Before Thailand

The car was in the driveway.

I didn’t want it to be there.

The car was in the driveway.

I walked up the steps front steps and knocked on the door. It was a thick red door. I didn’t think he would be able to hear me. I knocked three times and waited. There was no answer.

I went to the side of the house and knocked on the kitchen door. That door was thinner with a window and I knew that the sound would go all through the house. There was no answer. But the car was in the driveway.

I went the ground floor window that looked into his room. The curtains were shut. I pounded on the window and it made a loud clamoring sound. There was no answer.

The back gate was in front of me. I knew the combination to the lock.

“What are you doing?”

*

There was a room with light in it. It was a window as wide as the whole length of the house. The room was a rectangle, very shallow and wide. The floor slanted forward and the ceiling too. It was my favorite place—the most beautiful room I ever got to call my own. You could turn a crank to step out of the window and onto the roof. There was no curtain on the window and the room was swallowed with light.

I spun around and saw him, standing outside of the kitchen door. There were 3 steps leading up to the door. He was standing at the top.

“You didn’t answer your phone,” I said.

“I was busy.”

“Is she here?”

“Yes.”

“Was she here last night too?”

“Yes.”

The sun was shining and it was July. The white cement of the driveway was broken up with clumps of overgrown weeds. At black metal railing stuck out of the concrete steps to the kitchen door.

“You said you weren’t going to do that.”

“I never said that.”

“Yes, you did.”

“No I didn’t.”

“Yes. YOU. DID!!”

*

The night that it happened Marie lit a fire. I was in my room full of moonlight and crying, but Marie was outside by the fire. She threw in all the scrap wood we had dug from under the weed garden until it burned into a pillar. Will walked out to her when he heard the yelling upstairs and saw the fire outside. “Yes, it is sad,” she said to him. “It’s very sad.” She didn’t move her eyes away from the fire.

When it was over it was past midnight. Marie was asleep on the couch in the kitchen. Our rooms were one room with a door in between them. Avery went downstairs to tell her it was over, but she didn’t want to come back to her own bed. He stayed downstairs talking to her for a long time.

*

I screamed so loud that his face went pale and he jerked backwards. I lunged, but stopped at the bottom step, my hand clutching the black railing. I was shaking.

His face went from bewildered to stern.

“Don’t, hit me.”

“I wasn’t going to hit you,” I spat.

“You just lunged at me.”

I don’t remember what I said back. Everything collapsed into a chaos of noise.

*

Marie didn’t touch a drop of alcohol until after her twenty-first birthday. She wore a red dress and we got drunk together for the first time at the birthday party of a girl who didn’t like me. We sat down on the floor by a wall where there was no one. Avery was off mingling with musician boys. We said, “Fuck all these hipsters,” and giggled.

*

“I hate you! I hate you! How could you do this to me? I hate you.”

“I’m sorry.”

“But you’re not going to do anything different.”

“No.”

“Then you’re not fucking sorry.”

The kitchen door opened with a loud squeal of the hinges. Everything stopped. Marie’s face was like stone.

*

When we were nineteen we wanted to give a present to Marie’s boyfriend for his birthday. His birthday was on Halloween. Our present was that we sang and acted out the Mariner’s Revenge Song. I was the mariner and Marie was the rake and the mother. Just after midnight we gathered everyone in the living room and turned off the music. We sang it a Capella. When we reached the instrumental part at the end I slung her arm in mine and began spinning round and round, singing “Da da, da da, da de da de dum de da de da da,” faster and faster and faster. Her boyfriend was too drunk to remember anything the next morning except for being really happy.

*

“I think you need to leave.”

“I’m not leaving.”

She frowned. “I really think you should.”

“How could you do this? How can you be my— You don’t care do you? You don’t care about being friends anymore.”

“You lost me as a friend a long time ago.”

“Oh, really. Thanks for letting me know. Since when?”

“Since you changed.”

“When did I change? When you started wanting to fuck my boyfriend. Is that when I changed?”

“You’re so selfish and rude.”

“I’m selfish? Fucking look into a mirror.”

“You think this is all about you, don’t you. Wake up. This has nothing to do with you. Believe it or not, this exists outside of you. Try and get that through your head.”

*

There’s a swing in the park and Marie is swinging on it. We are seventeen waiting at the park across from the movie theater. I know her because she does my hair in theater class. I have blonde hair that falls down to my waist and she has red hair just as long. She braids my hair and makes a crown on top of my head that takes forever. While I perform she sits with a needle in her mouth and a long wool skirt in the audience, sewing up pieces of costumes. We swing together on the swings and there are wood chips underneath us and the sky is overcast and cool.

*

“I’m not leaving until I’m done with this conversation.”

“Conversation? You call this a conversation? You’re having a fucking temper tantrum.”

I spoke slow with a steady voice. We never broke eye contact.

“I’m not leaving until I’m done talking with him.”

Marie looked at Avery and he said nothing. She closed the door without turning her back to me. When she was gone I started crying.

“How can you just stand there and let her talk to me like that?”

“I’m sorry.”

“You’re a spineless fuck.

