I’d heard of cockroaches before. I’d seen them skittering about in movies. I had never actually seen one in person. Until I started cleaning vacant rental properties. The first time I saw a cockroach it wasn’t just A roach. It was a sea of them. A tenant had just been evicted – not just from the park, but from the country. As soon as he was deported we got possession of the trailer back. I was handed a key (because I hadn’t yet been given a master key to all the homes, being new and all…) and asked to go take a look to see what kind of condition it was in and what kind of repairs we were likely to have to do.
I walked over to the small two bedroom, one bath trailer that the man had occupied with his wife and two small children. His wife had taken off with the kids just weeks earlier, for parts unknown.
I opened the door. I saw the bugs straight away – it was hard to miss them; crawling on the walls, dripping off the ceiling…. There was furniture in the house, a lot of it. And clothes and garbage everywhere. The sunlight streamed in from the open door and hit the dark brown carpet.
The dark brown carpet started to shimmer in the sunlight.
The dark brown carpet started to ripple. Like a wave pool.
There was no dark brown carpet on the floor.
The floor was carpeted with roaches.
I peed myself a little.
I slammed the door and I ran.
I had no idea that I’d just met someone I’d be spending a lot of time with over the next few years – Kenny the Cockroach.
Until I was 48 years old I’d never had a job that involved any kind of manual labor. I sat at desks. In comfortable leather chairs. Sometimes with “massage slippers” on my feet under my large mahogany desk. Until my complete and utter burnout breakdown happened in Connecticut. I’m convinced that I quit my last job and moved out of the northeast just in time, just before the final snap came. And trust me, it was coming.
In 2006 I bought a house in Connecticut, about 1500 feet away from Long Island Sound. We could see the beach from the yard. But it was far enough away from the water that we were not likely to suffer in any of the Nor’Easter flooding we were so prone to. We put up a six foot high stockade fence the first year. I paid (well, financed the sale price of) $225,000 for the modest ranch house in East Haven. I had an attic, two bedrooms, one bath, a three-season room, a nice big basement for the laundry and exercise room, and a two car garage under the house. By 2008 the house was worth $158,000 and I was upside-down in the mortgage. I got a modification in 2010 (the same year I got married) and still struggled with the payments. I also changed jobs that year, taking a pay cut in order to not drive a full hour each way, to and from the office. And to delay that complete nervous breakdown for just a little while longer. In 2013, with the economy tanking further and no sign of steady work for my husband, we decided to sign the deed back over to the bank and walk away. God was really merciful to us, we didn’t have to go through a foreclosure and my credit didn’t take a big hit. Our friend was moving to North Carolina and we decided to follow her a month later.
I’d never been to North Carolina. We had no concrete PLAN or anything – because, you know, who needs a PLAN when you’re moving 800 miles away to a strange place, with only a few dollars in the bank. Details like…. JOBS…. that’s just silly. I felt like God wanted us to move south. Like He had a plan for us down there. We had a place to crash with our friend down there and enough money to rent a Budget truck, what else did we need? So, I quit my job, packed up the bare minimum of what we thought we’d need when we got there and we left. It took us 26 hours to make that 12 hour drive. I don’t even know how that happened. But we finally got to our friend’s rented house in Blowing Rock where we were going to stay for a while, bleary eyed and exhausted and road-sick, but relieved and hopeful at the same time. We walked into the house carrying only a bag of immediate necessities and one of our dogs crapped right on the bedroom rug. I can still hear our friend crying out, “Adoc, noooooooo!”
My husband, Marty looked for work up there in the mountains. In the winter. In the -30 degree weather. He does construction, remodeling, renovation, handy-man work. There was no work there. At least not enough to support us, and I was just not in any kind of shape mentally to jump into the workplace. And it was COLD up there! No wonder I still hadn’t seen any roaches! All the bugs up there were frozen solid somewhere! So we decided to come down off the hill, back to the flatlands and that’s when we wound up in the ghetto. It was February and all the crack-whores were still inside, hibernating, so we didn’t see them when we looked at that house. Ah, but when it got a little warmer out… they came out of the woodwork. Our first day there some drunk staggered up onto my porch and asked me to drive him to the bank. Apparently we were the rich people on the block because we had two cars – the 11 year old sedan and the 15 year old SUV. People came to our door on a regular basis, looking for rides to the liquor store or wanting to sell us stolen TVs or Food Stamps. People SELL their Food Stamps. I didn’t know this.
So, you might see how a cute little trailer in a little park with lots of Community Rules and Regulations might have seemed like just the ticket. So we moved in as soon as the lease in the ghetto was up. Within a month or two Marty had steady work for with the property management company. At that time I think they owned six or seven other parks so there was plenty of work for him, fixing up trailers in between tenants.
What was I doing all this time since leaving Connecticut? Writing. I was writing books. I figured I could write the Great American Novel, make a pile of money and then we wouldn’t have to worry about anything. That was my plan. Sounded like a good plan to me. I wrote a murder mystery series. I wrote a horror story. They’re available on Amazon – paperback and Kindle. Maybe people don’t read books anymore, I don’t know. After a few more months of “retirement” I got a call from the manager of the property management office. Marty was working on a remodel job and the place needed to be cleaned. Apparently the last person they had cleaning the vacant homes hadn’t worked out and he’d suggested to the office that they call me because I had some time on my hands. I figured, I like to clean. I’m not that busy. Why not? How bad could it be?
I honestly had no idea. Stay tuned for the next chapter – Vengeance in the Bathroom.