Ritual Confessions

January 26, 2008

The man under the house — continued

Filed under: Uncategorized — elissakaren @ 6:32 am

After hanging up with my mother, I felt myself breaking a sweat. This was the kind of foreboding I did not want to share with Nick. If I did, I feared he would not be able to contain his hostility toward Jack, and I didn’t want Jack as an outright enemy. Not with him working right next door day and night. Not with his intimate knowledge of our house. Already I felt as if he were everywhere — that he saw me whenever I left the house and knew when I returned.

Once my husband came home and Jack showed back up, I made myself scarce with the excuse of putting the baby down. Distantly I heard them conferring about the leak, and I heard my husband turning on different sources of water in both of the upstairs bathrooms. Finally, I heard our front door open and close. Charlotte was nearly asleep. After about ten minutes I was able to transfer her to her crib and join Nick in the kitchen. Jack was nowhere to be seen but I still felt as if he were watching me, listening to me. I felt worn out with all the difficulties of the past several days — depleted, on edge, nerves frayed. I couldn’t tell whether my mounting fear of Jack was exaggerated or realistic. I felt alone with it.

“Is he gone?” I asked Nick in a hushed tone.

“No, he’s under the house,” my husband told me. “In the crawl space, looking at the heat ducts.”

My skin prickled, hearing this; a shiver crawled along my spine. And suddenly I felt as I were watching this scene from outside, as it unfolded on a stage or a screen: the vast house, warmly lit from within, surrounded by darkness. The troubled wife, full of trepidation, treading lightly on the kitchen floorboards, whispering to her husband. And the workman beneath her feet, beneath the house, staring overhead: all knotted muscle and gritted teeth, mythical, bristling, a denizen of the underworld, a proletarian bent on mutiny.

His presence directly below us conjured a slew of terrifying associations: the intruder in the basement, the rapist under the bed, the lawlessness in the steerage of a ship, DeNiro clinging to the underside of Nick Nolte’s car in Cape Fear. Nothing he told me in that moment could have been more viscerally unsettling.

And yet, even in the midst of feeling this way, I fell in love with the image. I thought, I must use this in some written work at some point — the man under the house.


1 Comment »

  1. You’re giving me the creeps! I hope your hubby sent the guy packing.

    Comment by Shawn W — January 28, 2008 @ 6:09 am

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