Here is the story, as promised, of the dead squirrel. I’ve got a decent down payment saved up but because I don’t actually make all that much money, I’m somewhat limited in what I can buy. My choices are A) a beautiful house in a neighborhood where I will most definitely get shot or B) a former crack den in a lovely neighborhood.
The first house I saw, however, was neither. It was both a terrible house and a terrible neighborhood. Only I didn’t know it at first, and because I am an eternal optimist (some might call it delusional) I decided to give it a shot.
For whatever reason, I cling very strongly to the belief that one should dress up for the more uncomfortable experiences in life: transatlantic flights, break ups, post break up massage appointments (which really doesn’t make sense seeing as you just have get naked anyway) and of course house hunting.
I don’t know why. And after stepping foot into House #1, I quickly realized that a Hazmat suit would have been more appropriate than my strappy sandals. But I soldiered on, undeterred by the debris, the barbed wire and the man riding down the street on his bicycle who warned my mother that there “would be a lot of drug deals happening come summer.”
“There’s the patio,” the realtor pointed out. The tone in her voice indicated that she was not the slightest bit interested in accompanying me onto said patio, so I unlocked the door, took a deep breath and stepped outside.
I was prepared for birds. I even told myself, “Self, there are probably going to be birds. And you need to not freak out because you are an adult and you are buying a house and the realtor is going to think you’re a moron if you do.”
To my great relief, there were no birds. There was dog poop (like six months worth), trash, barbed wire, more trash and a mashed up looking tree growing through the concrete, but there were no birds, so I let my guard down.
This was my first mistake.
My second mistake was to get overconfident. I strode through the patio, deftly avoiding the dog poop and thinking all the while, “Take that, TWD! I don’t need you! I am going to buy a house all on my own and it is going to be FABULOUS! I am going to live in the city and make new friends and my life is going to be perfect, with or without you! I am going to turn this former crack den into a PALACE and then I’m going to sell it in five to eight years, make a huge return on my investment and buy a place in Center City. So there!”
It was then and only then that I noticed the squirrel. It was dead, and shriveled up, and hanging by its tail from a piece of barbed wire.
I ran back into the house.
“There was dead squirrel,” I whispered to my mom.
She expressed the requisite sympathy, but I wasn’t done.
“I think it died there. Like I think it got caught and starved to death.”
“It probably just fell,” she assured me.
“No, I think it got caught. It was all shriveled. I think its tail got stuck and it couldn’t get away.”
By the time we reached the second floor, I was starting to lose my cool. The carpets were caked with mouse droppings, the entire place stank like dead animals and the only decent view out of the bedroom windows was of an abandoned factory down the street littered with trash bags.
“I can’t do this,” I whispered. “I can’t buy a house! I’m going to have to live in the freaking ghetto with mice in my house and dead squirrels in my backyard!”
There may or may not have been tears.
Okay, there were tears.
In fact, all of my post-break up, f*ck-you-and-your-stupid-suburbs confidence shattered in approximately three seconds.
But then something wonderful happened. I took a deep breath and pulled it together.
This was only the first house. The first of approximately eighty million. And the good thing about finding a dead, shriveled up squirrel hanging by its tail in the backyard means it can only get better.