The most eerie or uncanny kinds of spaces are the spaces where life once was—where life once happened—but that are now empty.
— § —
Once upon a time, this entire house was one of those spaces.
After I filed for divorce—a shockingly messy situation whose details I won’t go into but to say that it was shockingly messy—I left and didn’t return to the house for almost a month.
When I came back to the place as it was—dark, empty, no longer full of family life, or of children, or even of the everyday furnishings to which we’d become accustomed—I almost couldn’t stand to see it.
It was the kind of strange terror of the uncanny that can drive a person to madness. I know why some of those guys out there commit suicide; it’s because they encounter the world’s inverse image, it’s dead negative, wearing a label that proclaims it to be their lives, and in a fit of the uncanny they imagine that if they fire the pistol, time will reverse. They are already dead. In their confusion, they imagine that suicide will bring them back to life.
But it doesn’t.
It took a long time for me to un-dead the space. I had entered a new epoch, a new universe. We had all died that July. We all started over as new people. The space started over as a new space.
The family that was is now fictional, something that never happened.
— § —
Now the space where life once was is the bedroom at the far end of the hallway, at the west end of the house.
I never reclaimed that room myself; it had been the parents bedroom in that fictional story about a happy family, and once I returned and created a new house from uncanny death mask of the old house, I had no interest in sleeping there ever again.
Yes, I have spent the last five years sleeping on my office floor, or on my office couch, or (most often) in my office chair, right in front of my work computer, or at times when I fall asleep reading the kids a story instead of or along with the kids falling asleep, at the foot of their bed.
But no, I haven’t had a bed in five years.
Now, before you go and dig up what seems to be the right amount of pity or shock, let me explain that I’m one of those people the Karens like to scold; I never do things the right way. The big things, I mean—like have living arrangements and sleep every night.
By the time I was a teenager, I was done with beds. I slept on floors and couches and in cardboard boxes and cars and all kinds of other places, but never, ever in a bed.
First apartment? Hardwood floors. That I slept on. College? Same. Floor. Sometimes a couch. Sometimes a folded-up futon. Grad school? I lived in a dorm that didn’t have a bed; it was a deco-era building that had old, spartan leather couches built directly into the wall. I slept on one of those, or sometimes in the chair that also came with the room.
Really, the only time since I was a pre-teen that I’ve regularly slept on a bed was while I was married. And I didn’t do it properly. I stayed up far too late and often fell asleep in my office chair despite having a bed.
It’s the kind of thing that a certain kind of wife turns into a vile offense and a vendetta. I had such a wife, and because there are many other ways in my life in which I’m a non-bed-sleeper, there were a lot of vendettas.
No comment on whether she was a Karen.
But I just wanted to get that out of the way so that we can focus on what I’m actually writing about.
— § —
What I’m actually writing about is that that when I returned to the house, that back room became my dog’s bedroom; he claimed the bare bed and slept on it virtually every night by himself. The kids called it “Shandy’s room.”
Then, Shandy died, but soon the room was occupied instead by Gypsy, our cat. It became the place in the house that she preferred—to get away both from the other cats and from Molly, Shandy’s unwitting replacement.
But the kids have been getting older. They need rooms of their own, rather than a shared room. And there are only three rooms upstairs—the office, on whose floor (or office chair) I have been sleeping for five years, the kids shared bedroom, and Gypsy’s room.
And so it became clear that it was time for Gypsy to join my ex-wife in her residence. Because Gypsy and Molly never made a lot of progress in getting along together and because I need to move into that room—so that my daughter can move into what has been my office for a decade now, and adopt it as her bedroom.
— § —
I spent three hours cleaning the room tonight.
There was a lot of dirt to be removed, and there were many ghosts to be chased away. There are still a number of them there; it’s clearly still haunted, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.
That room was “our” bedroom for years and years when I was married. The marriage is dead. Then it was beloved Shandy’s room. Shandy is dead. Then it was Gypsy’s room. Gypsy is now gone.
It’s a room-where-life-once-was.
And now I have to reclaim it and work in it. There is much to be done, and there are exorcisms to be carried out.
Luckily, I’m more familiar with these kinds of spaces than I used to be. The shock doesn’t strike me full in the face like it used to. But ghosts still have the whiff of dread, sadness, and eternal loss about them. It’s not easy to clean and reoccupy such a room—to steal it away from the dead and the missing.
Still, because I don’t get shocked any longer, there’s no danger that I will get confused and think that if I perform the right steps in the right order, I can cause time to run backward once again.
So that’s something.
— § —
This entire post is the sort of thing that once would have made my ex-wife’s skin crawl, and we’d have had a good, knock-down, drag-out yelling and hating fight afterward about how bizarre and sick in the head I am for being the sort of person that can write and say things like this.
I’m not sure what’s wrong with it, but then I guess I wouldn’t if I’m as bizarre and off-beam as she always said I was.
I guess that’s why we’re divorced.
And why now I’m trying to reoccupy a room-where-life-once-was.