last night i closed out my entry on a high note: we stopped by our house in the afternoon and the death smell was lifting, thanks, in part–or so we thought–to lots and lots boxes of baking soda. and time. today we came back and the smell was worse. worse even than the day (sunday) they found and removed our neighbor‘s body. i simply cannot describe the feeling, the crushing blow this was to us, especially me.
i got one good whiff of it and then walked out, closed the door and stood out on our wet, rainy stoop and just cried. i cried and cried and cried standing there until holly came out and warned me that the neighbors would start to wonder what was going on. and i said, what the hell do i care what our neighbors think. i cried until i gave myself a headache, until my face was swollen and my lips hurt. even tho we have put blood, sweat and tears into our house, i wish it wasn’t ours. i wish we were renting it so we could just break our lease and get the hell out of here. but responsibility calls. this is our house, this is home ownership and we need to deal with it, whether we want to or not.
holly has spent a great deal of time on the phone over the past couple days trying to figure out a) what can be done about his house (empty, easy to break into, a huge fire hazard, sealed up, unventilated with rats inside and out) b) who/where he may have relatives and c) make sure all of his books are donated to the local university he retired from (as a librarian). tho we don’t/didn’t know much about him, he told us on several occasions that he wanted to donate his books to that university, but felt overwhelmed by the task of going thru them and packing them up. we offered to find ppl to help him, but he said he wasn’t interested. we think he was just embarrassed to have ppl come in his house. that’s how full of books and paper is it, apparently. (the cops and fire fighters told us there was just a narrow path for them to get to him.) maybe that’s why he kept to himself so much, never had anyone over. he was just ashamed. it’s very sad. i’m really surprised we were even able to talk him into getting an exterminator (two years ago; obviously it never worked).
by talking to three ppl that knew our neighbor–including the lone cousin he kept in touch with, an elderly woman (in her 80s) in texas–we’re actually learning a little about the quiet, eccentric man that lived–and died–alone next door to us.
he was a hermit, she told holly tonight. he loved to read, but had a problem with buying books (as in, he couldn’t stop). he was always “a little strange,” she said. and tho she told him for years to write a will, she doubts he has one. he wanted to be cremated without a service. he was a agnostic, or an athiest, she said. he really did plan on moving to texas, apparently (he always told us he planned to move to texas), as he put a deposit on a home there. she wound up talking on the phone to the detective that came here sunday night. they’re having a hard time identifying him, and the detective was inquiring about dental records. yeah. so. no wonder we can’t get the smell out of here. not to be disrespectful. but it’s the truth.
re: his empty house, turns out baltimore city is even more dysfunctional than we thought. they won’t shut off his water until “something happens,” such as a flood or a pipe burst. they won’t shut off his power until “something happens,” such as, oh i don’t know, G-d forbid a fire or something (every house on our block is connected; you do the math). and they won’t secure the place (“secure” probably means board it up, which will really really suck in terms of trying to sell or rent our place in the future, which is our plan) until “something happens,” like…robbery. or squatters. or drug addicts who are firing up crack pipes amongst piles and piles of papers. or hookers who use the space to do business. (this has happened with at least two houses across the street from us). so you can see we have a vested interest in his house. that’s why we’re happy his remaining relative is interested in finding a local lawyer to try to do something about his house. we’re in the process of locating one for her. here’s hoping something good can happen. maybe she can sell it.
so here we are. back in our house. it smells like a friggin winter wonderland here as we’re burning body shop oil non-stop. (we came up with the idea of buying one of these tealight oil things) so we’re mixing cranberry and pine and oh it smells great when its burning. but once it’s out it’s…cranberry, pine…and death! (hey, jessie, you told me i had to start joking around about things so there you go) the death smell has settled near the front door and the top of the stairs and the basement. and you stiff hard enough anywhere you can pretty much smell it. but that’s where it’s the strongest. i’m sitting on a puffy armchair that probably smells like it, too. but what the hell are we supposed to do? sit on the floor? exactly.
look, humans deal with much more traumatic things on a daily basis all over the world. but this is our little trauma right now. and yeah, doing 10,000 pounds of laundry maybe doesn’t seem like such a big deal to some of you, but it is to us b/c we’re already exhausted. and we don’t want that laundry soaking up the death smell once we’re done w/it. which it will since everything around here does. i’ve got deep rings under my eyes, and can only tolerate bad-for-me food b/c honestly, it’s the only thing i can work up an appetite for.
we’ve got a load of towels in the dryer and sheets in the washer. next up is a comforter and then some pajamas. we’ll lie close together in our own bed tonight and try to regain some sense of normalcy. we’ll try to keep pushing out thoughts of what might have happened to him, and hope to G-d he didn’t suffer. we’ll try to ignore the bad whaffs of air to seem to come out of nowhere. we’ll try to wake up tomorrow and feel normal and go on with things. b/c sometimes, most times, the very best thing you can do is not run away, but just go on with things and take everything one day at a time.