Tuesday, March 20, 2012

That Which Haunts Me

I was actually relieved to leave my Manhattan apartment after seven years in August 2010.

I never slept very well there.

Mostly because it was haunted.

Or so, I thought.

I would wake up to the craziest sights: a man standing by my stove, a figure sitting on my couch, things flying through the air by my lamp. In half-sleep, I would bat away at the curtain hanging on the window next to which I slept. Through dreams I would pound my fist at the foot of the bed atop my comforters and blankets at something scurrying underneath.

I saw light and dark through my sleep-bleared eyes. I blinked time and again to see, and not see.

My therapist at the time suggested Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which probably first set in sometime in childhood as a result of being terrorized by my mother in waking hours and asleep, being dragged out of bed for rounds of accusations, inquisitions, punishments and beatings. Despite my protests of hauntings, my therapist thought PTSD had been exacerbated by the recent trauma I'd undergone at work, which was working its way through my subconscious, manifesting visions.

That didn't explain why I would return to my apartment in daylight and be greeted by an entire bookshelf's contents emptied on the floor, but I shrugged, and moved on...to Queens, a residency whose five months went by without incident.

And then I moved again, to LA.

A little over a year ago, I moved into a historic property in Beverly Hills, a 1929 Art Deco gem. It had charm. It had character. And it was unfamiliar. So I often woke up not knowing where I was, disoriented, batting at the gauzy curtains that enshroud my murphy bed tomb.

But a little over a year later, it's still happening. My apartment is familiar now. I barely remember New York City. And yet, I'm still waking up. And I'm starting to see things again.

I'm a creative person. I have an active imagination, and experience vivid dreams. So it's easy to dismiss the visions and the visitors that the night brings.

But then a couple weeks ago, I came home from Death Valley late one Sunday night, and after unlocking my apartment door with my key in the top lock, the door was still locked. I pushed on it, relocking and unlocking the top lock to no avail. Somehow, the bottom lock - the lock in the original hardware of the door, the lock that even my landlord doesn't have a key for - had become locked...from the inside.

I of course imagined that someone had broken into my apartment through the open window, ransacked the place, and camped out in my bed, locking the door to prevent other intruders' entry. I wondered who might have gotten access to my apartment, locked the door from the inside, and jumped out the window, just for spite.

The next day, I told Maria the tale of waiting for a locksmith, spending almost $300 on his visit and generating a new key, and my theories of how it happened.

"It was a ghost," she said.

"Oh geez, I thought I was done with that," I said. "I spent seven years in a haunted apartment. I really hoped this one wouldn't be haunted too."

"It's not the apartment!" Maria exclaimed. "It's you!"

And then the truth settled in: I'll never rid myself of that which haunts me. It follows me. No matter where I go, I can't escape the watchful eyes, the sleeplessness, the terrorizing, the depression.

The hauntings are coming from inside of me.

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