"A Womyn's Place" by Sarah Rafael García

About three moons ago, Lady Heidi Gabler emerged from my shielding doors singing to her ex-paramour. Upon taking three steps out, she jumped back inside me to grab the keys to my heart that hung on my golden hook, just under that awful crack that runs parallel to my door.

Lady Heidi ran through the front lawn, adorned with a freshly pressed apron and ruby-red lips. She addressed her newly found suitor in a high-pitched voice, “Hey handsome, I’m so excited to give you a key. Which one do you want, the one with the burning flames or the crossbones?” Roamie, the only name her seedy caller claimed, thrust a tattered box into her arms, ignoring her juvenile question and unbecoming four-inch heals. Oh but my lady continued to be persistent and I couldn’t help but begin to ponder.

“Hey beau,” whispered Lady Heidi, while leading his eyes with an eyelet handkerchief she found in my cellar just a few nightfalls prior. That day, she was forced to mop up the water that seeped in from a storm herself. But on this day, Lady Heidi was being less productive, she motioned to Roamie to look towards her bosom as she stated, “don’t you just want to take a sneak peak at my cleavage, sweep me off my feet and head straight to our bedroom?”

Witnessing her desperate acts of attention made me resentful through the years. This modern woman doesn’t even know how to use a handkerchief—it’s so simple—drawing it over her shoulders would get him to follow her and if she just desired acquaintance then all she had to do is draw it across her lips. Even I, as a house, know this sensible tradition. A lady needs to lure her gentlemen callers. Lady Heidi does not need to prance like a courtesan. Oh if only Lady

Heidi had replaced the collapsed crown molding from last year and the appalling leak in my cellar. Maybe then I could have been more dismissive of her lack of dignity and that, that common man.

My first owners took more pride in their status. I used to have a crystal chandelier hanging in the foyer in the late 1890s, before the ranch land was divided and then occupied by these new homes that remind me of servants’ quarters. But here I am two centuries later, a Victorian house forced to witness such mundane exchanges and surrounded by modern homes that don’t even have proper chimneys or columned porches. Her latest gentleman caller was also oblivious to my status and how to treat my lady. But it didn’t stop there; Roamie started his sojourn within my walls by doubting Lady Heidi. Yes, he doubted my lady, how was I not to consider him a pest?

“Heidi, what’s got into you? You never wear lipstick like that,” said Roamie, “come on babe, let’s just get all these boxes in your house so I can get settled in and relax a bit. Why are you wearing those shoes?”

That man was truly a complete imbecile, more so than the last one she brought inside me. Yes, yes, it took me awhile to realize it too but my lady was simply exemplifying her inner beauty. She just has to keep working on her coyness, I presume—and her choice of men. Roamie was a rugged man with dark features. He mostly wore carpenter’s pants and a peasant shirt when he lounged idly. But for some odd reason Lady Heidi was fixated on this new suitor, more than the others. Unlike her tall and lanky counterpart, Lady Heidi has always been of robust shape, but her wit is her true beauty. She was so giving towards Roamie, she just threw herself at him in any manner she could.

“Fine, but I’ll seduce you later, just so you know!” said Heidi, while she tossed aside her stripper shoes, as she called them. “Ok, stack another box on me, I can carry two at a time.”

Oh Lady Heidi, she embarrassed us both. I’m just not sure what to make of this modern woman. She’s supposed to be a lady of higher status! Instead she’s acting like the frivolous courtesans that Sir Dorian Gray paraded through my backdoor in the winter days of 1891. He was such a pompous aristocrat. Oh but I mustn’t reminisce, Roamie always had to have the last word too. His hostile nature beckoned my attention.

Roamie, the ingrate, said, “You enjoy doing everything the hard way,” with a grin, which made me cringe and cause even more cracks in my twenty-year old paint. By then Lady Heidi had reached my front door with one bare foot propped up against me. She caught her breath to bellow a request, “Hey Roamie, before I forget, can you be a sweets and get rid of that roach under the teacup? You know how I can’t stand getting near it.”

And instead of quietly obliging to her request, he said, “I told you to get the boric acid!” then rolled his eyes as if no one noticed his ill intentions. But I always found a way to keep guard for my lady.

The first roach I saw crawling on my floorboards squirmed at each step Lady Heidi took towards it. It scrambled for shelter. It ran to a dark corner to hide under a carpet. The roach repulsed her. Lady Heidi hated it, as she said. She refused to give the crawling pest a place in her humble abode. Honestly, it wasn’t my initial intention to retaliate but that was the affair that gave way to the idea.

