I don’t like scary movies. I especially avoid the ones having to do with spirits. I really want to see Crimson Peak because I love Guillermo del Toro, but the preview gave me chills. Plus Stephen King said it terrified him so I know for sure my nerves would be unable to deal with the content if the king of the horror genre couldn’t handle it. And it’s not because I’m just a coward. I mean I am a coward. I’m not ashamed to admit that. <_< But mostly because I have had experience with spirits. Coming from a small village in Trinidad, I have heard my share of scary stories about people’s encounters with the spirit world while growing up, but I always consoled myself by saying they’re just folk tales. One afternoon that all changed.
It was Saturday. I got home from first communion class to find everyone huddled around the kitchen table, which made me question why I had to be the only one of the cousins to be Catholic. My Saturdays were screwed for months. But I digress. They were all so quiet, something that is not synonymous with being a Trini — or a Richardson. I asked who died, then I heard my mother say, “He here.”
My mother looked the most serious I had ever seen her. Apparently my grandmother thought it was a good idea to hire an obeah man to get rid of a spirit in the house. Lately the floorboards had been creaking more frequently and keeping her awake. Back then I slept like a log and heard nothing, but my uncle convinced me it was just the wind blowing through a very old house. I accepted his explanation for years — even though it made no sense because where we lived was rarely windy. I just didn’t want to believe it was anything else.
A heavyset man and his wife, both of East Indian descent, cautiously made their way through our living room and into the kitchen. Their eyes took in everything as though they were contractors inspecting a house. The man spoke briefly to my grandmother and made his way to the kitchen table where we were all gathered.
“I doh want to be here for dis,” I said. “I going next door.”
“Nobody leavin dis house.” He glared at me as he said this, sternly.
“If anybody leave, and de spirit is in DAT person, I would do my ting and dey would come back WIT de spirit. And all dis woulda be for nothing.”
I grew tense. My mother thought I was just a skeptic, but I was actually scared out of my wits.
My cousins and I sat solemnly as the man mopped the entire house with a concoction his wife threw into a bucket of hot water. We just wanted to watch TV for fucks sakes. That was so not how I expected my Saturday evening to go. The man then drew a symbol behind my grandmother’s bedroom door, which led to the front porch.
Very similar to this.
He said it was to keep whoever it was from reentering. O_O He dug a hole at the bottom of the front steps, grounded heads of garlic into it, and buried it. After he lit a candle and put it on a plate at the bottom of the step, he rejoined us at the table and proceeded to pray over us.
He prayed for what seemed like an eternity. I sat there, bored as hell, and tried to repress my eyes from rolling. Suddenly the house began to shake. At first I thought it was my imagination. I thought maybe one of my nervous cousins was shaking a leg under the table. But the shaking became more pronounced. Everyone’s eyes shifted toward my grandmother’s bedroom. Something. Someone was frantically running around as if they were looking for a way out. Doors trembled. I trembled as I dug my nails into my mother’s thigh.
Then my grandmother’s bedroom door flung open. My aunt Elsa, someone I often thought to be fearless, gasped as her eyes widened in disbelief. She yelled, “LOOK!”
We rushed to the front porch and heard footsteps running down the stairs. My uncle hollered as the plate which held the candle split in half, as though it had been stepped on by whoever it was leaving the house. And they were gone. Everyone returned to the kitchen. We sat there, trying to make sense of what had transpired. My grandmother was the only one who looked unfazed. She never moved from her chair.
“Da is it,” the man said, matter-of-factly. He and his wife started packing up.
“What happen?” Elsa needed answers.
“Whoever it was wasn’t evil,” he said. “Dey didn’t mean no harm. Was just being a pest.”
My grandfather’s dead body was the only one that had ever been in the house since it was built decades ago. The obeah man said the spirit was definitely male, because he felt a great presence. There was a good chance it was him. So all of the times I felt someone tug at my clothes while I played with my toys on the floor of my grandmother’s bedroom; all those times I felt someone sit at the foot of my bed just as I was falling into a deep sleep, it could have been him. I never talked about those experiences because I believed talking about it would somehow make it real. By ignoring it I was able to restrict it to my mind and simply say I was just tired and feeling things.
No one complained about the house creaking after that evening. I guess he never came back. I migrated to New York City and joined the Navy soon afterwards. Ten years later, a few weeks after being honorably discharged, I was on my way to meet my boyfriend at his job so we could catch a movie. It was a beautiful April afternoon. The sun still shone brilliantly and the air was crisp. I window shopped on 5th Avenue with a goofy grin on my face. It was the first time in years that I felt free. As I strolled through the busy sidewalk, I felt a tug on the back of my jacket sleeve and turned around expecting to be greeted by an old friend, only to see jaded New Yorkers going about their business.
“Hi, hun.” My boyfriend snuck up behind me as I stared into the crowds. “You okay?”
“You sure?” He was genuinely concerned. Guess I needed to work on my poker face.
“I’ll tell you about it later.” I never did.
Still, I fantasize about being able to watch a movie about wandering spirits without losing much sleep. But I know I won’t be able to do so without wondering if one of them followed me home.