“Oh, and there’s a cat turd in the closet,” my friend said. In excruciating detail, he had just finished his description of what the house looked like during his walking survey. There was an overwhelming stench of cat pee, black enamel sloppily painted in our bedroom, a crack in the brand new kitchen sink that I’ve paid for but have never seen, dog piss stains imbedded into the eighty-year-old wooden floors, a black map of mold on the bathroom ceiling. With each new crime, I wanted to reach for the smelling salts. “One more thing,” he said.
“I found a framed picture of Billy in the backyard. It’s from high school or something. His hair is kind of feathered…” I stopped listening. How could his picture be in the backyard? It must’ve meant that they had gone through things, places I told them were off limits. How could they’ve just cast aside a picture of Billy? My friend’s voice started to filter back, “…worry, I’ll take care of it all. By the time you come back, it will be good as new.”
It wouldn’t. I knew that. I didn’t want it to be good as new; I wanted it to be the same but I also knew that was impossible.. When I left our home to move to DC , Billy’s fingerprints were literally everywhere. Look to my left and there was the Russian toy of a wrestler he’d gotten for his birthday three years ago in the exact spot on the living room windowsill, where he put it. Up in the top cupboard, his cereal lined up, Capt’n Crunch rubbing shoulders with Lucky Charms . See that mistake in the paint, the point of white showing through the hospital green, in the bathroom? Billy pulled the tape off too quickly, rushing the finishing process, and I remember yelling at him. “It looks like a sailboat,” he whined, in its defense.
My tenants, found in haste and panic, turned out to be filthy rotten pigs. What appeared as a sweet, responsible pair of newlyweds in their mid-thirties was just a fever dream. What indicator should I have looked for to learn they would carelessly destroy our home, without reason or shame? After all, I tearfully told them the whole story, how much the house meant to me, to Billy. My people-detector crushed by a ticking clock, I just had a good feeling they would bring the love into the house on which Billy and I had built it. I even told them that; a stupid, naïve, silly plea wafting through their empty ears.
Their lease expired last month and I gave them notice to move. Although I was bleeding money from the house being vacant for two months, it was better than having it further destroyed. In a sad twist of fate, a story to be told, but not mine to tell, my friend was looking for a place to move. Having a Master’s from Martha Stewart University, I knew if anyone could whip my house into a livable condition, he would be the man. The satellite baggage surrounding this decision was cleared by all parties concerned, and now I’m back to speaking with my friend every day, his renovation updates a comfort.
The guesthouse has lay dormant, shrink-wrapped, all fingerprints in place. I could walk in the door right now and smell, feel, taste, sense all of the carefree joyful moments of my life as well as the most inconceivable minute I’ve ever experienced, or ever will. It’s intact, waiting for my return. While it was my dream to have our Bob with me, I’ll be able to bring another dog into the house, our home, let him soak up its history and love, and teach him that it’s his home, as well.
It’ll be another year before I return to la casa de Superba, our little beach pad, close enough to the Pacific to smell the salt air, waiting for me, filled with all the memories, all that heaven will allow.