Thursday, December 21, 2006
Haint that a shame, part III
When we first moved in my mother-in-law had a Catholic priest bless our house, over my atheistic objections. He was a tiny Filipino with a giant cross and a sprinkler full of holy water. He took us from room to room, splashing and murmuring in Tagalog. My mother-in-law and wife carried candles. When Father Geuder got up to the attic door he splashed a bit of water but refused to go up the stairs. His eyes were suddenly huge there, at the foot of the stair, where that odd attic smell begins and the temperature is always way too hot or way too cool for whatever season it happens to be. He looked even smaller in those bright white pullover vestements, outlined before us against the dark of the staircase.
I don't buy that blessing or exorcising shit, and not for the same reasons I used to not. Hell, I used to think ghosts and spirits were hooey. Mr. Splitfoot--that's my name for our unwanted incorporeal houseguest--has rained on that parade. The reason I currently don't buy that blessing or exorcising shit is because it didn't work. Last night I was doing research for a big paper on Michel Leiris so I can finish a degree in French Lit--I had Post-Its and bookmarks in a couple dozen books and photocopied articles, many in French--and I foolishly left them unattended on the coffee table and got up to make some tea. Not three minutes later the books were gone. Let's just say that fright was the last thing I felt--frustration, surprise, and confusion were primary. I found the books under the sofa and the bookmarks and Post-Its in a fan arrangement poking from a nearby Kleenex box.
It's true that frustration, surprise, and confusion can mask fear momentarily, but once they fade one is left with simple dread. Instead of hanging around alone in the house to finish my essay, I chose to do some unexpected Xmas shopping at B&N up the street. The paper could wait until I was not by myself in the suddenly less cozy house. Later, it took me a good two hours to get everything back in place so I could finish my draft.
You can scoff. I would in your shoes. But this atheist is becoming a bit unsure of his worldview. When Leesha and Big Red came in for Xmas, I was quick to suggest we go across the alley for dinner at my mother-in-law's place.
Up in our attic is a small cubby hole I've only been in once. Something moved in there when I went in just under ten years ago, and the only light was from a slim crack along the vented eaves. I was tracking an electric line from the basement and trying to figure out where the circuit went. Whatever moved was stealthy, but loud enough for me to get that tingly sensation on the back of the neck. I thought it was maybe a raccoon I'd seen, or a very long and big-eyed cat. Perhaps I try to convince myself that's what it was, because the attic cubby is the only part of the house Father Geuder didn't bless, and when I was in there I must admit I had little desire to hang around and figure things out. I wonder if Mr. Splitfoot hid in there during the sprinkling and that's how he's able to continue tormenting us? We've had no problems of this sort until recently, when I tore out the drywall in the attic to re-insulate, and started painting in anticipation of selling the house.
I remember Nancy next door telling me when we moved in that she'd seen the deceased previous owner of our house at the window, smiling down at her after we moved in. "He likes you guys," she said. "He's a warm soul." I chalked her little speech up to lunacy, and she has since gone a bit batty, abandoning her house two years ago for parts unknown. Now I wonder if she was crazy after all.