You walk up the brick steps to the front door and wait for the woman at your left elbow to use her key. She pushes the heavy, freshly-painted door open and steps back, makes a little voila’ flourish with her arm. Lets you enter first.
You stand, shut your eyes, and breathe deep. Does this house have a good smell? Does it smell like family – dinner, bleach, and clean dog? You can’t tell if it smells like family. You shake your head. So not sure. It doesn’t smell like your family, you know that much.
You walk a few steps further. There’s a living room to your right. You’ve never shopped for a house alone before. The kids are so old; they’ll only be with you a few more years. You really should be thinking about what you like. What do you like? Who knows? You take seven steps – seven is your lucky number – which carry you to the middle of the room.
You twirl in a circle, a giddy Mary-Tyler-Moore move that makes the woman with you laugh, though she doesn’t say anything. You appreciate that she doesn’t say anything. Maybe she understands that you need to do this void of anyone else’s opinions. Maybe she also bought her first house at fifty.
You stop, and look around you, and notice the two unadorned windows on either side of the fireplace are double-hung, and frame lilac bushes. The mantle is wide and white; big enough for a thick scented candle. The floor is wood and weathered from a thousand steps.
“Who lived here?” you ask, hoping to discern from her answer the karma of this settled-in house.
“A family,” she answers, and then adds, “I don’t know too much about them.
You breeze through the kitchen, mostly white and fully functional and pleasant enough. You haven’t cooked a meal in weeks.
You turn right down a long hallway, at the end of which is stairs. “Mind if I go up alone?” you ask the woman.
She shakes her head.
The bedroom at the top of the stairs has windows all around and a lovely alcove overlooking the back yard, perfect for a desk and maybe even space for a sofa or easy chair. Up here, you’d be on top of the world, alone. Maybe it would be okay to be alone. You take another deep breath, and smell, through the open windows, the faint scent of the lilacs outside the living room windows below.
You picture the bed. Here. All in white. And the desk over there, with a cup full of pens on it. You peek into the bathroom; white and clear just like the kitchen.
You can do this, you think.
“How many more bedrooms?” you ask, loudly, from the top of the stairs.
“Two more bedrooms, each with its own bath. Down here, to the left,” the woman answers.
“I’ll take it,” you say, before the woman can even turn to face you. And you smile.