I Have Been Breathing Tile

So now we are living in this old house that is older than many things in this world, a house that was standing probably looking much like it looks now (without the vinyl siding) when my grandparents were back in the shtetls of Slutsk and Pusvatyn and the other place that was a satellite of Kishinev. The famous and terrible Kishinev pogrom of 1903 had not yet taken place when this house was built. And supposedly, according to M the duct cleaner, no one has ever cleaned the ducts in all that time. I lived in the condo, also old, for almost 10 years and never got the ducts cleaned, though I thought about it, and my neighbors had it done. Last night I noticed that if you take off the grille (which is quaint and decorated and rusted) over the vent in the office, there's a breach in the duct, pocket of metal, with bits of tile and tile dust and gray grains of schmutz. And I had been breathing that??? I've been on prednisone and antibiotic since Saturday because I had a sore throat that turned into bronchitis.

Then I got the air duct cleaner guys to come over and they sucked out the particles opened all the vents and cleaned them. M the duct cleaner said that the pieces of tile came from the bathroom (the next room over) when the people before us replaced the tile with slate. Pieces of tile had come through the bathroom duct and were wedged in a little pocket that had formed in the seam of the metal duct. He got metal tape and sealed it so no more pieces of former floor could rise up. I felt so vulnerable, that dirt could fly right into the air here and I could breathe it and get worse and worse. And then I felt stupid because I'd known the ducts needed cleaning but I hadn't visualized what it really meant, that the air circulating around here was dirty, and it seemed so invisible and uncontrollable and impossible. I think they are clean now but the grilles are rusted and imperfect and I became afraid we had bought wrong, that we should have figured this all out beforehand. And then I went to yoga and while I was riding my bike east I thought, Why did we move three blocks west? It really is cooler by the lake and so here we are in the wrong house in the wrong place.