Behold the house: an early 1900s Victorian, shabby on the outside -- to the point of looking haunted -- palatial on the inside. We live in the second-story apartment: Three bedrooms, three bathrooms (one the size of a Manhattan efficiency apartment); 14 foot ceilings; crown moldings; hardwoods with inlaid parquet borders throughout; built-ins, built-ins, built-ins, including beveled mirrors, armoires, and a wall of drawers in the 30x20 foot bathroom. Water-glass windows, central heat and cooling, gas stove, washer/dryer. Location, Location, Location: Midtown Houston (smack between the rival Vietnamese restaurants); one block off the brand new Light Rail; celebrated restaurants replete with interesting drinks, a Saturday organic farmer's market, and world famous soul-food breakfasts less than a five-minute walk away.
All this for less than $1200.00 per month.
Were you to visit us, you would be stung with envy, and I bet before leaving you'd say, "let us know when you're gonna move."
Only, you don't want to live here, really.
First there's our slumlord, who lives in the apartment below us and has the annoying habit of crashing our parties.
Second there are the plagues that come with the house.
Last summer it was the month-and-a-half flea infestation that our slum landlord would not properly deal with until I told him I could be pregnant. I wasn't pregnant, nor did I want to be pregnant at the time, but -- go figure -- it worked to tell him that I COULD be. Or maybe it was the mention of "lawsuit" in the same conversation. Within hours, a certified exterminator was in the house, and that afternoon the fleas were gone.
In an ironic twist, I became pregnant that very same day. I thought I wasn't ovulating, but, as it turns out, I was. Nine months later, Clara and I lay in bed together, recovering from the trauma of giving birth and being born, suffering the rancid stench of a rodent who was decomposing directly beneath the master bedroom floor. "Only thing we can do about the smell," said our slumlord "is wait till it goes away."
After the rodent fully decomposed, there was the fly infestation. "Must be the spring hatch," said the slumlord. Two flyswatters and five days later, the flies were gone.
Then there were the ants -- the millions of them that swarmed out of the stroller undercarriage bag as I was carrying it and Clara to the car one morning. Miraculously, I only got three ant bites (did I mention they were RED ants?) and Clara was unharmed. But by the same afternoon, the red ants had migrated to the red couch in the living room. The slumlord brought up some homemade organic ant killer -- citrus and coconut based -- which was actually very considerate of him, and after a few days the living room was ant-free. But the house wasn't. The ants had surreptitiously traveled to the bedroom. "They like to eat foam core," the slumlord said, when I showed him how they were crawling in between the mattress and the box spring.
My husband tells me our slumlord is scared of me. He should be. I may just slip some biocontaminant into his Brita as payback for all the pain and suffering his negligence has caused my family.
Lest you think "house of plagues" too strong a term here, let me assure you that there was even a flood. Memorial Day Weekend, I lay in our king-size bed with Clara, drifting into sweet, necessary sleep after returning from an overnight in Galveston. Outside, "gale force winds" raged. Buckets of rain began pouring over our city. I thought to myself, "wow, that rain is so loud, it sounds like it's raining inside." I turned to look toward the bedroom door, and, lo and behold!, it WAS raining inside. POURING! Through the attic pull-down stairway door.
Turns out, a bunch of shingles blew off the roof (which the slumlord had promised to fix a year ago) in the gale force winds.
You may be wondering.... the answer is yes, we're looking to move. Our two-year lease is coming to an end. We'd like to buy, so we're assessing our financial situation. It may take a while, but sooner or later, WE'RE OUTTA HERE.
You can start putting your names into the hat now.