In central Virgina among the Blue Ridge Mountains there exists an overlooked rural lane leading to a small country home on the verge of demolition.
Zink Lane is a short paved road that quickly fades into a wooded dirt path. It was a hunch of mine that taking this easily missed road would lead me to the modest two-story house that I saw next to the interstate.
What stood out to me about this house was its extremely close proximity to a major highway and the peculiar set of tiny windows.
The house felt despondent. The front porch was littered with papers, broken glass and garbage left behind by previous intruders. It also looked like the front exterior wall was covered in burnt feces. My first thought was that who ever lived here was not fully embraced by the rest of the community. I have never seen an abandoned house attacked with feces before; and personally for me the act of throwing dung bombs at a house resonates deeply hateful vibes.
While Looking inside through the broken front window I could see that the stairs leading to the second level were missing; they looked like they were violently torn out. The rooms on the first level were dark and uninviting with little light coming in through the small windows. It was not possible to enter the house through the front door, but I did find a way inside through the back door.
The property was not leveled. It had a slow declining slope toward the Interstate. I was hesitant at first about walking up the weak set of stairs in the back to enter what would have been a kitchen on the first level. I couldn’t find another way in and was nervous about the conditions of the floor after seeing a very deep basement space underneath the house. After some internal debating I decided to take careful steps and hope for the best. I knew if I didn’t enter the house I would kick myself later, best to avoid those moments.
Inside was pretty bare with the exceptions of a few items like a broken stereo dating back to the 1990’s, it looked very similar to one that I had owned, some empty shelves on the kitchen walls, dingy faded curtains, a squatter bed and random materials. Even though it was bright and sunny outside, inside I felt like I was in a cave. I could not imagine ever living here, nor would I want to imagine such a dreary thing.
While slowly making my way around the back end of the house I noticed a huge fluffy dog running by a window. At first I felt a moment panic and wasn’t sure what to do. Was this dog with someone or loose and on its own? Was it friendly? A few short moments later I see the owner and by then I was already outside in case it was someone coming to check who was on the property. It turned out to be a local man taking his dog for a walk in the woods. I inquired about the history of the house, but he was relatively new to the area and knew nothing, but suspected that the house will be demolished soon. Apparently there was once another house on Zink Lane that was also abandoned and recently torn down for the expansion of a truck stop.
Before leaving the property I stopped at the front porch again and decided to look through the piles of dirty old letters. I didn’t read all of them. They were out here for many years and in pretty gross conditions. Dirt, bugs and I don’t want to think what else I was touching.
The letters told more complete story about this house and its last occupants. All the letters were from a woman, I won’t share her name, who lived here in the late 1990’s and sent to her estranged husband in custody of Virginia State Correction.
Her letters were intense! She was a hardworking and struggling single mother who kept in contact with a man that she had mixed feelings for. She cared about him, that was obvious, but didn’t trust him. He had hurt her with his infidelities and criminal behavior. In her letters she would tell him about his kids and her daily life as well as call him out on his nonsense.
I could tell that she was not a very well educated woman, her grammar and spelling was painfully poor and sometimes difficult to understand. She constantly struggled with bills. A few times she was close to being evicted and on the verge of homelessness. Because all the letters were from her I am suspecting that they were returned to the house from the prison or him after she and her children had vacated the house.
Whether she left on her own accord or was forced out by the landlord I do not know. The most recent letter that I saw was dated in February of 1999.
The letters confirmed my first impression of the house feeling despondent. There was no way a family could be full of happiness while living here. The interior walls oozed gloom and despair. The location of the house was uncomfortable and oppressive. There was no privacy despite the secludedness of the woods and dirt path.
After reading the letters I could only hope that the woman and her children moved on to a brighter and less depressing space.