When my cousin and I decided to sell the old house on Emily Street, people were just starting to take a second look at older homes…we had some nice stained glass…our gray and charcoal paint job looked kinda Victorian…(my friend Reid reminded me recently that he remembered hanging out a third floor window while my cousin held him with a belt so he could paint one of the dormers with a paintbrush on the end of a broom). My cousin and I had cut a few corners as I’m always prone to do. For instance I talked him into just refinishing the hardwood floors where they weren’t covered by the area rugs… and my theory that scotch tape was like a magic tool that could fix any loose wires or hold almost anything together if you used enough of it…like a cabinet door or some loose wallpaper.
When we listed the house at about three times what we’d bought it for we pulled out all the stops. A cozy fire under the marble mantle in the living room, graced of course by sprays of orchids ( after an unusually good haul at the cemetery ), table set for an elegant dinner party for twelve with more candles than Notre Dame, and everything from finger bowls and about six silver forks at every place setting. I’d been using the beautiful greenery from the marijuana plant with the pink tea roses that Gary had spotted from a memorial wreath a few days before, and since virtually every gay man in the world can’t live without dimmer switches, our crystal chandelier was softly glowing above it all.
Of course we had cinnamon rolls baking in the oven and a little Chopin on the stereo when the first prospective buyers took their tour. My cousin came down to greet them either in his tuxedo or his smoking jacket…which seemed a BIT much…but it was his house too. No one in their right mind could have avoided being swept away by our presentation. Leaning walls be damned…the place looked like a set from Dinner at Eight..and we soon had an offer that we jumped at. Then the reality set in.
We agreed to a quick closing date…and were informed that just prior to the settlement the new owners were planning a final “walk through”. We panicked.
With the fake oriental rugs gone, the unfinished wood really did look like it came from Noah’s Ark. My scotch tape projects on sconces and the dining room chandelier looked yellow in the daylight, and without the delicious cinnamon roll perfume from the kitchen, the place looked and even smelled like an abandoned old shack. We went into hiding. The two of us would sit and tremble while the phone rang for hours, both convinced that without our fake elegance and floral extravaganzas the deal would fall through and we’d be dead in the water.
The agent and the buyers eventually ambushed my cousin at Hornes where he was working in the upscale men’s department. When he was backed up into the Norman Hilton tie rack he finally relinquished the big old skeleton key. When they left for the inspection he called me (with the secret signal…ring three times…hang up.. ring twice…hang up…ring once, then answer) he simply said ” it’s all over, they’re on their way”. I grabbed Carlisle and Yap Yap (my brother’s 3 year old un- housebroken dog) and started saying Hail Mary’s as we sped away to an undisclosed location. We were to call the realtor by 4:00 to confirm that the closing would be at 5:30. I still vividly recall that phone call, as does my cousin. Two grown men drinking a very strong Canadian Club and ginger ale…holding hands…preparing to make a phone call that was going to change our lives.