It’s not blush pink or Barbie pink or hot pink or sugar-pink; it’s not Comet or Cupid or Donder or Blitzen; it’s not the best of times or the worst of times; it’s not a hobbit-hole (and that means comfort), though it’s more like a hobbit-hole than anything else. The Pink House is HDR pink. It’s a shade beyond the standard range, beyond Pepto and millennial pink, way beyond tearose. There’s more than a hint of red in it, and orange too; if a hint is a dropped fan, this is a dropped strap. It’s a brassy pink, without pretense.
I hike to the Pink House almost every day. It’s about a mile from mine, all uphill, a good destination for a quarantine walk. Much further, and you’d get to the main street of my neighborhood, which I don’t want to do: too reminiscent of the normal world. The trick is not to think of the normal world. The trick is to construct an iridescent shell.
The Pink House symbolizes nothing to me. I have read enough hacky essays about talismanic objects for me to want to make that clear. It is not the white whale (though I appreciate Melville’s snaky exploration of a free-running Symbol that everyone in the book is obviously wrong about). It is not the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock (though I appreciate Fitzgerald’s choice to just spell it out).
So why write about it? I’ll tell you. The Pink House is perfect. A flat-roofed, dumbbell-shaped, vaguely Mediterranean ranch with grand warm windows, it’s got a boxy two-story addition hunched up behind it, as if shy but still hoping to be introduced. A retaining wall painted the same pink as the house protects a sloping garden of wildflowers, much the way a seat belt holds tight a driver’s heart. The whole is approached by a broad staircase of a powder blue. This blue is much quieter than the pink, a good choice; the same paint adds a hint of eyeshadow to the house’s window frames.
Google Street View provides snapshots of the house all the way back to 2011, and from this you can see that the house used to be mint green, with stairs of faded velvet-cake red. Most disconcertingly of all, it used to have a person in the window. By 2018, the house is pink and the person is gone. As it should be! People don’t live in the Pink House! It’s meant to beam benignly down at the whole neighborhood, like a Buddha. Do people live in the Buddha? I would say not!
I’m running up a charge of humor here, but the truth is that I don’t want to know the people in the Pink House, or go inside. I’m glad that the people are there, though, and that they love the house. I mean, clearly it is adored — look at how bright the garden is, and at the fact that it’s worn two different bold liveries this decade. But my interest isn’t in the people, and I hope they’ve never caught me taking my daily thirty-second pause to stare respectfully at their home. Because ultimately, my gaze is one of vast, non-Parasitesque Respect. I would take my hat off if I wore hats. I would take my mask off if it were wise.
I said the house wasn’t a symbol, and that is true, but it’s also true that I want it for more than what it is. I want to be loved like this house is loved. I want to find me a [person], as the meme runs, who looks at me the way I look at it. I also want a home, i.e. to love the house the way it is loved. I haven’t had my own home since 2007 — for the past thirteen years, I’ve lived in rented rooms in expensive cities, with roommates or partners, sometimes moving twice or three times in a year due to the vagaries of early-career archiving, divorce, and having roommates’ leases shot out from under them. I’m lucky to have that much, but a house is unimaginable.
This house, then: my hologram sunset, my melancholy rooftop scene, my pink Cadillac making a safe, legal right turn. Quarantine offers many ways to get a little weird, and having a crush on a building is probably one of the less florid ones, at least for the month of May.