Moments later. In the quaint living area, that was once my elegant foyer, Lady Heidi complained aloud to her dog—the dog that routinely greets her upon entering, even if she never really left.

“Geez Winnie, I look like a fool with those shoes and lipstick! I just don’t want him to think I’m gonna become a boring housewife.”

Yet, I always thought being my owner would make Lady Heidi believe she was of higher status, especially in this waning society. The dog on the other hand, wagged her tail and nearly stuttered as she spoke, “Heidi, Heidi, you’re back. No, no, you don’t look like a fool. Look how I wag my tail for you. Please rub my belly. I’m so happy you’re back.”

But once she walked inside me, Heidi carefully placed the boxes on the rickety coffee table and pulled off the apron with frustration. I made the floor creek with each step she took and unhinged the screen door as she made her way out once again—practically begging Lady Heidi not to return to Roamie’s side. But what I really wished I could say was, “Please Lady, don’t go out there again, just let him play his part. Maybe he will even get around to adjusting the running water in the loo.” But she has never understood my grievances, she merely ignored each noise I made, patted the pooch’s belly and amended the hinge to my screen door with some dreadful gray tape. I had no choice but to wait for another instance. You must understand, I never meant to turn him into a roach, really I didn’t. But as time passed the idea just kept stewing.

*

Two full moons passed. Lady Heidi was up to her imprudent notions again. She and Roamie had been stomping in and out of me and even disappeared for a number of nights. But upon their return they seemed to argue more and Roamie was away more frequently. But on that particular day, my lady had planned to steam clams with garlic and butter and chill a bottle of organic Sauvignon Blanc that evening for the thankless jester.

When the elegant Howard Miller clock struck eight, Lady Heidi left her bed just to do Roamie’s repulsive laundry and barely had time to sweep the hard wood floors. The filth trekked in by his patched boots merely wisped up onto the fans and she continued to ignore the area under the Victorian buffet table as she has done since the last guest she hosted. Soon after, splashes from a dingy, mop and a eucalyptus aroma made their way into each room. She had chosen that scent because apparently Roamie disliked the “floral shit,” as he so eloquently stated.

Oh my Lady, she might as well been locked up in the cellar talking to mice—not that I actually have any. Her other men, the pool specialist and landscape designer, came by in the late morning to do the work he refused to do. What was I supposed to do? Someone needed to save my lady from such circumstances.

Awhile before the clock struck noon, I heard her on the phone making arrangements to be home for the next two days. Roamie said he would be home and she wants to be here with him, she said. She ended the call to go get her nails done, shoddy ruby-red of course. She just marched towards my front door quickly. No, no she never confides in me. But without fail she stopped to snuggle the dog and glance at the mirror in admiration before reaching for my golden hook and locking my door. Oh how I enjoy her silky skin touching against my brass knob on my door. But that has been all the attention I have gotten in the last few years. She has been running around for him or those before him. Why can’t she see, she deserves more than what those men offer?

Winnie the dog, the poor old thing, has been losing her vision. Each time she staggers into my walls, I feel my own age—the tremble of my creaky floorboards. I remember when she was just a little pup covered in radiant black fur. “Cute as a button” that’s what she called her. Her Winnie Girl. Winnie never listens to me. Although my Lady actually talks to her, even the noisy grandfather clock is called by a name—yet I must admit the standing clock is the only sign of sophistication. The dog? Well every lady needs her lapdog, I can only assume.

Winnie the dog always yaps nonsense, “She told me she felt fat. But I never know what that means. Am I supposed to nudge her softly or lead her to the backyard?” She said it while staring at the water stains on my ceiling. I try to ignore such indignities but I can only do so much. As you see my lady pays me no attention.

When those roaches scuttle around her, my floors get stomped repeatedly without praise or apologies. My walls are decorated with mangled nails and mediocre paintings she calls modern art. I witness her cliché affairs and accept her tasteless décor because she is my owner— she is my lady. Why can’t she adjust to the prominent being she has become? This is her kingdom—she should own her throne!

Poor Lady Heidi. She always leaps to satisfy her false suitors.

*

“What do you mean you weren’t violent?” Lady Heidi could barely get the words out between her tears. “I said I was sorry, baby, c’mon don’t be like that. I was merely upset. I’ll patch up the wall tomorrow. But did you really have to tell her that we lived together? I told you that ended before I moved in.” Roamie always had a way of smoothing out his words and making my lady’s eyelashes bat his way.

