Monday, January 14, 2008

At the end of the world where the clowns weep

I once read a poem with this title, written by an angst-ridden eighth-grader who had been unlucky in love, and I always thought it rather apropos...to just about anything. (The poem was written in a series of 8 or 10 long stanzas, finally ending with the clowns weeping and tearing at their garments in an apoplexy of teenage misery.)

The poem's sentiment could have been fitting, for example, on the other day when my Good and Kind husband said something along the lines of "Honey...I don't mean to upset you, but those pants just aren't flattering to your rear end." Whatever could he mean? I took a look over my shoulder and saw something I didn't wish to see. "Good God!" I cried out. "This cannot be." (Of course, Revered Son # 3, currently residing within, is entirely to blame for this state of affairs.) "I wish to run," I said. "Run away from my own rearview. But wherever I go, it shall follow me." Here, I could have added "Nay, to the very end of the world...where the clowns weep!"

This weekend, we went house-hunting. It's an odd experience. One begins with a sense of joie de vivre and boundless curiosity. But after seeing two or three homes, the sickly miasma of other people's lives begins to descend. It seems that very few people who are selling their homes--at least within the price range I am looking--have entertained guests or even left their homes in the last several years for more than a quick deli run. The piles of clutter blocking rooms and doorways, gentle yet odoriferous dogs scattered around like so many throw rugs, and creepy oniony smells all attest to the fact that these people do not really want to sell their homes--not really. They are as much a part of the house as the crusty patina of grease on the kitchen counter, or the crooked stairwell with the missing rail, and they will be pried loose only with enormous offers of money (which are not forthcoming).

After seeing five homes, I was left with a sense of unease, like I'd trespassed and seen a bit too much. Memories of the homes filtered through my day and permeated the novel I was reading, such that all the fictional scenes within houses took place within those houses. Two of the homes were empty, and those were a bit easier, although I've managed to invent sordid and weird histories for them without the assistance of props. In two others we visited, the owners were there puttering about amidst a lifetime of clutter. But one home...that one was haunted by clowns.

The owners were not at home. The place was strangely dark, with all the curtains drawn. It could have had grandeur at one point, but it had long forgotten whatever noble origins it might have had in the early 1900s. From the ground level to the third story, every available inch of wall was covered with a painting or print in a cheaply-made wooden frame. These came in three themes: 1. Prayers 2. Scary clowns 3. Portraits of family members. Of the themes, the Scary Clowns theme was by far the most prevalent. I never saw such a collection of awful clowns: On violet, star-spattered backgrounds; leering over fences; juggling colored balls; puffing their big red lips out with disdain. One section of the stairway seemed to be the unholy "black hole" of clown paintings, nearly sucking the viewer in with the sheer density of toothy and hatted clowns, all goggle-eyed and lecherous. Who could have sought out such a vile collection? The religious overtones of the house made it all the more bizarre. Big red ties, floppy hats, and Jesus dangling from the crucifix--the eclectic decorator's dream!

This was not all. In the basement of the home, which was no charmer to begin with, we noticed a door marked "Medical Office." What was behind that door, my friends? Well, if you guessed a fully equipped medical suite featuring a less-than-brand-new gynecological examining table dead smack in the center of the room, you have just arrived at The End of the World Where the Clowns Weep. I think the stirrups might have been a bit rusty, but I confess I didn't get too close.

The doctor's desk was in the corner, with another framed prayer leaning on it. Her medical certification was displayed. At the end of the room was a sink with antiseptic soap for washing up. The rest of the room, save the examining table itself, was completely devoted to clutter of all kinds--boxes, papers, medical devices. The light in the room was yellow and decayed, and the walls were of that dark, paneled wood popular sometime in the 60s and 70s. A shade was drawn over the window, and that too was a cracked yellow color, so that whatever light came through seemed sickened and outdated.

I imagined someone buying the house and everything packed up or sold at a tag sale (one gynecological table--cheap!). Worse, I imagined patients coming in through the side door from the driveway, down to the basement. Past the printouts of psalms and the pop-eyed clowns to their medical doctor's office, deep below three stories of a family's accumulated memories and dross. Entering a strange, undersea world.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

That is one of the creepiest images I've heard described in years. It sounded like The Silence of the Lambs abortion clinic of Lower Westchester. Good God!

Chrysalis said...

It rubs the lotion on itself...

Mudmuffin said...

Wow, sounds like planned parenthood for clowns. Talk about a house with bad vibes.....

Live free or get killed paying interest said...

Wow, you went from R. Kelly to Emmett Kelly in no time at all....

Anonymous said...

Don't laugh. I think all my HMO covers me for is a checkup in that office....

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm trying to play detective here. Was the realtor driving a really small car with lots of people in it?