there and back again

It’s been a while since I’ve written here, and so much has happened that I am feeling rather daunted by the task of filling it in. I could just skip over the past few weeks of my life and continue writing about books and cats and conversations with friends like I usually do, but it feels dishonest — to myself, and, I suppose, to anyone who might read this.

Short version: My friend E and I were going to be spending the summer on Bainbridge Island off the coast of Seattle, taking care of the animals of a grad student for the month of July in exchange for living rent-free in the woman’s 150 yr old summer home. On our fourth morning in the house, we had a huge falling out with the woman and she evicted us on the spot. We left — back to Oakland, with a few day break in Santa Rosa with a friend, and then back to our respective homes in southern california (her) and the midwest (me). Now I am once more living in my parents’ basement, attempting to stave off the depression and boredom that are implicit in living at home.

Elaboration: The blow-up that lead to our eviction wasn’t really our fault — the woman had not fulfilled some of the things she had said she would when we worked out the terms of the deal, and she was basically treating us like unpaid servants, demanding laundry and housecare and dry-cleaning of curtains, and when E. attempted to clarify what exactly she expected of us she became furious and, well, threw us out — but we didn’t bother to try to smooth things over. We were almost relieved at the eviction. The house was fucking spooky, so much so that we were finding it impossible to live in. I am only a nighttime believer in ghosts, but this house almost turned me into a fullblown ghost fanatic. It’s difficult to put into words what exactly was so terrifying about it now that I’m away from it. Much of it was just the feel of things. On our second day there, we discovered a whole new wing of the house that we hadn’t seen on our first exploration, and this wing felt terribly off in many subtle ways. There were several rooms that I couldn’t even be in — I stepped into the dark, mold-smelling corner room and immediately felt like throwing up or crying or both — and to cope with them, E. and I decided to just pretend that this entire wing of the house didn’t exist at all. But it was hard: there were noises, not just typical old house noises (it had plenty of those as well), but knocking and footsteps and thumps that responded to things that we said or places that we went. In the otherwise empty cellar were life-size cutout photographs of two little girls in old-fashioned white dresses. It was so totally The Shining! Fucking terrifying.

Maybe, if we’d stayed longer, we would have gotten used to it and learned how to live comfortably in the huge, eight-bedroom mansion. Maybe not, though. The nights were getting progressively worse, I was going progressively crazier. I have always had problems with sleeping, and to cope with the nighttime fright of the house E and I indulged in my sleeping pills, but the nights were still awful. I had terrible nightmares about the house, and I started to sleepwalk. I haven’t sleepwalked since I was ten. Even if the spookiness was just in our heads, the sleepwalking was not, and it was dangerous: the house was on a cliff above the ocean. It’s so very 19th Century British ghost story, but what if I had wandered outside and fallen into the sea? Even though I had told myself that I would never live at home again, I was relieved by our eviction. It might have gotten better, but it might also have gotten worse, and if it had gotten worse I would have had to leave soon anyway. Ghosts or not, I am too sensitive: I am powerfully affected by my environment. The house was scary, and the toll of living in it was showing in my mind.

So! I am home and it is scary in an entirely too familiar way. I am focusing on the most basic goals: survive and make a lot of money. At least it looks like I may have found at least one decent job already. That’s good. I must cling to the positive in my life!

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~ by Not Alice on May 27, 2007.

2 Responses to “there and back again”

  1. That sounds so Shirley Jackson. I’m a little jealous, though I’d probably have been just as freaked out and just as happy to leave. I love a good ghost story and I’m reasonably brave during the day, but my flight response is ridiculously overdeveloped. One odd creak and I’m up all night, starting at shadows and reciting half remembered Latin prayers under my breath.

  2. Eeek! Is here any good story fodder in the experience?

    Oh, and hey – welcome back!

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