LA MAISON DU DÉLICE

PAUL HAWORTH



SIX


Never stop. When people talk of ‘escaping the rat race’, of ‘stepping back’, or of ‘downtime’, there lies illness and malaise. As soon as you stop, the body collapses and the mind clouds, while it strives to unpick the persistent question: What Went Wrong?

My spell in La Maison du Délice was the first protracted pause I’d taken in adult life, and I witnessed myself diminish, my mind decay, paranoia and anxiety consume me. This was more than Anthrophobie Suisse. The catastrophe of La Maison du Délice showed up what a fool I had been. My life was a house of cards - and that life fitted inside a carry-on.

I dragged the case to the door and placed it next to the document tower. The only thing I had not packed was my suit. That lay on the bed, waiting. (I always put off wearing a suit as long as possible so that it remains fresh and uncreased.)

I collapsed on the sofa, spent. That was that. Packing had left me faintly traumatised. Sometimes you put off a task because you know that once it’s done you will need to face larger existential realities.

I’d grown more familiar with this place than any house or apartment I’d ever lived in. Its fixtures and fittings, the latch of the windows, the light dimmers, laminate flooring, the sound of the fridge, boilers, radiators and how these melded to a specific hum. There would be some grief in leaving it behind.

I regarded the room. The moment had come - a moment I knew well from every hotel room I had vacated - when it was empty. Absent. I had absented myself.

I hadn’t looked under the bed.

This was a habit from my childhood: before we left any house, my parents would deploy me to under-the-bed duty.

On hands and knees, I looked under my bed and saw the purple envelope laying there. How could I have nearly lost this? I reached to grab it - tingle - its touch brought happiness. I remember I’d held it on my first night at La Maison du Délice. I was in floods of tears and was ready to open it but something stopped me. Again, I was desperate to tear it open. Again, something told me no, this wasn’t the time - that I hadn’t hit rock bottom.



TO BE CONTINUED