“Then why-why did you punch the wall if she meant nothing to you?” As she spoke Lady Heidi stepped towards his side and then the wanker guided her to his lap. But even though they slept in the same bed for the nights after, the bed’s headboard hadn’t knocked on my walls since Roamie lost his temper and I became the victim of his brutal assaults. Even I tried to overlook Roamie’s disposition. For my lady’s sake, I asked Winnie, the dog, if she sensed anything. I always have to pry information from her. The dog is like those leeches Lady Heidi brings home. All the mangy mutt does is take her food, sleep in her bed and defecate all over the grounds. My Lady is always so preoccupied with the misbehaved suitor that she doesn’t even cleanup after Winnie anymore.

Oh my apologies, now even my lady’s mascot has become the quarry of my frustrations, like my walls exemplified Roamie’s upsets. I asked Winnie, Does she not realize that she has everything she desires, without him?

Winnie just went on like a dog does, “Oh I don’t know. She doesn’t rub my belly as often and I can’t ever catch those meddling roaches before she traps them under the teacups. I think she’s disappointed with me.” Winnie muffled more words under a grunt, and then stopped to sniff a corner outside of Lady Heidi’s room. Upon entering the doorway, she raised her head to my ceiling to speak, “What do you say?” And I responded, Oh Winnie Girl, I don’t understand why she pursues them.

And of course, the dog responded like a dog.

“She catches them with the teacup, they don’t actually come to her. They just scurry by.”

Then Winnie made her way to the doggy pillow, which she only used as a stepstool to crawl into Lady Heidi’s bed. The most I get to feel is Lady Heidi’s weight on the hardwood floor and her hands turning my locks and doorknobs as she leaves me in disarray. Every time she brings “The One” or “Prince Charming” as she calls them, into my world, they destroy my poise. Maybe the mirror can help her understand. But every time she looks upon it, his reflection stands in front of her. There is nothing charming about the brutes that stand in her way! And that is when I decided.

Just then the clock struck noon. Then with a few licks of her belly and a lazy yawn, the dog rested her head on her paws. Winnie, it’s the middle of the day! Tell me, how shall we make her understand? She popped her head up, “I hope Roamie comes home early. I like it when he sits on the couch and rubs my belly. And not one roach has appeared since he’s been here. I like Roamie.” Then the dog dropped her head and shut her eyes. Lady Heidi eventually returned.

“Honey I’m home! Come and see me with my new do and lacy undies I picked just for you.” My lady swirled in a new dress, puckered her lips at the mirror before she dashed through each of my rooms in search of that ingrate. She continued to sing words in some sort of lullaby, “Come out, come out wherever you are! I have clams to steam and a special bottle chilling for my man. Roamie?” But as predictable as that man was, Roamie made my lady very upset, again.

After the next sunrise, Lady Heidi began to yell, “But Roamie, you said you would be home! I made dinner. You got here drunk after midnight. Where were you?”

Lady Heidi had dark smears across her cheeks. One of her many faces I witnessed since her arrival. Lord Joe was the first to make them appear. Oh I don’t know why I still call him Lord Joe, he was no lord to my lady. But I guess after eight seasons passing, I too grew fond of him. Rightly so, he was a joy. He tended to my grounds, from my toilet’s mishaps to my washer machine’s troublesome rinse cycle. Although he served my lady better than the rest, he too turned into a nuisance. He made her melancholy every time he sought to bear a child without a formal proposal. Oh my lady has encountered all kinds of characters but never receives the love she keeps requesting from them. What is that? What is it that she seeks?

She’s always asking the same questions, “Do you love me? I mean, why are you here if you don’t love me?” Lady Heidi shouted this time at Roamie. The cretin lay in her bed, grabbed a pillow and placed it over his head. I hoped he choked on his words. I couldn’t help but look to the dog, Oh Winnie what are you doing under the bed? You senseless old dog, bark and chase him out! Don’t you see she needs us?

Then he decides to retaliate, again, “What are you talking about Heidi? You yourself said it would be fun. It has only been six months since we met. Did you think I would move in and live happily ever after? You should’ve done that with Joe. Oh wait, but he just left when you didn’t choose to live the way he wanted. Geez, I wonder how he could leave this happy palace?”

Roamie just sat with a smirk on her disheveled bed, as if he was claiming my lady’s throne. Oh the self-entitlement he implored. I wish my lady would acquire such a demeanor. Lady Heidi was flushed and placed her hands on her hips while she shouted back, “I’m not asking you for a baby! I have my career, I have my house, I have my dog! I have enough responsibilities. Now I have you living here for free. All I want is for you to appreciate it all. To appreciate me. You are not here by obligation, can’t you see that?”

