In the morning I found him sleeping on the coach, legs dangling haphazardly off the cushions, his toes nearly touching the carpet, his breath bouncing off the patterned throw pillow I had sewn and stuffed myself last fall. I could see a pool of saliva, white and crusty, on its surface. I’m going to have to wash that pillow, I thought to myself. He was wrapped in our down blanket. It was 4am. I had woken up freezing with just a sheet covering my knees.

“Jerk!” I said under my breath. I considered stealing the blanket back but he looked too peaceful. Instead I turned the heat on and lazily made my way back upstairs.

We had gotten into a fight. It all started last night before bed.

“You know,” He told me “the starting salary for a nurse it 60,000 dollars and the nursing program only takes three years.”

“I don’t want to be nurse.” I told him “have you forgotten the time Andrew needed stitches. Do you remember how I could barely keep it together? I couldn’t even look at my own helpless little child due to all that blood. No thanks. Not my cup of tea.”

“I’m just saying, it’s a lot of money.”

“Why do we need to have a lot of money?” I asked him “Nursing is not my dream job, it’s not even on my top 50, my top 1,000, it’s nowhere on there. I have an idea, why don’t you become doctor.”

“I would love to be a doctor.” He smiles

“You’re lying. You love your job. Don’t you want me to love my job?”

“Well, stop pestering me about buying a house!” He told me

“You have got to be kidding me, I am not pestering you. I don’t even care about buying a house. Home ownership is overrated. We would have to move to East County again.” I say

“Not if you were a nurse, we could buy a house by the ocean”

“I want to punch you!” I told him while rolling over so that he would get the message that I was done talking about this.

Just last week we had made a spread sheet. A spread sheet for god’s sake, something I never do! That sort of thing is for planners, people who keep band-aids in their purses and have spotless car interiors. I’m not big on making plans because I never seem to stick to them. I can barely keep dinner plans so the idea of making future life altering decisions is huge.

The spread sheet lists all the classes I need to complete at Mesa before transferring to the University of San Diego San Marcos. I am so close to finishing. I am just a handful of math and science classes away.

My dream is to teach first grade. Actually, my dream is to write for a living, a sitcom preferably, but I am realistic in realizing that I have a slim chance in reaching that goal. Teaching sounds great, terrific even. I love the 6-7 age where kids are first discovering who they are. They learn how to read and write and are so excited about their new skill. It’s such a magical time in childhood.

I figure I can write on the side and submit articles here and there. It’s perfect. I am really excited over my future; for once I can see it clearly.

So when Aaron tells me that I should become a nurse I am livid. The sticking to a plan, creating a spread sheet thing, that was all him and now he wants me to change things up. It was infuriating.

I knew what this was really about. It was about the house we looked at in El Cajon over Christmas break. It was near the home we rented when our boys were toddlers, before our daughter was even part of our lives. It was a tidy little neighborhood at the base of Fletcher Hills. Back then we told ourselves that one day we would buy a home in the same neighborhood.

So when Aaron found a 2100 square foot, four bedroom, three bath, house in Fletcher Hills in our price range, we called our local realtor to have a look. The night before Aaron did the math and told me that our mortgage would be the same as we are paying now coupled with our kid’s school tuition. If we took them out of private school and sent them to public school we could swing it.

The next morning we pulled up to the house. I love it immediately. The landscaping is pretty. It is nuzzled on a hill. The view is great. The homes on the street are well manicured and the next door neighbors have a pool.

“We will befriend them first.” I whispered to Aaron about the pool neighbors. I pictured myself wearing my gingham apron knocking on their door while balancing a plate of brownies effortless in one hand. We would all become instant friends I thought to myself. Our kids would ride thier bikes together to the local park, we would have barbeques and go on summer camping trips together.

When the realtor unlocked the doors to the home and ushered us in I was nearly knocked down by the odor. It smelled like the 1970’s. The scent can best be described as stale bong water and mold. Not cute.

The décor matched the scent. The carpets were dingy, the walls cracked, It appeared nothing had been updated in over 30 years. The kitchen had particle board cabinets and Formica counter tops. There was something growing on the wall in the upstairs bathroom.

