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The House

Ráchel Smekalova's protagonist is obsessed with her home, possessions and solitude. But when the absurd starts happening, she finds she cannot rely on the things she has to define her.

by Rachel Smekalova

My father always told me to be kind and to be true. But I was never one to hold onto reality and everything attainable.

Instead I’ve become an ultimate dreamer who lives in a tiny house as a spinster, a hermit whose best friend is a pizza guy named Ron.

I can play anything from a contemporary Portuguese jazz to early Justin without being judged or glorified and read as many chick-lit novels and self help books as I want.

I’ve recently bought a bunch of mismatching pillows, painted my bedroom baby yellow and my living room baby green which makes me feel like a quirky character from Coppola’s movies. Or, as though I am living in a soup.

As Marguerite Duras said, ‘Houses are places specially meant for putting men and children in so as to restrict their waywardness and distract them from longing for adventure and escape.’

The question is, what do you do if you have no one to put in your house? You most certainly save money on furniture for couples, no need to buy sheets for a double bed. Also, nobody uses your razor. And the mess you leave always stays in the same place.

You are allowed to collect shoes, magazines, dildos which you can use on an independent schedule. You have time to fantasise, you idealise men and children that could have been put in your house. You dream of lives that don’t belong to you.

My house often made me feel touched in the past. It lacked elegance and sophistication, but it was mine. When I started feeling melancholic I’d dream of living on the coast in Miami. Wearing white linen pants a little too long allowing me to wear high heels inside while boiling a lobster for a casual Tuesday night dinner with neighbours; middle-aged mid-successful mid-happy with kids aged three to twelve. And while my husband would be frivolously flirting with all the other housewives,I’d choose one for myself, the only woman who recently went through a terrible divorce.

On a calm moment, I’d profit from her vulnerability and invite her over for a private yoga session. She would come straightaway the next day which would turn into an impromptu hot pants party with many glasses of Australian Chardonnay and a brisk nudie swim in the ocean.

We’d forget the kids at school and just laugh and cry while being kissed by the rays of sun until the end of the dusk. If you think I’d be a terrible mum, you are correct. I would be no Kardashian mastering the art of motherhood while being beautiful, a great wife and also career-oriented. I would be lazy and that’s why I’d have people to do things for me. Like James, the gardener. Sandra, the au pair. Mick, the tutor. Svietlana, the housekeeper.

In my fantasy, I am a bizarre individual born with a golden spoon in my mouth. Never knowing anything else but being filthy rich. Rich as someone who had once written a music hit and never had to work again. Rich as somebody who had inherited a fortune of a family relative from Switzerland.

“You have time to fantasise, you idealise men and children that could have been put in your house. You dream of lives that don’t belong to you.”

But this is not my life, I live in a house that could have easily been designed by a
ten-year-old with a ruler, that’s how basic it is: walls, roof, windows, deck. It’s easy to
imagine the architect putting down his crayon and shouting into the next room, ‘I’m
done. Can I watch TV now?’

When you have very little furniture and almost no possessions, it is easy to keep everything in order. I like order and for the sake of my life and this story, here is a list of my things:

  • 1 key shelf
  • 1 bookshelf
  • 67 publications in English, French and for some reason in Retro Romanian
  • 3 towels
  • 1 bed
  • 1 sofa
  • 2 pairs of polka dot linen
  • 4 mismatching pillows all in stripes
  • 4 indian curtains
  • 1 large blue rug
  • 3 amaryllis
  • 1 large ficus arrabiata
  • 15 different pieces of overgrown succulents
  • 15 pieces of kitchen equipment
  • 1 large print of a man on a horse

It’s Thursday, Christmas Eve. I am not feeling festive and I am not feeling like cooking. I call Ron who brings me a Hawaiian with a massive delay. I wish him Merry Christmas and give him a baby kalanchoe tomentosa as a present. He asks ‘what is this?’ and I explain it is a panda plant. ‘It doesn’t look anything like a panda,’ he says. That’s when I close the door with zero interest in continuing our conversation.

But when I sit back on the sofa with a half empty can of diet coke and a cold Hawaiian, I realise my rug is missing. What the fuck? Is Ron also a magician? He is too much of an idiot to pull off a trick as complicated as the disappearance of a rug from 10 metres away. Wait, what happened? I search the house and see nothing. I am desperate and frustrated. This neighbourhood doesn’t know crime. But what if?

I call Ron again and tell him he must get back immediately. He thinks it’s a booty call and appears in front of the doorstep in 10 minutes, holding a bottle of vodka and some Red Bull in a plastic bag.

His pink cheeks are cute and for a moment I forget about his lack of character. We end up fucking and falling asleep on my bed. When I wake up there is no Ron and no bed. I am lying naked on the floor covered with my single person polka dot blanket.

When I realise what’s happened, I start sobbing. My body hurts from lying on the wooden floor, standing up feels painful but I do it. What did I expect? Mixing vodka and emotions has always been just trouble.

When I open the fridge, there is nothing. I rub my eyes as if I was a cartoon character. My plants are gone and my curtains are not hanging. My books are gone too and I no longer own any clothes.

I wrap myself tightly into the blanket feeling that if I let it slip from my naked body, it will disappear too. I can no longer make myself a coffee or have a glass of water. I have nothing. The man on the horse has vanished, towels have never even existed. Sofa is gone, shelves are gone. I have nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

I walk out of my house, barefoot. And for the first time in ages, I can smell the morning fresh air from the sea. Birds chirping and pine trees swaying from side to side. My life is my house, empty. It is time to rewind the old cassette, start blank. Move on. It’s Christmas day and I was given the best gift ever, a chance to live now.


Rachel Smekalova | Instagram: @racheldejapris

Rachel is a a Prague-based literary enthusiast. ‘The House’ was inspired by an encounter with an aspiring (and inspiring) writer called Gus who still owes her a visit to the Barbican Conservatory.
If you want to see more of Rachel’s stories, check out her old short non-fiction Moments ‘For Us’ which was published on Oh Comely’s blog.

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