i am a believer in signs. i admit it’s an indefensible belief, admit that if i’m being completely rational, i’d have to agree that most things we think of as “signs” could simply be coincidence. even so, i believe. if i have a tough decision to make, i look to the Universe for a clue. maybe it’s silly, but it often seems that if something is meant to work out, it usually does so with a degree of ease–and plenty of signs. and when i ignore this–when i fight against whatever the energy of what a particular situation is telling me, when there are no signs, i’m usually sorry. so i watch for the signs, irrational or not.
it soon became clear that if we were actually going to buy the barrio house, we were going to need a hell of a lot of signs.
because as charmed as we’d been by our first glimpse of the courtyard, the rest of the house was a mess. the rooms were filled with various odds and ends–including a couch in the kitchen which had a huge, reddish stain that we really didn’t care to investigate too closely–a somewhat decrepit stove (in the living room), numerous, mis-matched old doors and, in one room, so many old ceiling (?) boards that we couldn’t get in to take a look. and then of course there was the lack of services–no electrical and vitally no plumbing, either–and the walls, one of which, off the zaguan had essentially melted into a huge mound of dirt on the floor–you had to step over it to get from one side of the house to the other. all of this stood under a sheet metal roof that appeared to have just been thrown over the top. we’d done enough remodeling in the past to have an inkling of what we were looking at: the mother of all renovation projects.
still–like the yard–the house had charm. even filthy and filled with debris, there was something there. the great american architect louis kahn spoke of how buildings have both the measurable–the size of the doors, for instance–and the immeasurable. the immeasurable is the essence of a structure: the thing you often can’t put into words.
and the house, well, the house had the immeasurable.
there remained, however, the ridiculous price to contend with. while it had gone down considerably since i’d first looked it up (even i’m not that crazy), it was evident that when it came to dollars the owners were rather stubborn. by the time we looked at it, the house had been on the market for nearly nine years.
“they’re waiting for a sucker” our real estate agent, susan denis, said. “i mean, i don’t mean you’re a sucker” she backpedaled hastily. but it was true–i was a sucker. chris and i were both suckers for even contemplating making an offer.
though of course we offered anyway–not anywhere near list price, but not low-ball either. and then we had word there was another offer, from people who’d looked at the house just the morning before.
i was immediately on the phone with susan, in a panic. she, i could tell, was nearly in a panic herself on our behalf. we discussed a radical move–writing in an escalation clause that said we would beat any other offer. after some discussion, though, we dismissed the idea. chris and i were good buyers, she pointed out, and we’d made a decent offer. we should let it stand.
it all made sense. and it was killing me. i sat by the phone, waiting for word from susan on what was going on. the sellers had a meeting scheduled for five o’clock to discuss the two offers. five came and went and still no word. susan kept emailing me with updates: they’d been delayed, they’d just gone in, they were talking now. while i waited i did what any believer in signs would do: i consulted my magic-8 ball. “it says ‘outlook good’ i wrote to susan. she replied “you have a magic-8 ball. okay, i’m going to go pull a tarot card.” a few minutes later she sent me the result: it was gaia, the earth goddess.
not long afterwards she was calling to tell me we had an accepted offer. we had an accepted offer!
but now came the hard part: trying to decide if we should go through with it. because even though we had an accepted offer, we still had to decide if we could actually afford the renovation. we asked for–and got–a month-long inspection period. then we began trooping in architects and contractors.
the figures we got back were, in a word, alarming. in the past, we’d bought houses in price ranges well below what we could have afforded. this, it soon became clear, wasn’t going to be that. while it looked like we might be able to swing the necessary work, it was also clear that doing so was going to strain us financially in ways no other house had before.
we pow-wowed with our financial advisor. although he didn’t think we’d be completely damaging our monetary future, his projections–like all such projections–were filled with “ifs”. it wasn’t exactly reassuring.
and so: signs. the thing is: i’ve never seen so many signs all in one place. they seemed to be everywhere in the house. there were, for example, the 13s. thirteen is my lucky number (i’m reclaiming it from the demons), and a vast majority of the thirteen rooms of the main part of the house are 13×13 (add to this the fact that chris was born on the 13th of january). then there was the fact that when we investigated a table in the room i’d already decided would be my office, we discovered it was an old, architectural drafting table–i am currently studying architecture. then there were the house numbers–over the years, the house has actually had a bunch of numbers associated with it, but the main ones seemed to be 560 and 576. add the six and seven in the the second number together and you get, yes, another thirteen (okay, if you add them all you get eighteen, but indulge me, okay?). add all the numbers of the first number together and you get eleven–which is my birthdate.
maybe the weirdest of all, though, was a small ceramic wall hanging i managed to overlook for weeks until one day i noticed it on the wall of the kitchen: it depicted an archer over the word “sagittarius,” which is, you guessed it, my astrological sign.
i can’t say such things were the only factor i weighed (chris thinks it’s all bunk, so he didn’t weigh any of them), but certainly they didn’t hurt. if you’re going to do something completely irrational, why not base it on irrationality?
so we bought the house. our closing date was march 20th, a date the sellers had chosen, not me. it was the equinox, the first day of spring.