Paul was recently hired as a rental property manager for a recently purchased house in the run-down area of our town. The tenants moved out of one of the apartments last week and now Paul is in charge of cleaning the place, painting the walls, and replacing the carpet. He asked me to come take pictures of the place before he fixed it up because he enjoys seeing his success captured on film.
On the way over to the house, Paul told me the story of the tenants that had moved out. They were a cohabiting, unwed couple with a small baby. The mother had postpartum depression and had begged the new owner of the property to let them break their contract early because of their horrible living conditions. The new owner (Paul's boss) is a kind man and allowed it. When we arrived at the property, Paul and Lily stayed in the car while I went in to snap a few shots. Before descending down the stairs, I paused at the top and felt a wave of emotion come over me. A baby had lived here? The place was unfit for any human being, especially a tiny child to live. There was a tiny bathroom with no ventilation, a kitchen, and a small bedroom with only a couch. Dirty windows plagued what little light was allowed and cobwebs belonged to each dark corner. Junk and trash littered the floor, grease had seeped into the walls, and urine had permanently stained the bathroom linoleum. The smell of cigarettes and urine still burns in my nostrils as I write this.
As I snapped pictures, I felt sympathy for that mother. As I focused my lens, I could feel her loneliness. I saw her helpless tears that had fallen into the dingy carpet. I could see the dint in the broken couch where she had slept. They left all of what little furniture they owned. There was no crib. The child slept on the floor.
This tiny hole, this apartment number two, put a hole in my heart today that won't be closing any time soon. I think about a squalling, innocent child living in such filth and I just want to hold it close to me. I don't know this child, yet I so want to shield it from the ruin and filth of this world. I want to squeeze the mother's hand and tell her that everything will be alright.