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My father wanted a bigger house so we moved around the corner to 94 Roosevelt Avenue, a cavernous old haunted thing under deep shade. Even from the outside you could feel the psychic congestion emanating off its weathered wood shingles and inside, it felt like a tragedy. (Did this feeling seep into the walls before or after we moved in?) It had high ceilings, hardwood walls and floors, and a little cupola on the top where my father installed a padded meditation room accessible only by ladder.
If I were to psychologize that house I would say something about this room, its brightest, its headspace, the room with the best view, ostensibly designed for meditation but probably used for smoking dope or escaping from the kids. Even as a kid I wondered why it was so hard to get up there. If I could get 86 Roosevelt to lie down on my couch and answer a couple questions, I’d ask about what really went on in that meditation room and I’d want to know about its past.
Because that house was creepy. I didn’t like to play inside and the back yard, shaded by redwoods, felt uninviting, so I played in front in a bed of soft-leaved stachys lantana which my mother called “lamb’s ears.” I imagined a flock of little green lambs buried there with their ears sticking up and I’d pet those ears and whisper, “Hello lambs. Your ears are so soft. Just sit still, don’t move, it will all be over soon.” I remember parties where the adults would smoke and drink and tell snide jokes and laugh deliriously while kids ran from room to room. Someone played a frantic tune on the piano to accompany the Charlie Chaplin movie projected onto the living room wall.
I had many nightmares in that house or, to be exact, one repeated nightmare: I’d be lying on my bed, stuck fast, as if the sheets were made of dry ice, while a thin, jaundiced man paced the room, ranting at me. I don’t remember exactly what he said, just that he was so full of self-righteous anger and disgust it emanated from him in sour waves and I could not move or speak to interrupt him. All I could move were my fingers, and I’d rub them against the silky edge of the blanket I used to comfort myself. The next morning I would ask my mother to please not let that man come into my room again and she would tell me it was only a dream.
According to Wikipedia,
Sleep paralysis is a phenomenon in which people, either when falling asleep or wakening, temporarily experience an inability to move. More formally, it is a transition state between wakefulness and rest characterized by complete muscle atonia (muscle weakness). It can occur at sleep onset or upon awakening, and it is often associated with terrifying visions (e.g., an intruder in the room), to which one is unable to react due to paralysis. Sleep paralysis has been linked to disorders such as narcolepsy, migraines, anxiety disorders, and obstructive sleep apnea; however, it can also occur in isolation.
What a relief. For years I thought the angry man was my goblin godfather or a ghost and that he’d keep coming until I learned my lesson.
When I was 5, my blanket disappeared. Years later, my father admitted to confiscating it and throwing it in the trash. I think he saw the blanket as an unreasonable weakness and thought that by taking it away, he’d magically erase my need.
My room shared a wall with my parents’ bedroom and sometimes, late at night, I’d hear the ominous rumbling of their voices. I couldn’t hear what they were saying but I knew it wasn’t good.
When they separated, my brother and I moved away with my mother and the nightmares stopped. But still, a setting gets into your head and sticks like wallpaper. Because I lived there and because I remember, somewhere inside my head there’s the ghost of a livid man pacing back and forth, spitting criticism.
(…to be continued…)
I still want to hear about where you live or where you came from. Oh come on, just a little story?