I took a weekend trip to New York City over the weekend with my friend Matt from abroad to visit a couple of Northwestern friends, Sarah and Kristin (who also studied abroad with me). Of course, many hilarious shenanigans ensued –
– like living in the hoarder house.
After a fun day of exploring the city (Upper East Side, Washington Square, Times Square and the Financial District), Matt and I headed to the apartment we would be staying in with Sarah. As we waited in the lobby, we commented on the swanky building and classy adult tenants.
Little did we know, we would be staying in a hoarder’s apartment.
When Sarah arrived and picked up the keys, we excitedly headed up the stairs to the room. When we opened the door, we were surprised with piles and piles of stuff (or as I like to call it, the horde). There was a two-foot-wide path parted for us, paving the way through old stuffed animals, furniture, jewelry, clothes, movies, DVDs, bags – you name it.
Okay so maybe it’s a little bit unfair for me to make fun of all this, but it was a pretty strange welcome into the greatest city in the country; only in New York, I couldn’t help but think.
It turns out that the apartment belonged to a woman who passed away a few years ago who made her sister promise that she would go through everything very carefully. I assume she had a problem with hoarding and was highly attached to her things. I can imagine that it would be a huge, emotional commitment for her sister to go through the horde, but it’s equally unbelievable that someone would ask her sister keep a promise like that.
I guess it’s not up to me to judge the intricacies and eccentricities of someone’s mind and attachments, but as sad as the situation was, it was also very weird and darkly comic as an outsider to the story.
Of course, we were curious to explore the place (as much as possible on the thin path we could walk on). There were paper-white eggs (secretly years and years old) in the fridge, wonderful costume jewelry laid out on counters and pill bottles still half full. The apartment seemed almost frozen in time – as if the woman still lived with all of that stuff. Maybe, in a way, she did.
But the years of waiting untouched made obvious wear upon the things: the towel shed when I dried off after a shower, the liquid hand soap turned hard in its bottle and a strange dusty taste filled the air. The toilet seat fell off the toilet. A bottle of ketchup had turned brown.
I can’t help but wonder if the rest of the apartment’s tenants know what lies beyond the doors of the hoarder house. Did they know her when she was there? Do they know what still remains? It was a unique privilege to see and live inside of a mystery like that, and I will certainly never forget my night in the hoarder house.
That’s a promise I can keep.