From William Cullen's Journal: June 30, 2016.
As soon as he said the words, the house loomed before me, blocking out everything else from my thoughts. I could think only of the house. Lit windows in the night: seven gables reaching toward me through the skeleton arms of the elm trees. The taste of blood and rain. The smell of moist earth and centuries drowning out his voice.
I could hear myself responding to him. I think that all I could muster were soft replies. “Yes.” “Yes.” “OK.” “OK.” The hulking presence of the house crowded out everything. It crowded me into the recesses of my own mind.
And when he hung up the phone the first call I made wasn’t to Ed. It was to that realtor. “That house?,” she said. “Are you sure? I thought one of those cute two-bedroom, one-and-a-half baths would work best for you. That house is too big for you. It needs too much work. I don’t know why I even showed it to you.”
And before I knew it I was waiting again. Waiting now not for the call from Professor Strange, but for a call back from a realtor for news about my offer on the house. And each moment that I sat in my one-room apartment in Newark felt like a thousand needles in my flesh. Not because of listening to the leftover idiot townies and undergraduates who didn’t go home for the summer, not from sweating in the heat of my apartment. I think it was The House. Two lighted windows and skeleton branches and seven gables reaching for me through stars.
I snapped out of it some time after dark. I called Ed. He was elated. I had never heard him so excited. Or so familiar with me. As if this one event altered the entire premise of our relationship, shifted my place in his mind and my position in his professional circles.
I guess it did. This is what I had been working for. We had not expected it to happen yet. We had thought I would have to wait a few years, and publish and conference more, until I could overcome the skepticism that the scholars in my profession felt toward my theories. And now it was here. Now it is here. I was glad to see that my hand had taken notes on the terms of Strange’s offer. “It’s a good offer,” Ed said. “It’s a good offer.” And when I came to the research funding I was surprised to read what I’d written. “Probable funding for joint expedition with the archeology department to Seahenge.” Seahenge. I was really going to go.
Seahenge is the only way to truly prove my theories. The only way to silence those who smirked at me in the hallways of conferences, or laughed at me behind my back. This will change everything. “This is big,” he said. “This is big,” he kept saying. “I think you should just take it. It’s a good offer. To ask for more, after they’ve given you everything you could want, would send the wrong message.” More congratulations.
Then the call to Strange, even though it was maybe getting a little late. Strange’s voice steady, yet rising slightly as he said he was very pleased that I would accept their offer. “Congratulations. We’re going to do great work here together,” he said. “We’ll get the contracts out to you.”
Then for an hour I sat in the dark and the humidity of the summer evening. I felt drained. I think I stared at the wall. The house loomed in my mind.
And finally the call. “Congratulations, homeowner!,” the realtor exclaimed. “The house needs a lot of work, it’s true. And it’s kind of big for you. It’s at the top of your budget. But you have the money from your parent’s death. That will bring the monthly payment down. And help with the repairs to the exterior. But with this market? It’s really going to appreciate. Who knows, in a couple years you might sell it for a tidy profit and them move in to Salem. Or if you don’t mind the commute you could relo to Boston! Wouldn’t that be fun! You’re going to be very happy there. I’ll get the contracts over to you first thing tomorrow!”
So much happened. So much I’ve been waiting for, dreaming of for years, so much I’ve been so frightened I could never have. So much that I only dared to hope for it in the recesses of my mind. But it’s here. I have the job. And the house.