From the outside looking in, it is very difficult to understand why this woman who appears to be healthy and normal would choose to live in isolation. It doesn’t however, keep people in the neighborhood from trying to peek and ascertain why their neighbor is so strange. In fact she is the subject of not a few urban legends, tales the town’s children hear and love to repeat. Though everyone has forgotten her name, she bears many titles, “The Ghost”, “The Brown Recluse”, “Witch”, “The Vampire”, each depending on the childish story repeated to then, be expounded upon. Adults repeat tall tales of their own in stories that are gossip excused as knowing the “dangers” that exist in the neighborhood. As a result, parents warn their children to steer clear of “that strange woman’s house” and everyone keeps a vigilant eye on a quiet home where nothing ever happens. If they knew the truth about their neighbor who by simply being isolated adds drama to their hum-drum lives, they would most likely, shed tears and understand “the recluse” to be a fellow human being.
Estelle is a pretty, older woman who was once, a beauty. She has lived in this small house on Welland Avenue for her entire life. As an only child, she simply never moved away not because she was dependent upon her parents but after her father died it was natural for her to remain and care for her mother. Estelle is a very independent person but her mother was unable to survive on her own. In fact, Emma her mother, was forever a child in a woman’s body. As if she had no arms and legs of her own, she depended upon the legs and arms of others to meet her needs. Emma was a beautiful woman and as a young woman, lacked for nothing of material value because of her looks. Instead of learning to fend for herself, she became adept at manipulation especially, of men. It all backfired on her at the age of thirty-one, when her allure was beginning to fade and she found herself somehow, pregnant. Estelle’s father Joe, a simple man, became an easy target for Emma in her dire situation. It wasn’t difficult for her to con Joe into loving her and accepting full responsibility for her and another man’s baby. He wasn’t the kind of man that Emma admired (admiration was Emma’s only, definition of love) but he presented himself as handy and she grabbed him to preserve the image she liked to project of herself. Unlucky Estelle was the innocent baby born to this union formed to suit Emma’s need.
Emma’s lack proved to be bottomless over the years. Joe wasn’t capable of giving her what she wanted. His simple love, devotion, and faithful care weren’t enough. Emma hated their small house but never thought of getting a job to help Joe buy a bigger house. Instead, she nagged and grew bitter, drowning herself in herself and alcohol. “Estelle! Listen to me schweetheart…don’t saddle yourself with a wimp like your dad. Marrying him ruined my life! I deserve so much more than this! You find yourself a real man with the means to provide, the way a man is supposed to provide for his woman!” Even though it was Estelle’s dad that gave her genuine love, discipline, and kept a roof over her head, there was something about Emma that required worship and Estelle worshiped her mom. She also, adopted the view of her father that her mom so often promoted. In fact Estelle doted on her mother, tended to her when she had too much to drink, listened to her complaints, and tried with everything in her, to please her mother. She wanted so badly, to earn her mother’s love but love was outside of Emma’s ability to give. In fact, nothing about Emma was real. She existed as a clawing empty shell projecting many false images designed to please and manipulate in a false hope of filling her insatiable desires. Estelle, the dutiful daughter, learned to reflect admiration for each and every one of those personas. In fact, she looked up to her mother’s pretense as an amazing ability to convey wholeness to others when in fact, her life was in shambles. Estelle felt that she was lacking in her inability to hide her true feelings. She knew her straight forward nature upset her mother and since she admired her mother so greatly, she also, learned to despise herself for being so different from her mother. Estelle’s self esteem revolved around filling her mother’s bottomless inner void, in hopes of earning her approval.
Estelle was in college when Joe suddenly, died of a heart attack. He was a hard worker who gave little thought to himself and his small family also, paid little attention to him. Perhaps, if he’d been more proactive about his health he wouldn’t have died at age 55 but his life’s reward was apparently, not on this earth but in Heaven. Joe was such a good man that to most people, he was invisible. Emma was furious when she received word of her husband’s death. How could he? “What in God’s Name am I supposed to do now?” were the first words out of her mouth. The second sentence, “Once a worm always a no good worm, I knew he’d pull something like this on me!” It was Joe’s death that made Estelle aware of what he’d meant in her life and now, she felt the full weight of the responsibility he had carried for her mother shift onto her shoulders. Suddenly, she knew her father may have had his weaknesses but he was never a wimp. “Don’t worry, Mamma. I’m here. I’ll quit school and I’ll take care of you.” She pulled her mother close to comfort her and they shed tears together. Estelle cried for the loss of her dad and Emma cried for herself.
Estelle cared for her mother with same kind of devotion that a good mother has for her child. It wasn’t so much that they reversed roles rather, Estelle grew into the role of mother, as Emma remained forever, a child. Over the years, there were men interested in Estelle. She was beautiful with dark hair, green eyes, white skin, and a long slender physique. Though quiet and shy, her personality was sweet and she was very intelligent. However, her mother couldn’t abide her daughter deserting her for any man and Estelle wasn’t capable of standing up to her mother. In fact, her whole life was about her mother and making sure her mother had the things she needed and wanted. She really didn’t have time for a life of her own. The thought of leaving her mother with strangers made her feel so guilty. She just couldn’t do that and soon she learned how to erect walls to keep men from even daring to look her way. Her girlfriends did marry and had families. Slowly, they faded from Estelle’s life, as she lost all commonality with her peers. As Emma aged, she became more demanding and staged great, draining dramas if she didn’t get enough attention. Estelle lost herself in work and in caring for the mother she doted on. Even though her mother never truly, loved her in return.
When Emma passed (due to liver damage as the result of her alcoholism) the empty hole at the core of her being didn’t die. It simply, transferred itself to haunt Estelle. Having lived for her mother instead, of developing a life of her own, left Estelle with nothing but the void she inherited. It was all she had left and sadly, it was so familiar that she surrendered herself to it. She became one with it as she withdrew entirely, from the world around her. She began working at home through her computer and the only, people she had contact with were those acquaintances who provided necessary services. This is the truth about Estelle, the recluse; a tale more sinister than any urban legend, the story of a woman who lived for another and never developed a life of her own.
Now, Estelle lives in isolation and waits, with no clue as to what or who she is waiting for.
(To be continued.)