The Stanyan Woman

This single Asian female, aged 41: all she wants is occasion to explain. There’s some complication however, and its nexus lies in that metaphorical trestle between worlds – she’s on the death side, there’s no getting across. Or perhaps? I believe that Karen believes in the communicative power of haunting. Her belief is tensile, studded with grommets of post-ego sympathy. In her previous state (the one defined by corporeality) she sought other things. Heterosexual approval, romance, love…or if not those heights, at least elements of the carnal. At least temporary flickings-away of her mind-gnawing loneliness. But now hindsight and localized omniscience have altered her priorities. They’ve become exclusively familial. The story webs out between calcified rods (like bat wings or boned corsets) from the point of her “untimely” dying. The love-triangle tale rears its familiar head. Wearisome and vanilla and in its ordinariness, but begging to be resolved all the same. Devil in the details: again and again we savor those flavors of the universal dramas.

I used quotes with the word ‘untimely’ to raise the question: what is “timely”? What miraculous things had Karen planned to do and become, that she was unjustly prevented from doing and becoming? Karen was bland. Her solitary melancholy, her female desperation, was the nutrient-poor white bread buttered by spinsters everywhere. Maybe she drank a lot of green tea. Maybe a lot of Coke Zero. I’m really only guessing; the apartment was swept clean of clues by the time we moved in. Our only indications were sprinkled about the backyard – cheesy garden paraphernalia to the tune of large-mouthed ceramic frogs and wire stakes spelling ‘welcome’. The preserved-for-visitors vision of her eternity is no less, and perhaps more cloaked in kitsch. Why, her ashes are conveniently stored in an urn in a shoebox-size, glass-fronted compartment built into the structure of the Colombarium on the street directly behind our – her – our house. A sad, tombly diorama of urn and flanking knick-knacks. Small pieces of material molded into various culturally-recognizable shapes (a plastic Mickey Mouse and Minnie, a blown-glass unicorn); a couple of cheaply-painted metal frames with photos of unphotogenic faces. Chosen preemptively by Karen while she was still living, or by her family after, I do not know. But what choices! The watered-down symbolism, the egg-shell significance…

The ghost of Karen itches. (At least it seems that way to me.) She has the only itch a ghost can know: the itch of “unfinished business”. If she achieves haunting status, she’ll be breathing air-less messages into my ears for sure. I will be mostly intermediary though, for the crux of her “business”, the swirling vortex of her purgatorial obsession, is her sister Mary. Older sibling, only sibling, closest in human meat and mind. The two inseparable as children, then pried apart, gradually and imperceptibly, by the complex but mundane events of early middle-age. Mary found her. Karen splayed naked on the bathroom floor here, in a puddle of nearly-evaporated shower-water, two days after the blood clot had traveled from leg to heart with arterial rapidity. Mercifully quick it was. Just that cataclysmic jolt, and a simple cutting off to the brain.

There is an image of Mary moaning, ringing 911 in a headspace of panic and disbelief. Several days later, after the autopsy and the funeral, Mary is still processing…and as she sifts absent-mindedly through Karen’s things, she comes across it, the information that will devastate her, in all its technological compactness. She reads with mushrooming horror the language that details explicitly the jointly-committed sins of husband and younger sister. And Mary descends truly into the depths of the cracked. Her husband fields lunatic screams and an ineffectual battery of fists, but remains somehow calm and admits to nothing. When her boys throw peas she spanks them until their buttcheeks glow mimosa-red. She shuts herself in the bedroom. An intervention is required. She’s dragged out and to the hospital, and put under psychiatric watch. Weeks pass. Mary returns home. Outwardly she has rejoined the calm, flat grassland of the sane. But inside grief and mistrust continue to sizzle on the warm griddle of her organs.

Ghostly Karen wants to peel away the ripeness of her sister’s hurt. She cares nothing now for the adulterous husband – the husband she thought she loved in secret, who was in fact only a repository for base needs half-fulfilled. Why won’t she go to Mary then, and leave me alone? I don’t claim to know all the rules, but I think it has something to do with the apartment walls, the location of her death…antiquated haunting constraints. I feel her observing me as I go from room to room. The bathroom especially is one large vat of her invisible presence. The vanity and shower of candy-pink tile should be cheery. Instead they are unflagging reminders of my inevitable run-in with the one stuck in a bad place on the other side.

I don’t think she wants to harm me. Her primary objective has naught to do with me, after all. I sense, though, that she is slowly filling with frothy rancor. Jealousy too. It is her space (or so she still considers it) in which I am building a home. And worse: a home for two. Our companionship is sweeping the dust of her aloneness into remote corners. Soon she’ll break into the haunting, and then I’ll learn about the fickle whims of the dead. I’m not sure what will get Karen to that crossing. It could be a certain amount of time required to unspool. It could be she develops her skill of appearing in mirrors. It could be a particularly conducive alignment of many factors: day, hour, room, weather, light, mood. Until then I wait with a curiosity-steeped disquiet.

~ by kingzoko on June 10, 2013.

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