Finding an apartment in Cape Town is like finding a man. It is, at any given time, both daunting and heartbreaking. And all the good ones are taken.
It all begins with the first sighting. There’s hope, expectation and as the viewing approaches, a little bit of a thrill. Then you walk through the rooms and project yourself into future DVD nights and dinner parties in the space. It either beckons you, leaves you underwhelmed or totally repels you at a single glance. If you love it, your heart starts to race a little and outwardly, you try to appear calm and cool. If you hate it, you thank the person politely and make a quick exit.
Anyone who has ever gone in search of a medium to long-term rental in Cape Town can vouch for this – finding a shoebox to live in requires patience, tenacity and a gut familiar with rejection.
This was my list of suitors:
- No. 23 Arthurs Road. Tiny, modern security complex. Absolutely devoid of character. And the current occupant keeps her shoes in the kitchen cupboard. It went to a Brazilian student who offered 6 months rental upfront.
- No. 8 Milford House. This was love at first sight. Bright and airy, charming and delightful. I got down on one knee for this one. But the owner commanded God’s blessings on me and gently informed me that there were still other viewings taking place in the week. I made my intentions supremely clear but a few days later, the owner picked someone else named Jennifer. Why not me? Maybe this was the dialogue that went down between the Milfords: “She’s young and single. She’ll probably party too much and bring boys over. She says she often works late. Hmm, we don’t want a racket late at night now do we dear? She’s Indian. They make a lot of curry.” Or perhaps it was as simple as this: They just weren’t into me.
- 189 Main Road. Just above Luv Land.
- Arthurs Road (again). This date took place on the phone and it was a break up long before it was even a hook up.
- No. 404 Rockaways. 3 couples (and me) rocked up to view this one. It was a game of “Let’s see who’s best at buttering up Mr and Mrs Buchinsky.” And I wasn’t happy to play. Also, the non-existent washing machine outlet was a decider.
- No. 9 Glenyln Court. I was greeted by an odd, unkempt old man. I tried to imagine this spacious apartment without 500 pieces of furniture in one room. The rooms were big and underneath all the clutter, beautiful parquet flooring revealed itself but the smoky, mustiness of stale living, misery and whiskey lingered on my shirt long after the viewing. Something was not right about that place. Still, I thought I could scrub the walls with ammonia, sweep up years of depression, polish away the discomfort and fix the broken things. That night, I dreamt that as I was getting changed in the bedroom of No 9, the old man appeared in front of me as a ghost, naked. I awoke screaming.
The Cape Town Universe has been somewhat weird with me this week. It has had trouble deciding between the ridiculous and the remarkable. It served out a messy, ‘ex’ scenario, overzealous hormonal tears (from accidentally taking the active instead of inactive pills), having my phone nearly stolen and recovered by heroic strangers called Taz and Jerome, taking in dollops and gulps of inspiration from the Design Indaba, stupidly calling sweet Sanjiv, Rajiv, getting my hopes up and having them crushed, feeling an enormous pressure to be brilliant and epic. And finally, tasting the most sumptuous macaroons in the world, courtesy of Priya and Shaun.
After a week of playing the Cape Town scene, I leave alone. I’m still single and there is no suitable lap to rest my head on. But as dear Mandie so aptly points out, “It’s not you. It’s Cape Town.”
So I finally take a deep breath and a long walk on the Promenade and decide to calm down and start again. Being single is hard work. You don’t want to appear desperate and you don’t want yet another problem case. You just want somewhere bright and lovely, safe and with a good energy; you want to see your unborn mornings on the porch, drinking coffee and staring up at the mountains and most of all you just want a place you can call Your Other Half. Your home. Your sanctuary.
With the sun beating down on my shoulders and the breeze cooling my heart, I feel like I could still be in love with the Mother City. Cape Town, I’m not done with you. One day, the right one will come along.