In my denim skirt, floral blouse and old olive-green flats, I sit beside Scott in a small glass bank office. We are applying for our first mortgage pre-approval. While I whisper my secret salary to the stranger across the desk, soccer moms kick carts of Diet Coke and Cool Ranch Doritos by, peering in on me as if my mortgage application were somehow a reminder of their fat lazy husbands at home who refuse to mow the lawn or take that shit in the basement to the dump like they promised last July. Our bank is inside a grocery store, a florescent, bleach-scented, super-sized grocery store.
"We're going to do what his brother did a few years ago when he bought his first house, which is, we are not going to pay a down payment. There's some special deal for Massachusetts public school teachers with good credit." I explain.
"Oh. I haven't heard of that. But I wouldn't be surprised if it existed." The teller typing our application says. The edges of his lips pointing down, his shoulders jolting upwards.
One week later, we receive the official call from the loan officer. We have been pre-approved for $175,000. A respectable amount of money for someone looking to buy a rare, refurbished 1937 Cadillac; a lot of cocaine; or a healthy Caucasian purebred baby boy. It is not, however, very much for a house.
Soon realtors are involved.
At one homestead, I sing these words to the tune of London Bridge.
This house is falling down, falling down, falling down, this house is falling down, we should leave.
The teacher plan does not exist, we come to find out, and the lowest possible downpayment percentage we could maybe muster would be for 3.5%, which sounds small and innocent, but actually amounts to thousands and thousands of dollars. We do not have thousands and thousands of dollars.
Pretty soon, parents are involved, generously offering to loan us the money for a down payment. We thank them, quietly punching the nerves that jump and flip on our digesting frozen pizza dinners like homeless kids on a floor model trampoline at Sears. And we continue searching and scrolling the internet for sweet little houses and funky downtown condos.
Buy before April 30th to get the first time home owners $8000 tax credit! (Rush, hurry and scurry so that you accidentally buy this dump yard house in this dangerous un-sellable neighborhood of foreclosed houses, which are currently sheltering scary squatting drug dealers and child molesting jailbreaks.) Selling as is. Needs TLC. (Needs Trampy Lady Cocottes to fully transform this pimp's dream into an illegal reality.)
On Saturday, I take $20 out of the ATM, but I nearly shove the bill back into the machine when I look at the receipt. It reads,
Balance: $YOU ARE BROKE.00.
The next day, we see three condos. Afterwards, I carry a bag of collected coins, equalling $6.76, into the grocery store.
"Is milk a necessity?" Scott asks, carrying a small red, plastic basket.
"Many people would say it is. I want it for coffee."
"But coffee isn't a necessity."
"It is to me."
We buy a loaf of pumpernickel bread from the day old bakery shelf for $1.47, along with a mixed bag of bagels for $2.14. Luckily, we still have some butter and jelly at home from before I spontaneously quit my job, which I will explain... I spontaneously quit my job because I could no longer tolerate the squealing noise of my new manager. I was going to become a part time employee. She had said it would be fine, but a week later, after I accepted my new part time job, she changed her mind. I had to quit or stay a full time employee.
"Looks like you have a decision to make." She said in a pitch of pink and yellow polka dots.
"Ok...then I give my two weeks." I said in red, to clash.
Scott wasn't proud of me. I thought he might be. I hoped he would be, but he wasn't. He is far more a realist than an individual rights rallyer. "How are we going to live?" He asked me, flatly frowning.
"I don't know! But I can't work for her anymore!" I yelled to him across the backyard.
My resume and I often say that I cannot stay at one place of employment for very long. I get itchy and aggravated. I don't understand how people can stay at the same job doing the same thing for so many years.
"Ever been homeless?" A young man in the break room asked me after I explained to him my need for frequent flight.
"No." I told him.
"It keeps you from quitting your job."
After shopping, we crunch and crunch the numbers, but eventually we realize that even the smallest six-digit dollar sum is still too stubbornly stiff for us to swallow. What are we thinking? We can't buy a house right now. We can barely afford to buy day-old bread from the Big Ugly Grocery Store's sticky, dusty discounted shelves.