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The man, the cats and the books

published: 2010-01-30

I visit a home. A man aged approximately 65 opens the door. His face is flustered, red. His hair is thinning. He wears glasses, a blazer and casual slacks. He has taken care of himself. At least of his appearance.
As I step into his house, the smell of cat-urine overwhelms me. I breathe through my nose. He is impatient and curious, he interchanges both emotions within the same thirty seconds. He rushes up the stairs expecting me to follow, pulling doors open to toilets or cupboards. I dare not give them a proper look. I do not want to see things such as drops of urine on the lid or the blackish-brown toilet brush. Or the dirty cat prints on the linoleum. The linoleum has come off the corners revealing a splintery wooden floor. It has a black and white squared print. The white squares have gone yellow.
He has made his bed up. The cover is a bright yellow molton, it has thinned out in various areas. There are little fluff-balls of wear and tear all over it. The net-curtain has gone yellow too, especially around the sides. I into his bedroom and say, “oh it’s lovely,” and make my way back downstairs as fast as possible.
But he doesn’t stop to show me the living room or kitchen, not just yet. He heads further down through a hidden door. To the basement. Suddenly, I understand why it is possible that Fritzl can hold his own daughter hostage. Or Dutroux. “Such a pleasant man,” the neighbours say in shock.
I catch my breath as I descend into a humid pit that reaks of human sweat en excrement. There are no windows. Old video tapes are stacked floor to ceiling, wall to wall.There is a desk against a wall and a typewriter. “This is where I write,” he declares. Scissors and stickytape. He turns to smile at me.
“I hear you love yellow.” He is making a joke. I decide.
“Haha”, I say, “actually I love purple but the two are complimentary.”
I am babbling and can hardly breathe. He proudly presents the bathroom which has been built into his basement. Bright yellow, indeed.
“Hm, mm, very nice.”
Back upstairs, I don’t even bother asking to look at the garden. Through the window I can already see there is dog-poop all over it. Just before I leave the house, he leads me to a cupboard in the living room. It is the one room that is presentable, where he can invite guests. Neighbours could come and have a cup of tea. There is even a Chesterfield. He gestures to a row of at least twenty published books. “This,” he says, “is my pension.”
He has written them. They are children’s books.

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