.”
Jack turned to me, I suppressed a cough.
“What kind of coffee would you like?”
Apparently the person on the other end of the line was Laura, she was walking over to a coffeehouse to get us something to drink. Great, I thought, finally some people who actually try to make you feel welcome. As we drove from the hotel to the house Jack told me a lot of things about the area. Although he was not originally from here, he’d lived in this neighbourhood for a couple of decades. Nearly all his children took residence in this part of the city within walking distance of each other.
“So, if this is a good neighbourhood, what are the bad ones?”, I inquired.
“Places like Homewood, the Hill District, East Liberty”, he replied. “I’d steer clear of those.”
We arrived. The driveway of the house was steep and narrow.
“I am not going to drive up there, I know Sophie and my son Charley can do it easily, not sure how they manage that.”
He parked the car near the sidewalk instead. We walked up, I parked my bike at the back of the huge house after which we entered through the wooden back door into the dining room. The table was full with stacks of unopened mail. Laura looked, got up from where she sat and walked towards me.
“Hello,” she said while extending her arm.
Laura seemed friendly. After she gave the coffee she got for me, I suggested we’d first take care of business. Honestly: I’d never signed a cheque before. It seemed to me like something out of the eighties.
We went through the living room to the stairwell. The suitcase was very heavy as I’d lumped pretty much everything in it. I carried it up the stairs myself, while Jack carried the backpack.
“You’ll like it here. Anyone who’s ever lived up there loved the place”, he reassured as we walked up the final flight of stairs to the apartment.