When I left off last it was with a sense of pervasive disappointment, hopelessness and distress. After visiting 6 pisos and sending out no fewer than 30 reply-less emails, not to mention making a vast number of entirely fruitless phonecalls I was still apartmentless. Thursday night–appointment number three with the nice Spaniard from Badajóz named Juan just completed–I was starting to feel desperate. Desperate and scared.
Coming to a foreign country without semi-permanent living arrangements is a dicey situation. Encountering difficulties with finding suitable accomodations makes “dicey” feel daunting. My next appointment–9:30, metro stop Ibiza, Avenida Menéndez Pelayo 55, felt at least six times as daunting as everything else I’d done. You read the ad to which I responded and I assume you’ll know why:
“ALQUILO HABITACION INDIVIDUAL A CHICA ESTABLE Y RESPONSABLE ENTRE 30 Y 45 AÑOS, EN FRENTE AL PARQUE EL RETIRO, AL LADO DEL METRO IBIZA, AUTOBUSES EN LA PUERTA, FARMACIA 24H Y SUPERMERCADOS Y OPENCOR, TODO NUEVO. CALEFACCION INDIVIDUAL, AGUA CALIENTE MICROHONDAS, TELEVISION DE PLASMA, INDISPENSABLE NO FUMADORA 425€ MAS GASTOS 10 AGUA Y 10 LUZ APROX. UN MES DE DEPOSITO Y UNO ADELANTADO. SEIS CINCO UNO TRES DIEZ DOS CINCO SIETE”
For those of you reading this who don’t speak Spanish, the important thing is this: the owner of this place was looking for “stable and responsible girl between 30 and 45 years.” Now. Those of you who know me know I’m the apogee of stable and responsible. Between 30 and 45? Well… erm… don’t quite so much got that part covered. Why did I want it anyway, you ask? Well, check the glamour shots:
And keep in mind this is about 2000% nicer than anything I’d seen. And plain and simple: I got greedy. Not only is this place lovely, it’s literally ON Parque del Buen Retiro (the largest, loveliest park in Madrid which has a BOATING POND, botanical gardens, and footpaths. Yes. It’s true.)–as in I walk out of my front door and I’m at the park. Yeah. I figured it was too good to be true, so despite its being slightly out of my price range (I was really aiming for 400 or so, bills included) I sent off an email.
I received a cordial (and timely!) response to the inquiry about the room for rent (in this inquiry I never mentioned my age, just that I was teaching in Madrid for a year) and we set up a time. So there I was: me, the pinnacle of stable, respectful, responsible, 15 minutes early no less! but certainly not between 30 and 45, and feeling like shit because of my elision of the truth. I rang the bell and no one answered, and after repeating this a few times, I got no results. I finally called–twice–and was on the verge of giving up and going home unsuccessful when Laura picked up, explained to me she was on her way and had been late coming from work, and would be coming down the sidewalk soon.
Scene: 5 minutes later, bench in front of 55 Menéndez Pelayo. Enter one of the 4 most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in my life who introduces herself as Laura. Laura herself can’t be between 30 and 45. I’d place her at 28 or so, and with a definite vibrance. She gave me the requisite Spanish double kiss and, grinning, ushered me into the gorgeous, tiled entryway. Her apartment was on the second floor and when I walked in, I knew it was a good place.
But first about Laura: Laura is a professional, late-twenties-ish Venezuelan/Spanish woman. Correction: her parents are Spanish, but she was born in Venezuela. She’s been here, working insane hours for Pullman Tour (a U.S. company) and establishing her Spanish citizenship for the past few years. She leaves the apartment by 9 in the morning, not to return ’til 9:30 at night (I’ll basically be living alone), and is so tired when she gets back that she usually just goes to sleep. There is no sniff of man around the apartment, and no real waft of a social life. For this, I’m very sorry, because even in our brief meeting Laura seems very sweet and lovely to boot. God, work sucks. Laura’s also a little intimidating because she has very particular ideas of how her apartment should be (tidy, without being a maniac about it, in her words) and calm–a nice space to live in and not at all a place for parties. Hrm. She knows what she wants and what she expects, and that’s an environment very conducive to my a) doing good work as a teacher, b) getting sleep! c) actually (gasp!) studying for and taking the GREs, + applying to grad schools. Good.
Anyhow: though the apartment is also pocket-sized, it’s well decorated, all painted in white, and has high ceilings that give it an airy feel. It helped that Laura also has a dog–a sweet little dog named Tati who probably played a role in landing me a spot as Laura’s roommate.
Tati, Laura explained as we walked in and she sat me down on the couch (of course offering me something to drink), goes everywhere with Laura–truly her best friend. The dog, who probably weighs about three pounds and is more hair and shimmer than beast, hangs out in Laura’s purse on flights, enjoys going to the movies in her handbag, and rides the metro with her without ever being seen. Tati is also an overexcitable little pooch who doesn’t like other dogs–nor does she like people, save Laura. Imagine my surprise (and I suppose that of her owner) when Tati sized me up, ran to her dog igloo under a chair, and brought me her NEW TOY! Tati immediately warmed to me as I shook around her little weird bird toy, and I think her master did, too.
As I left, Laura smiled, told me “I hope we get to be roommates.” I nodded and bumbled around in Spanish. I got a hug when I left and she said merrily, “Aquí somos dos!” in an energetic, trimumphant fashion. She’d pretty much decided I was her roommate.
After a walk around the neighborhood in the daylight the next day with my kindred spirit city walker, Talia, I made the decision: Menéndez Pelayo 55 will be my new home and Tati and Laura are to be my new roommates. After I sign the contract and drop off my deposit tomorrow, I’ll have somewhere to live and a real Spanish address.
Orientation starts tomorrow, and all I can say is thank God piso hunting is over!