The lights were out, the brown wood bedroom door was closed, and what light came into the room had a grainy filter, almost like the static from the TV screen had somehow leaked into the air. A chill swept through the room, and I snuggled down into my quilt, pulling my feet in. Nothing could get me if I kept my hands and feet covered. My sister’s boom box blared on the bunk above me, keeping me from sleeping easily and ensuring a host of artists from the late 80s and before that I resent to this day. Her headphones allowed her the illusion she was being considerate, and I assumed she was off in whatever la-la land that she was always so eager to escape to. It was winter, after Christmas, and one of the rare winter days where neither my mother nor my sister had colored the hell of daily life in Indiana with one of their mood swings.
I sensed a change of air pressure, and for a split second, the boom box went silent. I turned my head toward the source of the change, the bedroom door. Glowing white, an arm reached through the door and extended me the middle finger.
Whatever the hell that was about, the “push” I felt was my own resistance. I have long interpreted the obscene gesture as an indicator that my presence somehow stood between the ghostly arm and its goal. As I aged into adolescence, I saw it once or twice more, but while my sister was in Japan it hovered at the end of the hallway in the kitchen, and seemed to want me to close the door so as not to have to deal with the reality of my presence. After my sister returned from her trip, there was another middle finger gesture incident, but it kept its hand further back, as though it were afraid of being grabbed.
This was my first experience with haunting a ghost.
Typically, ghosts haunt you. But since this did happen during the Cold War, maybe it was one of those …”in Soviet Russia, you haunt ghost!” scenarios.
I’ve certainly never forgotten the incident. You just don’t forget a disembodied arm flipping you the bird, especially when you’re old enough to know that that means “grounding” but young enough to not really be capable of doing anything that would prompt a “Fuck you!” from the living, let alone the dead.
I suppose I’m making a lot of assumptions here, to this day. For instance, I’m assuming it was a ghost/dead spirit, and not some projection jettisoned off of my sister’s adolescent damage, or somehow conjured by that creepy boy always hanging around her who was scared of me because like dogs and children under 12, I could see evil as plainly as the back of my hand. I’ve wondered vaguely at why the ghost couldn’t get past me, and indulged in fancying myself special. Despite my notoriously analytical nature, I’ve never earnestly looked into it because I’ve wanted to keep fancying myself special.
I also had a sense it had something to do with the family politics constantly fed by a culture of dishonesty on both sides of my family that ran so deep that I found it all vaguely repulsive. Perhaps it was an egregore, a way to the store the truth that was powered by the constant mill of lies circling around the center of that tiny house like a whirlwind. And that egregore just plain hated me. Which is unsurprising; despite knowing nothing about me, my own mother and her kin hate me to the point where I’m expecting to be accused of rape and murder any day now. I’ve always managed to stay just beyond the controlling arm that would stifle the life out of me: I quit the DAR before I could be forced to violate myself by participating, I went to a college I paid for myself where my invasive grandmother could not report on my every movement as though I were a Soviet war criminal – or worse, an adult with a sex life! – and I even defied my father and published under my own name, after a blatant attempt by my mother to quash my hard-earned identity under the bullshit of “you’re a married woman” as she defined marriage rather than as I did.
Perhaps it was the Lee family egregore, reaching out for me and failing.
At the time, partly because I still had affection for her then, I thought it might be a monster come to eat my sister. Certainly if that were the case nowadays, I’d still take every measure to prevent her from getting eaten because that would be the right thing to do, but certainly not because I give a shit in any other way. I often hate my deep-set morality. There’s a lot of people I’d rather see getting eaten but I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I allowed it to happen.
All I know for sure is that I bugged the living hell out of that ghost for years. I’m also pretty sure it was a factor in deciding I was going away to college.