Hi. My name is Sarah, I’m twenty-one years old and it has been 8 months, 2 days, 6 hours and 23 minutes since I last stepped outside of my front door. You’re wondering if I am an agoraphobic right? Let’s set the record straight about that one. I am definitely not an agoraphobic. My problem isn’t about wide outdoor spaces, suffocating crowds of people and an endless sky that reaches so far into the heavens that I feel crushed at the very thought of it.
Sometimes I wish my problem was as simple as agoraphobia. Or, at least, as believable as agoraphobia.
Now I know what you’re thinking. For a girl of my age to become a recluse, well that’s just not ‘normal’ behaviour is it? Perhaps you even think its bordering on insanity? Well I can tell you that I am definitely not crazy. I haven’t incarcerated myself into a house, with fifty cats as companions and yellowing newspapers lining the walls, filling every room with clutter and refuse. I haven’t yet made a hat out of tin foil in the hope that aliens won’t be able to read my mind. I haven’t boarded up the windows with corrugated iron, except for one small gap through which I take pot shots at any random passer-by. But I can tell you that you’re right about one thing. I am definitely not ‘normal’.
I know this. It’s no news flash to me.
I live in a small two bedroom cottage outside of Welmont in Bedfordshire, England. It’s no chocolate box cottage that’s for sure. In fact, it’s kind of, well, grey. Yes, grey is probably the best word to describe it. I live in a grey house. The garden is pretty unkempt, I don’t tend to it. It’s not yet a jungle, but it definitely wouldn’t win any ‘Garden of the Year’ awards. The cottage has a slate tiled roof, and a grey stippled exterior. The door is not grey thankfully. I wouldn’t want grey overkill after all. The door is wooden and in need of a good varnish. The brass knocker is desperate for a damn good polish. There is a thin gravel path that leads from the lane outside my house to my worn wooden unvarnished front door. The house is set way back on a country lane that leads only to my house. It’s not a through-road to anywhere which is exactly what I was looking for when I bought it. I don’t want anyone passing by my house, wondering who lives here. The only visitor I get is the grocery delivery man, and he leaves my shopping in a cardboard crate by the front door. I’ve never even met him, although I have secretly spied on him from my bedroom window. Slightly weird I know but he really is the only person I ever see so grant me that one perversion okay? Occasionally I wonder what his name is. Something normal, like ‘Paul’ or ‘David’ or maybe even ‘Keith’. Oh God I hope it’s not Keith. I wonder where he lives. Maybe in one of the nearby towns? I can’t decide whether he lives with his parents. That would be slightly tragic. Or maybe he lives with his girlfriend. He delivers groceries in the week and he cuts his front lawn at the weekends. I bet ‘Paul’ or ‘David’ (still hoping it’s not Keith) lives an impossibly normal life, with his girlfriend, dog and lawnmower.
But that’s okay. I like normal. I crave normal. I am not sure I can even remember normal anymore.
Once when I was peeking out the window, I am sure he must have felt my stare boring into his back and he looked up so quickly I literally threw myself on my bedroom floor. I wouldn’t move until I heard the engine start up and his van pull away. Actually I think I stayed there, heart palpitating, for at least another five minutes after that. Just to be on the safe side. Goodness knows what he must think about the person who lives here. He probably has visions of some hideously deformed freak, hiding herself away from a society that has shunned her. I bet he checks the name on the order to see if it says ‘Mrs Quasimodo’. Not that I give my real name, mind you. Okay, so I am a little bit of a freak you might say, but I am pretty sure there’s nothing too hideous about me. I have red hair, but try not to hold that against me. And I’m slightly on the short side, but hey, nobody’s perfect right? Apart from that I think I can pass as a fairly good-looking human being. My hair is long and straight, I have quite striking blue eyes, my complexion is clear but pale (it comes with the red hair) and in summer I have a spattering of freckles across my nose. At least I used to when I ventured out into the sun. I sometimes wonder if my self-imposed incarceration has affected my skin and I’m actually much paler than I should be. If that is true, then it is kind of ironic in a way.
My hermit existence in my small grey cottage hideaway has been a totally conscious decision. Albeit, a forced decision. If my life was different, I wouldn’t have felt forced to do this. If I was different I wouldn’t have felt compelled to shut myself away from the world.
Okay, so now I know you are trying to guess my ‘problem’.
You won’t have to wait much longer.
I’m ready to tell you my secret now.
Copyright (c) Lindsey Clarke 2010 all rights reserved