When there was nothing more to say I walked home and went straight to the back porch. There were pine trees stretching out over parts of the deck and Sonja’s dog was inside the house. I lay down with my cheek on the warm wood in the July sunlight and screamed.

*

The room with the window is gone. The window is packed up inside of a box. I took the box out to the back yard and smashed the window until it was all slivers of glass. It was a stupid thing to do.

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The Hex Hause was Fucking Haunted

Hex Hause rooms

Before I moved to Thailand I was living in a place called the Hex Hause. We named it that ourselves. It was a big ass three story Edwardian home with a back yard as big as the house itself. The living room was small and dark. The kitchen was big and sunny. There was a deck that wrapped around the back half of the house. The dirt driveway was shaded by a redwood and fit three cars. The parlour we turned into the largest bedroom. On the second floor we had two real bedrooms and a master bedroom that was split in two. The last four bedrooms were crammed into the attic closets. There were three bathrooms—one that had been converted from a hallway closet. That was everyone’s favorite because the tub was twice as deep as it should be and it had a little window that looked out into the neighbors yard. It felt like you were bathing inside a treehouse.

Hex Hause got its name because the place was fucking haunted. It had a narrow switchback staircase with a railing that only came up to your knees on the top flight. There was a ghost on the first landing by the built in bookshelves. Sonja’s boxer, Xela, would bark at the empty space when we were sitting in the living room smoking weed and watching Game of Thrones.

Our great protector

Our great protector

The next ghost was in our favorite bathroom. I never noticed it when I used the toilet, but when I got into the bath I had the distinct feeling that something was present and watching me. Eleanor and I concluded that this ghost was a perv. But we couldn’t blame him (we were sure it was a “he”). If I was dead I would have haunted that bathroom too. It was a sweet bathroom.

But the serious problem was in Eleanor’s room. When Will’s mother first walked into El’s third floor attic room after we had only been there a few days, she felt an intense and immediate presence there. For those of you that don’t know, Will’s mom is a fucking physic. This exacerbated Will when he was younger and doing lots of E and mushrooms because she always knew exactly what he was up to.

The first night Eleanor slept in her new room she saw shadows playing on the wall, but there was nothing outside the window that could have cast a shadow. Then several piles of luggage fell down at once. Fortunately, Eleanor was trained in shamanism during the year she lived in Portland. She got up and told the spirit that she recognized its presence and that she wanted it to leave.

It didn’t listen to her.

Ghost Room

The first night that Eleanor left to see her parents up North, Will and Ryan were on the first floor in Ryan’s room, getting high and listening to dub step all night and into the morning. They said they heard noises above them that sounded like furniture being dragged across the floor. They thought Sonja, who was on the second floor above them, was rearranging her room. But she was dead asleep all night. Eleanor’s room was right above hers.

One night Eleanor came down to the kitchen with a glum look on her face.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“My lamp is vibrating.”

Now, if you thought I was afraid of heights, you should know that the idea of ghosts scares me a shit ton more than climbing a rock face without a rope. It comes from a weird part of my Christian upbringing, where I was taught that spirits are all real but they are all agents of the devil. My aunt and my uncle on my mom’s side both have had positive experiences with ghosts, but my mom’s only experience was waking up screaming from nightmares and finding out the next morning she and my dad were camping on a Pawnee gravesite.

So naturally I freaked the fuck out.

“Would you like me to go up there and check it out?”

Will is an expert at this shit. He inherited his mother’s knack for the other-worldly.

“Would you?”

“Yeah, no problem.”

Fever Witch with light

Fifteen minutes later Will came back into the kitchen.

“How did it go?”

“Well, I saw the lap shaking when I went up there, so I just told the spirit to show it’s presence to me.”

“And?”

“And the lamp started shaking a lot harder.”

“Holy shit.” That was me.

“Then I asked it to move on and leave this place and I felt a very strong resistance.”

“Wait, does that mean it’s not going to leave?”

“I think that it’s something that we can negotiate with and contain, but I don’t think it has any intention of going away.”

“No, there’s got to be a way to get it out. There’s gotta be someone, some expert that when can have go in there and deal with this.”

“It’s fine,” said Eleanor with a weary look on her face. “It’s not going to hurt anybody.”

Catcat guarding the door to Eleanor's room.

Catcat guarding the top of the stairs

But the weirdest thing of all had to be the writing on the walls of Trixie’s room. Trixie’s room wasn’t really a room. It was an attic triangle shaped closet with a sick window that looked out over all of Oakland. On both sides of the doors there were notes written carefully in pencil—dates and times. The dates covered five years, from 2005 to 2010. On the left side of the door all of the times were between ten and eleven pm. On the right side of the door they were all between three and four in the morning.

Next to the door frame on the right hand side was a short list written in the same penciled hand. It said: breathe, exercise, no demons.

When we called the landlord about it, he asked us if they were vanishing.

A week or two later Eleanor leaned out her bedroom and noticed three upside down crosses that had been drawn in ash on the side of the house.

Crosses

Eventually Will had the priest from his Episcopalian church come over and give a non-theistic blessing of each room in the house. We didn’t have any problems with ghosts after that.

Unfortunately her blessing didn’t work for me.

Photos by Sophia Alderman