As with any mega pest control company the service contract was monthly for a year whether you needed it or not. In this time I came to know Dr. Muriez a little better but there was always a line I could not cross. She looked forward to my visits and was always ready with another story of her experiences around the world. But there was always a sadness, a lonely empty void that in her broken english she couldn’t explain or I couldn’t understand. She never talked of family much and love was something I imagine had escaped her all her life or maybe she just shut out. It was never more obvious then when we walked up the stairs to treat the upper floors of her large and impressive home. With each step upwards her fond recollections and vivid memories grew colder and quiet. By the time we’d reach the hall and it’s many doors the only sound was that of our hollow foot steps on the once polished and well traveled floors.
This is part two of a true tales from the route and that of a fine but very sad woman who I still think of almost 30 years later. To read part one and catch up on some details please follow this link. To hear the conclusion and find out why one account still sticks with me to this day….. read on.
With each months visit I was more and more curious about the upper levels of this huge home and it’s mysterious history. I even once tried to ask in a round about way-the good Dr. obviously was uncomfortable with just the thought of an explanation and she played the awkward moment off by pretending not to understand my english. I never asked again.
Down stairs she was a completely different woman and was never shy about clarification or asking for help for the english word that would fit her story. For the first few months we mainly spoke of her travels and things she had seen and I felt as if I was the first real person she had listen to her in this way for many years. She was just as interested in me and hearing about my life, my past jobs, where I lived and wanted hear all about my bride to be. She loved my stories about my old hitch hiking days especially and said she could relate to suddenly being in a completely different environment and landscape. Still, there was always a line I could never cross and my visits always ended in a somber way when we came back downstairs and I would say good bye at the front door.
The summer heat was on the horizon and my time with the Dr. was coming to an end. I think she realized that her contract would be up soon and although she would love to have the companionship and verbal interaction-she knew that her practical side, in the end would win out. Not needing my service she would cancel and once again go back to cutting coupons she didn’t need and her lonely existence trapped on the first floor. I guess it was this realization or maybe it was something I said but the Dr. knew she needed a friend and someone she could trust. Being pragmatic perhaps or just knowing she’d never willingly seek one out she decided on the next best thing. On my next visit I rang the bell and the 100 year old chimes echoed through the house and I surprisingly heard the Dr. gleefully calling out as she rushed to the door. To my surprise she greeted me with a great big smile and up onto my chest jumped a beautiful 6 month old German Shepherd pup lapping my face and welcoming me to his new home. With a quick introduction she quickly shut the door to keep the dog from running out into the busy street. I had never seen Dr. Muriez so happy and the dog was just gorgeous. It was obvious that the good Dr. had found her true friend and perhaps hope for the future.
I was so happy for Dr. Muriez as I listened to her explain how she found the dog and the plans she had. She spoke with a joy in her voice that wasn’t there even when she told some of her grandest stories or recalled some of the very important people she had met over the years. She had every detail mapped out right down to the dog bowls and where they’d be placed to the corner of the yard where she was having a section fenced off just for the pup. She remembered that one of my previous jobs was building dog houses for a hardware store and asked if I could build one for her- she was thrilled when I said yes. Today’s service visit was different from all the others and for the first time I saw a woman who was thrilled with life and excited for the day. We made plans for me to come on the weekend to build the dogs new home and she happily spouted the details she had carefully thought out- but as happened each time before, when we made our way up the elegant staircase our conversation grew still. From the back yard we could hear the dog barking happily and we both forced a smile but deep down I wondered if anything could fill this woman’s empty void. At least now, there was a chance.
At Contracts End
The contract was over and true to her nature the Dr. had to let me and my service go. The dog grew fast and the last time I saw him he was very big but playful as ever. The dog house I built was well thought out just as everything was in Dr. Muriez’ life. Made from cedar and insulated it was one side job I was proud to do and it sat on the side of a small out building in the back yard inside a chain link fence but visible from the drive. Dr. Muriez was a fine lady and she paid me well above our agreed price for the work- I think it was a wedding present of sorts but gifts were not part of her normal make up so I think it served as a good excuse. She also hand wrote a very nice commendation letter to my boss thanking me for my work. The letter was short and to the point but knowing her the way I did it was the equivalent of someone else writing a book. I still have the original to this day but back then I remember reading it and wondering- wishing I knew more about the good Dr. and the story behind the 2nd and 3rd floor. But my life went on and my bursting route and approaching marriage would not wait and so for that time we both moved on so sure we would never again speak.
It was 6 months or so after I had last seen the good Dr. when I got the call at my home. It was the Professor and she began speaking so fast I could barely understand her even though I had gotten pretty good at it over the past year. I remember thinking ‘how did she get my number?’ and I tried to make sense of what she was saying. I asked her to slow down and just tell me the problem. The phone went quiet for a few seconds and then Dr. Muriez began crying so very hard. It was as if flood gates of emotions held back for many years came rushing out of her all at once. She said I was the only one she could think of calling and the only one who would possibly care. Her beloved best friend had bolted from his enclosure chasing a squirrel and the busy streets of Baltimore gave him no chance. I was devastated to hear the news and felt so bad for this grande lady who it seemed that sadness would not leave alone. We spoke for quite some time and we even shared a laugh about her pup and some of the funny things he’d do.
I believe somewhere in the conversation her logical side came around to its usual place but brought along the loneliness she had lived with and accepted for so long. Feeling so sad for her I offered to pray even though I knew this was something she abandoned years ago and like the 2nd and 3rd floor it was a line she would not cross. She stated politely but as a matter of fact that this was not something she would ever consider and in her mind she thought God had turned His back on her many years ago. Suddenly it was as if we were again at the base of her stairs and the conversation halted as sadness prevailed and she was again back at the place where I first met her-and as I hung up the phone I felt that familiar cloud of sadness-and I left her alone once again, in her Hollow Mansion on 39th.