5.30.2013 Journal Prompt

Photo by Robert Adams
Photo by Robert Adams

May 30, 2013: The lonely house.

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3 thoughts on “5.30.2013 Journal Prompt

  1. Lindsay

    The kids in the street have a name for her. They call her Havisham. It is both cruel and clever at the same time. It’s after that woman in the book by Dickens. The one about the woman that never did marry, and she is mad, and alone, and she wears a wedding dress that is moth eaten and threadbare, and cobwebs thick as cloth cover the untouched wedding feast. And that’s how the kids think of her.

    Some end-of-days they stare in at her windows, pretending to be braver than they are, hoping to catch sight of her and not knowing what to say or how to respond when they do. They wave sometimes and laugh and call her name, the name they have for her.

    ‘Havisham! Havisham!’

    But that isn’t all the story, for they are not bad kids, not at all.

    They can sometimes be heard talking in lowered voices about the sad that Havisham must be and they feel sad too and want to make things better. They write her cards and short letters but, because they do not know what to say to her, they tell her things about their day, confessing all the wrong and right that they have been about. And they ask forgiveness in their notes, as if Havisham has some power to grant absolution from sins – not that they are really sins, the things they admit to.

    She lives alone in the house and she is quiet and she never goes out. She should really. She knows that. It is not natural or good to be so cut off. Already her health suffers. She is pale and tired and her hair is falling out. But she cannot bear the thought of leaving the house, just in case he called while she was out and he’d leave a note and not call again for another year or longer. So she keeps to her house and she waits.

    The kids in the street wheel out her trash once a week and they cut her grass when it needs cutting and they leave her small gifts of books they have enjoyed or magazines their mothers have finished reading or flowers picked from the garden and wrapped in pink tissue. They leave these small offerings on the front step and they knock the door and run. Then, from some hidden vantage, they watch and they wait, till Havisham comes first to the window and then to the door.

    They call the street ‘Lonely Street’ but really it is spelled ‘Loanly’, and when they describe her house it is down at the end of Lonely Street, like in the song by Elvis, and so they call her house the Heartbreak Hotel, and they invent stories of jilted love and lost kisses and broken hearts.

    In truth, her name is Elspeth Bendall, and she waits for a son to come back to her, waits for a soldier to come home from the war. That’s the war in Iraq, all desert sun and oil; and she got a letter and a medal, and the letter said he’d been brave and he’d done his duty, and the medal was proof that he had. But she saw on the tv the coffins that were shipped back and flags draped over the coffins and all that ceremony with men in clean uniforms stomping their feet in step with each other and their faces serious and still. Only, that didn’t happen for her son. She just got the letter and the medal and a set of identity tags that looked like they had been chewed by a dog and spat out.

    And so she waits, thinking he might not really be dead like they said, thinking that any day he could knock at the door and she’d be there waiting with his medal and the house would be known to him and not a bit different. And so she dresses the same as the day he left, and she keeps his room just as it was, and she plays the same songs on the stereo, and nothing can change; and I suppose that’s a bit like Havisham.

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