Searching in vain for a place to call home, hang posters
February 12, 2008
In my dreams I live in an off-campus house. I have a kitchen, a bathroom and a bedroom with decorative wall art. Unfortunately, this dream will never materialize.
p. Like many students at the College, I spent the past month looking for an off-campus apartment. After hours of pleading, searching and weeping, I am still homeless.
p. Dormitories do not bother me, but I want some place to call my own. My parents pay for my dorm room, my meals and my education. This financial dependence makes everything about college feel false. My dorm is the physical manifestation of my parents’ overbearing love, and I want a house to demonstrate my independence.
p. “Look at me, Mom and Dad,” I would say. “Look at how capable I am of paying bills on time and washing dishes.”
p. Sure, I can do those things in a dorm, but there’s a certain peace of mind associated with living on your own house. Can you imagine watching “Garfield: The Movie”? Okay good, but can you imagine how much better it would be if you were watching “Garfield: The Movie” in your own house? Renting a house is an important step toward adulthood. In a house, every action is imbued with an extra degree of independence. Scrambling eggs becomes a joy — an affirmation of your freedom from dining halls. The city of Williamsburg, in making housing so difficult to get, has impeded my growth. Like a carefully pruned bonsai tree, I remain in a state of stasis.
p. Last week my roommates and I visited a realtor in our desperate effort for independence. We had spent the previous month bothering friends and acquaintances who currently live in houses, hoping that one of them would recommend us to their landlord. They did not, so I found myself entering the homes of strangers with our realtor. My friends and I wanted to see the potential houses as soon as possible, so we booked an early morning appointment.
p. “Hello, is anyone awake?” our realtor yelled before we entered every house. “I told them I was coming,” she explained.
p. I have always hated confrontation. In high school I used to stare at my feet when I walked, for fear that the sight of my face might incite animosity in others. I have not grown out of this disposition, and I felt slightly ill in every house we entered. Sometimes no one was home, which was nice. In these vacant houses I mostly noticed what sorts of posters the occupants displayed; posters are a great indicator of personality. I noticed a lot of tapestries hanging from walls, and several ironic college posters. My favorite house also featured my favorite poster: a mutant leprechaun drinking a mug of hickory-colored beer.
p. As I entered the rooms, I imagined what posters I would put in each. Perhaps one room would house ironic posters from foreign countries. In another chamber, I would affix Polaroid pictures of all of my friends. I would paint the walls of my bathroom white and invite friends to write whatever obscenities they wanted with sharpie markers. A year from now, when potential tenants would inquire about my house, my wall decorations would greatly impress them.
p. Unfortunately, some tenants were home. Sometimes the tenants looked hungover and ignored us. In one house, the only remaining tenant locked herself in the bathroom.
p. “Don’t worry, you don’t have to come out,” our realtor said. “I understand if you feel awkward.”
p. I understood, too. I would lock myself in the bathroom if I woke up with strangers in my house.
p. “Enjoy the ironic posters,” I would shout through the locked bathroom door, “but don’t touch anything.”
p. Once our tour ended, it become clear that my friends and I would not qualify for any of these houses. None of us have rented before, and no one has any credit. Regardless, my friends and I still filled out the application form and paid the necessary fee. I did not want to spend my senior year in a stifling Jamestown single without having tried to get a house.
p. In keeping with the current trend of campus thought, I should blame Gene Nichol for the lack of housing. I am sure that he has ticked off someone, somewhere, resulting in my inability to rent a house. Or perhaps he arranged for a family of sex performers to lease that quaint Cape Cod-style house I liked so much. And, surely, he purchased my coveted Indian Springs cottage with plans to open up a brothel. Whenever life sucks, I blame Gene.
p. So Gene, I have a proposition for you. You know that spacious Georgian mansion you live in? How about you let me live there next year? In exchange, I will forgive you for all the terrible things you have done to me. I will even let you and Glenn live in my cramped dorm room. It’s not much, but somehow we’ll make do.
p. James Damon is a Confusion Corner columnist. He yearns for decorative wall art.