The House Wife.
By Sarah Drago.
“Lucy was not worried about the outside world getting in but the inside world getting out. What if it all became too cumbersome to put back into place? Like a bag of new socks or a sleeping sack, everything impossibly unspooled and spilling over.”
Red Stole by Emilie Möri.
Lucy had decided to become a recluse. She was uncertain if one could determine such a thing or if one only became one without knowing, but she was quite thrilled with this new sense of purpose.
The neighbors believed she had developed agoraphobia, but that was untrue. Lucy was not worried about the outside world getting in but the inside world getting out. What if it all became too cumbersome to put back into place? Like a bag of new socks or a sleeping sack, everything impossibly unspooled and spilling over. She would wake up and have an empty walnut shell where her brain once was.
She had always worried that she dropped bits of herself like sticky loose change every new place that she went. Recent undoings had walloped away any doubt. To remedy this unraveling, Lucy had decided to become a self-contained circuit, to keep everything stuffed safely inside. Nothing would get lost or left behind ever again. She would become an intact person once more, every stitch accounted for and without any loose edges at all.
Perhaps one becomes a recluse out of neurosis. The world is undoubtedly dangerous, especially for a young woman. Perhaps one becomes a recluse out of general dissatisfaction with the outside. Lucy was well-traveled and doubly educated. Nevertheless, she encountered only ennui and malaise. She had never felt more trapped than when she was abroad. Such sensations never occurred within her room or kitchenette.
In the house that Lucy had decided upon, every corner was kept curtained and clean. Every wall in every room was thoroughly wallpapered, though she could not make out their designs from behind her heavy drapes. Like candles, their wick-like lines were snuffed into silence. This was to deter claustrophobia, which Lucy believed to be a side effect of an overly-embellished parlor. She would rather everything as empty as the inside of a teacup that had been turned over and tucked away. She wanted to see every smudge and every spot, the fingerprints that feathered the porcelain as white as bleached bone.
Her task would be easy, seeing as she had few friends and even fewer family. She could faintly recall the sound of her mother, that gargantuan woman whose outline had begun to blur behind the buff of the boarded window. Her mother had never properly kept house and had instead rushed from flophouse to trailer park. Lucy had known it was an unforgivable sin to deny a home its audience. To perform penance, she would float above her bed imagining the quaintest of neighborhoods, their rose gardens grotesque in their genital likeness. Within their sills, the littlest lamps would light them to life.
With satisfied and languid pleasure, she tucked herself into her small bed and thought about how she need not imagine any more. She had met the house of her dreams and had swathed herself in sheer gauze as its bride. Now she would live within its body. She would become a recluse.
And thus begins our story.
It was still dark when Lucy awoke, though she only knew this from the hands of the clock that twisted tightly together. A passerby may think Lucy had boarded the windows out of animosity towards the day, but she had always considered the sun an unimpeachable friend. It was the moon that vexed her, whose eye peered between the curtains like a peeping tom. Its luminosity blinded the night sky and snatched away the stars as if they were dangling babies, swaddled by spiders.
Lucy could not remember what had woken her up. Her mouth was as dry as plaster and her eyes cobwebbed with crust and mucus. Even her right arm tingled as if it was still pulling itself out from under that quagmire of sleep.
The soft hum of the house slowly sojourned back to the bedroom. Lucy could feel the pulse of the overhead fan as if the house were reminding her that she was not alone.
She had cloistered herself in the house for exactly six months and nine days whenever she began to feel that something was amiss. The wicker chair had begun to wilt as if it had been left in the rain, yet it had remained stationed inside the same as Lucy. Even the teatowels were damp despite being merely decorative. These were only minor alarms, though Lucy took note of them with the watchfulness of a tender husband.
It wasn’t until the yellow kitchen had begun to flush pink that Lucy began to lose sleep. Once a pale lemon meringue, the kitchen was now variegated like a pair of lungs. Lucy placed her hand against the wall, feeling its fleshy contours as it dipped gently beneath her lower palm. This was the one room in the house without drapery, spared by her fear of fire hazards. The wall felt like the interior of a mouth beneath her hand, like the supple pink of a soft-shelled body.
Although there were items one could buy to doctor sheetrock, Lucy knew she could not leave the house. Her groceries and toiletries had been regularly delivered, but even those she eyed with suspicion. Besides, she wanted nothing to do with items that caulked and blocked and shoved and stuffed. She was the caretaker of this home. She would never violate or debase its body.
Quietly she lay awake as the ceiling began to drip-drop, pirouetting to the low hiccup of her heartbeat.
Perhaps one travels to understand the limitations of destination. Perhaps one travels because it is fashionable or because one is simply bored. Lucy believed that her colleagues traveled to prove their sadness was merely circumstantial. They had convinced themselves that someplace else would add meaning to their existence, as if their discontent would disappear beneath different windows and above different dishes. Lucy, whose mother had committed suicide when Lucy was thirty-one, knew this was not true.
By the eighth month, the house had begun to lurch and sag. Its heavy drapes hung from their rods like slack breasts, exposing the wallpaper unpeeling like cuticles. Lucy had not slept in three days, her body attentive to its undulation. She had taken a vow of vigilance. The house was her responsibility. Beneath her feet, the floorboards had begun to buckle, and the doorway bend as if it were playing a game.
Lucy knew it did not look as if she were maintaining the house. Nevertheless, she and the house were in sacred communion. She could feel the knobs of its spine through the beams and her bed spongy and wet as an organ. She moved within the house as if she were a fetus and the room swallowed in amniotic fluid. Whatever sleep she had stolen before these three days had been shallow, a nonconsensual nod into another world.
Lucy could not remember when she had found the house. It felt as if she had always lived inside its stomach, with everything within arms’ reach around her. She could not imagine leaving the hum of this heartbeat, this wet and welcoming womb.
The Blood Pudding – April 24, 2023
Sarah Drago was born to a small town in southeast Louisiana. She possesses an MA in Victorian Literature and a poorly-built dollhouse.
Artwork: Photographer Emilie Möri reimagines a world in which perfect proportions – employing chromatic colours and stark shadows – brings her subjects’ environments to life. A focus on architectural themes and abstraction allows the images to embody feelings of solitude and isolation. Möri’s Paris-based practice also includes numerous commercial collaborations. You can find more about her here.