Things I do while you work,

by Diana Aller.

I go and see
a flat I couldn’t buy

in 100 lives.

ILLUSTRATED BY
FLAVITA BANANA

My hair is dirty today.

This shouldn’t be relevant at all, but it comes a certain age when it starts to be, like fatness, like excess, like nails… in an adult woman, carelessness is punished. When you’re fifteen you can go around with dirty hair and no one notices, it can even be attractive and give you a certain wild and untamed air. But in my last days of fertility and skin smoothness, people will see me as a poor woman with a miserable life, with my hair dry at the ends and greasy at the roots. Besides, rebel and hard white hairs are already showing up in the dark mane, conferring to it a whole different hue. Side parting looks like a violent and splendid Gaza strip on my ageing head.

In short, I don’t look like what in our culture as despicably capitalist as it may be is known as a winner.

With my on and off aesthetic slackness and my life full of days off and new hobbies, I devote my time, among other things, to seeing flats, flats to buy and rent. Chalets, lofts, little country houses to refurbish, attics with amazing terraces, social houses… the lot.

As it happens when one takes drugs or watches porn, I need to increase my dose every time, and each day I go a step further. I become thirsty, eager to explore new limits and to push them with enthusiasm. 

A week ago I reached a marvellous peak (I’m talking about flats, not porn nor drugs): I deleted from my flat search any limits whatsoever when it came to euros or square metres. And then, before me appeared flats that I didn’t know existed (or could exist) in Madrid, as well as specialised real state agencies for very powerful clients.

I was immersed for hours in a world of inaccessible luxury, spatially dreaming in impossible spots just around the corner, compulsively looking at houses valued at more than one million euros. Who on earth lives there? I’ve known, and know now, people who live in luxury properties. I did grow in a “posh house,” with rooms for the maids and panoramic views of Madrid facing the four cardinal points. But the houses I admired from that indiscreet window that is the Internet were colossally ostentatious, prohibitive, like made for nouveau riche drug-dealers… They were a savage deed indeed.

I unconsciously ended up with several tabs open on my laptop of different real state agencies with names that sounded like spas, luxury brothels or high-level Lo Mónaco mattresses: Privilege, Luxury Estate, Larvia, Ambassador… Things like that, devised to impress a reality show contestant.

And on Monday, I don’t know whether consciously or due to the madness caused by all this architectural opulence, I called “just to ask” for information and ended up pretending I wanted to buy one of these houses. As if I were stealing something in El Corte Inglés, I started feeling that inner heat, my heart racing, almost crying as I kept on answering questions. I was afraid the person on the other end of the line would notice my indecent accumulation of lies: [warning: the next sentence should start with a sound “With all my fucking cheek…”] I said I was looking for something to invest in first, and live in later on.

So today, with dirty hair and dressed as myself this means neither elegantly nor stridently; neither too over the top nor carelessly: black trousers, white sandals, Aries white T-shirt with fluorescent drawing and letters and denim jacket I appeared at Madrid’s Villanueva street.

I walked there, admiring how well the spring season befits my city, wildly pollinizing it and granting its streets an eminently sexual colour and feeling. It smells of flowers and shags. And the Madrid ground looks like an asphalt prairie.

So happy and high on vitamins was I walking around the Salamanca neighbourhood, that I noticed when I got to the place of my appointment I was sweating a bit. I thought about it right at the moment when a young and elegant woman (I mean younger and more elegant than me) appeared before me and I briefly doubted whether to say hello with two kisses and thus rubbing my sweaty face against hers or just giving her my hand to shake in a masculine and aseptic gesture.

Fate wanted the lady, used to these social endeavours, to cut in and smilingly offer me her arm. In fact, she looked so used to doing it that, even if I were to chop it off her body, she’d probably offer it to me with the same smile on her face.

She tells me her name. I will call her Daisy here, because my cunt brain is still in spring mode, but she bore a different name.

Daisy, with her black trousers and blazer, looks like a long-stemmed IFEMA hostess. Her voice is beautiful and she speaks very fast.

We enter the lift, and engaged in a stereotypical conversation make it to the attic. The word attic usually refers to the last floor, but I can assure you that in this case we might as well say Eden or paradise. Before me, almost three hundred square metres of open-floor living room carefully illuminated by God himself.

I then feel nausea, vertigo, shaking, confusion, palpitation, depression, an increase in heart speed… I identify these symptoms with a Stendhal syndrome similar to the one I felt in Florence, when I thought I was having an anxiety crisis but a nice French man nicely explained to me that what I was going through was perfectly normal.

Daisy behaves as though her own house is very similar to this Elysium, swiftly moving through the golden light that the divine creator keeps on projecting over the laminated oak floors. She takes out of her XXL bag a folder with the real state agency logo on it. Goes over the characteristics of the flat while we enter the bedroom area.

