When we arrived at the house it was obvious the owners weren’t expecting us. Maybe Armando never called them, maybe they’d forgotten.
But they couldn’t have been more gracious. In fact, they invited us to lunch.
Personally, I wouldn’t have been so nice.
For starters, Armando honked his horn in the driveway to herald our arrival. A bit rude, I thought. But soon a doddery old man appeared at a side gate, smiling absently, and said, “Que?”
“Abrir la puerta,” Armando replied. “Open up.”
The old fellow looked more than a little confused. “I know you?”
“It’s me, Armando. Carlos’ amigo.”
“Listen, we’re here to see the house. These nice men want to buy it.”
Michael shot me a look that said, What a bozo.
The owner continued to smile amiably, though he made no move to open the gate.
“So let us in.”
“We are selling our house?”
“Could be, partner, if you’ll open up.”
His name was Señor Tio. He’d worked for the gas company for forty years but was now retired. Despite the intense heat, he wore a long-sleeved black flannel shirt buttoned to the neck.
As soon as we got inside the house the smell of fish assaulted us. Fried fish to be exact.
Señora Tio was at the stove, making lunch.
She stopped everything when we came in and greeted us as if she’d been expecting us for days. We were embarrassed, but her simple kindness soon put us at ease.
“Will you take lunch?” she asked in Spanish.
“No, but it’s very nice of you to ask,” I said. “We had a late breakfast. Gran desayuno.”
She eyed us in her friendly but slightly puzzled manner. “You came from New York?”
Her face went blank.
“You know, the capital.”
“No, not Washington state. The city of Washington.”
“Actually the district,” Michael interjected unhelpfully.
“Cherry blossoms,” said Armando.
She lit up. “I always would have liked to see these big pink plants.”
Having settled both the lunch and cherry blossom issues, it was now acceptable, or so it appeared, to begin the tour.
The house was fabulous. Mind you, it was pretty run down, not to mention stuffed to the gills with inappropriately ornate furniture, plastic chandeliers and a five-foot wide television, but the basics were there—and more.
Judging from our admittedly scant exposure to island architecture, the layout of this house was an anomaly. Instead of being chopped up into a series of small, dark spaces like most houses we had seen, the better part of the top floor was in fact devoted to one very large room containing kitchen, living and dining areas.
The visual impact of this great room was further maximized by two sets of glass double doors leading out onto a broad balcony with breathtaking ocean views.
Opening off this room at the back was a large master bedroom and bath with an enormous glass-brick shower. Again there were many improvements to be made, but the overall layout was a winner.
“And how about the downstairs?” I asked after we’d finished our tour upstairs.
This was where it got tricky. Suddenly Armando and Señor Tio switched to Spanish and began a rapid-fire volley of words, ending in a fairly heated exchange.
Armando turned to us sheepishly. “Unfortunately it won’t be possible for you to see the downstairs today.”
We were speechless. We’d been through so much, and here, finally, was a house we loved. And now we weren’t going to be allowed to view it top to bottom.
“But we leave tomorrow,” I said hopelessly.
Armando spread his hands wide. “I know. Lo siento.”
And that, it seemed, was that.