“So let’s talk about next year,” Brian said after we made small talk. “I definitely want my own room.”
“Me too,” Josh replied. This meeting with my roommates for next year was my first time meeting Josh. He was stocky and a little on the short side, with light brown hair and pointy facial features.
“So I guess we’re sharing a bedroom, unless we can find a really cheap four-bedroom place,” Shawn said to me.
“I can do that,” I said. I hoped the disappointment was not evident in my voice. I did not particularly want to share a bedroom, but I was not going to make a fuss over it. “Are we definitely looking for a house, not an apartment? Is an apartment out of the question?”
“A house would be nice,” Brian replied, “but if we can’t find a house, an apartment would be better than nothing.”
“What else do we need to look for?” I asked. “Anything else we need to get? Like, do we want to make sure the place has a dishwasher? Anything like that?”
“I think most places will have a dishwasher,” Josh said.
“I just said that because my little studio apartment I have now doesn’t have a dishwasher,” I explained.
“Really?” Josh asked.
“Actually, we have a dishwasher,” Brian said. “His name is Shawn.”
“Come on,” Shawn replied. “I’m not going to clean up after all of you.”
“I’m just kidding. But Shawn always does a good job of keeping the kitchen clean.”
“Good to know,” I said.
We spent the next half hour or so discussing our budget, our schedules, and anything else we could think of related to being roommates, or just getting to know each other in general. I was not sure how old Josh was, but I was guessing that I was the youngest one in our household. Shawn and Brian were both 22 and graduating this year; Shawn, a mathematics major like me, would be in the teacher training program at UJ, and Brian would be on staff with Jeromeville Christian Fellowship part time while he applied to medical school. Josh worked the night shift at an assisted living facility, and took classes, so he would have an unusual schedule, but he was a heavy sleeper.
“I think Greg is probably going to have to be the contact person for looking at houses and signing the lease and stuff,” Shawn said. “I don’t mean to dump all the work on you, Greg, but the rest of us have a lot going on, and you’re the only one who will be here this summer.”
“Makes sense,” I said.
I left Shawn and Brian’s house that night with a sense of mission. I had a job to do. The next day, I looked at classified ads in both the campus newspaper and the local newspaper. I called phone numbers to ask about houses for rent. I left messages, most of which were never returned, and I made appointments to look at houses, on the rare occasion I got someone to answer the phone or actually call back. Within a couple of days, I had appointments to look at four houses.
The first two appointments were on the same day, an hour apart. I pulled up to the first house, just a block north of campus near the North Area dormitories. Living within walking distance of the campus boundary would be convenient, for sure. The house was painted a pale yellow color; it was in an older neighborhood and showing its age, although nothing appeared to be obviously wrong with it. This house was a little bit above our price range, but I figured it was worth a look, particularly because it was so close to campus. If we got it, maybe I could talk the others into paying a little bit more. A middle-aged man stood on the porch, holding a folder. I nervously got out of the car and approached him.
“Are you Greg?” the man asked me.
“I’m Ed. It’s nice to meet you.”
“You too,” I said, shaking his hand.
“Come on in,” Steve said. “Let’s take a look at the house.” I followed Ed into the living room, where a guy with unkempt hair sat on the couch watching TV, ignoring the open textbook on his lap. “This is Joe, one of the current tenants.”
“Sup,” Joe said in my general direction.
“Hi,” I replied.
I followed Ed around the house. The living room seemed reasonably sized, and I noticed that the kitchen had a dishwasher. Ed mentioned that one of the bedrooms was pretty large with a bathroom attached, but that the current tenant did not want people seeing it.
“And the third bedroom is a converted garage,” Ed said as we entered the room, stepping down because the floor was slightly lower. It was much larger than the other bedroom that he had shown me. Shawn and I could comfortably share either of the two large bedrooms.
“The biggest selling point of this house, though, is that it’s so close to campus,” Ed explained. “You might be able to find a bigger house for this price in east Jeromeville, but then you’ll have a long trip to school every day.”
“That’s true,” I said.
“So are you still interested?” Ed asked.
“Now, just to be honest, a few other people have looked at the house, so I can’t promise you’ll get it. But fill this out, and I’ll get back to you in a few days.”
“Thank you,” I said.
The next house was only a quarter mile away, and by the time I was done looking at Ed’s house, it was almost time for my other appointment. The landlord whom I had spoken with was a woman named Barbara, and she said to meet her outside the house. This house looked a little more well kept up from the outside, but it was slightly smaller by total square feet. An older gray-haired woman sat on the porch; I walked up and asked, “Are you Barbara?”
“Yes,” she said. “You must be Greg.”
