“She lives in a dark closet. All the world knows of her is her voice,” Gregory said to me over the phone. I didn’t have much to say in response to this. I was curious. “All you need to do is bring her the box of food and leave it by her closet door.” Gregory was sick and he offered me twenty dollars to do his job for him. He worked delivering meals to people who are not capable of leaving their homes. It is a government run program that is dedicated to seeing that individuals with chronic psychological disorders do not starve to death. “So what do you think, will you do it?” Gregory asked me with the sound of sickness in his voice.
I needed what ever money I could get. None of my paintings sold at the last gallery show and I recently quit a job working at a mortuary. I was not in a position to turn down tax free cash. I drove over to Gregory’s apartment, picked up the key and made sure that he gave me the directions correctly. “Here is twenty bucks,” Gregory said. “now make sure when you go to her home that you understand that she is a disembodied voice. She will try to talk to you for hours if you are not careful. Just leave the food in front of her closet door and say have a nice evening. That is all. She is very enigmatic and will suck you in if you are not very careful,” Gregory said to me from the confines of his sick bed.
I drove to the facility where the food is made and packaged. I picked up a box of food and then drove my car to the outskirts of the city where the lady lived. Her house was in a rural part of town where chickens roamed around on the streets beside wild and ravenous dogs. I found the address and walked up to the front door which was painted yellow and hanging off its hinges. Once in the house I shouted “is any one home….I am delivering your food,” and was instantly met with a female voice that said “Back here, in the bedroom.” I searched around a few corners and then found the closet door which had a photograph on it of a womans face. It was in a bedroom that lacked any furniture other than an old mattress and a green carpet. I noticed that all the windows were broken, and the house smelled like cedar and mud.
“I am just going to put the food in front of the door for you,” I said as kindly as I could. “You are not Gregory, who are you?” the female voice asked. “Gregory is sick so I am delivering your food.” “That is not what I asked you, I asked who are you?” the voice said with a tone of rigidity. “My name is Randall,” I responded not knowing what else to say. “I did not ask you your name, I asked who are you?” What did she mean who am I? How was I to answer this question. “Let me help you, because I can tell that you are confused” the voice said. “I am a middle aged woman who lives in the dark. I do not come out of this closet because I am afraid of everything in this world. My purpose in life is to keep my voice as long as I can. I am a Painter who paints portraits in my head. They are pictures that no one will ever see, which is fine because I do my art for myself. This is who I am. Now who are you?”
I felt a subtle wave of anxiety overcome me. I remembered what Gregory had told me about not engaging with the voice. I wanted to be quick and precise with my reply so that I could get out from there. “I am an Artist,” I said with as much confidence as I could muster. “An Artist, how nice. We both have something in common,” the voice said in a high pitched tone of pleasure. “Do you enjoy being an Artist?” the voice asked me. I looked around at the vacant room. I saw a rat run across the green carpet. “It is a struggle, but yes I do enjoy it,” I replied. Then the voice quickly responded to me by saying, “the world is so filled with hypocrisy and compromise. As an artist you pave your own way in the world. You create your own reality in all that you do. It is a blessing and a curse…but it is more of a blessing than a curse.” The she laughed.
“Do you realize that we live in a world that is always seeking to steal our voice?” the voice asked me. Before I could respond she continued speaking. “If your voice is not contributing to the creation of profit for a corporation or the government than it is a voice which must be silenced. The irony is that your inner voice must be silenced so that you can create profit. The soul and the pursuit of money never go together. It is one or the other. You see. This is why I remain in a dark closet. This is why I choose to be a disembodied voice. Even though I get lonely and cry a lot, I still have my voice. I get to keep my own voice. I do not have to give it away so that I can make money or hold down a job. You see Freud said…..” she continued on and on. I was interested in what she was saying so I decided to listen.
And listen. And listen. She asked me many questions like:
“What do I believe?”
“What is my purpose in life?”
“What do I live for?”
“Do I feel successful?”
The questions continued on and on and by the time she told me that she was getting tired and needed to eat, I was lying on the vacant mattress and it was close to three in the morning. I stood up and realized that I had become completely unaware of the passing of time. The voice had sucked me in. As I drove my car back to my home, I felt like a minor revolution was going on in my mind. The disembodied voice had caused me to think about things I had never thought about before. I felt like I was awoken from a long sleep. I lied awake all that night unable to think about anything other than the questions that she had asked me. They sat like a brick upon my chest. Some thing in me had changed.
Today when I returned to Gregory’s house to drop off the keys, I asked him if I could have the job of bringing the disembodied voice her food. He smirked at me with a fierce look and said, “Don’t even think about it.”