Haunted House



I'm struggling to write about my current state of mind. It's spring break, which means I'm home for college this entire week and I'm realizing that "home" is becoming a complicated place for me, fraught with tensions and conflicts created by the clash between past and present.

Every corner of this house reminds me of my father. I am reminded of those artists who find the sites where vintage photographs were taken and hold up the black and white pictures against the sites as they exist today. You get this startling juxtaposition of history and modernity, a sense of the shifting nature of life and the way the camera stops time forever within a world of perpetual change.

So there is my house as it is now and there is my house when my father lived here. When I stand in the kitchen, I can see him at the sink washing dishes or at the dining table writing out checks for bills. In the living room, he's watching television or listening to music. Outside, he's mowing the lawn. I see these memories, project them onto the space of the house itself. His absence intensifies my longing. My time away only serves to increase my sensitivity to the house and all that these walls hold.  This is where my ghosts are--my dead--so some part of me always wants to be here with them.

Maybe I haven't accepted his death. Maybe he is still alive to me in some way, through my memories and my attempts to resurrect him inside the house. I keep thinking about this Joan Didion quote from The Year of Magical Thinking:

"I know why we try to keep the dead alive: we try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us.

I also know that if we are to live ourselves there comes a point at which we must relinquish the dead, let them go, keep them dead"

But to what should I relinquish him? I already gave him to the earth. Nothing is left but a few photos. I've lost his voice, his presence, his warmth. Maybe I can't let go of everything. And yet I know that this obsession with him, this relationship that I maintain with him, the way I allow him to possess me, is destructive, but it's the only way I can live.

 Psychoanalysts often talk about metaphorically killing the dead if one is to truly mourn. What about those of us who, like Victor Frankenstein, keep reanimating the dead? What if we can't stop even when we know that the people we long for are gone forever and our attachment to their phantoms is slowly annihilating us?

I often feel that I love the dead more than the living.

I just want him back. So I conjure him in all these empty rooms. I imagine us together again. I imagine us as one. I dream of the past becoming the present, the memories becoming reality. This house is like my mind, forever haunted by him.