Tag Archives: hauntings

Take It With You: Exploring Transition

hartwellScenario: You’re moving from the bell-towered historical building, Hartwell, which is haunted, and is named after the first president of the university you attended for six years and now teach at, to a shiny new building acronymed LAB, a term meant for scientists, but stands for Liberal Arts Building. You are an adjunct instructor of English and sometimes teach composition, and sometimes teach creative writing, and always become attached to students.

Do you pack your computer?

It’s not really yours, though you type this blog post from it as a farewell to the building you’ve become irrationally attached to, as you become irrationally attached to everything–a house you outgrew in just five years, the Steve Madden boots that trudged you through grad school, failed nuances of siblings and friend and exes (that can never quite achieve what reality did), or a coffee mug at a diner. Some people think you are crazy. You’ll pack it, a Dell, though you worry it might not boot up when you plug it in again. You spend the entire blog post wondering if there are instructions somewhere on how to pack a computer. Some items are scary to pack– you remember from when you moved last fall–like the antique lamp your mother gave you. You make a note to look, again, for the bronze lamp you fear you left behind.

Do you sneak something with you?

You’re not talking about something that’s specifically yours or specifically not yours, but that belongs to the building: a window pane, a brick, a light fixture (no: they were all replaced during a renovation in the 1990s, and are fluorescent and tick constantly and when you type for longer than ten minutes, because typing hardly registers any motion–your brain moves more than your body, the light turns off and it’s not the ghost, and you have to wave frantically to have light again).  You were instructed to pack the phone.  You pack the phone, and when you unplug it, wonder if anyone will call. You wish you could keep your key. You’ll pick up a small rock from the garden outside the building on your way out.

Do you cry?

No. Because that would be irrational, and you’ve considered turning over a new leaf, taking on the role of quiet neighbor and silent sister and wondering who you’ve become.  Last night, you read an article on your news feed, which is so full you feel like you could live for days on just water (you can’t even remember which publication the article was from), but it mentions the five regrets people have on their deathbeds, and one regret of the dying was that they wish they’d stood up more, spoken out more, and lived their lives the way they wanted without regard to money or other people’s emotions (what’s wrong with stirring emotions?), and you know you are on a good track because you have stacks of student loans and degrees and are a part-time faculty member at a school you are irrationally attached to, and you have or will upset more than a few people in the next few days.  You swear you just now heard a knock at the door to the office, and when you back up, you hit a huge empty box that you have been told is a good size for your computer, and when you manage to crane your neck to see who’s there, there is no one at the door.

Do you remember?

Bringing your nieces in for a tour of the building, telling them ghost stories about how there once was a pool, and people still sometimes heard splashing, and how a man had died in the cistern, and how the previous Collegiate Building had burned, and how the first Principal, back when it was a “normal school,” had a heart attack at the age of 35 in his office, and how ghosts were everywhere.  You had been their favorite aunt, scaring the wits out of them, and when the heavy wooden door closed just behind the three of you on your way down the stairwell, they shrieked, and you did too.

Remember your mother, who has just retired, at the café downstairs, having lunch with her at the tables, sitting with her on the benches outside the building while she smoked, how she fed your boys chocolate milk and bagels and huge cookies whenever you brought them in for a visit.

The time you hid under a desk one cubicle over because you mis-heard the PA announcement: “Active shooter in room 31” and thought you were on the brink of your death, grateful your son was at daycare and your husband at work, but the shooter, actually, was on Route 31, where you lived at the time, and the man with the gun was not in Hartwell–not just a room or floor away–but had been your neighbor, and your house stood small and proud in the news pictures while you were in Hartwell, safely away, and your family, too, and you laughed because you’d called your parents in what you thought were your last moments, under the desk, sitting next to this very computer, but then it became more horrific when you realized the man with the gun had been just houses down from your son when he slept last night.

Do you leave?

You’re tired from this tour you’ve taken and have one last thing to pack, though you’re still not sure it’s yours to pack, though you know you will need a computer in the LAB, and if you don’t, will it stay behind with all of your files? Then you stop for a minute because the sun shines through the window, and too much more comes to you, like how you and your husband spent hours reading in the Writers Forum office when you had been just friends and then the classes you’d taken with professors you now call friends, but you go too far back, and so everything turns into something else, and before you know it, time is nothing.




No Lie: Reminiscing After Watching a Horror Movie

When Cory and I cleaned our 1800’s farmhouse the day after our wedding, we were looking for the sort of excitement a newlywed couple would find on their honeymoon.  This was our honeymoon: a side-ways rain, too-soggy-for-blazing-leaves kind of day in western New York.  A busy route 31 set just in front of our house, where we dangled my white bouquet upside down from ribbon in the doorway of what would be our living room, an empty taupe box begging for life.  I loved it.  The smell of pine, of bleach, ripe Lemon, and age, like an antique shop: a house, that if human, would have crow’s feet, a gathering about the neck, and stories to tell. 

Cory was scrubbing the film from the metal tub in the upstairs bathroom when the doorbell rang.  I don’t remember what I was doing, except that I was the one who ran down to the front door.  It’s so cliché that I’m embarrassed to admit it: No one was there. 

I called for Cory.  He laughed, just like the stereo-typical guy in Paranormal Activity 2.  Then we went back to cleaning.  I was upstairs, in the room with the second-story porch, what I called the “front room,” when I lifted the dust-covered blinds and found a collection of dead bees (though the cliché is usually flies).  There must have been fifty, a crusty bunch, resembling large clumps of pollen. 

I called for Cory. 

The doorbell rang again.  “You answer it this time,” I said, but followed along. 

And he opened the door as though someone would be there. 

I would have been ready to resell the house, except for this:  I love to be scared. 

So, I vacuumed up the dead bees. 

And he disconnected the doorbell the next day, after a few more phantom rings.  “A short in the wire,” he said, excusing it.  Since, we haven’t heard any knocks, so I suppose I believe him.

My nieces, sister, and sister-in-law are afraid to babysit at my house alone at night.  I am not afraid unless I’m watching horror movies.  Though when Johnny was a cherub-faced 6-month-old like Sammy is now, he would gaze up at the dining room chandelier, and I would say, “Hi Grandma,” as a way to comfort myself.  Maybe it was not my grandma—maybe it was the dangling spheres casting reflections that made him coo. 

Cory is too skeptical to humor me.  The squint of his eyes and the smirk on his face call me out.  And it’s fine.  Sammy will probably give me the same look, but his little form, the warm weight of his body, calmed me as I watched Paranormal Activity 2 at least. 

And I know when Johnny says, “Mommy, I want to watch a spooky Thomas the Train,” I have company.