Nick and I had done plenty of growing up together, between running away, working, and being homeless. But nothing felt more adult than looking for a place to live together long-term.
We couldn’t shoot for a penthouse, but anything would have been a step up from the car. We had to look for something cheap, incredibly cheap.
“Why did you do it? Why did you leave with me? You could have had anyone, but you picked an asshole bully,” I said.
“Because you were desperate,” Nick answered as we climbed outdoor steps.
“Wow,” I said, sarcastically shocked.
“We’re both desperate. I know I was. Living with my grandma, I was by myself, and you were...,” he stumbled as we got to the top of our climb.
We were on the third floor of an apartment complex, waiting for a realtor to come by and let us in one of the apartments. It was the cheapest we’d found so far, but also the biggest because someone died in it a year ago. It was an elderly community, so chances were, plenty of people died in that area.
“I was what?” I asked.
“You wanted someone to listen, and I wanted someone to talk to,” he answered.
While we stood at a guard rail watching clouds move, I wrapped my arms around Nick’s body and rested my head on his shoulder. I could feel him breathing. That familiar scent he always carried was dense in his hair that day. It was soothing.
“So it wasn’t my good looks?” I joked.
“I think I fell in love with you the first time I saw you cry,” he added.
“I never cry.”
“You cry during sex,” he remarked.
“Shut up,” I laughed in his ear while I dug my nose into his hair.
The realtor was taking forever to show up, but I didn’t mind.
“You know, we’ve been in this town for almost a year, and I still get scared. Not of people seeing us. I think I’m over that. But you’re right; I am desperate. That’s why I can’t fuck this up,” I said.
“You won’t,” Nick said confidently, but I had to argue, “You don’t know that.”
“If you fuck up, I’ll give you a pass,” he suggested.
I let him go so he could turn around.
“Whatever it is, no matter how bad. I’ll forgive you,” he continued while leaning in to kiss me.
Like always, he stopped just short of our lips connecting, and I had to close the space.
Of course, when we started to make out, the realtor showed up. I heard her heels on the metallic steps before Nick and I turned to watch her come up. She was an older woman, so I almost felt bad she had to walk up so many stairs. When she finally let us into the apartment, I half expected it to be covered in blood. But it was normal.
Maybe not normal, but it didn’t look like a murder scene. The walls were painted a vibrant red color. The floors were a dark brown color. The kitchen was nice enough. I don’t think Nick or I knew exactly what to look for, but there were things that we noticed. I couldn’t find anything too wrong while we looked around.
“I can’t wait for you to go back to being goofy and weird,” I said.
“What’s that supposed to mean,” Nick asked while we stepped into the master bedroom.
“Ever since we made it to Seattle, and even when we were on the road to get here, you’ve been different. You’ve been responsible and mature, and stuff, ” I explained.
“You have too,” he said, and I agreed.
“But you were different in high school. I can’t remember the last time you picked a fight with someone over activism shit, or the last time we smoked, the last time you did anything that wasn’t for us,” I added in a whisper so the realtor couldn’t hear us from the main room.
“It’s how things have to be. We can’t be stupid kids if we want things to work out,” Nick remarked.
Neither of us was old enough to drink yet, but he was right. We couldn’t be stupid kids.
I still had to say, “When we get this place, I want to start doing stuff we used to do. This has to be the first part of the dream.”
“I’m not sure about this place though,” Nick said while we walked back into the living room.
The realtor woman was obviously waiting for us the way she stood in the middle of the floor with her hands on her hips.
“You said this was the only place we could afford by ourselves, right?” I asked her.
“Yes, this space has been open for a while, so the owner is willing to drop rent and amenity prices lower than you’ll find anywhere else,” she said.
“Tom,” Nick said, grabbing my shoulder and making me turn back to him.
“So we’ll have to fix it up. We can do that,” I tried to convince him.
“This is a lot to fix up,” he said.
And he wasn’t wrong. There was a smell, old pipes, and stains. I couldn’t begin to assume what made so many stains in the carpet, but they were hard to miss after a while. Still, nothing I saw seemed so bad we couldn’t handle it. Funnily enough, I doubt the cost of repairs worried Nick. He was a little lazy at times, so it made sense he didn’t want a place that came with a lot of work.
“There’s an extra room, a washer, and a dryer,” the realtor interrupted us with things we had already seen for ourselves.
It almost annoyed me enough not to feel bad about never learning her name.
“How long is the lease,” Nick asked?
“3 years,” she said.
“3 years?!” Nick and I both said together.
I didn’t realize it was that long of a commitment.
We looked around a little longer before I pulled Nick to the side and told him, “take off your shoes.”
He laughed, but I didn’t need to explain the request. While he kicked off his shoes and socks, I jumped up and sat on a kitchen counter. The realtor let us feel things out, but with her old face, we could see how uncomfortable she was.
“If this is our place, we have to paint the walls,” Nick said before joining me on the counter.
“Why,” I asked.
“It’s too red.”
“Isn’t red romantic?”
“It’s making me angry,” he said.
“Angry with a deep burning love,” I joked.
By then, we were egging the realtor on, so I asked her, “Anything else we need to know?”
“No pets, no drugs, no parties. The other residents are elderly, so,” she started, but I ended the conversation by saying, “Old people. Got it. We’ll take it.”