Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Perfect House

A man decides to buy himself a house. It's not that he doesn't already have a roof over his head, but people tell him it's important to own property - it's a good investment and, after all, you can't live in a rented place for ever (why exactly this is impossible, is, as usual, not made clear). So he withdraws all the money he has in his bank account - an entire lifetime of savings - and starts looking for a good apartment. He spends weeks, no, months searching. Everytime he finds something he likes it's either already taken or the price is too high or there's some trouble with the leasing arrangement or the building society won't let him in, or just when he's about to buy the place he discovers some hidden flaw - a leaking pipe, a broken ventilation system, etc.
Finally, after months of searching he finds the perfect place. It's up on the 42nd floor, it has large wall to wall windows and a high, white ceiling and a beautiful view. There's this breathless quality to the emptiness of the house, as though the floor and walls weren't moored to stone and mortar, but floated on the light breezes that came in from the sea. The day he first gets possession of the place he spends the whole night sitting in the exact centre of the empty living room, watching the stars die out one by one.
He takes his time moving in. Now that it's his, he wants everything in it to be just right. He has the walls painted the colour of autumn warmth. He brings in furniture. He puts up paintings, puts down rugs. He arranges and rearranges his bookshelf with all the precision and tenderness of a gardener laying out flower beds. He decides against blinds, and puts up curtains so thin that when the sun shines you can see through to the wind's trembling nakedness.
And then, one day, when it's all done, he arrives at his new apartment with nothing but a key and a few loose coins in his pocket. He locks the door, puts the key on the dining table, takes off all his clothes and arranges them neatly in the wardrobe. Then he steps over to the window, opens it, takes one final look around, and with a sigh of satisfaction, jumps out.
In a perfect world, he knows, there is no place for the living.