Table of Contents
ALSO BY RACHEL SIMON
Little Nightmares, Little Dreams
The Magic Touch
The Writer’s Survival Guide
Riding the Bus with My Sister: A True Life Journey
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Published by Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First printing, June 2009
Copyright © 2009 by Rachel Simon
All rights reserved
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Building a home with my husband: a journey through the
renovation of love / by Rachel Simon.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
eISBN : 978-1-101-04650-0
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Husband, Architect, Court Jester
inally, we get married. After nineteen years of one of the most ridiculous courtships in the history of love, I move back in with Hal, and five days later, on a sunny May afternoon, I put on my wedding gown, he dons a suit, and we walk hand-in-hand through the city streets until we reach the justice of the peace. Hal is forty-nine, I am forty-one. Having survived every phase of dating, cohabiting, breaking up, and renewing, we are more in love when we say “I do” than I’ve ever believed possible. For the next three years we savor laughter and relief, conversation and contentment. This is it, I think, I finally understand love, and I want this to last forever.
But then one January afternoon, the next phase of our journey suddenly begins.
I do not know this when I step onto the front porch of our row house that day and pull the wooden door shut behind me. The sun is bright as it reflects off the snowdrifts on either side of our quiet, tree-lined street, so I keep my gaze down as I cross the single lane to my car, my thoughts on the flight I’m about to catch. This is why I will never know if I am alone on the block that afternoon, or if, as I unlock my car, I am being watched.
But when I look back on this moment, I realize that eyes must have been hiding in the shadows of one of the slender alleys on our street, listening to the
beep beep beep
of our house’s security system, following my actions as I lower my suitcases into my trunk. Maybe they even scoped out my routine over the last many months, so they’re aware that I’m a writer about to fly across the country for a speaking engagement. Of course, it’s possible they’ve only canvassed our street since this morning but still saw Hal leave for work, blueprints in his bag. However long they’ve spied,
premeditation must have been necessary. After all, ours isn’t just a neighborhood of nine-to-fivers, but also in-the-home artists, blue collars sleeping off the night shift, and retirees watching TV. And although I find our house unbearably snug, its two-and-a-half stories, with basement, bath, and seven tiny rooms have lodged large families over its hundred-year life. There’s no way of assuming that once we’ve departed, the house will be empty.
Yet my spy remains a puzzle. Hal and I live on a lightly traveled block of row houses in the small city of Wilmington, Delaware. Pedestrians and vehicles pass only occasionally, except for rush hour, when the thirteen households come and go, and the banking and credit card professionals who work in the nearby skyscrapers deposit or retrieve their cars at the unmetered curb. But there is a delay of an hour after I drive off. Is the wait because the little boy across the street is making a snowman on the sidewalk? Are the many neighborhood dog walkers enjoying impromptu chats at the corner? Or does the course of our lives get rerouted not by design, but whim?
All we know is that at two thirty, while my bags are being screened by airport security, he—and I will take the liberty of assigning a gender and a solitary status—leaps out of his life and lands on our sidewalk. Immediately he rejects a hustle up our seven steps to the wooden front door with its beveled glass window, sure it’ll be deadbolted. He dismisses a dash down the alley along the western side of the house, rightly knowing the rickety back door is locked, too.
Why bother, when there’s a ragged basement door in the front?
He darts down the three steps from the sidewalk. The door is splintered, peeling, wiggly in its frame. He gives a hard shove. The rotted casing gives way, and he’s in.
Beep beep beep.
The security system starts counting: forty-five seconds until the alarm.
He tears past basement storage and a dank laundry room, up steep angled steps, into the kitchen. He takes in the decrepit stove, caramel-sticky cabinets, floor the color of tooth decay.
He scrambles through a doorway into the dining room. Nothing but a table piled with newspapers, walls lined with Ikea cabinets, the kind of organ found in old chapels.
He scurries ahead to the living room. A motley assemblage of used furniture, bricked-up fireplace, massive collection of CDs, library of books,
a bulky TV.
Models of buses on the mantel. Figurines from
The Wizard of Oz
. Would this junk even sell on eBay?
Up the stairs he flies. To the left is a pitiful-looking bathroom tiled in hazard-sign black and yellow. He barrels through the hall, throwing open a door halfway down. The room’s crammed with more books, records—
exercise machines, laundry. What a mess. The door for the back bedroom opens to an unmade bed, two cats quivering beneath. Hand-me-down cabinets. No jewelry box, no fur, no designer labels, no flashy knickknacks. Of all the houses he could’ve hit, why’d he pick this loser? One more possibility on this floor. Feet sprinting over the crappy green carpet back down the hall, he throws himself into the front bedroom. Only—it’s a home office. Jammed to the ceiling with shelves, file cabinets, storage units, desks, copier—and a laptop!
The sound comes up: ear-splitting, heart-wrenching, security-company alerting. Out, get out. No: take a peek at the third floor. He whips around the corner, up the stairs. It’s one room, bright with windows, crammed with electric guitars, bass guitars, weirdo guitarlike instruments, computers, amplifiers, homemade electric drum set, microphones. Way too much to unplug.
Laptop in hand, he tears down two flights of stairs, hurls through the living room, dining room, kitchen, dives into the basement, laughs with victory as he reaches the open door—
And sees a workshop. Table saw, power drill, plywood. Lookie here: a new router.
Router in one hand, laptop in the other, he rockets outside. Down the alley, into the backyard, over the fence, onto the street. The alarm shrieking in vain behind him.