31 May Inside Your Home
Someone’s painting. The smell hits me as soon as I open the front door. It’s the spare room, dust sheets on the floor, paint cans, a ladder. It’s all crisp white, brand new and the sight brings a smile to my face. I hurry on, I can hear the indoor dog, impatient, whining and scratching at the back door.
As I pass by the wedding photos on the wall, I think back to the dozens of creamy embossed engagement cards that had crowded the mantle piece. A beautiful show of friendship and love. And the vase of fresh flowers that had perfumed the villa for days.
My favourite photo of the bride and groom is on the corner of the kitchen bench, the smiling couple captured in a silver heart. I didn’t remember him from the Meet and Greet but she had been so proud of the little puppy hiding under her legs.
Of course, Sam is fully grown now. A lovely dog, gentle and well mannered. He’s a bugger when it rains, he loves a muddy puddle. He’ll make a great family dog.
The back door sticks and I have to grip the handle with both hands.
It’s funny going into empty houses all day. The smell and the feel of each home is different. The sound as you walk down an echoing hall, the creak of old timber floors. Occasionally the radio has been left on and I stop at the sound of voices. But mostly it’s just me and the sound of emptiness.
I recognise the trust when I’m given a set of keys to a house, a home. Each day I pass through their life, the made or unmade bed, wet towels hung up or lying on the bathroom, floor, the television remote on the couch, dishes waiting until someone gets home. I feel like the invisible man moving among an invisible family.
There’s an intimacy knowing a dog owner’s home through the empty house and the dog. Sometimes it feels really invasive and I avert my eyes. Some days I’m so busy I don’t remember one house from another. Other times I’m hyper-alert to every change, a pair of red high heels in the hall, a new throw on the couch, a vase of fresh flowers, unopened letters on the kitchen table.
I’m immune to the assumptions and judgements that used to come unbidden into my head. The sliding scale of tidiness to it’s hard to believe the house is inhabited, to the teenage-like mess of what can only be the busiest people. Personalities are either not on show or jump out at me like a ghost hiding in the corner.
Today I will enter twelve houses, twelve homes. I’ll go in empty handed and come out with a dog. I wonder what the neighbours make of it or are they used to my car pulling up and the driver with the dog lead around her neck. Or is everyone at work and only the dog walker, the delivery van and the postman are out on the streets?
Sam can also smell the paint and wants to stop and investigate. I click my tongue and move him on. It’s not his set of foot prints destined for this freshly decorated room.