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Testament to Our Love
By Rosanne Catalano (aka R.C.Kayla)



Six months after we fell in love, my husband and I got married. Before meeting my hubby, I had been living with a male friend of mine; the male friend had introduced me and my husband to one another. Of course, I had moved out of the apartment the male friend and I shared before marrying my hubby. Leaving the friend “temporary” custody of my cat Tiger; we figured that once we got an apartment we would take Tiger back. But for now, we had no place to live and were just married. Driving around while kissing and holding hands, we came upon a hotel overlooking the south shore of Long Island. It had a magnificent view of the ocean. So we checked in that night and lived there two weeks. In spite of our joy at being newlyweds, the hotel room started to feel closed-in. After perusing the newspapers, we saw an ad for a one-bedroom apartment in another town. How perfect we thought; it would be our first real apartment as a married couple!


Soon after driving to the address given to us, we saw that it was a one-family home. In reality, the landlord’s “one-bedroom apartment” was actually a converted one-car-garage in a split level style house. Turns out, the owners and my hubby and I got along fantastically! My husband and I signed a one-year-rental agreement that day. We moved into the apartment two days later, without any furniture. The landlord told me the double bed we had seen in the bedroom was staying and that we could sleep in that. Hubby and I figured living in a tiny apartment was better than staying in a hotel with no kitchen.


During the day, if I got tired of writing stories on my typewriter I went upstairs to hang with the landlord and her younger son. One day she told me they had to replace the entire staircase; the stairs had started rotting out. It looked like some kind of black mold in the wood, she told me. Although she replaced the stairs, she said her family hadn’t been feeling well lately. My husband and I weren’t either. We would hear loud coughing coming from the landlord’s part of the house. My husband and I began to feel our balance becoming slightly off-kilter, as we’d walk around our little studio apartment. Though I'm not sure I'd even call it walking around, because our apartment had only a kitchen and bedroom. That’s right, no living room! But we didn’t mind, we were in our honeymoon phase. Life went on in spite of this tiny, cramped apartment we were in.


Now it was time to take back custody of my cat Tiger. So shortly after we moved in, my hubby and I drove to our male friend’s apartment to await the arrival of moving men. They were going to move my furniture to our new apartment. My furniture (and Tiger) had temporarily been residing at that mutual friend’s apartment. We brought Tiger back to live with us in our new tiny apartment. Once we were all settled in with my bedroom furniture and kitchen set, we felt more like a family. I had missed my Tiger.... I had adopted him a year before meeting and marrying my husband.


The landlords invited us to a Christmas party that December. When we first walked upstairs with gifts in our arms, the landlord’s guests fell silent and gaped at us; we were the only white people there. But when they saw our landlord approach and hug us, they all smiled and conversation began anew. We had a great time with them and their guests that night. While still at the party, I happened to overhear the landlord say to her cousin that her younger son was beginning to get nose bleeds, and her older son had developed asthma suddenly. We all puzzled over the reason that could be. The landlord went on to mention that their in-ground swimming pool had flooded out; water had gushed into the entire bottom part of her house. “This happened a year prior to you guys moving into the bottom apartment,” she said to her cousin, looking over at me. I asked her, “Any water damage?” She told me she didn’t know. But she had noticed excessive water on the pipes by her washer and dryer. No one could figure out what could be causing this either…


The entire household – landlord and tenants – were getting sicker and sicker. So after a year and a half of living in the apartment, I went to the library. I wanted to see if there were any scientific books that could explain these mysterious symptoms. After researching and reading scientific journals and books, I horrifyingly found out that her house was contaminated with a toxic mold known as stachboystys. Unlike regular black mold found in bathroom tubs and showers (that can easily be cleaned with Tilex’s mold remover), stachboystys is the toxic mold that is green & black which is very dangerous to our health. What we and the landlord didn’t know is that this mold was growing inside the walls of her house, starting from the ground up. Exactly the point of where the pool had flooded into their house. I had seen this greenish-black mold on my sponge once while cleaning the bathroom tiles. But hadn’t known what it was.


Coming home from the library, I knocked on our landlord’s front door to warn them of this toxic mold in their home. Her older son answered, but then shut the door in my face; it looked like he had been sleeping. When I told my husband that night, he said, “That’s it. We’re moving out tomorrow morning.” We did not want to wait around and get sicker, before the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) or CDC (Center for Disease Control) confirmed it was this toxic mold stachboystys. Since our landlord’s son ignored our warnings, when we moved out the next day I left the landlord herself a note. In it I explained why we were leaving. I advised her again to get an inspector from the EPA or CDC in her house to clean up the toxic mold. But they were not listening…


My brother-in-law brought all of our clothes to a professional dry cleaner; told the cleaners about us living with a toxic mold. He also informed the dry cleaners to make sure our clothes were totally ‘decontaminated’ before we took possession of them again. Unfortunately my brother-in-law could not help us save my bedroom furniture, kitchen set, some clothes that had already been damaged by the mold, pots & pans, dishes, etc. Although there were some important documents we left behind also, those documents are on record; we could always obtain another copy of the documents. My hubby, our baby Tiger and I got out of that apartment as fast as we could that day! We had not yet met our younger baby Cordy. Cordy entered our lives six months after we moved into our second apartment, in another county.


In our second apartment, we finally felt “human” for a change. Physically, we were already beginning to feel better. Since I had read in the scientific journal at the library that neurological damage is one symptom of exposure to toxic mold, nose bleeds and asthma another, we had doctors test us for any neurological damage or any physical damage. None was found in the tests doctors did on both of us! I do have nerve damage but that is from a fall down stairs years before I met my husband. We lived in our second apartment for four years.


A month after we had settled into our second apartment, I called our former landlord one last time to warn them of the danger. So I phoned her, spoke to her a while and told her again about the toxic mold and its danger to the health of her family. She told me she would get an inspector from the EPA to check it out. She also told me that her and her sons were going to move out of the house anyway: she couldn’t afford the upkeep. Since there was no longer rent coming in from us, she now had one of her cousins living in that apartment. And the cousin didn’t pay rent of course.


We have since moved into a one-family home of our own with our babies Tiger and Cordy. Tiger is now 10 years old, Cordy is going to be 7 in June. Both my husband and I marvel now at having lived in that first apartment; a dream turned into a nightmare. It had to be true love on mine and my hubby’s part!


Copyright © 2005 by Rosanne Catalano.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Although Rosanne Catalano is publisher & editor-in-chief of The Cat’s Meow for Writers & Readers Ezine, an internet-based progressive magazine, she continues to write her nonfiction / fiction short stories, articles and poetry. The Cat’s Meow for Writers & Readers Ezine was created by Rosanne in December of 2004 to complement her author website after much publication success in print & online. Her magazine received a Bronze Award for Outstanding Achievement in Ezine Publishing [2006]; her own writing received a Golden Pencil Award for Excellence [2003]. Do check out Rosanne’s website and home of “The Cat’s Meow for Writers & Readers Ezine” at: www.rosannecatalano.net



------
--rckayla,
publisher/author/writer



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