Ghost

It started small. A light switch turned on I thought I had turned off. Doors left open I knew had been locked. Papers moved from the desk to a shelf in my closet. I brushed it off. After all, I was a senior in college,  a busy woman. Maybe I didn’t unplug the curling iron or shut the window like I had originally thought. Maybe I was just too busy and in need of a break.

But that was before the night. I knew, then, everything that had been going on was caused by something else. After all, legend said the house was haunted. That no one had seen these spirits did nothing to lessen the macabre appeal of living amongst spirits.

Constructed of solid oak beams, the Tudor home I lived in my senior year of college was erected in the mid-19th century. Though the house had received extensive renovations over the years–including the construction of an additional wing to house more students–the structure of the original house remained unchanged. It is in that part of the house where I took up residence in a single room.

Up the grand staircase and down a creaky hallway, my room sat nestled in the front corner of the house underneath the original attic. It was a quiet wing of the house, as the attic was only used for storage. Below me was the seldom used living area. Save for the occasional boisterous drunken partying from my across the street neighbors, I had found the peace I needed in which to complete my final year of studies.

Thus imagine my surprise when one blustery night in October I heard a dragging sort of scraping coming from the attic above. Knowing as I did that the resident assistant was in sole possession of the key to the attic door (and he was at an evening class), I knew no one could be up there. I was a little nervous hearing this irregular dragging, almost as if someone were pulling a large object back and forth across the floor, but it was cold outside, and the air had just started to crackle with the electric potential of an incoming storm. I decided to stay put and turned my TV up a bit to compensate for the noise. The scraping sound increased. Only after turning the volume up once more and hearing a corresponding increase in the racket above, did I grab my coat and run for my friend’s room across campus, heedless of the rumbling thunder and crackle of lightning ripping through the air.

I stayed with a friend for a week before venturing back to my room,and only then to change and grab my class materials. Every time I returned, my room was ice cold. Another unusual occurrence since a large furnace duct supplied direct heat to my room. Normally, my room was uncomfortable, and I needed the windows open to sleep well at night; but now my room possessed cold pockets of air, their icy fingers caused my flesh to pimple and the hairs on the back of my neck to stand on end. My once peaceful room was now the cause of untold anxiety and fear.

Needless to say it was with some reluctance I left the safety of my friend’s room to return to the chilly walls of my century and a half old home.

I should have stayed away another night.

I don’t know what woke me. Maybe it was the temperature drop or maybe it was a whiff of ozone in the room, but I awoke. Peeking over the covers, I was blinded by a white light emanating from the corner of my room closest to the door. Once I was able to see, the figure of a small girl emerged from the pulsing light.

I will never forget how she looked at me with such sad, solemn eyes. She couldn’t have been more than nine or ten. Her brown hair, still long like a child’s, was pulled away from her face and secured with a bow. She wore a white sailor’s dress with navy blue piping. Her knees were tucked up and away under the fabric of her dress; only the black tips of her patent shoes peeked out from beneath. How long we stared at each other, I do not know. Eventually, my natural fear replaced curiosity and I ducked under the covers, praying she would disappear, When next I looked, she was gone.

The following morning I called a priest to come and bless my room. He came and sprinkled holy water on the walls, praying for the spirits of the deceased to leave this room and rest in peace. There were no more incidents with cold spots, unexplained open doors or turned on appliances, and I never saw the little girl after that night. It is my hope she was able to finally move on to the next life and find peace.

Ever seen a ghost yourself? Post your experiences below!

I object

I, object to your leering eyes and grasping hands.
You see me and believe I am yours.
Why do you think that? The way I walk and the clothes I wear are for you, right?
An object. That’s all I am. To you, I am not me.
Submit.
Never resist.
I am helpless. No longer as a woman, I, object.

I object to your leering eyes and grasping hands.
You! See me and believe!
I am yours? Why do you think that the way I walk and the clothes I wear are for you?
Right! An object! That’s all I am to you.
I am not!
Me, submit? Never!
Resist!
As a strong woman, I object!

Punctuation saves more than lives. It changes perspective.

Surviving

Dear Health Risk Assessment,

After taking your screener today, you told me my social, emotional, and physical behaviors are a danger to my well-being. In your cheery report with colorful fonts and strategically placed sidebars, you told me to get more sleep. You recommend exercising and eating healthier. You said go volunteer, go out with friends, relax.

You don’t know me, HRA. You don’t know what I have been through or where I am on my journey. Some days it takes all of my energy to get out of bed and go about my day without crying or screaming at everyone to fuck off. There are days I am so tired from sleepless nights or nights spent walking in my sleep that I am barely conscious the next day. Often I’m angry and sad; I just want to be left alone and not talk to anyone. Other times I am overly anxious. My heart feels as if it would pump out of my chest, and I have to check and recheck the locks on all of my doors to know I am safe.

But you didn’t bother asking me why. You took my data and you saw I was overweight, that I had high blood pressure, and that I didn’t exercise as much as I should. Do you want to know why I have social, emotional and physical behaviors that are dangerous to  my well being? Aren’t you a little curious?

I was abused, attacked, objectified, violated and sold. On multiple occasions.

Do you question my emotional state now? Is my anger and depression (some of those unhealthy behaviors you made sure to mention) better justified for you on your black-and-white checklist of acceptable norms? What I’d like to know is where on your checklist is the category ‘Scary Shit I’ve Lived Through and Survived?’ I want an emoji with scars on it to represent the terrible things people overcome every day. Don’t give me a fucking frowny face when every day that I rise from bed, go to work and take care of my family is a successful one. That is a good day and deserves a damned medal, not three disapproving, scowling faces in a row.

On those good days I can look in the mirror and I see the woman I have become–strong, courageous, successful, happy, beautiful, loved. Other days the image is fractured and I only see the broken pieces of my life staring back at me laden with fear, anger and guilt.

I sometimes catch glimpses of the girl I was before in those shattered pieces. I miss her. She was a little shy, but fun to be around once you got to know her. She smiled and laughed and was happy. She found joy in small things, like singing at the top of her lungs or dancing as if no one were watching. She embraced life.

I want to be happy again, but I still struggle with the aftermath of the abuse every day. Its shadow casts a cloud on even the happiest of moments. And as much as I try to distance myself from the abuse, those horrible events shaped me into me. How can I separate myself from that which has made me stronger?

So dear HRA, I denounce your red frowny faces. I denounce your claim I am a danger to myself and my well-being. I am healthy. Maybe not according to your definition, but every day I try to be the best me possible, and that says more about my mental, emotional, and physical state than your checklist ever could.

Sincerely,

A Survivor

Please support your local domestic abuse shelters or consider donating to The Pixel Project, an organization dedicated to ending domestic violence. You can find information about them here:  http://www.thepixelproject.net/