The street that night was dark and quiet and still. It was December 22 so you would assume that the glow of the Christmas lights would make you feel cheery inside.
The purpose of the trip was to find a new place to live. In a matter of days my boyfriend and I had decided to move, and when you find a nice place online you strike while the iron is hot. We had lined up 3 appointments to see places which were all within 4 blocks of each other. And so we had tackled the first hurdle: we were in consensus on location.
At 9:00 PM we sat waiting for our last scheduled appointment. We had turned the car off and you could hear it creaking and settling into the cold that was that specific December night. Snow had already piled up along the curbs of the street and I felt stuffy sitting in a winter coat. The car was positioned a few driveways down from the house and I had turned around in my seat in order to keep an eye out for the landlord who was to show the place. There was a single light casting a cylinder of yellow light over the porch at number 590 MacClaren Street.
Around 9:10 a car pulled up and parked on the small lawn in front of the house. The man who got out of the car moved quickly, so I think he knew he was late. We met him on the porch. As far as landlords go, he was fairly clean-cut, not shady looking in the least, and he had a calm and placid demeanor about him. He introduced himself and then Bob pulled a massive janitor style ring of keys from his leather coat pocket.
“Sorry,” he said as he fumbled with the key ring, “I only bought the property a few months ago and I never remember which key it is.”
Inside the apartment which was on the first floor of the three-story 150 year old home, the features were beautiful: hardwood flooring, marble fire-place, bay windows with stain glass trim and a kitchen with lots of counter space. The entire space was vacant, clean and odorless. We asked about the inhabitants of the other two stories. Bob explained to us that the existing tenants had been transferred to him through the sale of the house. On the third floor lived a younger couple, and directly above, a retired single woman. “What are the other tenants like?” I asked
“Oh, I’ve never met them,” he told me. “But the real estate agent told me they are quite lovely and quiet.”
We also talked about the kitchen. I said to both of them that the stove was too small, and Bob answered that other people had commented about the same thing.
“If its a problem I have no qualms with replacing it.” he said
The hallway beyond the kitchen was narrow and it led first to a large bedroom before jack-knifing to the left. The entry-way to continue beyond was through a propped open bolt lock door. Beyond this opening revealed another jack-knife turn to the right. The ceiling lights along the hallway had an almost brown glare and the floor was lined with thin beige carpet. As we turned to continue to the right I felt as if the square of light shining into the corridor behind us was the exit of a dark tunnel – and we were leaving this glow behind us to follow a path which lead deeper into a darkness. Halfway down this part of the hallway I poked my head into a bathroom. Full amenities; nothing special to comment on. Continuing past the bathroom the hallway led to two more rooms. The three of us moved into the room on the right and I inspected the closet and built-in armoires. It was a big room and the air was completely still. The bedroom beside it was similar, with another set of built-in drawers and a big window. At this point Bob offered some information about the unit.
“The previous owner wasn’t in town often. She rented out the front of this unit and stayed in the back when she needed too. I think she used a hot plate to cook on and really only stayed for the weekends. It was more of a place to crash.”
I pictured her cooking canned food on a hot plate in the room we were standing in. And then passing out drunk on a sagging bed in the corner. I couldn’t imagine any art work on the walls or any conversations taking place around a folding table with friends. I couldn’t really picture the previous owner either. For a second I contemplated her as a younger working woman. And then as a middle-aged spinster. Neither seemed bang on.
My boyfriend and Bob walked back down the long hallway towards the front conjoined dining and living room and I could hear them talking quietly about the place. I returned to the other back bedroom on my own.
To be continued.