Separation by Ingrid Coram

 

My eyes settle on the golden green Napoleonic Fabergé egg which sits, perching, encased in strong glass. The bustling Metropolitan Museum of Art surrounds me, its walls threatening to close in at any moment. I exhale and walk to the next exhibit.

I check my watch to discover that the auction begins in just fifteen minutes. I’m looking to buy a small house here in New York. I’ve lived in rural North America my entire life, helping my father on the family’s farm, but it’s time to get away. My mother died when I was very young, no more than seven years old, and my father died of a stroke last year.

So it’s been difficult.

My sister, Denise, moved to South Africa three years ago, disconnecting herself from the family. I heard somewhere that she’s married now. I wouldn’t know.

Life on the farm was beautiful. Waking up to the chirping of birds, setting out to retrieve your breakfast from the hens…but I couldn’t possibly stay and keep it running alone, with the memories of my first years of life surrounding me? Pictures of my mother, images of Denise and I learning how to milk a cow…even the same pigsty where I first tasted mud! My history, my family, all on the premises. I can’t live alone, basking in the past. I’ve never really been cut out for country life. Even as a girl, I longed for the hustle and bustle of an overpopulated city. Which is why I’m here. New York. The queen of overpopulated cities.
The auctioneer is a plump man in his late forties. He holds the prize winning contract in his hand, the contract that seals the winner’s future. I’m ready to seriously bid. I have a lot of money – hundreds of thousands – left to me by my father. It’s thanks to him I can start a new life.

The bidding begins with an opening offer of two hundred thousand. The house is very small, with an interconnected living room and kitchen, small bathroom and one medium sized bedroom. It’s not even situated in a desirable location. It won’t sell for much; it can’t.

I raise my hand to bid three hundred. A couple at the back bids three ten. Three twenty for me. They raise it to three thirty. Images swell into my mind of the life I could build here. I give a little wave. Three forty. My mother had such high hopes for me. Imagine what she’d think if she knew I was jobless and homeless. What a mess.

The couple exchange glances and wave again. Three fifty. Beads of sweat glisten on my forehead as the price rises and my life zooms past. Chickens laying eggs, cows producing milk, riding horses for hours on end…I smile, and see my parents in my mind. My mother frowns, but my father smiles. I raise my hand. Three sixty. I can do this.

The couple whisper and murmur, then nod. We’re at three seventy. Can I give up rural for urban? It’s a big change, maybe too big. But I think I’m ready.

Three eighty. Will we get to four hundred? The couple look vaguely nervous, and for a moment I’m hopeful that they’ll give up. We’re the only serious bidders in the room. One of us will walk out with the keys to this house. I can only hope it’ll be me. The man nods again, and we’re at three ninety. I swallow. I remember my father telling me, about two weeks before his death, to always be strong. Moving on from my past is strong, isn’t it? I hope it is. The auctioneer is moving too quickly. ‘Going once!’ He calls. I breath heavily. ‘Twice!’ Horses, chickens, cows or…or New York? ‘Three times!’ My mother, my father, my sister… ‘Final call!’
I prepare to raise my hand. Four hundred. I can do it. But then, my eyes land on the couple. Hands entwined, looking excited. Looking ready.

I bite my lip and release my hand. ‘Sold!’ The contract comes zooming towards the auctioneer’s hand. In one swift moment, this couple are the proud owners of a house. They have made a change. Maybe they were both born and raised in New York, maybe not. I’m ready for a change too. I just have to find it.