Exactly one week before our lease came up, my sister and I began to leisurely search for a new rental. We had the, apparently audacious, ambition that our new home would be better than our old, over-priced shoebox…five weeks later, our spirits had been decimated by the 100th rejection and we had compromised on everything. Now all we wanted was a house with walls and a slop bucket. It was (as the prophet Dickens had predicted) the worst of times and I distinctly remember the day I completely lost my mind.
I saw a house advertised in our price-range, in our area and it didn’t look great but it….well it just didn’t look great. I shielded myself from logical doubt and obligingly rode my bike to the inspection, maniacally optimistic. The house stood in a bleak industrial area, which was the first red flag that I chose to ignore. It was at the end of a row of warehouses, all of which were likely piled high with human body parts.
Oh well, industry is good for the economy, I thought. It’s probably like the meat-packing district Samantha moves to in Sex and the City, where she has that turf war with the transvestite prostitutes…that was a fun episode. They have a roof-top party in the end. Hmm I don’t think any buses go to this area so…oh my, that…that’s a big ol’ train track. That certainly is pungent. But I can get used to the sound of trains merrily rolling past only metres from my head. Suffering forms character, after all.
Ahhh the garden is covered in gravel AND glass….oh, and it backs onto a rancid, overgrown creek. That’ll be a fun place for mosquitoes to breed and rapists to lurk...
The exterior looks like it’s been recently painted….oh but most of the paint has ended up on the ground. That’s OK, if I had to paint a house I’d probably get tired and start hurling the paint cans around willy-nilly too…probably should have a look at the inside of this charming cottage.
Oh lord, the front steps are just pieces of chipboard stacked on concrete blocks. That’s fine, it’s boho-chic.
Got to get into inspection mode, got to make a list.
Pro: north-facing window in entry space. Con: most louvers smashed, leaving jagged glass shards behind (but Pro: would dissuade home invaders and gaps thoughtfully covered by rusted chicken wire).
Pro: look at that cool, retro wallpaper in the lounge! Con: looks like a stray dog gave birth on the floor over there. It’s okay though, I love dogs.
Pro: lounge has lovely wooden floorboards. Con: every other room looks like someone has dropped can of white paint right in the middle then used their dirty feet to spread it across 90% of the floor.
Pro: big kitchen, huge stoner mural on one wall. Con: toilet IN kitchen, and has no door. Would literally have to shit where you eat.
Pro: Hardship is character building, wouldn’t have to live out of a backpack. Con: thick metal bars on all windows, indicating violent history as a sanatorium or orphanage (therefore most likely haunted).
Pro: Would be nice and breezy in summer because…Con: 10cm gap between floor and back wall.
Pro: Bathroom has its own door Con: bathroom exudes fetid smell of death…smell indicates possibility of discovering more dog after-birth.
Pro: Big back deck. Con: Big back deck has no rails, overlooks gravel yard, dank creek and train tracks. Dead rat on deck staring ominously up at me.
Pro: This house is available now and in my budget. Con: If I live here, I will certainly die here.
At this point my eye started twitch uncontrollably. I still took a rental application from the professional liar who was showing us around the “cosy, retro, inner-city cottage” which boasts “nature views” and “is close to public transport!” Yes, so close the windows rattle when a train boomed past yet still a 20-minute walk to the station.
I rode my bike around in a daze. I wanted a house to live in but I was so broken by the rental process that I had no capacity to be discerning anymore. A terrified, instinctual voice in my head said “Don’t you apply to live in that goddamn rat’s nest; you are not a rat baby!”
I couldn’t reconcile these two warring desires so I rode back to the rental property, struck a match and laughed as I threw it into the dead grass. A dark plume of acrid smoke rose into the night as the house burned and I rode away howling, yet another soul broken by the Brisbane rental market.
Actually I didn’t burn the house down; I just went home and played Mario Kart 8 all night and tried to forget that I even went inside. I remembered, eventually, that I am NOT a rat baby and I don’t have to live in a rat’s nest. But I’ll never forget that moment when things were so bad that I actually considered placing my immortal soul and ALL of my precious N64 cartridges, in a pre-fabricated, derelict, haunted pile of cardboard being passed off as a house. Damn you, competitive rental market. Damn you to hell.