My van is a big ol' honker, but it doesn't smell right. A mountain of boxes of books left a lingering essence that I am almost desperate to forget. It's time to clean out the van for real.
Last month I got an opportunity to buy "hundreds of boxes of books" from a man whose mother passed away last year. I couldn't find out much on the phone, so I had to drive an hour south into Delaware to take a look. He could have mentioned the cats.
I woke up on inspection day, took my Adderall pill, and filled a travel mug with coffee. I hopped in the van, and an hour later I was more than ready to make a deal. I texted that I arrived, and stepped out into the hottest and most humid possible morning. It was one of the days where your glasses fog up, and drops of sweat snake through your eyebrows and fall in plump droplets inside your lenses. I was greeted and invited inside to take a look.
Hundreds of boxes might have been accurate. Huge piles of file boxes and other kinds of boxes were stacked in various areas, taking up most of the space in the small house. The stacks and piles were chest and shoulder high. The essence of the house was punctuated by neglect. A reverse mortgage made anybody concerned stop trying. A creepy man lived there with cats. Somehow he lived there, and his brother was trying to deal with the issue of the books. Clumps of cat hair carpeted the wooden floors. Clumps and layers of cat hair clung to the boxes. I did not like these facts, but I felt invested from the drive, and I was churning along at peak-stimulant. For an hour each day, anything feels possible.
There is no good way to estimate the value of a hoarder's lot of books. I opened some boxes to take a sample, and I looked up some prices. The few boxes I opened looked better than expected based on the condition of the house. The few things I checked made me willing to consider a deal rather than running back to the van and hitting reverse. $200. I made up a number. I'd take everything for $200, which is more than the guy could ever make on these books any other way. With all that cat hair, nobody else would offer anything. I saw an enormous amount of work, but I could not see how the deal wouldn't eventually make me plenty of money. We started loading.
My van is a big ol' honker, but I couldn't fit half of the boxes in there. We did load enough to make a dent in the piles. It only got hotter outside. I had to take off my glasses, because the flood of sweat was washing them off my face. I was drenched in sweat. Nowhere from my shirt to my shorts or boxers or socks had a single dry spot. My shoes were soaked. Cat hair clung to my arms and legs. I could not wipe sweat anywhere without getting cat hair on my face. The guy also owned a van, so we filled his too. He'd be in my area the next day, and I was happy to hear that he wouldn't mind dropping off a load of the books. That still left about a third more of the books, maybe more. I'd have to deal with that later. Another day.
I filled half of my folks' garage with tall stacks of boxes. I set up a folding table and some plywood over a couple sawhorses. I updated my pricing database and got to work. Anything I was selling I put in one pile; anything I wasn't went in another. There was far more trash than treasure, but with thousands and thousands of books, the pile that I planned to sell got plenty large enough. I assembled new boxes to store the keepers, and made piles of the original boxes to take to the recycling center.
I don't know how I got viral meningitis. There's no way to tell exactly where it came from. But when I think about that house and the cats, I start to itch, and my neck feels sore. At that house they don't put cat food in a bowl. No. They drop a thirty pound bag on the floor and knife it open like they're feeding goats. I can't be sure, but I feel like those cats are responsible for my suffering. The pain from the headache made me weep in defeat. I hardly left that skinny guest bed for a week. I thought about dying and hoped to get better before I had to wish for it. It was unbearable, and yet it continued unabated for a week. For me, viral meningitis has been the worst experience so far. It still haunts me.