I like religious people, conditionally. I like them if they live according to their creed and keep quiet about it. Nothing is more tedious than someone spouting off about “doing unto others” while their voice escalates and their eyes glaze. Not too long ago I had the occasion to interview a real estate broker in connection with the sale of my home. She appeared sober and contained when she arrived at the door, dressed in a business suit—a little plump, a little dowdy. When she opened her mouth I realized she was unhinged, having the unfortunate belief that “sharing” with a prospective client created an instant bond. I wanted to hear about “character homes,” comparable sales, and square footage when suddenly I was listening to a torrent of information. She’d had a hysterectomy, didn’t have a husband, couldn’t have children, and was devoted to her Beagle, “I mean she’s like my child!” Wait, there’s more. She sang in the choir, had contrived a church-based travel service to shelter her real estate commissions, didn’t believe in income tax, and wanted to know if I cared to attend one of her prayer meetings. Did I care to… Heavens no! The only thing that concerned me at that moment was how to get her out of my house. Suddenly she didn’t look dowdy, she looked sinister and bloated, her face too round and shiny, her hair lacquered flat to her head. She didn’t “believe” in paying income tax? Did she believe in education, infrastructure, the CDC, and a prepared military? I had the most unchristian thought; what if I lopped her head off with a meat cleaver and tossed it in the recycling bin to be found discarded like some odd and unloved ornament? Now, now, we all have thoughts, the trick is not to act on them.
You will be relieved to note that instead, I offered her a cocktail. She declined, noting the hour of day, and quoted Corinthians on drunkards never entering the Kingdom of God. That settled it. I suggested a tour of the house. It’s was an old house, passed from my in-laws down to my husband and myself. Now that the children were grown and had decamped for Manhattan it seemed vast and unsuitable. The rooms quiet, the grounds unending. Especially in autumn, when the afternoons should have been filled with slamming doors, stamping in the mud room, messy handfuls of jewel toned leaves, running red noses, demands for something, anything, to eat… You can most likely calculate my age now. A certain age, well past ingenue but not yet grande dame. But I digress.
We started in the living room. I kicked off my shoes while pointing out the fine lathe and plaster walls, the original light fixtures, the Portuguese Mahogany window frames, and the barrel vaulted ceiling. Entering the formal dining room I shrugged out of my sweater noting the picture rail from which hung painted portraits of our family. I made some terrible crack about it meaning I never had to dine alone, and proceeded to the library, where I removed my jewelry and placed it on a tray, before moving onto the breakfast room, pantry, and kitchen. “I can’t abide people fussing with the original footprint of a house. Really can’t abide it. If the architect had intended for this to be a great-room, he would have designed a great-room. I love it here. Spend most of my time right here at the kitchen table.” I sat on one of my mother-in-law’s chairs and removed my pantyhose from under my skirt. “Sometimes one just feels like so much stuffed sausage in all these layers,” I smiled. The realtor had a peculiar shriveled expression around her mouth.
We progressed through my husband’s study, a playroom, and conservatory. I had removed my skirt, blouse, and slip. I was just mentioning something about living the way God intended, one with all nature and the Lord’s gracious bounty, meaning, of course, I was on the verge of recommending a bracing swim in the ocean just steps away from our house—a selling point, surely (?)— when I heard the realtor waddling away as fast as her swollen little feet would carry her, fleeing for dear life through the house and out the front door. I stepped out of my panties, unhooked my bra, wrapped myself in a towel and headed for the beach.
Another hour of sunlight and the last swim of the season. Isn’t life beautiful?