In this essay, Beth Boyle Machlan writes about possibility, desire, real estate, finding one’s home, and coveting the Brooklyn brownstone. The piece is part of Machlan’s Catapult column, Unreal Estates, which explores issues of housing in America through a very personal lens.

To me, back then, that brownstone stood for everything I wanted: solidity and urbanity, possibility and permanence. I could see it, stand inside it, even sleep there. But it wasn’t mine, and I had no idea who or where or what I was.

For so long I was so sure that the right boy and the right brownstone would give me the right life, just as my parents believed that success required leaving the city and living in houses, even if—even after— those houses cost everything they had.

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.