I think that’s when I thought I needed to complete with her wishes. Yes, I do suppose it was then.

The clock struck eight. Lady Heidi tilted her head to stare at my ceiling, almost as if she was acknowledging me, but then she simply walked away. Oh but he couldn’t leave it at that, no, no. He said, “Damn it! I wish that ridiculous grandfather clock would stop ringing already!” Then my lady went a bit hysterical, I must admit.

“It’s a Howard Miller, you dumbass!” Lady Heidi yelled like she has never yelled before.

My floors trembled under her pacing. The bed sunk underneath his impotence. It was as if Winnie was about to be crushed under the bed. I couldn’t bear to watch any longer. Yes, it was then that I knew I had to do something to save her.

Moments later, Lady Heidi locked herself in the toilet. She stared upon the mirror, wiped the dark streaks from her face and quickly turned away. While the tub filled with warm water, my lady lit candles around its edges. Slowly she disrobed, and I respectfully, focused on other matters.

Really I did.

I don’t know why but I resorted to the pooch again. Oh Winnie dog, what are we going to do? It’s happening again. Have you counted how many men have made her cry? Winnie wagged her tail and grunted back, “I like Roamie. When she left to the bathroom, I laid with him. He rubbed my belly. He said Lady Heidi is crazy to think they were playing house. Oh I like how he rubs my belly. He said he will talk to her to set her straight.”

Set her straight? I could not let my lady be spoken of in such a manner. Lady Heidi was not a crooked fence board to be straightened! I had to do something. But first I had to get the dog to concede with my actions. Do you recall Lord Joe and what’s his name, Mikey as she called him? They too thought she was crazy, as you say. Winnie propped her head towards my ceiling fan, “Oh Lord Joe! He liked to throw a tennis ball at me. It was tiresome. Mikey was not nice. He did not like me in Heidi’s bed. But they both left, just like all the others.” That mutt is just as selfish as her other male pets. That’s when I asserted myself. Dearest incompetent Winnie, I don’t like you in Lady Heidi’s bed either, but it’s not about what the others or we want. It’s only about Lady Heidi.

So, this time I had to resort sorcery. I just had to. I know, every time I used my powers in the past a part of me became irreparable but I had to sacrifice myself. Why doesn’t the old dog chase out the unwanted guests? Once one I asked she just barked back, “Why should I? She trapped the last two in a teacup. Then the man came in and squished them. I like licking the floor after.” Yes, eventually Lady Heidi trapped the roach under the teacup. To my misfortune that roach only gave her a reason to bring home another vermin, Roamie. So I have to contort my original idea and find a way to keep more unsuitable suitors from coming inside me.

Oh the treacherous cycle!

Where was I?

Yes, yes. The clock struck nine. Lady Heidi was wrapped in her monogrammed robe for the first time in weeks—brushing her hair in front of the mirror ever so nicely. Then again, I went to the dog, Oh Winnie Dearest, how would you like to get endless belly rubs from our Lady? I can help you obtain such privileges. Of course that got the dogs attention, “Oh belly rubs are the best! Yes, more belly rubs, please tell me more.” Winnie wagged her tail furiously, nearly waking up the putrid bloke from his drunken slumber.

*

The dog and I planned it out perfectly. Of course Winnie only thought she was trapping a roach to please her master. But I had been observing my Lady Heidi and her live-in pest. It had been seven nights since the last time they spoke. He had been sleeping on the vintage chaise longue and she had been departing before the clock struck eight, when he tended to waken sometime after. A couple of days before this morning, the brute mended the gash on my wall. But I still couldn’t stand to see my lady so uncomfortable. He left me with no choice.

When the clock struck ten, Roamie rose from his sleep. He began the day by gathering his belongings from the living room and retrieving boxes from his leaking auto in the driveway. After several hours, a nap and gulping down my Lady’s orange juice, Roamie emptied the rubbish bin and placed all his packed cartons in his automobile. Upon reentering the front door, he headed to the kitchen once more. “I’m not leaving her my beer!” he stated angrily. And here I thought the nomad was evolving into a gent.

By then, the clock struck five. But he of course he had to have the last word, “I won’t miss that annoying sound!” He shoved the Howard Miller without prevail on his way towards the door. Then hesitated once again to call out for Winnie, “Hey Winnie dog, where are you? Come girl, come and get your last belly rub from me! Come girl! Your lady Heidi wants me out before she gets home.”

Winnie pedaled her feet like the dog that she is. I don’t know why people call dogs loyal comrades. I thought she had already forgotten our plan. Her tongue hung out—quite grotesque. She made it to the front door, rather quickly for her old age. With his bottles in one hand and the other extended, he knelt down.