“Yes. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Someone else is coming now to look at the house too, just so you know,” Barbara said. I had no idea if it was normal to show the house to two competing prospective tenants at the time time, but I found this discouraging and also a little bit rude. Barbara asked me about what I was studying, and about the others who would be living with me, as she waited for the other prospective tenant to show up. Three girls drove up a few minutes later and introduced themselves to Barbara.
“This is Greg,” Barbara said to the girls. “He’s looking at the house too.”
“Hi,” one of them said unenthusiastically. I greeted her back.
“This is the living room,” Barbara said as we walked into the house.
“I love the color of the paint!” one of the girls said.
“Thank you!” Barbara replied. I looked for the dishwasher in the kitchen as we walked through it, and then Barbara opened the door and showed us the backyard.
“Those flowers are really cute,” the girl who liked the paint said.
I could tell that I was not going to get this house. The girls seemed to know all the right things to say to Barbara. I continued going through the motions and following Barbara and the girls through the house, even though it seemed pointless.
The next week was more of the same. Between classes and homework, I found time to look at four other houses. Each of the landlords had mentioned that other people had already looked at the house. One of them pointed out that it was a brand new listing that had just gone on the market today, but by the time I got there, still someone else had looked at it already. Ed never called me back, Barbara never called me back, and neither did any of the others. I called Shawn and explained the situation.
“That sucks,” Shawn said.
“Do you think I should start looking at apartments instead?” I asked. “I don’t know if we’d have any more luck there, but at least we’d have a place to live.”
“That’s true. I mean, a house would be nice, it’d be great to have our own washing machine, but if all you can find is an apartment with a laundry room, it’s not that big of a deal.”
“I guess. Should I tell the other guys what’s going on?”
“I’ll tell them. You just keep looking, and let us know what you find.”
The juxtaposition of a large and growing university next to a small city hostile to growth made rentals difficult to find in Jeromeville, especially now, two months after apartments went up for lease for the fall. The day after Shawn gave me the approval to start looking at apartments, I walked to the office for Las Casas, my current apartment complex, and asked if any of the three-bedroom apartments were still available for fall.
“No, sorry, we don’t have any left,” the woman at the desk said. “But the company that owns us, we own 15 different complexes all around Jeromeville, and some of them have three-bedroom apartments. You can try calling them and see what is left.” She handed me a brochure.
“Thanks,” I replied, walking back toward my apartment. This brochure appeared to contain no new information that was not already in the Apartment Guide that Associated Students published every year.
I dedicated the following Saturday to finding a place to live. I looked through the Apartment Guide and made a mark next to every complex that had three-bedroom apartments. Since Jeromeville was a university town with many people in shared living situations, three-bedroom apartments were more common here than they were in most cities. Still, though, many apartment complexes, particularly the older ones close to campus, only had one- and two-bedroom apartments. Pine Grove Apartments, which had been my second choice a year ago, had the only three-bedroom apartments right next to campus. I called Pine Grove and was promptly informed that they were completely full for fall. No surprise there.
The area where I currently lived was part of a roughly L-shaped row of apartment complexes along Alvarez Avenue and Maple Drive, about three-quarters of a mile east to west and half a mile north to south. I made some phone calls and found three three-bedroom apartments in our price range available in this neighborhood.
I first went across the street to a place called Fleur-de-Lis Apartments. Apartment complexes always have such weird names, often seemingly having little to do with the surroundings. I told the person at the desk that I had called earlier about the three bedroom apartment, and a man with a clipboard came to show me what the apartment looked like, explaining that the one he was showing was not the actual unit that would be available for fall. He called the tenants who had agreed to let him show their three-bedroom apartment; no one answered, so he left a message telling him that we were coming.
He unlocked the door, and we walked inside. The living and dining areas were a bit smaller than those of any of the houses I had seen. I saw a dishwasher in the kitchen. He showed me one of the small bedrooms first; they seemed adequately sized.
“And this is the master bedroom,” he said, opening another door. “We have the largest master bedrooms of any three-bedroom apartment in Jeromeville. Some people arrange their furniture so there is a separation between the two halves of the room, so it’s almost like having two bedrooms.”
“That is nice,” I said. “And there’s an attached bathroom?”
“Yes,” he replied. “Do you think you’re interested?”
“My roommates trusted me with the decision,” I explained, “but I have two other apartments I’m looking at today, and I like to take time to think about big decisions.”
“Don’t take too long to decide,” the man said.
“I know. The apartment could be gone by then. I’ll get back to you by tomorrow at the latest.”
