I’m just back from another flat viewing, and I’m tired.
Flat viewings are fun when you’re just starting out and you don’t have a deadline. But when a month has passed and you’ve been rejected a couple times, the fun considerably lessens. I still don’t have a deadline, and I can choose wisely. But oh man, do I wish I had my own bed and my own curtains.
The place I saw today was newly renovated, smelled of fresh paint, and had the fanciest kitchen I’ve seen so far that I haven’t asked to pay extra for. It was situated somewhere between an adult entertainment area and some of the shiniest houses I’ve seen in Berlin so far, and the staircase alone could be a movie set. (This movie’s Berlin would be crumbling but charming.) If I was a quirky movie character who’s just moved to the city, this is the place where I’d end up. My neighbours would forever be dropping by to chat or cry about their latest heartbreak or smoke weed or something. (I don’t watch these movies very closely, they’re usually my migraine entertainment.)
And this is alright for movie characters, because they don’t need sleep unless the script says so. But I need a lot of sleep. And I don’t need paper thin walls, and the bright and noisy and colourful spectacle of youth playing out in the inner yard, and people walking past my window on their way home from the betting shop or the adult cinema at all hours of the night.
The only movie character I’ve ever wanted to be was Amélie Poulain.
I was 12 when Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain came out, which means that her life has been my ideal for more than half of my life now. Her apartment is enormous, a disturbing shade of red, and filled with trinkets and weird art that sometimes talks.
Most of all, it’s her sanctuary. It’s quiet and cozy, somewhere that looks like it could swallow you up in its warm embrace. It’s a space that is completely hers. It’s where she dreams and creates, and where no one disturbs her. It’s a home.
And when I say I ‘want to be’ Amélie, I mean the life she’d built. I wanted that way of engaging with the world. I wanted that kind of flat (in a different colour), and that space to just be. And, 18 years later, I realise I still do.
As I view one place after another, the kind of life I want to live becomes more and more clear. There was little I could do about my living situation when I was in London, where you had to take what you could afford, so I just tried to make the area work and find people I could bear to share a house with. I don’t want this anymore.
And of course it’s going to be different. Amélie’s Montmartre doesn’t exist. A space that big is still not in my budget. I’ll probably never have a cat. But I want my own space, to be myself in.
Wish me luck. It’s all you need here, apparently.