MISS MOOX + time


I'm moving yet again this Saturday, which will mark the sixth place I've lived in just over a year. It's getting old, this moving, packing up and roving on when something about the place I'm in becomes unsuitable. Or intolerable. On the other hand, I'm kind of getting used to it, paring my possessions down to the absolutely barest minimum to avoid unnecessary haulage.

But this time, I'm feeling a little bad. And some guilt, or sadness, is creeping in.

It's because of my landlady. Shortly after moving in with her, I discovered her issues with serious depression. She's an older woman who trained for the bar and is a recognized lawyer. Or was. That is, until the creeping, overwhelming sadness took her over and forced her inside, living on disability, lying on a bare mattress all day and all night except when she ventures out for therapy sessions or psychiatric appointments, barricading herself around with hoarded possessions as if they could give her the security she craves. She lives all day in her underwear and a sloppy t-shirt or sweater, her gray hair stringy and unkempt, only trudging around to make herself coffee or something to eat. She rarely if ever cleans and dishes pile up in the sink to sit for days. I quickly learned that if I wanted something cleaned, I'd have to do it myself. Even if it wasn't my mess.

I liked her and we got along well; she is a clever and at times funny person, despite the marked slowness the depression causes in her physical movement and speech. I felt uneasy around her at times—the darkness surrounding her is almost palpable; and the bitterness she spewed whenever she talked about members of her family or someone who'd done her wrong was wince-inducing; but all the same she is a likeable person, markedly vulnerable but at the same time appealing. I brought several friends closer to her age to the house for an Indian takeout and included her, hoping she'd make connections. I invited her to church, but anything outside her proscribed circle was maddeningly fearsome.

I knew there were problems when I moved in; but at the same time, I was escaping an intolerable situation and was glad to find something that was within my price range and close to the town I worked in. I figured that because our living spaces were so separate, and the cleaning duty so light, it wouldn't affect me. Coming after the unyielding expectations of my previous landlord, this one's uninvolvement was a welcome relief.

But shortly after I moved in, my trouble sleeping began. I'd never had difficulty sleeping in my life before; I'd drop off within moments of lying down and sleep like the proverbial log till ten or twelve hours later, if duty or an alarm didn't intervene. Even thunderstorms and other loud noises didn't disturb me.

Sleep became difficult to obtain and light; I'd jolt awake early in the morning and have trouble falling back asleep. Formerly a notorious sleeper-in, I could no longer doze past seven in the morning, even on the weekends.

For a long time, I tossed off friends' suggestions that her mindset could be affecting me; but deep inside I knew better. I knew whatever darkness haunted her had somehow made me a target as well; not consciously but subconsciously, attacking me as I slept. The last straw really came when she bought a place of her own and we moved to a town twenty-five minutes' drive away. For the last three months I've only slept there; carrying my possessions in my car like a nomad for my working, church, and social life which stretches from early in the morning till past nine most nights, and all day on weekends.

I could possibly have tolerated it longer were it not for the practical implications. But too many factors are making it unthinkable to be there any longer. However, now that I'm moving out, a guilt and a sadness are creeping in. I think of her coping by herself. I wonder who's going to clean. Who's going to take out the garbage, or bring in the mail. Who's going to remind her about things that she should take care of by herself. Who's going to take care of the cat when she makes one of her frequent three- or four-day stays at the psychiatric hospital, as has just happened again. The poor cat, a desperately social animal, hates being left by himself, and I'm hardly ever home to pay attention to him. He was pathetically clingy and bouncily joyful to see me this morning, though I barely had time to cuddle him a bit and put food in his bowl before my morning rush to leave for work.

So I'll pray about what to do, leave her a note with my phone number, and take her up on her suggestion that we go out for Indian food one day. I can't help but pity her and wish that I could help, somehow, though I don't think my six-and-a-half month stay with her has made any real difference. I wish that it had. I wish that I wasn't forced to leave.

How many other people like her are out there? How many, living desperately sad and alone, without family and with few friends who are mostly there to pity and provide practical help when needed? It makes me wonder.

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Relevant to: Leaving + time