After he gave me all of the necessary paperwork and brochures, I went to Alvarez Grove Apartments, a quarter-mile east on Alvarez Avenue. I went through the same procedure of telling the man at the desk that I had called about the three-bedroom apartment, and he showed me a three-bedroom apartment which the current tenants had agreed to let him show. The living area was about the same size as the one at Fleur-de-Lis, and there was a dishwasher. A hallway extended to the right of the living area; he showed me the bathroom, just off this hallway, and one of the three bedrooms.
“What about the other bedrooms?” I asked.
“They’re all the same.”
“Same size and everything?”
I took his brochure and politely acted like living at Alvarez Grove was still an option, but at this point I knew that I was not interested in this apartment. With me and Shawn having to share a bedroom, we definitely needed one of the bedrooms to be larger than the others. This apartment also only had one bathroom, which was workable but not ideal. It was the least expensive of the three apartments I was looking at, only $900 per month (which was inexpensive given what the market in Jeromeville was like), but I did not like the idea of sharing a small bedroom.
The last apartment I looked at that day was in a complex called Sagebrush Apartments, in the narrow strip of land between Maple Drive and Highway 117. The woman from the office unlocked a three-bedroom apartment, reminding me that this was identical to the unit for rent but not the exact unit, and let me in. I waved hello to a tenant who was home.
This apartment had two uncommon features immediately visible: a wood burning stove with a tall chimney leading to the roof, and a stairway, to the left of the entrance. The bedrooms were upstairs, in the style of apartment that I have heard some people refer to as a “townhouse.” The living room was to the right of the entrance, with the dining area straight in front of me, and the kitchen to the right of the dining room, with a bar between the kitchen and living room. The woman from the apartment office led me around the dining room and kitchen. “There’s a half-bathroom back there,” she said, pointing to the right of the dining room behind the kitchen. “Now let me show you upstairs.”
I followed her up the stairs, which were a little narrow but appropriate for a compact living space like this one. At the top of the stairs was a small loft-like area; I turned around and looked down on the living room, with the black metal chimney of the wood-burning stove in front of me. “Is that a patio?” I said, looking out the window facing the front of the apartment.
“Yes,” she replied. “You can get to it from the entrance.”
She showed me the two small bedrooms next, on the back side of the apartment, and the large bedroom in front, above the kitchen and living room. It was smaller than the one at Fleur-de-Lis, but still adequately sized for two people to share. She also showed me the inside of the full bathroom upstairs.
“Are you still interested in the apartment?” she asked. I told her the same thing I had said at Fleur-de-Lis, that I had options to think over and I would get back to her later tonight or tomorrow. By now, business hours were probably almost over, so if I called back first thing in the morning, hopefully the apartment would not be gone by then.
After I got home, I needed to unwind, so I went for a bike ride, thinking about all of this. When I got home, I showered, ate dinner, and did math homework. Later, I looked over the brochures from Sagebrush and Fleur-de-Lis again. Both apartments looked similarly sized, and both of them would work just fine as far as I was concerned. Shawn, Brian, and Josh seemed to trust my judgment. We agreed on a budget of $1000 per month when we met to talk about the living situation, and the Fleur-de-Lis apartment rented for exactly that. Rent at Sagebrush, however, was only $925, and I liked something about the two-story layout. I knew that I was still going to wait until morning to make the call, but at this point, unless I discovered something earth-shattering, I would be saving my roommates $75 per month and calling Sagebrush in the morning. I looked over the brochures again. I read the passage in the Bible from last night’s talk at Jeromeville Christian Fellowship and prayed about it.
And in the morning, I called Sagebrush. The apartment was still available, so I told them I was ready to commit.
Later that afternoon, after I had signed paperwork, I called Shawn. I was nervous. What if the other guys did not like Sagebrush? What if I just made a costly mistake? “Hello?” Shawn said on the other side of the phone.
“This is Greg. I got an apartment.”
“That’s great! Where is it?”
“Sagebrush. It’s on Maple Drive, north of Safeway. It’s $925 a month. It’s two stories, with the bedrooms upstairs and the living room and kitchen downstairs.”
“That sounds perfect! I’ll tell the others. Thanks for all your help with this.”
“You’re welcome. Thanks for letting me live with you guys.”
I took a deep breath and lay down for a nap, finally feeling relief about my plans for next year for the first time in two months. I had great roommates, and I had a place to live. Next year was going to be awesome. I would have to get used to sharing a bedroom, that was certainly not an ideal situation, but it was better than being homeless or sharing a bedroom with a total stranger. Living with other Christian men would hopefully present opportunities to grow both socially and spiritually. I just wish we did not have to wait until September 1 to move in. I did not realize at the time that I had overlooked something, but it ended up all working out.