And that’s when I felt most determined. I couldn’t let him just leave, not after all the misery he caused Lady Heidi. What if he returned to cause her more discomfort? No, I had to show my lady that modern or not, some proper etiquette is for her own good. I instantly ignited candles throughout the house—unknowingly to him during his so-called farewell. My walls, the mirror, and my creaky wood floor all began to spin—slowly they twirled around him then sped up to a tumultuous rotation.

The dog was oblivious of course. She just rolled on to her back and shut her eyes waiting for Roamie’s hand. All my frustrations descended upon him. It was my duty to end the woman’s cycle! I chanted for all to hear!

O Spirits of Air, I lovingly thank you for your presence, protection and energy. I call upon you to guard, to behold. Transition this man, to the root of his claim. From being to pest, release his life from the rest. Take with him, his belongings and memory. In perfect love and harming none but one, my sacred spell work is now done. As the future becomes the present and the present becomes the past, as I thank the Goddess. I declare my magick is now cast. So leave it be.

As soon as I spoke my last word, all parts of me stood still but I knew later I would uncover the damage. Winnie jumped up on all fours, spotted the tree roach and set her right paw firmly over it. The bottles lied unharmed at the entrance, his belongings disappeared from the driveway. Candles continued to burn, a floral aroma danced throughout—so lovely, just like what my lady deserved.

Suddenly, unbeknownst to me, Lady Heidi burst through my unlocked heart. Her arms were filled with bags from the local hardware store. I vibrated my windows with excitement. The parcels she held were captivating but she put them down to the side. She hunched over to take a closer look at Winnie’s detainee. Lady Heidi, being the modern woman that she is, glorified the dog’s deed.

“Oh Winnie Girl, did you catch one finally? Oh what a good dog you are! Stay Winnie, stay!” She immediately pushed the possessions further away, one bag fell over and a canister of boric acid rolled out. Giddy with excitement, Lady Heidi dashed to retrieve the teacup.

“Stay Winnie, stay!” She shouted over her shoulder. Upon her return, my lady scooped up the boric acid and dropped some of its contents into the cup. Now on her knees, next to Winnie, one hand on Winnie’s paw and the other holding the teacup, Lady Heidi made one swift move and covered the roach instantly.

Laughing hysterically, she picked up Winnie and brought her to her lap. Winnie grinned with pleasure as Lady Heidi furiously rubbed her belly.

“There are more where those come from Winnie Girl!” After catching her breath, Lady Heidi noticed the bottles next to the door. “Did he leave these for me? I don’t believe he has it in him to end with such a nice gesture. He probably forgot them. Why are all the candles lit? It smells lovely in here.”

She kissed Winnie on her head and got up with all the bags and beer in tow. She headed straight to the cooler to place the beer away and a list of some sort under a magnet. I couldn’t read it fast enough, she noted:

Heidi’s MUST DO List:(Because I love my house!)

- Toilet
- Crown Molding
- Leak in Cellar
- Wax Floor
- Paint Wall (that was plastered by idiot)
- House Warming Party for ME!

Then to my grand surprise, she checked off “toilet” immediately. She grabbed her apron, wrapped it tightly around her waist, and pulled her hair up in a bun, not very graceful but flattering enough. Then jumped back, opened the cooler and reached for one of his bottles. I gasped, Oh Lady Heidi, where’s your wine? Don’t drink it straight out of the bottle! Walking through the house, my lady yelled over to Winnie, “Oh Winnie dear, leave that teacup alone, we’ll get to it once it’s dead and it can be swept away. Lets take a look at this running water in the toilet! Come on, I gotta figure it all out sooner than later!”

Oh Lady Heidi, what about your rubber gloves before tampering with the toilet? Confused by what had occurred before me, I tried to make sense of it all. Then the Howard Miller struck six.

At half past, I started calling to you from across the way. I know, I know, I can be a pompous despot at times, but don’t punish me for long ago bygones. What has it been, not even half a century? Can’t you see, I’m out of my element and times, which I’m sure you can say the same given your own history. We need to unite as the new era approaches, be rid of such discrepancies in our design so we can attend to our modern owners with a sense of sympathy.

Don’t you agree?

Oh fine, fine, I will grovel if I must. Please, please, do tell me—is your lady owner anything like mine? Does she seem to you...well how do I put this nicely? Is she less traditional?

“For bloody sake come to your senses you old hag, even the dog knows its place! Less traditional? Maybe you should be more troubled by your crumbling framework...you’re just a house.”