On a road in our town – a populated, well-traveled country road – there is a house. At first glance, you barely see it. It hides behind a tangle of overgrown vines, trees and bushes. Then you realize what you’re really seeing. Amidst the yard strewn with debris, old dog houses, stuff – there is a house.
The porch is barely standing and is littered with old windows and doors.
You think: it must be abandoned. Yes, it had to be abandoned years ago and all of this overgrowth is a result of no one tending to it. No one loving it.
It was a big country home at one time. What happened?
There is a van in the front yard. The hatch is open in the back, as if someone is in the process of unloading groceries. It’s been that way – open – as long as I’ve lived here. Like something out of a movie where a town is suddenly abandoned, where time has stopped.
When I first moved here, I saw this place as I drove to our recycling center. I wondered about it, all the time assuming no one lived there. Then one day I saw her. She was walking around the side yard. A woman of indeterminate age – maybe in her 50’s…60’s? She had short hair, brownish in color. My first thought was that she must be someone trying to clean up the place. Maybe it was left to her?
My sightings of her were rare, but it didn’t take long before I realized that she lives there. This is her home. She’s not visiting. I can only imagine what it must be like inside. I think about it and stop myself. It’s best left unexamined.
My husband has never seen her. Every time we drive by he asks me if I really saw her. Yes. Several times.
Who is she? I don’t know. My friend tells me she’s lived there for years. Neighbors have offered to help, to clean up the yard. She wants none of it.
What is her story? How does she survive? Does she have electricity? Heat? I don’t see how any oil delivery truck could get close to the house.
Clearly something is wrong. Does she have anyone to reach out, to care for her? Any family?
Every time I drive by, I ask these questions. What is her life like?
When I returned from San Diego in July, the front of the house was more overgrown than I had ever seen it. It was as if the house had been swallowed up by a jungle. Then, one day, I saw that someone had cleared out a portion of the overgrowth – just enough to park a car.
There is so much mystery about this woman. Has she slipped through the cracks and become someone unreachable? I don’t even know her name.
I am reminded that she could be any one of us. There is a part of me that is solitary, almost hermit-like. If mental illness struck and I was alone…what would be my story? Would I cling to my home, while it slowly deteriorated?
Is there a house like this in every town? It evokes the memory of Boo Radley’s house in To Kill a Mockingbird. And I am reminded, once again, of what Atticus Finch says: that we never truly know what a person’s life is like until we walk around in their shoes.