Friday, March 17, 2017

Of love and bedbugs (Or how we moved in together)


I'm opening with a bug, so you know this one is special and heartwarming.

Allow me to take you back to early months of the Mister and I dating. You know how it is, you want to spend as much time together as possible, you make out until you feel dizzy, everything is AWESOME. We had even started to toy around with the idea of us moving in together once his lease was up, things were going so well and I was stuck back at my parents after I had relocated to back to the great Garden State. It was all starting to make a lot of sense.

Then he gets a voicemail from his roommate during a meeting at work:
Hey, what’s up man?
I just called to tell you that the house is on fire
*pause*
Call me back!

Side story: the Mister’s job didn’t want to let him leave because, he “wasn’t on fire”, but I told him to say screw it and leave because if he didn’t claim what he could now, it would be lost to the insurance company or looters. I was happy when he eventually left that job, so, so happy.

Anyway, the third floor apartment was empty at the time; something caught fire up there and destroyed most of the backside of the building. He lived with two of his friends at the time and none of them even knew what renter’s insurance is. If you don’t know and you rent, look it up because you NEED it. If you have renter’s insurance they will reimburse you for so much of your lost property and put you up in a hotel room. If you don’t have it, you are shit out of luck and the only thing you’re getting back is your initial deposit on the apartment.

It was exactly like this, only a 3-family in Bayonne
The Mister’s family offered to let him move in and pay rent to stay on the couch, but my parents were like, “What? No way! He can stay here for free while he gets back on his feet”. So, our plan to move in together was accelerated and now in less than ideal conditions while we waited for his security deposit to come back to him.

And we waited….and waited. And during that time, my brother showed up at my parents' door with his baby and his girlfriend. So, my parents' tiny cape cod was feeling tight, tensions began to run a little high, and my niece had colic (no one slept, NO ONE). It was at this moment that my mom became a little grumpy about me planning to move in with a guy without being engaged, but this was my second time cohabitating, so I’m not sure where this sudden hang up came from. I suspect she was just trying hurry things along because engagement = one step closer to grandbabies. (She got over it).

Finally, the landlord had to be taken to court to get the deposit back. They were contacted by Judge Freaking Judy to be on the show, which sounded amazing until they discovered their scummy landlord would be compensated for appearing whether he won or lost, so that idea lost its shine pretty quick. The regular judge (who was not of the TV show variety), found in their favor and lectured the landlord on how ridiculous it was to make people who lost their home in a fire to wait like that. Victory was secured.

Right around this time, I found my way into a better job and was accepted to graduate school, we also had someone who wanted to be our roommate. With that, we were off and hunting for our new home. Looking back, I think we were so eager to get out of my parent’s house that we jumped on a place that was simply too good to be true, and if it looks that way it probably is. 


The house was close to the train station, had off street parking, a nice yard, and a really great layout. It was immediately decided that our roommate would take the two small rooms upstairs, one for sleeping and one as a closet (a dream, right?) and we would get the downstairs suite with its own bathroom. The landlord seemed very eager to rent to us and took us straight to his wife at her real estate office. It turned out that his wife, in spite of somehow passing the real estate exam, had no clue how to do the paperwork. She shrugged and got flustered until she asked someone else to do it. This other person demanded a cut of the commission for her time, we started to get uncomfortable with the tension, but eventually paperwork was signed and we were told to move right in.

It was exciting, going to Ikea and getting lost in their showrooms while imagining how to make the most of our brand new home.  Some people dislike going to Ikea, we were not those people. We set up all of the new furniture, unpacked our things, and began cooking meals together. Things were finally settling down for all of us.

Take me away to the land of closet organizers and meatballs
Our roommate was frequently staying at her boyfriend’s house, but one night they slept at our place and I received a text while at work the next day. “I think we have bedbugs”.  My heart sank, my blood pressure raised, my eyes started darting around while I thought of all of the reasons she could be wrong. I asked if she was sure, which was answered with photos of the telltale arc of bites across her arms and legs. I was still in denial, “Maybe it’s a spider?” I asked wistfully. But, no, my roommate and her boyfriend had actually seen and captured one in a Ziploc bag. Google Images confirmed the worst; somehow our single family home in the suburbs had bedbugs.

The bedbugs appeared to be concentrated upstairs; our downstairs master suite was a recent addition and did not seem to have them…yet. However, we knew how this worked, everyone has friends in the city and knows how fast they can become a problem. We were screwed.

What did we do next? Panic, naturally. When we were done with that, we called our landlord who was no help and tried to deny that the place had bedbugs. He even suggested that maybe we brought them in. I was so insulted, that I threw out some of his stuff from the garage, just because I could. (Take that Manoj!) Our next step was to bring in an exterminator whose recommendation was to “just burn the place down, but I can try to treat it if you insist”. We begged him to try and told the landlord that if he did not pay for the treatment we would take it out of the rent.

With that settled, we had to pay to have our clothes professionally cleaned at high heat. Furniture was tossed. Belongings that would withstand the heat were placed in industrial black plastic bags and sealed before baking on the blacktop of our driveway. Meanwhile, we’re all working our full-time jobs and trying not to fall to pieces. It was stress like I had never experienced before in my life. I thought living with family was bad, but this was a true test of our sanity.

