Six weeks after I move back in, my wife wants to buy a house. Specifically, this house she found on the internet. She says it’s a roller coaster house and by that she means there is a roller coaster in the backyard, the next lot over. She shows me the listing and asks if I can believe it. Says that part of the track goes right over the roof. Says that at the asking price it’s still a great deal. Says that even though we don’t want kids it matters that the schools are good because that factors into future appraisals of the roller coaster house. Not that we’ll ever move. Just that we may want to consider refinancing at some point. Use the capital to reinvest into the roller coaster house.
She waves her hand around in the air like a wand. “A sun room,” she says. “A man cave, maybe."
I tell her I don’t want a man cave, but she says of course I do. I ask her how serious she is about this whole thing and she says extremely serious.
Against my better judgment, I agree to attend the open house for the roller coaster house. The open roller coaster house, my wife says.
Looking for a place to park, my wife points out that the roads have recently been sealed. She pokes my shoulder. That thing with the potholes, she refuses to let it go.
“Very smooth,” I say.
“Only joking,” she says.
The house itself seems fine. The shingles are new, the realtor points out from the lawn. She hands me a pamphlet with all the details. It’s got central air, hardwood floors, a working fireplace, etc.
And of course the roller coaster in the backyard.
“It’s always going like this?” I ask the realtor, gesturing to the old fashioned wood track. “There’s no off season?”
“That’s right.” She has some lipstick on her teeth. “Even on Christmas!”
I ask her why the current owners are moving and she gives me a look like ha ha, very funny, asshole.
Inside, there are other couples wandering around the rooms. We are looking to answer the same question and the answer is yes—yes, in every corner of the house, you can hear the roller coaster. The clacking of the track, the cranking of the chains, the delighted woos of her passengers. My wife says it’s not as loud as she thought it would be but she has to say it three times before I can hear her. One of the other husbands watches this exchange and smirks at me and I surprise myself by briefly imagining choking him to death.
“What do we think?” my wife says.
“Honestly,” I say. “It’s very unique.”
“Honestly,” she says, chewing her lip. “I need this, okay?”
I say okay, jeez.
Later that night, we make an offer on the roller coaster house. It is more money than we have currently or could hope to have in the near future. My wife says that real estate is about long-term investments. You know what they say about land, she says, about how god’s not making any more. And I say, he’s not? But she doesn’t hear me. At least she’s acting like she can’t. And anyway, it doesn’t matter because we discover the following afternoon that our offer to buy the roller coaster house has been declined. The realtor tells me about this older couple, retired Utans. Amusement park enthusiasts, apparently. Came in with cash and bid over asking.
Upon hearing this news, my wife rushes out into our backyard and I go after her. She is facing our fence, looking at where the roller coaster would be, if only we had one. Instead there is just another house, very similar to the one we’re renting. She is crying a great deal.
“We’ll find some other funky house,” I promise her. “There’s all kinds, I bet. A house next door to a zoo? What about that?”
“No,” she says. “That would be a nightmare.”
And right then, that’s when it really starts. Something like love at first sight except in reverse. The beginning of the end. I can still see it. I can, swear to god. Our little backyard. The khaki grass. The space where a roller coaster should have been.
There were other things, of course. Bigger things. Lying and cheating. And smaller too. Laundry left in the washer. Sandwich crumbs on the couch.
But the roller coaster house. I’d almost forgotten. The first of many chances I had to turn it all around.