the illusions we subscribe to
The repaint job on our building is over, as far as our unit is concerned. They've got a few more units to finish tomorrow, but our front patio and back balcony are all done. Everything we had to bring inside is outside again, with the exception of the bird feeder--I found out it's against our HOA rules and regs. Which is sad, but fair; if you're worried about raccoons, it makes sense to ban animal attractors. We can put our hummingbird feeder out, but that's the one exception.
The back balcony was the last thing, and the paint crew got to it yesterday. I was in the guest-bedroom-turned-office in the front of the house, but I could hear the racket of ladders--ladders being extended and put in place, people jumping down from ladders onto the balcony, people climbing up ladders to the balconies above ours--when they arrived.
Itís this idea of ownership, I think, which is twined so closely with responsibility and duty: this little patch of earth is indisputably yours, and you must take care of it, because no one else will.
But I think I sensed that this concept of ownership was a lie even then. I knew there were countless infrastructural and financial systems whose whole beings were devoted to allowing me and every other person on the block to engage in this happy fantasy. And for them, there were no boundaries. The men who came to check the meters or the gas or cable lines were perfectly within their rights to hop a fence or open your gate and stroll right in.
A fantasy, in other words, must be maintained. And for it to be maintained, it must be violated from time to time, its fragile penumbra punctured by outsiders going about their day to day business.
That's Robert Jackson Bennett, on a very particular fear that inspired his novel American Elsewhere. Only, of course, in that story, the officially sanctioned trespassers are up to something rather different than checking the meters and maintaining the cable. They're not necessarily men and women, either.
But it's a fair point even without the special pleading of horror/fantasy. We lock the door at night and when we leave the house, and we close the office window that looks out onto a ground floor patio. But because the back-of-house access points are some ten feet off the ground, we feel safe leaving them open so that the evening breeze can freshen and cool the bedroom and living room. And it's all an illusion, pierced the first time someone--legitimate or no--comes around the back with a ladder. Hell, the illusion of security wouldn't even survive a single person who didn't mind breaking glass. And yet we lock the door and feel like we've done the whole of our duty thereby.
It's not so much that I have faith that no one will break in, or that no one will steal the patio furniture if we leave it out overnight. It's just that I choose not to think about, because if I think about it, it scares the crap out of me and makes me paranoid as hell. And that ain't no way to live.
Makes a great basis for writing horror, though.