The sensation of dead insects crunching underfoot grew more intense as we made our way to the second floor. The odor of pif paf, (bug spray) rancid heat and crumbling tiles permeated the air and would later become a reminder of our year in the villa.
Foof wiggled out of my arms and walked up the last few stairs waving her hands in anticipation. She bravely navigated the steps, gingerly moving among the dead cockroaches, a sight that had terrified her in the car port area where hundreds of desiccated bugs remained after a recent fumigation.
For the previous seven years we had lived in Renton Washington, just one hour south of Seattle in a modest starter home. Odds and ends from friends who returned to their native countries were secured in order to furnish our residence. A tan sectional with bits of loose knobby fiber, 1 queen bed and several worn, pink floral pads were the only furniture that he allowed in our house. I was reminded frequently that we were temporary in this home, country and in this life and until we had a permanent place there was no need for more than rudimentary essentials.
The 25 hour journey wore on my sagging belly, contractions pounded from my abdomen to my lower back. Mother had warned me about taking such a grueling trip while 8 months pregnant, but I had already delivered 4 babies successfully and needed to make this trip. A job was waiting and as a dutiful wife and mother I had to follow.
We made our way to the top of the stairs where a large brown door stood before us. It was clear it had been painted a dull brown, most likely hours before we arrived. Two panels met in the middle and overlapped leaving a large crack which would later serve as an entrance for lizards and cockroaches.
He opened the doors and led us into the hall, indoor outdoor rough black carpeting covered each room, and jagged edges met intermittently with tan and brown speckled walls, threads unraveled making the carpet look askew in its placement. Lines traced the dingy walls highlighting the exact location where a couch, loveseat and table had been positioned, proof that this place had once been inhabited.
A single brown plastic window stood strategically next to a large piece of plywood haphazardly nailed over a gaping hole. This was the space where an air conditioner would be placed but unbeknownst to me it had been declared a forbidden luxury. I stood staring at the desolation of this place, my scarf drenched in sweat; a steady pattern of drips fell down my nose and onto my lips.
The bedrooms appeared to be replicas of every room in the villa, dull carpet, speckled walls and lines where beds, chairs and dressers had once stood. A brown window, gaping hole and ragged plywood replaced air conditioners in each and every room. The stagnant and putrid stench of bug spray was barely noticeable as we searched for beds, blankets and pillows.
One last area remained and with it the hope that a sleeping area had been arranged for us. Pink tile, cracked and spackled with darkened grout spread out over the large room. A sink stood directly opposite the door surrounded by a tiny counter. Buzzing could be heard from a fan that circulated air and dust. I looked around for appliances, food or water, but found nothing on top of nothing.