Living in DisasterPosted: July 23, 2013
The house has been empty for a while. More than just days…more like weeks, months.
When you enter the home, you are struck by the intermingling of cold and the musty odor. It gives the air a tangible quality you must push through as you enter so it doesn’t force you back onto the porch. It seems colder than outside as cold has sunk into every corner and cranny. The brief wafting of fresh air into the house as you enter dissipates as soon as the front door shuts behind you and the air closes upon itself again. Still, leaden, and unmoving. There is no water and no power. It has been like this a long time: without pulse and without breath. It feels abandoned.
We didn’t anticipate buying a house in this state of un-livability. We knew it was vacant, a foreclosed property in the hands of Fannie Mae. But it hadn’t been on the market long and the house was fully intact when we made the offer. The first piece of bad news came the day Fannie Mae accepted our offer: someone had cut through the screened back porch, broken the glass pane on the back door, gone down into the basement and removed all of the copper plumbing. The second piece came on the day the house closed: someone had entered the same way (turns out the property manager didn’t secure the back door) and had cut all of the lines to the electrical panel and taken part of the furnace.
No water, no power, no heat.
You walk through this cold, musty home and there is no welcoming. No warmth or vibrancy. The day is gray and cold despite it being spring. And the house agrees. No signs of life here. Inertia is beginning to come with a feeling of deja-vu. Back to the hotel and long list of phone calls to find contractors in an unfamiliar city.
Walking through the house, I think, “this must be a glimpse into what it is like returning to your home after a disaster.” Grateful to be home, but not really home. Grateful for plumbing, but not able to shower because there is no hot water. Not able to cook or keep perishables because there is no power. Then the power is on, but there is still no heat. The unseasonably cold spring is more salient to you as you put on another sweater and sleep under every blanket with socks on. Seems like it takes an hour for the bed to warm up. It is too cold to unpack and too cold to clean. You drift from room to room rubbing your hands like a distraught ghost, haunting your own house.
Then the day comes that there is water, hot water, power and heat all together.
The house begins to hum, only you hear a symphony.