From a haunted room in Anawalt, WV

I’d been pretty discreet about the transaction, but not the incident. Everyone saw me eat it. You can ask them. I’d also been drinking. I made me feel bruised but cocky.

It didn’t strike me like it used to, crept up on me rather. When I started feeling it move within me, everyone was gone. Everyone- friends, woman, her suitors, bartender, security guard, the drunk arguing with the bouncer…everyone.  They’d ignored or overlooked all forms of supplication.  I remember imploring for company.

I do remember following a drunken congregation when I’d swallowed it.  People had, slowly but gradually, trickled to sleep-boulevard via lust avenue. To satiate needs?

I don’t recall much after that. No, that is not true. I do but I can’t quite distinguish that part of my memory from my dreams. That’s what happens when you have too vivid a dream- intuitions mislead you; dreams consume you; stomach feels weird and you have to have a cigarette.

I decided to walk to the store. As I was getting ready to leave, I rang up the girl I loved. No answer. So I rang the girl I had once loved. She didn’t answer either. I didn’t expect them to, but I wished they would. At least one of them. I did meet, outside my room, in the corridor, this short necked man. Me being a girl, and it being late at night (or early in the day), he offered to accompany me. At first I was very polite and as respectful as my understanding of people would allow me to be but, he was quite persistent.  I then asked him to respect my space. And that was the end of it. But even after he left, the words “my space” ran laps in my head. My mind then switched to a different circle of friends, missed them, and then switched back to the present.

On my way to the store I toggled between the songs I liked and the songs I might grow to like. Here I find the need to mention about a set of Walkman and headphones that I had brought along for the fifteen-minute journey. My headphones were breathing deep into the contours of my being, existing- here, there, with her, without her, nowhere. Even then, I could still hear the grass and dirt squelch under the soles of my shoes. I envisioned my body as a vessel forming eddies in the laminar-ly flowing air.

The store was very well lit and emanated a sort of cleanliness that seemed quite odd at that hour but is customary of franchise convenient stores. I entered the store accompanied by a growling stomach. As I walked past the aisles I tried to focus only on the colors and not the substance or the shape. It was after two full circles that I picked up a bottled tea, mango flavored, and trudged towards the counter. It was particularly difficult as my perception of dimensions was starting to falter. Feigning stability suddenly became a challenge.

At the counter there was a middle aged woman. She’d bought herself a bottle of wine and two plastic-tipped cigars. Without realizing, I had become part of a train so I readjusted my pace. When my turn came, I asked the cashier for a pack of Virginia blend cigarettes. He perused my face, my eyes in particular, and reached to the cabinet for the cigarettes. The total was four something. I had a five-dollar bill but I pulled out a twenty. Oh, the beauty of being able to choose.

Outside the darkness had imposed itself upon the trees also. The trees were static and no longer green. But always around.  Even after the end of the show, like a group of green afro-ed people waiting, anticipating, while shaking their heads to inaudible tunes. But the show was over long ago; and neither were there any signs of an encore. La, la, la, la, la, la, la.

Its blurry how I made it to my room. I only remember arriving. My haunted door reminded me of all that I was missing. Upon entering, I looked for her ghost under my bed, inside my closet, up in the ceiling and in the mirror. When I landed on the bed, I was reminded of her smell. I reached for a pen and wrote a note to myself, “Wash bed-sheet”. Then I realized I didn’t want to be here. After all, the room deserved more “room time”.

I went out for a walk. And walk did I. I walked until I got couldn’t. Then I walked some more. Smoked a cigarette. Then another. Purloined a crumb more from what encompassed me. I no longer thought of her, only the circles she’d turned while sleeping. She was my moon.

When it started wearing off, it just wore off. Like meaningful relationships. One moment it was the insurmountable truth and the other it was no more than a lesson learnt. But my brain still felt like the leaf of an old notebook with notes from her art history class being scribbled on and on. Then scratched off for being too trivial. I felt lost.

Certain things are always familiar: the constant working of the brain; the knowledge of not knowing; the longing for something that you can never claim as yours; the subtle realization of a moment slipping by; an abstract idea that gets stowed away in the mind’s attic due to the inability to render it into something substantial. In the context of things, my worries don’t seem to matter. Maybe that’s how life is.

17th October 1998.
Leah Hannigan
from a haunted room in Anawalt, WV.

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