ONE SQUARE METER OF PRIVACY

The prospective buyers walk through streets and avenues, scrutinising everything, with only one idea in mind: to solve their housing problem. Finally, Mrs. D., her husband and her little son, tired, decide to stop at a small residential complex to fight, demand justice or — ultimately — ask for mercy.

The agent in charge gladly shows them the apartments for sale — and the magnificent facilities — that the company offers for easy, although expensive, instalments over thirty years. After the pleasant interview, Mrs. D. takes the floor and exposes her affliction — an emotion that she calls “housing desperation.” Minutes later, to add colour to the conversation she tells the seller, in a dramatic tone: “Mr. Agent, I, a humble inhabitant of the universe, only claim one square meter of privacy.”

With an immutable expression, the real estate agent in charge of the sale observes her and tells her that he understands — but that he can do nothing to help her. He advises her to write a letter to the owners of the building, asking them to consider her case. Happy because she has been taken seriously, Mrs. D. leaves with her husband (a silent man who has learned to abide by the magnificent results of his wife’s drama) and their little son (a silent boy who knows no tricks but who, with such teachers, will soon learn).

Below I present the letter written by Mrs. D. under the silent, and practically absent, supervision of her beloved husband:

Admired Owners of the Piedra Negra Residential Complex:

I just want to steal a few minutes from your tired eyes to explain my housing situation. I will make a small summary of my life — so that later you can understand the magnitude of the current housing problem we are suffering.

I will start by telling you that I have always lived in small houses — especially small, considering there were fourteen of us. They were usually one-room houses and in that one small room we lived together, our mattresses, like us, scattered throughout the cubbyhole. We cohabited there with the washing machine, the dryer, the ironing board (whose legs could not bend because of rust), my mother’s sewing machine, my brother’s typewriter (he was a journalist and in charge of collecting bloody news for the yellow pages of the newspapers) and the family books — that were innumerable, by the way, as although we ate little, we read a lot. Our father cultivated in us what we called a “thirst for knowledge.”

If you have a little intuition and some intelligence, you will be getting an idea of ​​what family life was like in our house. We slept on top of each other and, due to the lack of a dining room, sometimes put a plate of food on the head of a brother to be able to eat. First, my father ate and what he left was distributed first to the men and then to the women. My mother ate last.

My father was fat, my brothers were chubby and my sisters, my mother and I were malnourished — but — fortunately, not much is expected of women since they usually don’t do anything great. I still don’t know which is better… being a stuffed fool or a malnourished fool? Now that I think about it, I think the latter is better — because the stuffed fool has no excuses. The stuffed fool fattened his neurons — and then and put them to sleep.

From this idea comes my thesis: neuronal performance, and therefore intellectual capacity, is inversely proportional to the amount of food that neurons receive. This explains why no obese person is a genius.

My housing problem, as you can see, began at my birth. At 18 I fell in love with my first husband — but I had fallen more in love with the idea of ​​leaving home. There is no doubt that I didn’t think it through — because if I had thought it through I wouldn’t have done it. In my defence I could argue the rickety state of my neurons…

Before I got married I did not realise that I was marrying a paranoid individual who loved small spaces and an isolated life. I not only ended up in a small house, but also isolated — with a great fear of thieves. To prevent said thieves, we put bars everywhere. We built a crib with bars for our little son, we built a portable garage with bars. We put my clothes and our money in the safe.

Over the years we put everything in the safe: the furniture, the dining table, the console, the refrigerator, the DVD, the vacuum cleaner, the mixer — until, finally, my husband fell into such an anguished state he decided to put me in there too. He told me: here you will be safe.

After a few days, annoyed with the confinement and the darkness, I made a scene and was brought back to reality. Once out of the safe I filed for divorce and three years later I remarried.

Now I can say that I am well married. We get along well — although the the truth is that it would be difficult for us to get along badly because my husband does not speak.

For these reasons, I ask you to consider my case.

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Lida Prypchan

Lida Prypchan

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Psychiatrist & Writer — Writing and meditating at the intersection of psychiatry, philosophy, Buddhism and the arts. More information at www.lidaprypchan.com