Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Hollywood Mystery Condo

Ruth was going to be in the hospital for a couple of weeks after her accident, so my mother decided she had better run over to Ruth's condo and collect her mail. I don't live far from my aunt, so when Trudy called in a panic and asked me to meet her there, I sped right over. My sister and I were dying to know what it was like inside that condo. Well, I was dying to know. My sister probably could have lived happily with the mystery.

When I got there, Trudy was waiting for me out front. This is not something Trudy does. Trudy doesn't wait; Trudy keeps other people waiting. In fact, I believe this was the first time she had ever beaten me to any location, ever, including her own home. I knew something big was up.

This wasn't my mom's maiden visit to the condo, she'd been there a few days before, but she was afraid to go back in alone. (On occasion, my mother has been known to complain of, "out of body experiences," so she may have thought she was hallucinating on the first trip and wanted a rational witness.) A tenant leaving the building to walk her dog held the door open for us, and we took the elevator to the second floor. Trudy filled me in on the ride up, but I was still unprepared for what I saw.

My mother put the key in the door but could only manage to get it open a few inches, just wide enough for us to squeeze through, one at a time. I went first. I thought something had fallen against the door, so I stuck my arm in and felt for the light switch. After I flipped it on and stuck my head inside, I realized that a stack of boxes was wedged up against the door, preventing it from opening all the way. I squirmed my way inside and all I could see were more boxes. They were stacked to the ceiling. Everywhere. Except for a narrow path leading down the hallway, past the kitchen, which was to the right. The kitchen was full of boxes too. The refrigerator door stood open and boxes were pouring out of it as well. There were boxes on the stove, in the oven, in the sink and in all the open cupboards.

I moved past the kitchen, following the narrow path to the living room, which I couldn't enter because it was entirely full of boxes and shopping bags from every department store on earth (including the decades-defunct Joseph Magnin), unopened UPS packages ordered from several catalogues, as well as plates, Christmas ornaments and silver spoons ordered from The Franklin Mint and a variety of other collectibles companies. Buried under the sea of shopping was a white upright piano, a wet bar, and probably a sofa and some chairs but I didn't see them. I remember I turned to my mother to say, "holy fucking shit," or something of that nature, and I knocked over a stack of empty containers of French Vanilla Viactiv Calcium Soft Chews with my purse.

The path took a sharp left turn and led to the bedroom, where there was nothing but racks of dresses, many with the tags still affixed, and boxes of unworn shoes. A bed was covered with clothing as well. The en suite bathroom was filled with products: medicine, make-up, perfume, curlers, all covered with a thick layer of dust. A pair of worn-out light blue slippers sat by the sink. Suddenly, spontaneously, Trudy shouted, "My sister is not crazy!" I disagreed, adding lamely, "But that doesn't make her a bad person."

It was then that Trudy pulled the quack doctor card from her sleeve. In the 70's she had Dr. Peacock, who provided her with vitamin shots and diet pills. He also pulled my braids and slapped my ass every time he came to my parents house for drinks, shouting, "I delivered you!" Dr. Peacock eventually had a stroke and died, so in her advancing age, Mom placed her faith in Dr. Medvey. "I called Dr. Medvey and he says there is nothing wrong with Ruth." Dr. Medvey is the one who keeps my mom in an eternal mid-menopausal state.

We decided that since Ruth would be staying with my parents during her recovery, there was no reason to address her hoarding problem right away. I came up with a vague plan to slowly introduce the fun idea of a thorough, "spring cleaning project," once she was feeling better. On the way out the door, I put forth the idea that Trudy herself might have a few more "collectibles," cluttering up the house if she hadn't had my father and her children around taking up space. To which she replied coolly, "Oh, do I have all of you to thank?"


molecule said...

This is brillant. All of this.

Anonymous said...

Awesome writing - I'm glad I followed the link from UltraTart.