Waking up at 6am to the house you cleaned yourself is an experience I recommend to anyone.
I spent the three-hour twilight yesterday on my knees, bleaching the desert scurf from between the floor tiles. The pads of my fingers smart from the abrasive persistence they exerted against territory historically occupied by oil, sugar, mold, and dog hair.
But it was worth it. The surfaces, clean and white, glow appreciatively back at me, offering a grey-blue foil to the blaze that is already building on the eastern horizon.
Even the homemade fly trap I made, at Jamie’s direction, with raisins and vinegar, has worked, and the air is purged of all the fruit flies from the fusty kombucha jar (not mine) and the emptied beer cans stacked against the wall.
The only fly in my ointment, then, is the clots of hair that cling to the baseboards, and the dogs who remain to drop it.
My affinity for animals is an exception, rather than a rule, and yesterday one of them–Hank–tried to bite me when I was redirecting him through the bathroom to stay off the still-wet kitchen floor.
But Hank is leaving soon, so I feel guilty begrudging him his bad attitude, or his snoring, or his stentorian explusion of hairballs. He is old, and likely feels the insecurity of his impending move. His owner recently broke up with the lady of the house.
I thought something might be amiss when she said to get in touch with her “roommate” for the house key. Last time I was here in April, there was no roommate–there was only Him and Her. With photos of Him as a child on the refrigerator, and Her family silver on the table. Now She is on a road trip, and He is walking armloads of books and neckties out to this car, one after another.
It’s a beautiful house they live in. A plaque beside the door registers its historic acclaim: the Hoelzen house, built in 1925, in the Coronado district which is just a few blocks from the light rail that I can’t help wondering whether anyone uses.
I remember coming here last April–it was around ten, but it didn’t feel that late. It didn’t feel that hot, either–I wonder if that’s because I expected it to. I remember the surprise with which I saw this 1920s bungalow house parked in the middle of a prefab faux-adobe wasteland. Vincent told me that it is one of many Craftsman-style houses built specifically for Phoenix, to maximize air flow and shade in the decades before air conditioning.
I remember drinking Bulleit bourbon and eating sweet potatoes with ketchup that Laurel makes herself under the low-spreading palo verde tree in their backyard, with its dry tulip-shaped white flowers dropping into my drink, the moon making weird and fragile sculpture from the stalks of bolted onions and lettuce in their garden bed.
I remember the delight of getting in the deep end of the conversational pool with all the Johnnies…I hadn’t been with so many, in so long, since homecoming, and this had none of the self-consciousness, since they all live and work here and thrive within the context they’ve found to exercise their educations.
I remember feeling in my head the displacement of the intellectual pool as I entered it, as secretly companionable a feeling as I imagine it would be for a nudist to join a ocmmunal hot tub.
I remember wondering how do you get to this sort of place in your life. (She and He and the rest of them are only in their earliest of 20s.) If it’s something you luck into once, or else never. Or if it’s like a job, where you have to work your way up by starting small and gradually progressing toward creating a life with someone who wants to create the same things in the world with you.
I would like to live in a place like this. I would. So I’m glad that I get to, for a couple of weeks. But I can’t get used to it, because She will be home in a few days, and it will be her house, that I’m merely staying in.