Surprisingly, there are only two. I take a while to go and see them because my Stendhal syndrome is keeping my feet nailed to the floor and it takes a while to be able to walk.

We visit the bathrooms as well. It almost seems ordinary to say anything or look at toilets in such a luxurious environment. If I had the money to live here, I would also have money not to shit anymore, I would hire someone to do it for me or I would just squat in the living room.

However, when she shows me the kitchen I feel a little disappointment that puts an end to my malaise: fortunately, I find some kind of aesthetic dissonance. I’m back to reality… The kitchen, spacious and well distributed, is furnished with quite bad taste. It’s minimalistic, with futuristic aspirations and metallic appliances. I tell Daisy I’m afraid fingerprints will show on the surfaces and will be difficult to clean.

She looks at me funny. I’ve given myself away, so I go on with the tour as though nothing happened.

Daisy has saved the best for last: a visit to the L-shaped terrace, huge and with spectacular views. I look down on the banister, which has a methacrylate barrier behind the wood and I imagine myself roasting vegetables, watching the final of Supervivientes or listening to Camela full-blast on that terrace. Everything I feel like doing is far from chic. I realise I would like a house like this to behave as a nouveau riche. What would be the point otherwise?

When I wake up from my daydreaming, Daisy, my cicerone, spiritual guide and inspiration right now, is talking to a boy with bad shoes that I hadn’t noticed was here. She introduces him and he smilingly offers his hand as though he wants me to chop it off. I’ll call him Narcissus, just to go on with the spring mood and to preserve his anonymity.

Narcissus also works for the real state agency. I forget his job as soon as it is mentioned because I don’t understand what he does exactly (I only hear the word “sales” out of the whole presentation). I express my enthusiasm to both of them, but I tell them that I don’t like the bedroom distribution. It’s true that they are relatively small one of them most of all for such a mega house.

They politely and indirectly ask me what am I looking for exactly and I express to both of them that something similar but with three bedrooms at least. Narcissus leads the conversation, although my eyes keep on looking for Daisy’s understanding. In less than three minutes he pronounces the word “discretion” four times. I deduce, thus, that most of their clients must be drug-dealers or people involved in corruption scandals.

I do a last tour of the flat. I want to take my phone out and take pictures, but I stop myself. I imagine, while I look at every corner, how my shabby furniture and my homely and coherent sustainable taste would look here. I also imagine my children and my dog playing on the noble and never-ending living room floor, with their little pyjamas and bits of their supper around their mouths. I imagine parties with 1-litre beer bottles and Lay’s crisps. I imagine myself happy here, immensely happy in this Hollywood home. And then I realise that what makes me happy is not the Hollywood home, but decorating it according to my needs, with inherited tables, crappy chairs each one different from the other, shelves with my favourite books and stones marked with dates for each healing trip I’ve ever done.

I’m happy helping my kids with their homework, setting and un-setting the table with them while we talk nonsense; and also happy with my dog greeting me when I’m back home like no one has ever done before (fortunately, I still haven’t found anyone else that likes to greet me by licking my face with fraternal desire).

I’m happy to have my house full of people eager to share their time and their smiles. And drink beer with them and laugh at everything.

Narcissus then talks to me about another flat “they have” at La Castellana, with a terrace as well but a “more classical distribution.”

I look as far as my eyes can see, and it’s all luxury and perversion. I breathe in, with my mind still full of happy images, and breathing out through my mouth, as if mixing a sigh and a sentence, I utter: “No, I want a flat in this street, because my architecture studio is here.”

Although what really crosses my mind is, obviously: “No, I couldn’t even afford the doormat.”

I consider whether my lies are still believable up to this point or not, and I decide that they must be. I might be a successful architect that can’t stand fingerprints on metallic appliance surfaces, with dirty hair and roots, I could be the woman I am but with a different social and economical level I wouldn’t mind at all having. To tell you the truth, I don’t get people that reject richness. I like abundance and money in general… but not so much lots of the things they imply.

But above all, like Aida Nízar, that muse of post-feminist cultural neorealism (to put it somehow), I “adore my life.”

I say goodbye to Daisy and Narcissus, now kissing them on the cheeks and thanking them for their exclusive attention.

As soon as I’m out on the street I see that Frigo is selling a new ice cream in the shape of a Minion. I buy it to taste it and eat it while I walk home to my house. My home…

I walk on the streets of Madrid and my eyes and nose are itchy. My allergy reminds me that spring is orchestrating our fates. Yours, you that feel immune to life’s blooming and splendour, and mine, left as I am completely on the hands of fortune. I don’t know what I’ll do tomorrow, and I love not knowing. Well, I do, in fact. I know I will wash my hair.