Chapter:

Work in the Art of Space

An Excerpt

The children were growing, and needed their space; our parents were getting older, and had started spending longer periods of time with us. We hadn’t really grown, but were of course getting older –just not as fast or as visibly as our parents– and so our needs had also changed. * We printed the document, and read out loud, taking turns: “Building Description. This is a wood frame structure that was built in approximately 1890. It is a 3-story single family dwelling. The focus of our inspection will be to report on the readily accessible structural and mechanical components of the building and to report any apparent safety or health issues.” (Old House Inspection Company, Inspection Report) * More than anything, we needed new arrangements in terms of our work places, and new agreements in our division of labor-space. Read More

The children were growing, and needed their space; our parents were getting older, and had started spending longer periods of time with us. We hadn’t really grown, but were of course getting older –just not as fast or as visibly as our parents– and so our needs had also changed. * We printed the document, and read out loud, taking turns: “Building Description. This is a wood frame structure that was built in approximately 1890. It is a 3-story single family dwelling. The focus of our inspection will be to report on the readily accessible structural and mechanical components of the building and to report any apparent safety or health issues.” (Old House Inspection Company, Inspection Report) * More than anything, we needed new arrangements in terms of our work places, and new agreements in our division of labor-space. My husband and I had always worked in the same room, more out of lack of money than a surplus of love, though we perhaps did learn to love each other more in having to share small spaces –if love can be measured, that is, in the number of things we learn to ignore about the other; and the other to silently tolerate in us. We shared a studio for almost a decade. Having learned to love each other, we agreed, we now each needed to have our own studios. The next step would simply be to find such space –approach it, carefully and slowly, but with certain determination– making sure that it would be an asset in our lives, and not one more liability. *Walkways. The properly at the front and side of the building slopes away from the house which helps to prevent water intrusion. The sidewalk is in fairly good condition. However one slab has been lifted by tree roots. This situation has caused an alarming trip hazard which can be a liability. I would recommend that this problem be addressed and the sidewalk be repaired for safety.” (Old House Inspection Company, Inspection Report) * The day my agent called to say I’d be receiving a generous-enough advance for the novel I’d just finished, we opened a bottle of wine, decided to buy a house, and for the first time in years slept more than six hours straight. Then, that same week, a serendipitous kind of friend phoned us and told us the house next door to his was on sale –a good deal. After a single visit to this house –the only one we saw after we'd made the decision to buy one– and after just one meeting with the owner, it was done. When we informed our respective parents back in Mexico about our decision to buy a house in New York, my mother said: “Really? And the Trump?” And my husband’s parents said: “Finally! A step forward. Sorry we cannot lend you money.” And my father said: “You are living in an aspirational economy. Think twice.” But we’d already made up our minds. We would buy an old house in the Bronx, even though we hated the idea of leaving Harlem –a neighborhood we had knitted so tightly into our lives as a family that more than a place it seemed like a sort of foundational myth. * Close