Being an EA does something to you. I am not sure if I was a paranoid mess before I was an EA, but I’m pretty sure that I never used to sleep with one eye open and assume that the worst before I got my NAEA badge.
In this game, it is one continual beauty pageant and you can never afford to have your makeup off. Even when the client had signed their contract with you, the cancellation rights mean that your instruction is just as tenuous as it seems. Anything could happen in that time, 14 whole days. Most of us work at risk pretty much all the time, the truth being that even after the 14 days have passed if the client wants out that much, you can’t hold them. We are the only people in the process who don’t get paid, if the deal does not complete, from mortgage brokers, to surveyors, to the solicitors. As it can take three months (on average, if you are lucky) for the sale to actually complete, it also means that EA’s always have shitty cashflow, unless of course they have managed to get three months ahead at some point. That is why the feature of any KPI discussion central to estate agency will focus heavily on the holy words “pipeline”.
So what was in my personal pipeline of shit? I had decided that things at home were generally speaking not that great. I was working too hard, and I was trying too hard to be all things to all people again. Up at 5am to type details and respond to yesterday’s emails, Peppa Pig and cereal with the kids on the couch, a hurried frenzy of shouting everyone along “shoes on!” and the usual “what the hell have you been doing for the last half hour when child number two comes down stairs wearing nothing but socks when everyone else has coats on and is ready to leave. Straight out into work, and the day begins. Race all the way through until about seven or eight o’clock, powered by nothing but a Tesco’s cheese and onion sandwich, eaten far too quickly at your desk, repeating on you all day until you get home. If you are lucky the kids are asleep or in bed, if you are luckier there is something of their dinner left over for you and the wife to sit down to, so you can regurgitate the main details of who tried to shit on your day and all the near misses. She will nod and ask the occasional question, a skilled interviewing technique that enables her to seem engaged whilst the light in her eyes died 300 of these conversations ago.
So you ask her how her day was and she will tell you that she is “so tired” and that the kids were vile shits after school, and a few other details from her day. Her day is never good, if it is good, it makes the fact that she isn’t currently working and has no childcare responsibilities between 9 and 3.30pm seem like the best gig in the world. So you will hear about all of life’s misfortunes and tragedies whilst simultaneously skirting round the fact that drinking coffee and having chats with equally privileged friends features heavily in the thematic nuances of these stories. Nothing good ever happens.
Telly, alchohol a couch and more telly. Eventually someone goes to bed and we start it all again in the morning.
And so we don’t need to work out the reasons that this next thing happens. Even a blind man would see this coming. A blind man would, but not me, oh no.
It started as a lad’s trip to visit our long lost mate in New York, maybe we would even manage to squeeze in a few days in Miami. I would famously go on social media and speak of the trip in revered terms as if it was a holy pilgrimage to a my spiritual home. I know what I’m doing, I’m priming my colleagues and customers for my not being around and of course Sarah.
Sarah encourages me to take the time out, and makes one of her rare forays into pop psychology and tells me that I never make time for myself and I deserve the break. I should have noticed the warning signs right there. Tenderness, compassion and generosity of spirit should have all fucking rang alarm bells with me, but I was too busy thinking about the partying I was going to be doing in Miami beach.
The whole thing played out live on Facebook. From every shirt I bought for the holiday, to every missed Facetime call with the kids and all the drinking and girls in Miami, in between.
I got back home laden with duty free, presents for Sarah, presents for the kids. I barely made it from the taxi to the front door. It was odd, because Sarah knew what time I was going to be home, but her car was missing and all the lights were off in the house.
I get my keys out and try them in the lock and nothing works. The penny still hasn’t dropped at that point and I try each key again. I go round the back and try the back door key. Same story.
I call Sarah, she knocks off the call and then I receive the text message. A text message which obviously had been well rehearsed and written well before in anticipation of this precise moment.
I’ll keep it brief because the text was a ten minute read, but the highlights are: firstly she’s been very unhappy, I work all the time, I’m never around – that’s the justification. The kids don’t see me enough because I’m working all the time – that’s the custody justification. There’s someone else and it’s not worth working on it because it’s over – that’s the sucker punch.
And well, that’s the reason I’ve been sleeping in my car for the past week.