The man climbed down my attic stairs.
I say “man,” but he was younger than me by at least a couple years. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t a man, but you get the idea: twenty-one, twenty-two at the oldest. He came back down, and he was sweating profusely.
It was hot in my house, I’ll give him that. My A/C was off because it’d been making funny crackling noises for a few days, and he was there to figure out why. So he climbed up into my attic to check the HVAC system.
Now, my attic has a certain aesthetic. I wouldn’t say it’s creepy necessarily, but it does have a generally haunted feeling. When he came back down panting, flushed, and dripping with sweat, I didn’t know what to think. The old idiom comes to mind: “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” He didn’t tell me what happened up there, just asked politely if it would be alright if he could leave for a little while and come back. He needed to go to the store. He needed to get something.
I don’t know if it was a bout of claustrophobia, or some sudden illness that hit him a little too hard too fast. Maybe it was just a hangover, or an upset stomach from a bad lunch. But I put myself in his shoes, put myself in that attic to feel what he felt, and thought, maybe he saw something.
He came back in less than half an hour and finished the job; he repaired my A/C and bolted, all with a smile on his face. But I haven’t thought about that guy in a long time—not until today when I had a my termite bond renewal inspection.
I’ve known Lacey for years—she’s the company rep who has done the annual inspection since I bought my house. One time she even did me a solid and checked out a nest under my house to make sure it wasn’t actively housing rodents: all she found was squirrel droppings and a dead baby snake (how I discovered the nest is a different story entirely). So because of that she always makes it a point to ask me about rodents, even though they’ve never been a problem.
My original appointment was a couple weeks ago, but my sleep schedule has been ridiculous lately and I totally forgot about it. I can only imagine what was going through her head: my truck is in the driveway but I’m not coming to the door and I’m not answering my phone. I can’t help but turn everything into some plot device: maybe I’m dead inside and my termite bond inspector is the one who finds me half eaten by my cats. Pretty cliche, right? Well, real life doesn’t avoid cliches, it nurtures them.
But I felt horrible wasting her time like that. So when I made a new appointment I was sure to be prepared, sleepy or not. Today I get a call at 11AM, waking me up. It’s Lacey. “Are we still doing your termite inspection today?” Yes, I say, I’ll be at the door in a sec.
So I get dressed and welcome her inside. She’s clearly annoyed with me, brushing past and immediately shining her flashlight in the crevices between different pieces of furniture, and I don’t blame her one bit. Routine questions: any bug problems? Routine small-talk: you’ve made good progress with the home projects. I apologize for missing the last appointment and she laughs, says it’s fine.
Then, as I always do when I have company, I put myself in her shoes. What does she see? What does she think? Well, I start to realize what a state my house is in: I’ve been distracted lately by both busyness and laziness, so I haven’t been very good at keeping my house in order. The recycling is backed up, so my kitchen countertops currently boast an overflow of glass alcohol bottles that have accumulated over time, although Lacey could easily assume I knocked them all back by myself, and recently, considering how I almost missed two appointments in as many weeks.
Then I think about how my lawn mower is still broken and I haven’t taken the time to fix it, so the weeds in my yard are overgrown and my bushes are terribly unkempt. If I were her I would’ve been wondering what kind of hard times Christian Mott has fallen on, which is funny because in reality things have been fantastic.
One of the greatest things I have going on, besides my adventurous schedule, is a new relationship (something I’m sure I’ll expound on eventually). Well, to give a little background, Emily left an outfit behind after changing clothes to go from one kind of event to another, so now I have a set of women’s clothes in my house. Just the one set, lying on my kitchen table by itself. There aren’t even shoes to go with it.
Which brings me to my next realization: there’s still blood on the bathroom sink.
Now, I know how this sounds—trust me, I’m the one writing about it. But I’m sitting there trying to scroll Instagram and not act super suspicious and awkward, like I’m not watching her to see if she notices the blood. Because I forgot about it. Completely. Until she went into the bathroom.
Let’s take another step back to one night last week: Emily is over and goes to the bathroom. She opens the door. “Um, Christian? Can you come here?” I get up from the couch and ask her what’s up. “Well, it looks like there are these drops of blood that keep appearing on the countertop around the sink, and I don’t know what it is. Have you noticed this?”
Talk about haunting.
Except I have noticed them, I tell her, and I think it’s easily explained. It’s something Atlas has done since I’ve had him—Atlas is one of my cats, currently about half the age of Sphynx, the other. He’s always done this weird thing where he picks at the sink plug with his claw, trying to pull it out of the drain. He succeeded once upon a time when the plug was loose, so now he thinks he can always accomplish his little goals if he just keeps trying. I don’t know why, but he’ll do it over and over until his paw bleeds. Then he steps around on the countertop, leaving little specks of blood everywhere.
But get this: I haven’t cleaned it yet, and because of water around the sink, a few of the drops have blended together to look like smears, making it appear as if I did a half-assed (and perhaps rushed) job of cleaning it up.
So there I am, thinking WAY too hard about the details of my life: I’ve told her my sleep schedule is crazy right now; my house is in a state of disarray; there’s a pair of women’s clothes in my house, as well as an inexplicable and indiscriminate amount of blood on my bathroom sink. I’ve been re-binge-watching Mindhunter on Netflix in preparation for the new season, so all of this is happening and I’m just thinking to myself, seriously, how creepy do I look right now?
Whether she saw it or not, I’ll never know. The likeliest probability is that she didn’t notice anything, because she was there to do a job. When she wrapped up, I asked her how work was going with the changeover to a new company. She said that although things were frustrating because of all the new corporate policies, there was an open office position she hoped to get. It would be a pay-cut, they told her, but she said her husband also works full-time, so it doesn’t really matter.
Without prompting she began telling me a couple wild experiences she’d had with other customers lately, including the one right before me: a woman who was going through a divorce and broke down crying on her. “Some really crazy things happen on the job.”
I couldn’t do it, I told her. I couldn’t work a job that required me to go into people’s homes. “Oh yeah,” she said, “it can get scary sometimes, honestly. You meet some real characters. Especially ones who get mad at the company and want to take it out on you, because you’re standing there in person. You’re actually in their house, and they get to yell at you.” I told her I was a writer and always overthink it when people come into my home to do work, yet I’m still curious to hear other people’s stories.
“If you sat down with some of us we could tell you stories for days. You could write a whole book about the things that happens.”
Maybe I will, I tell her.
She went off to her next appointment, and I sat down to type this out. Something about it is just really burning in my brain, but I guess that’s what I get for consuming so much horror and true crime as entertainment. I do hope she gets the job, but I’d be sad to lose her as my go-to termite chick—I don’t want just anybody coming into my home.
Some people are crazy.
p.s. if you have any ideas of what else might be causing the drops of blood, or think you know how to prevent it, I’m all ears.