Vicenta wants to rent a room

I see it from my interior balcony, the one that overlooks a large courtyard of blocks in a group of buildings in the Patraix neighborhood of Valencia.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
11 May 2024 Saturday 05:17
10 Reads
Vicenta wants to rent a room

I see it from my interior balcony, the one that overlooks a large courtyard of blocks in a group of buildings in the Patraix neighborhood of Valencia. He always comes down first thing in the morning and starts walking along the square-shaped layout of this space with a small garden. It is a park isolated from the outside that the neighbors renovated for our little ones eighteen years ago, when we were almost all new parents and it was fun to see dozens of boys and girls playing every afternoon. For some years now, almost no one has used it, because our children have grown older, many are over 18 years old, and they go from playing in the wooden playhouse, on the children's slide or on the spring horses installed on the sand. They already have other hobbies, let's say, adult ones, that do not fit with this environment. But today she was there again, I saw her again, walking slowly and turning several times; and I decided to go down and say hello to her.

Her name is Vicenta, but she says that everyone in the family calls her “Vicen.” I already told you about her on another occasion, I met her during the pandemic. She is small, with short white hair, a pleasant face and a curious look behind thick glasses. She is 86 years old, she lives in one of the buildings across from mine, all with access to the interior patio. “The apartment is big, I can't stand being at home all day.” She lives alone. She tells me that her daughter and her son-in-law visit her one day a week. “I have diabetes and heart problems and the doctor asks me to walk for an hour every day,” she says with a Valencian accent from the La Costera region. In these housing blocks, built in the late 90s, there are few older people, the majority are couples between forty and fifty years old who bought before the real estate boom at a good price. That is why it is strange to find people like Mrs. Vicenta, who sometimes goes out into the street, goes to what we know as “chimney park” (which has an old restored industrial chimney at the entrance) and takes her walks there. A fact: so as not to forget the turns she has taken, with each one she plucks a small twig from a bush: when she has completed 10 she rests. “The doctor tells me that I have to walk two kilometers every day.”

Vicenta says that she is “shocked” by the prices at which apartments in the neighborhood are offered for rent or purchase. “Poor people” she points out without specifying which generation she is referring to; although she adds something that gives a clue: “well, I have talked to my children that I might rent a room to a girl student.” She says it with conviction, because she comments that her pension is very little and that the house is very big. “This way I will also have company.” She comments that she has a friend who has done it and that she is very happy. She rented a room from one of the nurses who work at the Peset Hospital in Valencia, located very close to where we live. “The girl is very good, she helps her with things at home and since she is a nurse she is a great help.” She believes that she may also be lucky, because she, she adds, “that girl” has told her friend that she has several colleagues who cannot find a place to live with the salaries they have. And that they are women who "prefer to live quietly with an older woman rather than in shared apartments with people they don't know."

Vicenta asks me not to take any photos of her. She knows my job and I ask her permission, like she did the other time, to tell her story. That, she points out, doesn't matter to her, "but not the photo." Near where we are walking there is a ground floor that not many years ago was a hostess place, you know, a kind of “American bar.” Now it is being transformed into a rental home. The neighborhood is full of similar cases. “How much will they ask for?” she asks me. I tell him that for less than 1,200 euros it is difficult to find anything in the area, which is a problem that is growing. “Well, for just one room I'm not going to ask for much, I'd rather it be a good girl.” And she concludes: “he might like to walk with me, that would be good, I don't like doing this alone every day either.”