Mike had escaped his ex-girlfriend and needed a place to live. I lived in a house with a dog and a huge crush on Mike, neither of which required much space. We were at a tenuous moment in our courtship, and I felt keeping Mike near would cement our bond. To me, the answer to his housing problem seemed as obvious as the empty drawer in my bureau, but he thought it tacky to move from one girl’s house right into another’s.
Luckily for Mike, stalkers can be quite helpful. I told him he could stay with me, temporarily, while I helped him find an apartment. I used the word “temporarily” quite a bit during these negotiations, which of course is Smitten Kitten Speak for “until death do us part.”
I further eased Mike’s reluctance by explaining the whole process would be beneficial to me, because he would be there to help me eat the big, delicious dinners I cooked for myself every night for no apparent reason. And, bonus: I had just read a book that proposed giving nightly back rubs could increase typing speed. Finally, I would have a back on which to test this theory. What a relief.
Mike could see it was a clear win-win situation.
I emptied out a closet and hid anything that could be perceived as a “shrine” so as to avoid spooking my nervous beau. Photos taken during our first date, photos of our second date, photos taken while he wasn’t looking using a high-powered telescopic lens; I put away all these cherished mementos. Spiders don’t hang Christmas lights on their webs.
A few days of co-habitation went by with no mention of the apartment search. I don’t remember if we were eating a slow-roasted chicken or perfectly medium rare steak, but I do recall the fork hanging on Mike’s adorable lip one evening as he scanned the room as if he’d never noticed it before. He’d spotted the pile of mail, each envelope sporting my name. It reminded him that this was my house, not his.
I’d meant to move that.
“I need to start looking for my apartment,” he said.
“Oh sure,” I agreed. “Hey, how about those Raiders?”
“Of course! Hey, how was work?”
“It was fine, but we need to start looking for an apartment…”
“Naturally! Hey, is that a hummingbird outside?”
My diversionary tactics would last a few more days before Mike officially started the apartment hunt.
The first apartment I found for him promised a large bedroom and a porch. The car barely slowed as we rolled by the dismal brick box situated in one of the sketchier neighborhoods. Rust stains oozed down the walls and the stairwell sported drying clothes draped over the handrails. It looked just as depressing as when I’d scoped it out the day before.
I told Mike that most apartments in his price range would look something like this. He didn’t believe me. But he also didn’t ask to go in.
Que the back rub.
Que the fabulous home-cooked dinner.
The next place was right on Main Street. The idea of downtown living had him giddy. The apartment was small but doable. The rent was large and not.
“Maybe I could make it work?” he mumbled.
“It is WAY out of your price range,” I told him. “Shame. I should have never even brought you here.”
Que the back rub.
Que the fabulous home-cooked dinner.
The last apartment sat atop a garage behind an old lady’s home. It was nearly Christmas, and Mike’s potential landlord had more glowing reindeer on her lawn than the entire herd population of Norway. By the time Mike and I started up the stairs to the apartment, the blinking multi-colored lights on her porch had burned star-bursts upon our retinas. I would have nightmares about the gyrating Santa for a week.
Unlike the landlord’s taste in holiday decorations, the apartment was perfect. It was in Mike’s price range. It was close to downtown.
I started growing nervous.
“It seems pretty nice,” said Mike.
I grunted, desperately searching for reasons to hate the place.
“It’s pretty close to downtown; it’s in my price range…”
I opened the cabinet under the sink praying for mice. Nothing.
“Oh you’ll love it!” said the Landlord, lurking just inside the door.
Mike nodded. “It’s pretty much what I need…”
Landlord clapped her hands with glee.
“And here’s the best part!” she said. “I’ll be right THERE!”
She pointed to her own home, just a few steps down the driveway, glowing like the sun, brought to you by Target.
I felt a pin-light of hope pierce my heavy heart.
“Go on…” I said.
“You remind me of my son,” Landlord continued. “I can bring you dinners up here when I make the crock pot meals!”
I covered my mouth to keep from yelping with joy. Fear flashed in Mike’s eyes.
“No, I wouldn’t need dinner…” he stammered.
“Oh no trouble at ALL!” said Landlord. “I can stop by any time! I’m RIGHT THERE!”
I fought the urge to high-five Landlord. She couldn’t have ended this interview faster if she’d confessed to being a serial killer in the process of building herself a Polish Guy suit. Mike would never live in an apartment where a housecoated woman sporting a crock pot could appear at his door at any given moment.
“Well, we’ll get back to you, thanks so much!” said Mike, moving toward the exit. I followed.
“Thank you,” I said, shaking Landlord’s hand as I passed. “Seriously. Thank you.”
That was the last apartment we ever viewed.
We still drive by that house at Christmas and laugh. Nearly as loud as I laugh when Mike asks whatever happened to nightly back rubs.
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