When I first walked into this house, I didn’t see clean or dirty. I saw fixable or unfixable.
I saw how all the kitchen appliances leaned in, doors waiting to fall open.
I saw where the owner, in a fit of drunkenness, painted the stairwell, some parts whitish, other parts a greenish brown, like the Mississippi at its weakest, dam water running over.
Where the moulding was missing from the frame around the basement door, I saw the jaggedly cut drywall. I knew the feel of the score, the fold, the snap, and the final cut with the dull blade of a utility knife.
I knew the dry rot. It was outside, under the patio door, hidden behind a 1×4, and sealed over with bathroom caulk.
It is natural, this dry rot. It is expected. It is the persistence of water.
There are the slippery Spring rains, soft and bitter. There are the raucous thunderstorms of Summer. In the Autumn, when our rain coats shield us from having to look at ourselves, the rains bring unexpected sounds, drips of golden leaves. Soon the snow, water in white camouflage, will press up against us. Decomposition is not fixable.
We hang on in our sponginess, thinking our skin is breaking down because of too much coffee, too many cigarettes, that we give up on occasion. We think that, like the kitchen appliances, we lean in to listen and see, freely open our doors, because we’ve become more welcoming, more interested in others besides ourselves. We think that the way our veins pop out on our hands, like the screws on the kick plate under the patio door, is because we’re so good at laboring, consistently busy and being helpful.
The only reason any of this matters– the appliances leaning in, the jagged skin of drywall, the kick plate under the patio door popping screws– is if the plan is to make this house your permanent home. I’ve got other ideas.