Despite everything I forced myself to see its potential. I still loved it. The upstairs master bedroom had a huge porch that looked out over the yard and across the city. I imagined sitting on that porch first thing every morning, drinking coffee and reading while the house was still quiet. There was a huge closet with a sitting area. I pictured my clothes neatly lined up and organized in the closet with a special section devoted solely to my shoe collection.

The fireplace in the living room was so old that it actually had a trendy mod vibe to it. I saw all 5 of us sitting on the floor in front of a warm fire playing monopoly with our oldest son acting as the banker as usual.

The backyard was amazing. It was like a forest. I could picture the kids back there building tree houses and pretending to be Tom Sawyer, Huck Fin, and Rebecca Thatcher. This could be our home I thought. For moment I wanted it to be ours so badly that I didn’t care about the 2 inches of mold growing on the wall of the master bathroom.

When we got back into the car I professed my love for the house.

“We need to put an offer on it before someone snatches it up” I told Aaron.

He looked at me as if I were crazy.

He laughed, “You're kidding, right? That place is a nightmare; there were cracks in the ceiling. I doubt it would pass a home inspection plus it stinks in there.”

“It just needs some paint and new flooring, a new kitchen countertop, and appliances. It’s amazing! It’s my dream house.”

“That’s your dream house, really? If we moved into that place we wouldn’t be able to afford to fix it up. We would have to live in it like that, with the mold and gross carpets and everything.”

And so began a thirty minute fight that lasted until we finally arrived home. I knew I was being an ass. It was just that the idea of that home was such a dream for me, the neighborhood, the yard, the blue house with a pretty view. I was in love and couldn’t get over the idea of Aaron being so sensible.

“We can look at other houses. There are so many places in our price range right now. Better ones even” He told me

“No, I don’t want to look at houses anymore. It’s too heartbreaking.”
I could hear the words coming out of my mouth, the annoying, obnoxious, dramatic whining words leaping off my tongue and forcing their way into the air before I could stop them. Aaron was getting annoyed with me. I was getting annoyed with myself. Despite myself, I kept on ranting.

“You're afraid to buy a house; it’s too much of a risk for you. You can’t do it. You never will.” I tell Aaron

I am an ass. I need to shut up but I see the dream of the backyard tree house and swimming in the neighbor's pool start to vanish. It’s too much for me and I cannot shut up about it.

"This is just like that time I took you car shoping and you were almost sobbing because I didn't buy that one Toyota piece of crap used car you wanted so badly. Do you remember we ended up getting the station wagon, the car that could properly fit our kids and dog!" by now he's yelling. "you should just trust me!"

He's right. I know he is. Iam being irrational. I always fall in love too quickly.

Luckily, both Aaron and I have short attention spans and never stick to anger for much longer then we need to. Within the hour we are laughing about whether or not bong scent can be marketed and bottled. “Who wants to live all the way out in El Cajon anyway, the kids will start buying four wheelers and we will have to purchase one of those trailers and spend our weekends at the desert like the rest of the east county population does.” Aaron says trying to cheer me up. I know he’s right. I’m just not ready to admit that the house was all wrong for us.

Nearly a month later the blue house incident is still haunting us. I still haven’t apologized. I should. Now, weeks later Aaron has become preoccupied with the idea of my future career. I know he really isn’t. Instead, he is trying to put pressure on me so I know how it feels. He’s getting back at me for saying that he is afraid to buy a home.

At 6 am the alarm goes off. Our bedroom radio blares a San Diego morning talk show. They are discussing Schwenggar's promise to not make any education budget cuts in 2010. I roll over and hit snooze. I am still freezing. I decide to go downstairs. I snuggle up with Aaron on the coach.

“Sorry.” I tell him


“I’m sorry about that stupid blue house we looked at over Christmas. You were right it needs too much work. I was being a brat. You were being sensible and smart. I know we will find the perfect house but for now I love where we live.”

“I know” He whispers “but just think what we can buy when you’re a nurse.”

I elbow him in the ribs and we both laugh.

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shedrinkscoffee Jan. 12, 2010 @ 9:48 p.m.

Siobhan- I, too, have been house hunting in the greater El Cajon/La Mesa area to no avail. I thoroughly enjoyed your description of the dream house with 2 inches of mold, but retro kitch nonetheless. It seems the residents in Fletcher Hills did nothing but keep their old money in the bank in lieu of maintaining these properties.

P.S. not all of us are desert rats ;)


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