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Lost a job, but discovered Charlotte is home


It's a good thing I don't believe in ghosts, because my house is full of them. The walls shudder and bang when I run hot water. I swear the stairs and the toilet are competing over some sort of "Loudest Moan" award. The floorboards are scratched and splattered and gap in some places so wide I can wedge my pinkie finger between them, but never deeply enough to scrape out the crusted tracks of pre-Eisenhower-era lint and particles of other lives. My humble Dilworth duplex knew war and recession long before I arrived in this town, or on this earth. She has witnessed countless family dramas, love and labors lost and reclaimed, and more layers of paint than a Jackson Pollock gallery showing. At the ripe old age of 71, she is cranky and incontinent and awaiting her demise, as her peers are bulldozed and replaced with bigger, fresher models, sporting the latest trends in quartz countertops and faux stone fronts. Six months into my year-long lease, now that I've been offered a way out of it, I've fallen in love with the place. I lost my job a week ago. I'm an interior designer, and except for a brief delusional detour into novel-writing, I've specialized in model home design for the last decade. It's one of those jobs that everyone thinks must be glamorous and fun. Some days, it really was. But over the years, I've struggled with the fact that no matter how much passion and effort is poured into making a model stand out, in the end, they always feel the same. It's the curse of new construction: it has no soul. So now, as the new housing market has gone from bustling to bust in a matter of months, even here along the gold-paved streets of Charlotte, it was no great surprise when the company bigwigs rolled into the office unannounced, pink slips in hand, to deliver the bad news. The closed our office that day. The company is based in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and has lost nearly half its staff this year. So I was flattered when they offered to move me up north and keep me on. As with any big decision, I slept on it. Or, tried to anyway. The ghosts were out in full force that night, clanking the pipes, stampeding across the attic floor. And after a while, I could finally hear what they were trying to tell me: please stay. I've lived in Charlotte two and a half years, but it wasn't until that very night that it became home. And when I decided not to become another phantom, this house creaked so much I thought for a second the floorboards might roll up and hug me. I declined the job in Maryland, and now I'm contemplating taking another stab at the writing life. Because after all, even though I don't believe in ghosts, I believe in soul.