A few weeks ago I had the worst week. It was a bad week. No one died, but it was pretty shitty anyway. As all terrible weeks do, this one started with hope.
A house. A weird shaped, tall house. Next to a park, in an affordable area. It was cute. Had a den off the kitchen and three bedrooms upstairs. It had no backyard, but a patio and a deck. I imagined summers of sidewalk chalk and potted plants and Chardonnay. I knew we could and would get this house. We had room in the budget to blow everyone else out of the water, much like all the people who have just recently purchased homes have done to us. This was it, we were almost. Nearly 90 days from the beginning of this journey I saw the finish line.
I have found that one of the biggest differences between being a kid and being an adult is denial. When you’re a kid you don’t know all the crap stuff that could happen to you and it makes you fearless. The fearlessness is good, it creates risk takers which in turn creates opportunities. Except for the kids who film themselves jumping off roofs. I can’t help those people. But as an adult! As an adult, we know too much. We’ve peeked under too many rocks, we’ve heard too many stories, we’ve seen things. We have stuff to lose now. We feel the weight of our mortality.
But if adults all acted on that knowledge, the world would stop. It’s too scary, too risky, nothing is guaranteed! The unknowns are the worst, because they offer infinite possibilities. We all know the bad things that could befall us: We could get cancer, we cold die and leave our children without a parent, we could suffer a financial downfall, lose our jobs, drown in debt, things could not work out as planned. It’s rare that they do, but we make the plans anyway.
The only way to survive as adults is to live with a certain amount of chronic denial. We know the bad stuff is there, but we only take a glimpse, and then we shove it back up in the attic. We slide it back under the rock. We pretend we didn’t see it at all. We say those things happen to OTHER people, not to us. We tell ourselves they are just exaggerations and we move forward.
The only thing standing between us and that house was paying $250 and having a pre-inspection. As long as nothing was wonky with the title (has happened to us) and there weren’t any risky or very expensive fixes (has also happened to us) we would be good to go. The construction was relatively new – 1992 I think? – so I wasn’t overly worried. The appointment we had was at a weird time, so I went alone and Kamel went to pick up kids and battle rush hour traffic.
Everything was going well. A few windows that needed to be replaced, a screen door (no matter, I wanted to put in french doors anyhow!), a hot water tank that needed to be replaced, brand new hickory floors, solid roof, solid siding, check check check check.
The only thing left was to check the attic, where all the bad and scary things live. Except not really, you just want to make sure there is enough insulation and there isn’t any leaks or mold or what have you. We have yet to run into any of these issues. Those things happen to other people.
Everything was humming along until the inspector said: Bats.
Ha. Ha. I said. Jokes, I said.
No, really, he said. Bats. Four to six in that corner, another half dozen in the other corner. A colony.
So as I choked down tears and kept it together, I knew immediately: Bye house. Because you don’t inherit pests. Especially pests that are left to their own devices for over a month while you wait for the house to close. But, I worked the problem anyway. So, let me tell you what I know about bats.
A small colony is 10-20 bats. They expand like koi and their colonies will grow depending on the size of the space.
They are protected and cannot be killed or trapped.
That means they need to be shooed away and then the spaces where they can get in need to be sealed.
The spaces don’t need to be any bigger than the size of a quarter.
It can be a process, as bats really like their homes.
Removing them could cost up to $1,000, not counting the insullation that will need to be replaced at $2/foot and the repair work on the roof and sides of the house to prevent them from getting in. If you accidentally trap a bat in your attic they will burrow into your walls trying to escape. They are very smart and crafty.
I also learned that there is no way I will buy a house that has tenants in the attic.
This may seem small, because this is not my house, and in so many ways thank god for that. But I really wanted it to be my house. I really wanted it to be done and we are not done. That part was an, “Are you KIDDING me?” moment. That was on Tuesday.
On Wednesday morning Kamel texted me that he was feeling like he might be laid off.
“But don’t worry, Lauren. We’re going to be alright.”
Let me tell you right now, that is not a text you send without some follow up. That is not a text you send and then wander into a meeting. That is not a text you send without some CONTEXT.
So I sat for 40 minutes checking my phone and reacting to spikes in my anxiety by thinking of other things, but knowing that bad things happen, that bats can be in the goddamn attic, that people lose their jobs, that the homes you spend years saving for and millions of hours looking for get put on hold sometimes because life happens. To other people, but not to me. Surely, NOT to me. With two kids, in this apartment with no air, this place has NO AIR, and a kitchen that is no longer big enough to even store all the food our kids EAT every week. Not to us.
But then when Kamel called me after 40 minutes and he said that yes, he had been laid off, I could not stop the tears. Because the roof had been ripped off and we were standing in that dark attic, bats and all.
What are we going to do?
I still don’t really know.
In that moment my brain fast forwarded to all the things we needed to figure out. First, email the real estate agents and put a hold on our search. Second… second?
Do we start talking about moving somewhere cheaper? Do we start strategizing pulling the kids out of daycare? What can we afford on just my income plus unemployment? How fast can Kamel turn this around?
Kamel applied for almost 40 jobs in that first week. And we were lucky because he had warning, they gave him a headsup to start looking even before his pay ran out. For that I am so grateful.
In the mean time, many of the things I know are there but choose to ignore are knocking on my door. “Hello? Lauren? We need to talk.”
I’m still telling them that no one is home. I need time to figure it out. When do we have to start moving on these changes? How much time do I have until the bats aren’t just in a house we didn’t buy, but are right here with me?