We stayed away during the treatment, returned, and immediately discovered…they were still there. The treatment had killed a whole host of other types of bugs: ants, termites, and centipedes. But the bedbugs seemed overall unbothered by the situation. For the second time, the exterminator came in to treat, but as we were preparing to throw out even more of our belongings, I lost it.

I sat on our bed and cried; that hysterical, shaking, snot-inducing kind of sobbing that comes from when you’ve been trying to hold it together for too long. My boyfriend held me in his arms and asked me what I wanted and I whimpered that I wanted to leave. I didn’t want to do this anymore, we weren’t winning this fight. We talked to our roommate and we were all in agreement, it was time to throw everything out and find a new start at another place.

Our landlord at first refused to allow us to break our lease, but I had already called the department of health and had contacted a lawyer. I never even put him on retainer, just providing his name and contact information to our landlord was enough to have him shaking. Suddenly, he was "happy to see us leave" since he wanted to sell the place because he didn't like being a landlord. I got him to agree in writing to return our deposit, plus compensate us for the loss of brand new beds and the cost of breaking our contract with Verizon. I was anxious to get out of there before he changed his mind and I couldn't imagine that this place would ever pass a home inspection, but that was not my problem.

Sign here you son of a bitch
The day he signed the agreement to release us from the contract, he had two other people coming to look at the place. One of them was a young guy, but the other was a recent widow with her son whose husband had left everything to his brother and she had no money to start a new life with; otherwise, she said she would be looking to buy not rent. It was killing me that I couldn’t warn these people away, I wanted out and I wanted my money back, but I couldn’t tell them about the bedbugs. Instead, I said every other negative thing I could think of except for that. Thankfully, the young guy thought the place was too expensive and, like a miracle from heaven, the widow received a call from her brother-in-law that he was releasing all of the funds to her and that she could purchase a condo instead of renting. It was like my own personal friggin’ Hallmark movie moment.

All of this put the landlord into foul mood and he began carrying on about how we have to pay the water bill for the 4 weeks we lived there and he and the Mister started getting louder and louder with each other. Suddenly, I snapped and dropped into my “mommy voice” for the very first time in my life. “Both of you just stop! You stop right now, this is ridiculous! Write the check and GET OUT”, and so, he did.

Mom voice = effective
The 3 of us did find another place, a condo this time, but there was a 2 week gap in which all of our things went into storage and we found ourselves back at my parent’s house…with my parents, and my bother, and his girlfriend, and his baby. When we finally moved into the new place we were quietly terrified. Everything had been treated or replaced, but still we held our breath for about 6 months, just waiting to see if any of us would wake up with a row of bite marks. Fortunately, that day never came.

I learned a lot of things during our ordeal. I learned that bedbugs are total assholes and for many reasons. Not only are they hard to kill, but their mating process is a nightmare, they literally stab into the abdomen of the female for seemingly no good reason just to reproduce. And if a male decides to get frisky with what actually turns out to be another male, they sex-stab them to death. Total assholes. I also learned that they are near impossible to completely get rid of, the exterminator was not kidding, with a case as bad as ours, just burn the building down.

But the biggest thing I learned was the depth of my love for my boyfriend, he was rock-solid the entire time, he was everything I needed when the world was falling apart left and right, and helped me put it all back together again. I realized that if we could survive a fire, living at my parent’s house, and bedbugs we could get through anything together. This is mate-for-life material, this is the type of guy you marry, this is what they mean when they talk about “the one”. It’s not grand gestures or gifts or promises, I mean those are nice, but what counts…what truly matters is what they do. When I really needed him and when he really needed me, we showed up for each other in every possible way. I felt locked to him in a way I never felt about anyone before and I knew that we were a done deal.

It wasn’t easy, this whole period in our lives was exhausting and expensive, but we came out okay. I don’t recommend this process as a test of your relationship, but I think you can look other types of difficult situations and watch how your significant other reacts to stress. It can tell you more than card or a poem, it can tell you if they’ll support you and try their hardest not to let you down. It can also tell you if you’re willing to do the same for them. I’m sure I would have come to the same conclusion about the Mister and I through the natural course of our relationship, but damn does than man hold up under real pressure.

Funny sidebar: my roommate was equally supported by her boyfriend throughout this entire ordeal. A year later, they moved in together and are now married. Thank you, bedbugs.


 #Love #Bedbugs #Landlords #Renting #Relationships

All images via Pixabay

2 comments:

  1. I have to say, myself and the Misses went through the same ordeal at our house. Replacing our whole bedroom and cooking all our clothes in black bags in the Arizona sun. What a nightmare! I apparently was unscathed but my wife was the bite victim and after a couple weeks of putting up with my denial, she threw out the ultimatum: "It's either me or the bugs!" And that's when we made war on the invaders. Fortunately we kept them contained and toasted them for 3 weeks in diatomaceous earth. We couch surfed in the other rooms of our home during the military campaign to reclaim our room. It was a hellish ordeal with a toddler and a 4 month-old, but soldiers in battle have way of developing strong bonds and the Misses and I did just that. Thanks so much for sharing. I have a new appreciation and less bitter view of our bed bug war after reading your story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love your imagery of soldiers in battle developing strong bonds, it's so true! No one wants this stuff to happen to them, but you can come out better for it on the other side. And, with the right amount of distance, you may even grow to see it as this funny piece of the story that brought you two closer together.

      Thanks for reading ZZ!

      Delete

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