I had a bad day today.

Well, this happened today…

I inspect houses for a living. Some of these houses are vacant properties. I have never really had any trouble besides nosey neighbors. I’ve had the cops called on me once but that worked itself out really quickly. I still have a guard up when I go into houses but I know the signs that somebody has been there after doing this for two years. Today was different.

I had a house today in Union City that I’ve been doing for the last six months. I’ve never been inside. One reason is because it’s in a run down area of the city, not dangerous per say, but just crummy. The other reason is because there is just nowhere to park on this street. I usually end up parking on the sidewalk for a few minutes. I just say that the door is open even though it never is, and I take a few exterior photos and move on. I got the job today and when I showed up there was a notice on the door. I get out, o over to the door, and read that there is a new securing company that is maintaining the property. They boarded the open windows on the top floor. They changed the deadbolt and lockbox. Since I had actually gotten a parking spot this time, I decided to give it a go and do the interior inspection.

I opened the door and immediately was met with a horrible odor. It’s common. The best way to describe it is as a mixture of mold, garbage, and decaying wood and plaster. There was a lot of debris on the floor and when I tried going into the room next to me the door was black by all the ceiling tiles that had fallen off. I decided to report the bottom of the house as unpassable. The house, being a duplex, had stairs right next to the front door leading to the top unit. I walked upstairs and as I crested the last stair noticed two bedrooms and a bathroom behind me and the kitchen in front of me. There was also a lot of debris in the kitchen. I stepped on a fluorescent light .bulb and decided I couldn’t go any further. I decided that I should just photo the two bedrooms and bathroom and be on my way.

I turned the corner to the first bedroom. There, on the floor, was a mattress. The mattress had two people on it. My eyes went from the woman’s feet to her head at the exact moment her head popped off her sweatshirt pillow. I yelled. She yelled. We both scared the absolute shit out of each other. She didn’t hear me come through the door due to either being very asleep or probably because she was on drugs. My guard was down the whole time throughout the inspection due to the smell and the overall condition of the house. I just didn’t feel like somebody could possible be in there. There was though. A couple (I presume) had somehow gotten into the house and were using it as a crash pad for whatever they were doing. The woman was around 35 and was some sort of Spanish. The guy was black.

With a loss of breath I told them that this was a vacant house. The woman was immediately apologetic. I was trying to catch my breath as she kept telling me that she was sorry and to please not call the cops. The guy she was with was awake but didn’t seem like he gave a shit as to what was going on. I think they were doing heroin. His face reminded me of my brothers. I told her that I wasn’t police and that I wasn’t going to call them. I told her that I was inspecting the house for the mortgage company. I asked her how she got in. She told me the front door was open. I told her it was locked when I got here and she said they locked it behind them. She begged me not to call anybody. I said I wouldn’t. I looked around and she caught me looking and told me that she isn’t doing so well right now. It was after that sentence that she began to cry. Her face started to break and she began to sob. I told her it was okay, for her not to be worried and that I wasn’t going to report it. I told her to find another place because this house is being maintained and looked after but that they had time to find one. I said sorry one more time and then I left. The last thing I saw was her face as I turned around. She was utterly defeated and alone. I was almost running to the car before I realized what I walked into.

Until then, the life that she had somehow found herself in was only seen by her and the people she chose to let in. The people her saw her like that were in the same boat. They were homeless, broke, and most likely addicted to drugs. She didn’t want to be in that house. She didn’t want anybody who had their shit together to see her at a moment long past losing her shit. I walked right into the lowest point in her life. She was embarrassed. She was sad. She was alone.

I don’t mean to ruin any good mood that any of you are having. It was a really heavy and visceral experience for me, one that I don’t want to have happen again. It made me think of my brother. It made me think that him being in jail the last couple months may have prevented him being in the same spot as that woman. I’ll never forget her face. Not for a long, long time.

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