I’ve retraced my steps through life and found the point when it all went wrong. After going down for the second time, I should have stayed down in that peaceful, wet silence. Had I known then what I know now…
It’s 3 a.m. and I’m awake, plagued by toxic thoughts that often poison my mind on restless nights. The house popped again, like a large caliber handgun going off in my bedroom, jarring me from the best four hours sleep I’ve had in days. A tightness in my back has grown more intense every moment that I’ve spent in this new place. Nothing I’ve tried: stretching, hot showers, over-the-counter pain meds, has given me any relief. I suppose it’s anxiety of the unfamiliar that’s causing stress.
The home inspector came out yesterday, for the third time. He brought an assistant for this go-round. They set up flood lights in the crawl space instead or relying on flashlights, and stayed under for nearly an hour thoroughly going over every inch of the footings, support piers, and floor joists. They put a laser level on the foundation walls to help convince me that the house wasn’t sinking. And reemphasized that structural problems would reveal themselves in obvious ways like sagging door frames that keep the doors from opening and closing properly, cracks in the drywall, and possibly even cracked window panes.
They also hauled their lights into the attic. This time they found an improperly braced roof support. Apparently the framing crew neglected to install one board, and that left a roof rafter support tacked in place but with nothing holding it. The inspector used a piece of lumber the previous home owner had left in the storage building, borrowed my saw, and fixed the bracing himself. He apologized for overlooking problem but assured me that the missing board hadn’t caused any issues that would degrade the value of the house.
He also mentioned that the un-braced support probably wasn’t the cause of the popping noise, blaming it on a tree limb hitting the roof, or raccoons on the back deck. Or his preferred suspect, the wind, since it picks up most every evening and can rage for hours. (Something to do with the lake and this time of year, so I’m told.) He gingerly suggested that the noise might not be as loud or violent as I thought because each time I’d heard it I had been asleep, and getting startled awake might have exaggerated my perception. He assured me that the house was structurally sound to his satisfaction and there was nothing more he could do. Which was a polite way to say, Don’t call me again.
Obviously he was right about the rafter support not being the source of the noise. I don’t know why I thought moving, alone, to the middle of nowhere would be good for my nerves. If anything it’s had the opposite effect. An unsettling gloom has come over me and I can’t shake it. The days aren’t so bad but sunset fills me with dread and my nights are miserable. Sleep hasn’t come easily and when it does, getting jolted out of bed by some phantom noise isn’t helping.
Living by myself after so long in a house full of people has done a number on me. I could have gotten a place near home, where I’d at least have close neighbors. Of course I’d go out of my way to avoid interacting with them, but knowing that others were a short walk away might have been comforting.
It’s not like there aren’t other people here but most of them live near town and they’re a strange lot. When I go for supplies they give me suspicious corner-of-the-eye glances, but not a single one of them has bothered to say Hi to the new guy. Maybe these people are my kindred spirits, going out of their way to avoid interacting with me, the same way I’ve done on so many occasions. Perhaps it’s best this way. I would surely have freaked if they’d shown up on my doorstep to throw me a Welcome to the Neighborhood party.
The wind is kicking up again. It had died down sometime after I dozed off. I don’t know which is worse, the eerie silence of dead calm or the nerve rattling gusts buffeting the house, making it creak and groan like it could blow to pieces at any minute.
Maybe I’ll set-up my recorder and try to catch the popping noise tomorrow night. Or maybe I’ll take the little row-boat and paddle out to the middle of the lake. At some point, every life comes full circle. Maybe it’s time I quit wandering aimlessly and follow the path to where it turns back onto itself, and take the step that closes the loop.
But for the moment I’ll make a cup of strong coffee, and maybe the gloom will lift with the sunrise.