Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Candace doesn't live here any more.




Today my dad and the gal who's waited on him at one of his regular haunts for 10 years realized that they both lived on the same street, twenty years apart. In houses directly across from each other, in fact. 6630 and 6625 n. 10th Ave.

6630 is haunted. Or, that's the generally accepted notion. I maintain a general air of skeptical interest in the supernatural, when I'm not remembering my family's experience in that house. My dad thinks the house is magnetic. Unearthly. He thinks about it frequently. I do too. I want to be there still. I know the view from every window, the sounds the doors made, the feel of the wallpaper, the panelling, the tile, the countertops. I remember everything. I write little odes to the house every few years. Slick old outdoor concrete, the feel of my skull cracking on it. Things hidden in the beams of the garage. An outdoor fan turning lazily in a 105 degree breeze.

I still dream about the house regularly. Once every few months. The dreams are always scary or off-putting, and they always involve a female supernatural aggressor. They started in 1990, before I knew that one of the former owners had shot herself in the garage. I still remember the first dream. I still feel spooked by it.

This whole story is interesting to me for a number of reasons. One, I was instantly fearful and skittish in the house. Why? I had a nightmare about ghosts the first night I slept there. I used to devise ridiculously complex schemes to avoid walking alone through the darkened hallways at night, while at the same time avoiding looking like a coward. This meant I couldn't just ASK my dad to turn on the hall light (couldn't reach it) or walk with me. I had to pretend to lose something, pretend to see a black widow, something that would force him to come and dispel the ever-intensifying tension I felt when left alone in a part of the house. If I was playing alone in my bedroom at night, as all strange children do, I would be trapped in there until my dad or step-mother came to see what the hell I had been doing for three hours. I was not like this at my mother's house, or my grandmother's house, or my great-grandmother's house, or any other house I had ever stayed in. I had never become so paralyzed by an unarticulated fear before.

Two, the suicide, as they all are, is a creepy and shadowy thing. I don't think women use guns, typically. We never knew anything about her other than she was the previous owner's wife. Only one family had lived there before: theirs. Father, mother, daughter. The house was sold entirely furnished to my dad, who saw no reason why he should throw the old things out and replace them with new things. The house had last been redecorated in the early 60s, so we sat on their green silk couch on the green shaggy carpet, stored food in their pink Pyrex dishes, and I used the same bedroom set and accessories that had remained unused in the previous little girl's room for 30 years. Pink velvet vanity chair, gold silk jewelry box, coin bank in the shape of a black cocker spaniel. My dad slept in the old man's bed, used his dresser. I played with the ephemera he had left behind, stacks of paper pads stamped with the Santa Fe Railroad's logo circa the mid 60s, endless pads of carbon paper, old poker sets, dymo label makers. It only occurred to me in adulthood how incredibly fucking weird it is that we moved into this fully-furnished time-capsule and CHANGED NOTHING. I think that experience 100% affected my personal aesthetic. We used their things as they had used them, without missing a beat. Casual touches and fingerprints overlapping, closing the decades between them. Our house was their winter home.

When I was a teen, my friends and I pulled out the Ouija board to contact the dead wife. I had not even been told about the suicide until I was about 12. I remember sitting frozen in the old man's burgundy leather chair, reading by the light of his old halogen lamp. Suicide! The only other person I had heard of who had killed herself, other than famous authors, was my uncle Dale's old girlfriend. She shot herself, too. Within the year, in the summer, I was convinced that I heard the sound of a muffled gunshot coming from the backyard while watched tv (on the old man's 1000 pound "portable" 1970s set - I can't take this theme home enough) in my bedroom. Regarding the Ouija board, we believed we had contacted her. The thing told us its name was Candace. I had no way of fact-checking this. The thing's nature was kind, and sad. She/it didn't tell us anything other than how sad she was, and how she cared for us. Eventually, she said she had to go and would not respond to any more inquiries via the board. I was convinced it was her.

Towards the end of his stay in the house, my dad began to experience specific disturbances. Clattering sounds in the kitchen when he was home alone, and both he and his ex-girlfriend told me on different occasions that his bed once began to shake during a particularly bad fight of theirs. He watched a door open by itself, handle unlatching and everything. He began to feel crazed by it, found himself screaming at "it" in the empty house, "STOP!" Pam, his ex-girlfriend, felt that the thing didn't like men. She woke up in the night, feeling watched. My dad installed a crucifix over his bed after reading that ghosts won't manifest in the presence of one. Things were getting weird.

I never experienced anything except the same unprovables: hearing things, bad feelings, and frequent nightmares of consistent themes. When I moved into the house full-time after high school, the nightmares became regular. I stopped telling people about them. A few times a week, the same themes, always scary, but it had become routine. Dream about battling something demonic, about a terrifying dead creature hunched next to me on the bedside table, about a female spirit drifting in the living room, dropping spoons as she waved along, whatever. Wake up, shake it off, make something to eat. When I moved out, the dreams receded to a much less frequent schedule. Now I only have them once every few months, sometimes less. Now I realize how weird it was to have them every other day.

That's my shaky assertation that the house is haunted. There is more, but I could talk about this forever. Today my dad called to tell me about the woman who lived across the street. She was there in the 60s and 70s. She was friends with the little girl from my house. She knew their family, she spent the night. She knew the mother, lived there during the suicide. FINALLY. I have been holding onto the name "Candace" all these years, wondering when I would ever confirm if it was true. Wondering when the hell I would find out what happened with her. It wasn't. Her name was Glenda. The neighbor gal said Glenda was an eccentric, disturbed. That their daughter had had a strange childhood because of it. They said she killed herself "because of" menopause. To me this means only that her undiagnosed mental instability, however pervasive or mild, had finally caused her life to slip out of her hands like a rope, too narrowed by hormonal dysfunction to get a hold of. That's why she never liked change afterward.

I wrote the name Glenda down on a scrap of paper today and brought it home with me. Now that I'm talking about her, thinking about her, evoking her real name in my mind and probing the scenario of her death with my thoughts, I feel afraid for the first time in my apartment. I feel apprehensive like I did at 6630. Like something time-ragged and sad may be drifting unseen in my living room, inching towards me, waiting for me to go to sleep. I am very good at scaring myself. I have always wondered if things get attached to people, objects or just places. Things being moods, impressions, dead things, something no longer natural. My dad thinks things follow people.

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