I am packing and unscrewing pieces of toys until my fingers ache, hoping my husband will find us a place to live.

Granted, it’s not been easy for him.  He finally rented a car on Friday and looked at a few places.  We had talked about criteria, which apparently left his head immediately.

Cadillac: “I looked at this house. 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, lower end of our budget. Almost 2000 square feet. Family room, living room, dining room. Neighborhood looks nice.”

Me: “Did you get it?”

C: “No. Something better will come up. This one had a 70s kitchen. No dishwasher.”

Me: “You should have gotten it.”

Sunday he looked at a couple of other places and called back.  “That house is the best we’re going to do.”

Monday: The house was already rented.

Monday afternoon, he called again.  “I looked at a townhouse and put in an app, but I’m going to see another one today.”

Monday, later afternoon: “This other townhouse is 100 times better than the last one.  I”m on my way to get it.”

Me: “Does it have a place for the kids to play?”

C: “No.”

“Where’s the parking?”

“Underground. Forget it. I’ll find us a place.”

Me: “I think you should apply. We don’t have to live there forever.”

Cadillac: “No. Something better will open.”

Me: “I looked at airplane tickets.”

C: “I have to rent a place and THEN get your tickets.”  He reminded me that we are not so rich we can just snap our fingers and do everything immediately.  Which I, crazy as it may sound, know.

Yesterday, nothing new popped up in the ads to look at except a 3 bedroom house with 1 bathroom.  “I can’t do one bathroom,” I said.  “You always said we couldn’t.”

C: “We can adapt.”

“No.”

The day after that, I consulted with the kids. “Would you rather live in a townhouse a half mile from the beach in  a 3 bedroom place that has two and a half bathrooms, or a house with one bathroom but has a big yard?”

Kids: “Townhouse!”

Elyse: “I want to live in a townhouse just like in HARRY POTTER.”

I called my husband back and conveyed this, and he immediately faxed in the app.  Somehow the children were able to convince him to take action.  As for me, I’ll just make the kids carry groceries up the two stair flights.  Their arms aren’t broken.

It’s been tough having my husband gone.  Besides the obvious conveniences, like how he takes out the trash and makes me coffee, I feel very distant from him.  When he calls or emails, it’s all business.

Finally I told him that it felt like I was conversing with a stranger. Actually, I told him this several times but on the third time he was able to articulate why he seemed emotionless.  “I have no privacy anywhere,” he explained.  “I’m always in public or someone’s always nearby.”  He had had to leave the townhouse he was renting because the woman found someone willing to pay twice as much as he was, so he’s renting a room from an older lady.  Apparently this room is really more like a niche off the living room, separated by louvered blind doors.  He is either not supposed to or is unwilling to use her kitchen, so he’s piecemealing his food from the Costco food court and the nearby Safeway.  I know that he’s having a tough time, but I didn’t know how this was translating into his whole, “Only the facts, Ma’am,” demeanor.  Even his e-mails were short and to the point.

He’s always been weird about privacy.  When we go out to dinner, he is reluctant to discuss anything because we’re in public.  “You’re not a spy,” I tell him.  “Nobody cares what you’re talking about.  You’re not giving out personal information.”

But he understood, and at last began conveying more than mere facts like, “The wind is blowing.  I arrived at 730 and worked until 6. ”  And I’m happy with a short e-mail telling me something of himself.

I just got an email. We’re in the townhouse a half mile from the beach. There are worse places to be.