Last Exit


Our Correspondents


I plan to exit from my house before the end of the fiscal year. No, I don’t mean I intend to leave it, physically. I’m here in my basement, as I always have been, and where would I go? But I will install a policy of silent noncooperation with the other rooms, beginning with the kitchen. I have long resented the kitchen’s implicit high-handed judgment of my habits, always shaming me with its leafy greens, its ancient grains, its paucity of refined sugars. I well remember those golden years of pizza for breakfast and frosted cereal for lunch with an unlimited supply of carbonated power drinks, and seethe at how I have cravenly allowed the kitchen to dictate a regimen it loftily considers to be better for me, as if it knew. I will make my eating habits great again. 

After that I will terminate relations with the so-called living room, with its elite presumption that “living” is something confined to that chamber. I do a great deal of living in my life, almost continuously on some days, and only a small portion of that activity occurs in the room that claims hegemony over the concept. I will now remove my living entirely from that room, and leave it to reflect upon its utter cultural irrelevance and the sobering realization that all the other rooms have known about it for decades. 

I already have little rapport with the dining room, and will merely be formalizing the froideur that has grown between us. The dining room’s entire platform is based upon a misty vision of variegated others sitting with me around its central table and inserting things into our mouths as we simultaneously laugh and sing. When has that ever happened? Those others do not consume the same foodstuffs as me, and they no more comprehend my subtle humor than I can share the world view that gives rise to their braying glee. The very idea of my sharing a table with parties from elsewhere, who import their own values and baggage into the sphere that is universally understood as mine, is a calculated affront. They can take up their pallets and walk, and so can the dining room, that agency devoted to equalizing and sanitizing and neutralizing the colorful differences that make us individuals.

I will dissolve the accords I formerly maintained with the bathroom. No longer will I honor the tawdry exchange it promotes, that I will bathe and groom myself within its confines as a stipulation for its accepting my bodily wastes. Anyone glancing at that unwritten contract can see it for what it is: simple blackmail. I can quite capably dispose of my night soil elsewhere, thank you very much. I am naturally concerned that the bathroom knows things about me that I would prefer not be shared with the world, but that is a risk I will have to take if I am to reclaim the heritage bequeathed me by my cave-dwelling ancestors.

Finally, it is with a twinge of sadness that I will break off relations with the bedroom. The inner photo album I keep of my rosiest memories includes many scenes that occurred there: me lying on my side, on my stomach, on my back, as a crosscut saw slices through a log in a cloud above my head. But the room’s insistences have become too frequent and too strident. Somehow I am expected to “make” the bed—to tuck and smooth and fold and empty it of cracker crumbs and movie magazines—on a daily basis! And, to be sure, to pick up and hang and even clean the used garments that just naturally and regularly accumulate on the floor around it. For what compensation? It will not provide an answer.

I will break the chains that have bound me to protocols dictated by foreign rooms. No longer will I bow to so-called customs that I cannot recall having formally approved. It is time that I stand up and insist on the right I possess as a free citizen to follow the dictates of my very own whim. I declare my basement to be a sovereign state, proud and unfettered, home to me, my laptop, and my nits.

Luc Sante’s most recent book is The Other ParisHe is one of the Daily’s correspondents, reviving his blog on pictures, Pinakothek. Luc was interviewed in our Spring issue. (He contributed the portfolio, too.)