After a week with very limited access to wifi and substantial hours at work, I’m happy to have the opportunity to post again. At 7:00 am on Tuesday morning, I learned in a text from Laura that hell house had finally regained electricity. I had spent the last two nights at my sorority house, an oasis of clean carpets and working outlets. Twenty minutes later, I was woken up again by voices. I pulled on the clothes I had been wearing for the past two days and crept into the hallway.
“Hello?” I called. A man and woman taping a sheet of paper to another bedroom door turned around to face me.
“Are you Megan?” the man asked, reaching out to shake my hand.
“No,” I replied. “I just slept here because my house -”
“Do you know where the mattress for this room is?”
I didn’t. It turned out that a summer program was due to move into Kappa Delta for the next few weeks, and exhausted, weighed down by my sheets and toiletries, I staggered out just in time.
Having electricity has improved life at the hell house significantly, demoting it from a hell house to a troubled tenement. Surprises keep popping up, like the used condoms Laura discovered in the living room or the stranger who tried to steal a bicycle tethered to the front porch. My favorite discovery occurred this morning, when I noticed that what I mistook for chipped paint was actually half of an ice cream sandwich stuck to the nightstand I’ve been using.
The box spring that had previously concealed the used tampon Hannah discovered has finally been removed, but it was no small feat. Billy drove down to Charlottesville for one last dinner before his month-long backpacking trip through Europe and was a good sport about helping me haul the box spring out to the heap of trash the previous tenants had left us with. Unfortunately, the box spring became firmly wedged into the staircase, trapping him upstairs and leaving my housemate Camille and I to rack our brains for friends who might have power tools, or at least a good old fashioned ax or saw.
After several unsuccessful phone calls, Camille struck upon a solid plan. “Let’s call the fire department,” she said, boldly dialing the Charlottesville fire department. I paced nervously as she called, listening to Billy’s footsteps from the floor above. “No, this is not an emergency. We need some help, though.”
Fifteen minutes later, a fire truck pulled up in front of the house and three amused firefighters jumped out. We pointed them in the right direction and paced the front yard as they hacked the box spring apart with an electric saw, one firefighter holding a flashlight as twilight settled over the powerless house.
“Now, we just have one question,” one of the men began, smothering a grin, as the other firefighters hauled the tattered remains of the box spring into the front yard. “How did that even get up there in the first place?”
“The house was built around it,” Billy suggested.
It’s the only explanation.
Still, some of the surprises have been positive. The previous tenants left us with fifteen boxes of herbal tea, and when a girl moved out of the room adjoining mine, I was stunned to find a clean room with hardwood floors behind what had been a locked door. Last night, I slept in a bed that isn’t on the floor and that someone else won’t move into after a few nights.
It seems cliche to say that it’s the little things we take for granted that make all the difference, so instead I’ll offer this obvious realization: Acting like an adult is really hard. After working for eight hours today, I really don’t want to go home and clean, just like I didn’t really want to go to the grocery store yesterday. It’s strange realizing that this is more or less what the rest of my life is going to feel like. But it is empowering to know that as un-fun as it has been so far, I can file away these experiences for future reference.
Meanwhile, moving into a dirty and inconvenient house isn’t the worst thing going on in the world. In the past few days, I’ve received news of devastating events affecting several people I love. The only way to honor their pain is to realize that the world moves around me in terrible ways and to appreciate the fact that today, I am one of the lucky ones.