Standing in the garage of my post-divorce fixer-upper (which has just been deemed too laden with mold to live in) the irony is thick. I was just starting to rebuild my life when the place I fled to, became the place I had to flee.
The people who are supposed to save me drive a green truck that reads:
Catastrophic Disasters: Flood, Mold, Fire, Black Water--and everyone keeps telling me to calm down.
I wipe, spray, wash, my hands again and again to keep the spores from making me sick, for they say that even though they are invisible, they are lurking. I thought I'd escaped this divorce easily. After the agonizing decision was made, I was initially euphoric, a tiny bit relieved---but now it hits me. My yoga teacher tells me to "open my heart-center" and I started crying. A friend asks, "How are you?" I cry some more; it is a catastrophic flood.
My normal hypochondria has been elevated to Code Red. People warn me these mold guys are con artists. But I believe the experts when they tell me that my Aspergillus/Penicillium is at number 4+, my Cladosporium is on overload, because I have been on overload for some time now. I hand them the money that was supposed to go toward my children's schooling and I weep some more.
I stand over boxes, packing tape and trash bags, weighing the value of each item, deciding which bin to select: recycle, landfill, donate or keep. The specialists tell me not to keep anything that costs more to clean than replace. But, these are not objects; these are moments I'm afraid to part with.
Goodbye! I say, to my two-layered burgundy petticoats worn on my wedding day, seven years ago. Goodbye! I say, to his love notes scribbled on postcards and post-its; and Goodbye! to the photo of the kiss that was supposed to cure the bad kisses that came before; Goodbye! to his dirty socks that I will never again pick up off the floor; Goodbye! to Fodor's Kauai where we meant to go, but never got to; Goodbye! to the Walgreens polyester gloves he gifted me on that day in the tent when I was shivering and I thought the gloves meant he'd take care of me. Goodbye! to the medical syringes that brought us the babies we never thought we could have; Goodbye! to our first Christmas tree at the house that we'd go to lawyers over; Goodbye! to the new daddy cradling sleeping twins in his arms, the fishing hat covering his sleeping head; Goodbye! to the guest-room mattress that I slept on when he snored too loud, or when my belly got too big, or at the end when I was mad at him.
My best friend says this house fiasco happened because I didn't listen to her: "You should never make big decisions when you're in the middle of a crisis."
My tarot card reader says it's because I let my heart lead, rather than my head. My neighbors say, it's because the seller was a pathological liar. I say, it was because when you fall in love with someone or something, you cannot see the cracks until you're already committed.
My therapist says it's great I'm doing this now, because a lot of people don't get to purge until someone dies. It's the death of my do-over family. My mother will no longer be able to say, "Isn't it amazing that you of all people, turned out to be the one with the stable relationship."
After I've placed my last bag of trash against the curb, a young buck appears by the apple tree. One tiny velvet horn sticks up higher than the other. I kneel a few feet from him and cluck, as if like Dr. Dolittle I could make him eat crab-apples out of my hand. Every time I drive up here from my temporary rental to monitor the progress of my mold-remediation I see this deer, or his brother or cousin. Because I've lived in California too long, I'm sure it's a sign.
Perhaps it means I'm not crazy to keep this house, or to think that even though I'm a single forty-three-year-old mother-of-twins that I can make it on my own--because even though I don't have a man to take out the trash or to fix the leaking siding, I have this buck, this view of Mount Tamalpais, and ten acres of land--a place unfettered by high-rises and wailing of ambulances, or the tremors of bombs dropping somewhere in Afghanistan.
I also have a 76 year-old neighbor named Lillan who cooks pancakes and wields power tools. She works in the midday heat sporting orange mufflers and slicing the dry grass into submission in sweeping arcs; her tiny body seems unhampered by the weight of such machinery.
While I'll never be as tough as she is, I've kept a little pink hammer and once it's sprayed down with Sporicidin I'll learn how to use it, because if I were still married I'd be trying to convince my husband that it was his job to hang the pictures, then I'd be enraged that he didn't want to, or couldn't see it needed doing, and he'd be mad that I was being bitchy. In the end I'd still have to do it, only then I'd have a headache.
As I'm leaving, I discover my other neighbor, Bob, wearing a blue-astronaut suit and face-shield chopping down unruly weeds to create a fire-safe-boundary around the perimeter of my new home.