I stood on a brown front porch, rang the doorbell, and waited for the door to open. Nothing. I decided to simply call the guy I was supposed to meet.
“Hi, this is Almer, I am at your front door.”
“Ah, don’t worry, I’ll be right down.”
A young chap in his early twenties opened the door.
“Hi, I’m Jason, come in,” he extended his hand to shake mine.
I entered, the place looked quite posh.
“Should I take my shoes off?”, I asked.
“No man, the girls may care about that, but I don’t”, he said dismissively.
The front living room was large with a big table and several chairs arranged on a carpet. Several cabins and tables were neatly tucked in various corners. There was a huge stairwell in the middle of the room. However, instead of going up we first walked around it to reveal the back part of the living room. It contained a number of benches, sofas and a flat screen television.
“The mother of one of my roommates is an interior decorator,” Jason added.
That explains it. We passed into the next section of the house.
“So, this is the kitchen,” he spun on his feet.
“We have a small backyard too, with some herbs.”
I peered through the window. The number of spices down there would make even Jamie Oliver jealous.
He took me down to the basement where there was a large pool table, and finally upstairs to the bedrooms.
“So, this would be your room, it’s actually the largest.”
“So, it’s unfurnished, right?”, I asked.
“Yes, but I could leave some of my stuff here, and we can move a queen size bed in if you’d want that.”
“Great, let me know if you’d like to have anything for that.”
“No problem man, you can have it, we’re all here to help each other.”
Okay, I thought: that was friendly.
“So, I’d be renting it for only a couple of months, that’s not a problem?”
“No man, it’s okay, you can crash here for as long or short as you’d like.”
“Okay, but, so you’re moving out and the two girls would stay, correct?”
“Yes, exactly. I am moving to Bloomfield, since most of my friends live there. This is a fine place though, the girls are relaxed.”
We walked downstairs.
We stood at the table in the front part of the living room. Jason turned to me.
“Unfortunately, the girls couldn’t be here right now, but we can set up an appointment with them if you’d want.”
“Yes, that’d be great, because when you’re living together it’s quite important to have some chemistry,” I advocated.
“Yeah, I feel you man, I’ll contact them so we can set up a time for that.”
“Great, let me know.”
I was about to head out.
“Oh, one thing.”
“The girls really value tidiness and cleanliness, so I am not sure if you’re like that, but: emphasize it a bit if you can.”
“Sure, sure, thanks for the advice.”
This seemed like a great place. I was quite enthusiastic. The girls would be there the next morning, so I mounted my bike at ten past nine. Unfortunately, the climb towards the house was a bit more intensive than I had anticipated, so I arrived about ten minutes later then I was supposed to: out of breath, sweaty and with a pounding headache. Frak, this was going to leave a bad impression. I checked my phone, there was an SMS from Jason: “Make me proud man”.
Same house, same brown porch. I rang the doorbell. A plump girl with curly brown hair opened this time.
“Hi, I’m Donna.”
“Hey Donna, I’m Almer, sorry I’m late.”
I went inside and took off my backpack and helmet.
“You’ve already seen the house, right?”
“Would you like something to drink?”
“Water would be great,” I understated: the bike journey had dried me up.
We chitchatted in the back part of the living room. Donna seemed friendly, if somewhat distant.
“So, you grew up here in Squirrel Hill?”
“Yes, been living here all my life.”
Someone was stumbling to open the front door. The person came in, out of view, and sprinted up the stairs.
“Kaaaaarrreeen”, Donna called out.
“Yeeeahs”, came down.
“Do you have a minute? Could you come down?”, Donna shouted.
“Yeeeahs, in a bit.”
She came down: a tall thin girl with short black hair. She looked confused.
“Hi, I am Karen,” she peered at me with jittery eyes.
“I am Almer, nice to meet you.”
“So, you’re here for the room, right?” she said in a flat business-like tone.
“So, I know Jason put it up for five-twenty-five, but it really should be six hundred. I mean, I am not sure if you’re okay with that. It’s her house though,” she pointed and looked at Donna, “your choice.”
I didn’t respond to this as I didn’t think we’d reached that stage quite yet.
“Sorry, I am in a hurry,” Karen continued while she fumbled with her shirt.
“One thing: are you gay friendly?”, she asked.
I was prepared for strange questions, like “what Smurf would you be” or “what would you take to an uninhabited island”, but this flabbergasted me. I honestly couldn’t care less about my housemates’s sexual orientation.
“He’s from Holland”, Donna quickly interrupted – apparently she held the belief Dutch people are by definition gay friendly.
Karen left to pick up something in an other room.
“I am sorry,” Donna said, “but her grandmother just passed away.”
“Okay, that’s pretty bad,” I nodded.
Karen was preparing and dressing up for the funeral and therefore in a hurry. Donna had to leave the room, Karen came back to pack her suitcase. She didn’t say a word, neither did I: I didn’t feel like it. Although I understood and sympathized with her situation, she’d been pretty rude and abrasive and somewhat succeeded in alienating me. Why take it out on me anyway?
Donna returned a bit later.
“So, where are you living right now?”
“In a hotel.”
“You’ve been living out of a hotel? Wow, that must be really hard,” she looked compassionate.
“It’s not the most pleasant thing, no,” I replied arms crossed.
“As I understand you’d be here for only a couple of months correct?”
“Yes, until about December.”
“Okay, you’re obviously a great guy, but we’re looking for someone who’d stay a bit longer”, a mixed expression of sorrow and regret appeared on her face. I was not going to get this, but by this point I kind of felt okay with it.
She guided me out of the front door.
“We will call you before the end of the week, is that okay?”
“Sure, please do, I have to get out of my hotel or extend by then, so please let me know.”
They never called.
Note: names and locations have been altered to protect the privacy of the people involved.