Sunday, 20 January 2013

The agonisings of an unrequited love

Dear Mavis Blue,

I am so sorry. I thought we'd be together for a very long time. In fact, I thought at one point that I might grow old with you. But life has a funny way of taking unexpected turns, and mine will soon take me a long way away from you. And you, being so set in your ways, cannot follow.

There are still so many things I would have liked to do with you: install a rainwater tank, more plantings in your garden, polishing all your floorboards afresh, replacing your remaining original ceilings, doing more about the Wet Season drainage. And there are things about you, too, that scare me: the eventual yet inevitable restumping and the re-laying of your concrete slab, what to do with the enormous Cuban Royal palm in the garden that all the neighbours want cut down but that I love like a crazy person.

In the end I choose my husband over you, as I choose him over all other things in my life. Within that choice though, I must decide whether I keep some connection with you, stringing you along, kidding us both that we may one day be reunited, or that I cut that string, freeing you up to meet someone new who will love you and care for you as I will not be able to do from the other side of the world.

Of all the ties I cut, yours will be the hardest - I am a Cancerian through and through. But it must be done, and for that I am sorry.  

I will miss you.

This week I have been in a housework frenzy. I have a co-worker house-sitting for me while I go away next month and the tentative start to the Wet Season has seen blossoms of mould bursting forth on the ceilings, walls and architraves of my 75 year-old Queenslander like so many rose buds in spring. It's a Tropics thing, we get used to it. Kind of. I've been up close and personal with the interior with bleach, spray bottle and bucket in hand, making things nice for visitors again, and while I've been labouring I've had time to contemplate just what exactly I am going to do with this house when I move to Canada sometime later this year.

I've owned this home for a little over four years. It is my first foray into real estate. Buying my own home was something I had wanted for years, almost a decade. I was so proud of my achievement when I bought her, and also crazy shit-scared! I bought her in 2008 when the magnitude of the GFC was just beginning to become apparent here. The previous owner only had her as an investment property and just wanted to get rid of her quickly so he could buy something else. I joked at the time that I stole a house, I had paid much less than was common at that time. Unfortunately, Cairns real estate not only stagnated, its value has gone backwards over the last few years. Agents make valiant claims of a comeback soon, but I know in my heart that if I sold her now I would only get about the amount she was valued at in late 2010 and I have spent $14,000 on a new bathroom since.

I also know I am never coming back to Cairns. Even when (if?) I return to Australia, I will not be coming back here. I will be heading down south, closer to my family and most of my friends. My dilemma, obviously, is whether to keep the house or sell her. While a couple of friends have their hand up to move in, I couldn't charge in rent the full amount of my weekly mortgage repayments. That in itself is scary since I don't know when I will start working once I get to Canada. But even now, when I live with her and love her on a daily basis, there are times when I find myself petulantly resenting the sacrifices I have to make to service my mortgage. Some days it feels like entrapment. When I crunch the numbers, as I am doing with increasing frequency, all maths points to selling and accepting actually making a loss when I consider how much I have spent on renovations and mortgage repayments. Further losses may result otherwise. There are only two things that count against that: the gambler's eternal optimism that the market will improve in the next few years, and total, unmitigated sentiment. The trouble is, I love this house. Oops!

My stepmother, always a beacon of rationality in any financial storm, once sagely counselled: "Never fall in love with your house." So, Reason, where are you? I need you on this one. But Mavis Blue just has her charms, and few seem immune to them. She feels like a holiday house. Every day. She is private, and breezy, has pretty light, and French doors, and just the right amount of charmingly flaking paint (if you are into that sort of thing). And she is the most magnificent shade of blue. It is immediately calming. Every time I think of selling her I feel a wrenching in my heart.

Charles and I will sit down together while I am in Montréal and run the sums again and talk about what is and isn't possible. From 16,000km away it will be easier to make a rational decision.

I should have listened to my stepmother.

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