Palm Tree and the Real Estate Agent
Soon after my blue eyed trickster and his puzzle days were smoothed away, my house in the city needed spring cleaning then I got to the garden. The work felt good, and the place looked spruce too eventually. I washed all the bright green paintwork down.
Then I noticed the three metre Phoenix Palm near my letterbox looked dangerous. Spikes on the leaves stabbed and hurt if someone brushed against them. I liked to get out there with a large kitchen knife and cut them off, when the palm fronds drooped too low and long.
I took up a sharp chef’s knife and looking like a serial killer out of my hiding place, proceeded to saw away at the thick end of the leaves.
Bright sun, a little winter chill to keep me cool, it didn’t seem like hard work particularly. I soon had a good pile of the spiky things lying on the concrete area by the lawn.
A voice sounded from the footpath. It seemed like someone said hello, then said the palms were a bit of a nuisance, weren’t they?
Through the archway covered with roses and geraniums, I spied a man in a cheap grey suit, who told me he chopped a palm down at his place only the past week. He held a pile of papers and smiled. Not trying too hard, not a religious evangelical smile, friendly enough. ‘I’m just, ‘ he peered at one of the papers, held it out for me to see the picture, ‘ selling this place up the road. I’m their agent.’
‘Oh yes.’ I smiled back but kept on cutting away at the tree.
‘It’s a good property.’ He held out the flyer again, but I sawed on and made no move to take it from him. ‘ Can I put it in your letterbox?’ He gestured as if about to post something.
The sign on my orange letterbox stated in large black letters, Please No Advertising. I wondered why this man asked me such a question, especially considering the enormous knife in my hand and my powerful build. For a while, I thought he could be a bit blind, but then realised that the power of denial and hope are far greater than any of our everyday six senses.
While I chopped away I thought about the price I could get for my house. Then, I considered moving somewhere smaller. I’d be mortgage-free in a small town. Cutting away fronds, I planned a sign out the front, and how I’d sell the place myself online. No agent’s fee for me.
The real estate agent kept smiling and looked like he would slip a flyer into my letterbox. I protested, ‘No, please. I get enough of that kind of thing. Don’t like them.’
He smiled on and I cut away with more determination thinking about junk mail, the way it filled up rubbish tips and the piles of bright paper I got despite not wanting them. Papers I never read. Almost none could be recycled, since the ink removal posed too many problems.
I wanted this man to know my sign meant what it said, but he seemed certain to stay there.
After a few seconds, he mentioned the price of the house up the road. This valuable property I could like to view. I had to explain I wasn’t in the market for any other houses in the neighbourhood, thanks.
No idea why I had to explain this. Possibly all the extra oxygen from pruning my exotic tree, tossing the fronds around, got me thinking too much and talking too often. Maybe I felt sorry for the agent in his flimsy suit, trying to gain interest in a house up the hill from the motorway where noise had to be a problem.
He seemed unperturbed by my non interest and smiled on, slightly more interested now. I realised too late, I had said I didn’t want another house. Now he knew I owned mine.
‘You must be pleased. The way your house value has shot up so much.’ He rocked on his heels while he said this, apparently sure we could now agree on something. ‘Yes?’
I clambered round the front of the tree now, it leaned back a bit onto the lemon tree and I tugged out some grass there. My head shook, I disagreed with him. ‘I think the way prices have shot up is terrible. Lots of my friends want to buy a house. They will never get one round here. It is against community all these high prices, if you ask me.’
‘Oh yes, I see.’ He stopped smiling at last, I noticed with a glance. ‘ But what can you do about it?’
I sawed off the last low branch. Spikes rustled together when I threw the palm frond taller than me on the pile behind the letterbox. I turned to the man, slightly and replied, ‘Oh, stop loving money so much?’
‘Hmm, yes, I suppose so,’ he muttered and stalked off without saying good-bye, back along the road to the next letterbox or maybe to sit in the house up the road and wait for people to view the place.
Then again, while I sat waiting for the kettle to boil for my well-earned cup of tea, perhaps he did not do those obvious things. Maybe round the corner he threw all his flyers up into the air and strode off along to the park, up the hill to the library. Perhaps he sat and read a book about Chile or Rome, then walked out of the life he had til then and into a new one, where I would not recognise him again.
People could change, they found God, found yoga, found a cure for their stammer or their shyness, fell in love with a place or a person, or decided to be a pilot or teacher or dress designer or rally driver after all. Swerved, walked away from a business they hated, found they could love their life after all. The thought of the real estate agent throwing all his flyers in the air, got me thinking about what I would throw away.
So many of my friends moved away from the city when their rental places sold or were priced out of their range. Many couples married and bought places together, two sailed off on a boat and a couple of my closest friends joined a collective up North, organic farming and heritage orchards. I visited and they loaded me up with monster lettuces and the tastiest fruit on earth.
Looking back over my life, I wondered what to do now. My house worth a great deal and even more once I painted it universal beige with a slightly darker trim. ‘Now, anyone can imagine this is their place, to do with as they please.’ My real estate agent beamed at me.
So busy I had to get someone else to sell the place for me, my mission took me out of town every spare day.
On my drives I told myself new things. I could buy elsewhere like anyone could, somewhere cheaper, then use the spare capital to start up a business. Soon, while I wheeled along in glorious weather or rainy days, past beaches or farms, I could also see how I chose the wrong men for anything to last between us. My youth; I spent so many hours sat in some backstage area or flat, just waited for them to turn up again to share some of the limelight, to have someone near who looked like they could love me, care, hug me now and then and talk about this and that. Now I knew to care who I loved; no movie moondust could save me. The eight year old who believed another world existed inside the TV, where movies played for real, she disappeared from somewhere inside me. I left her on the roadside and she walked away into the sky.
I decided then I’d walk away from my street without anyone to miss, and since I’d lately worked online selling vintage this and that, it didn’t matter where I lived.
The next weekend I drove around the coast, looked at a few small, do-up places well back from the water’s edge. Much cheaper than anything with a view. Bach after bach in forgotten countryside. One of my customers told me about a place, emailed some pictures. Lovely.
All the while the real estate spoke to me while I pruned the palm, this plan formed without my really knowing it until later. Sometimes I think I could owe him something.
Raewyn Alexander writes herself into good fortune (she says) and lately, out of trouble (she says) since age arrived. She lives in the South Pacific, where she was born and works online as a consultant. Her latest book is available.