How Did We Get Here?

By Erica Herd and L.E. Swenson

So there we were. Engaged, living in a one-bedroom walkup in Astoria, Queens. Rent was cheap. The commute was an effortless 20 minutes on the N train to midtown.

The apartment was a little small for two people who had accumulated decades of stuff and had three cats.

Everyone, from our family members to our friends, was telling us “Buy a house! Buy a co-op! Buy a condo! Why keep paying rent when you can build equity for your future.” It made sense.

So we started looking.

2007. It was the height of the market and prices were insane. We saw some lovely one-bedroom closets in Astoria, some seedy one-bedrooms in Yonkers and a beautiful one-bedroom closet in Katonah.

Then a good friend said, “Hey, come out to New Jersey. The house across the street is for sale.” It was time to go.

No more stomping upstairs neighbor hurling platform shoes across the floor and building furniture at 3 in the morning directly above our bedroom. No more heated arguments in undecipherable tongues resounding through the walls. We would have our own patch of dirt and a car, or two.

The final straw was the bed bugs.

For those who have not had the pleasure, they are a horror. Even months after they were gone, I found myself scratching and imagining they were crawling up my skin.

How did we get them? Perhaps they hitchhiked from Roosevelt Field on Long Island. The exterminator who came after we did our own bleach and water clean-up, said, “This isn’t the first time I’ve been in this building for bed bugs.” Renter’s insurance didn’t cover it. We had to wash and dry clean all our clothes and trash our sofa and brand new bed, where they had made themselves a home.

The little bastards suck your blood at night, then retreat into any nook or crevice they can find by day. Bed bug paratroopers who jump from the light fixtures and assault you while you sleep. Their stealth agents hitch rides on your pets and other people until they get to you. They prefer human blood.

We needed to get out of there, and leave the New York bugs behind (this includes roaches). Our friend helped us to an expedited closing on our new small two-bedroom house in the Jersey suburbs. We were on Cloud 9. Our own house. Our home. We hadn’t planned the wedding, but we had the house.

We were suburbanite initiates, armed with store cards for furniture and a home improvement loan for a new roof, siding, new bathroom and a thirsty lawn.

Then the bottom dropped out.

L.E. Swenson (co-author) received his bachelor’s degree in English from S.U.N.Y. Buffalo. He went on to study Theater at the New School for Social Research and received his Masters of Fine Arts in 1999. He has performed in regional theater at Buffalo’s Irish Classical Theater and Shakespeare in Delaware Park. He has written, acted, coached and stage managed in the New York area and continues to write and work in New York.

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