On the Bus #11 Searching For Home

It’s very frantic on the bus today.

Well, actually the bus is pretty calm except for the middle-aged man wearing earphones singing loudly to whatever song he happens to be listening to. I mean, really? Does he not understand by his age that the entire bus can hear him singing You’re The Only Woman That I’m Dreaming Of off key? (Ambrosia? Seriously?)  Why don’t people have more shame?

I keep yelling NO! every time he feebly warbles out a random line from an 80’s song, but of course he can’t hear me.

Actually, just my head is frantic. Somehow this week with no build-up or warning,  my husband Saul and I decided we needed to buy a house.

Suddenly we are obsessed.

We are on a house-hunting bender. I’m starting to have blackout periods where I wake up clutching brochures about homes with charming gardens and adorable skylights.

No one warned me that once you started looking for a house and you are a couple prone to obsession that there is no way you can just casually look for a house. Houses are all  I think about now. Houses are all I want to talk about. I want to quit my job so I can focus solely on looking for the perfect house, but then I am pretty sure that would hurt my credit score which would mean I would be only eligible for a hovel or a tasteful cardboard box.

At first I was wary about buying a house for a few reasons.

One reason is that I wanted to wait until I was an adult. I do realize that this is a lot like the time I took my 20-year-old cat to the vet and she asked if I was feeding him senior cat food. “Not yet,” I replied. “What exactly are you waiting for?” she asked.

Clearly, I have some denial issues when it comes to aging.

I confided to a friend a few weeks ago about  the other reason I have some hesitation.

“I would really be entangled with Saul if we buy a house. It makes the relationship feel much more serious.”

“Um…you do realize you are married to him, right?”

Right. I keep forgetting this gay marriage is actually a real thing.

This entire house thing started with a seeming innocent  flyer Saul sent to me.

I looked at it and texted back, “I’ll call and make an appointment. Just for fun!”

This was last Friday.

I was so, so naïve last Friday.

Since then we have looked at about 15 houses. Well, at least Saul has. He does “first looks” and then sets up meetings for me to see second-look-worthy houses the minute I’m off this damn bus. I never minded this bus ride until it became a deterrent to me looking at houses.

You learn a lot about houses, the town you live in, yourself, and your partner when you house hunt.

Suddenly you discover vaulted ceilings are very important to you even though you have never thought about them before in your life. “Well, I suppose I could do without them, but it would be a burden,” you hear yourself saying. If only the poor people in the slums of New Delhi or families who lost everything in the recent hurricanes had hardships such as these.

Never did I think I would be asking questions about sump pumps or Googling “Can Sump Pumps Breed Mosquitoes?” to allay the fears of your paranoid…I mean…concerned husband.

I will say one thing. Saul and I have been doing well in this new adventure. We listen to each other and don’t force the issue if one of us doesn’t like a place. Making decisions like this is a constant push and pull between two people.  It’s one more opportunity to learn to let go and to compromise.


This is especially admirable for me. I am an Aries. I want a new house by Friday. I want a new house. Now. Now. Now! Make offers on them all! I frantically scream at Saul on Facetime. We don’t want to lose any!

But he usually talks me down, and I then I have to learn to be patient all over again.

This house-hunting frenzy is our current landlord’s fault. If they had just let us have a Great Dane puppy we would have probably rented this cute place we are in until we died. You should know when you rent to a guy who works at Animal Planet he will want animals. Saul and I want a few dogs to go with our two cats. And if they only have one eye or no legs– even better. We like quirky people, places, and animals.

The most interesting thing I didn’t’ really expect from this week of looking for a new home is that Saul and I are defining ourselves as couple.

We definitely don’t want a cookie-cutter abode. We moved to New Hope (and I ride the bus for an hour and a half to and from NYC each day) because we love the kooky uniqueness of New Hope and its sister town across the river, Lambertville. We want a home that is funky and unusual where I can write and Saul can paint and we can have guests stay over in their own little cute room.

In a way, we have our own “brand”.  This house is not very Keith and Saul we find ourselves saying and we know what we mean.

The other day we found the cutest condo, and our agent urged us to make an offer. It was in a private community where many people suggested we look on a hill high above the town of New Hope.  The condo was very nice and smelled delicious. I’ve come to realize this is some sort of trick. Every house you look at seems to smell delicious. Who doesn’t want to live in a place that smells of cinnamon buns?

“Hurry before someone snatches up!” our realtor sternly yelled in my face snapping me out of my hot breakfast pastry fantasy. But Saul and I took a deep breath and said we needed to mull it over.

My very stylish lesbian cousin Melissa taught me at a young age not to buy clothes unless you tried them on and really, really loved them. Anything you aren’t sure about ends up hanging in the closet. Surely the same rule applies to houses.

So, Saul and I said we would wait until morning to make our decision. And we walked over to the house late that night at around 11pm. Here is a tip I will pass on to you. ALWAYS go look at the house you are considering at night before making your final decision. It tells you a lot. Is it noisy next store at 11pm? Are there big lights glaring in your potential backyard from the apartment complex behind your house? Does that charming home that borders your yard seem more like a crack den once the sun goes down?

We walked up the steep hill to the cute condo. It is a very steep hill. It’s a little bit how I imagine Mount Everest must be like to climb.  I would be climbing it on my walk home from the bus stop every evening. We walked around the condo. It was surrounded by other condos and parking lots full of cars.

I realized the charm on the inside didn’t reflect the charm on the outside especially at night.

I got a sinking feeling in my gut.  This community could be anywhere in the United States.

I didn’t say anything. Saul had loved the place and I hated to have to break his heart and tell him I couldn’t live there unless I wanted my soul to die a little every day.

“I don’t think we can move here,” Saul suddenly announced. This place is great for someone else but it’s not “Keith and Saul.”

“Oh, thank god!” I said almost crying with relief. “I hate it here! Let’s go home!”

We held hands as we walked down the steep hill.

Maybe I was entangled with the right guy after all.

Right in that moment, I had never felt more at home in my life.


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Keith Hoffman lives with his artist husband, dog and two cats in the small town Lambertville, New Jersey 72 miles outside of New York City. He has completed a memoir entitled The Summer My Sister Grew Sideburns.

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