Lynne Sargent -- Your Body as a Haunted House, or When the Ghost Moves In

Sometimes, you don’t notice when a ghost moves in. It gets hard to keep track of two homes: the one you are, and the one you live in. You’re moving into your first home when it happens, and the ghost shows up inside you, a most unwelcome guest. Your knee goes out carrying boxes up the stairs, and you groan at the cracking, really wishing today wasn’t a day for making your body a home for yet more uninvited inhabitants in turn. 

You’ve already made uneasy peace with the little monkey spirit that’s stolen a shard of bone from your ankle, that likes to swing from your fibularis brevis from time to time. He tolerates the physio exercises, and only really complains when you hike more than ten kilometers at a time, which would seem fair if it wasn’t your body first.

You’ve also figured out the hot and cold war (and drawn the battlelines) with the crotchety old woman who moved into the cartilage of your feet when you weren't yet eighteen– you know the kind, who yells at her neighbors just for living. She’s decreed: no dancing on your toes, no heels higher than two inches, but when you’re tired of her screaming and complaining at least you can bind her up in tape and stuff her away so her banging and screeching is mostly muted. 

But the knee guy, on move-in day, that’s a real bummer. At first you hope he’s just a visitor passing by, maybe on his way to a marathon runner or a warrior in need of a wife and retirement. You never expect even the travelling ones to be good houseguests, so you hire an exorcist anyways (much more effective than a doctor, in your opinion). A few good rituals and only a little bit of wailing later the knee guy is like an old friend. The exorcist says that you guys are in fact long-time acquaintances, he’s been hiding out for decades and there’s no evicting him now. 

You decide to call knee guy Frank, and worry over your childhood for a week until you remember the story you always tell about your stage fright– when you tripped and fell the first time you were in front of a crowd, and tendons separated from ligaments, kneecap popping off until someone in the crowd came up onto the stage and put you back together again like you were Humpty Dumpty. You guess that at the time your wailing was too much to notice Frank’s arrival, and like so many things from childhood, he was eventually forgotten in the shuffle. 

Hauntings only stay forgotten for so long.

It makes you start to wonder: are there other ghosts you simply haven’t noticed? That don’t make themselves disruptive enough on the regular for you to bother forming any kind of relationship– antagonistic or otherwise?

Then one day your fatigue turns into a pounding behind your eyeballs and you realize that it just might be a poltergeist. Once you finally get them to stop throwing things, you realize exactly how much you’ve been doing for the last decade to keep their temper tantrums from starting in the first place– placating with caffeine, cajoling with massages and mindfulness.

You also realize the fungal-like growth of your endometriosis might have a multi-dimensional ectoplasm-like stickiness to it, strangling your intestines and poisoning the wine of your pleasure with a bitter, cramping aftertaste. You suppose it makes sense that people believe in menstrual pain about as much as they believe in aliens.

You even begin to wonder if the steady blurring of your vision might be a careless child’s spirit trying to play a game of peekaboo, twisted by the fact that your body isn’t the house she remembers and you certainly aren’t her mommy. Or else, it’s a veteran, someone who's seen the horror of the world and paternalistically (and resultingly, unlovingly) wishes to keep you from it by softening the edges of all you see, just a little bit.

All this realization, from a long-forgotten dislocation. 

The cohabitation of this house that you are isn’t easier for this knowledge. Every year the rooms of grow more cramped, tibia and stomach, spine and cranium. It seems each joint has its own squatter, all of them making their idiosyncratic desires known.  But perhaps there is some comfort, as you get closer to the end, that you aren’t alone. So many have moved in over the years. You’ve learned to keep the hidey holes of your consciousness secret, strewn about carpets for soundproofing (alongside taking your meds), tried not to get too aggressive with sicky notes about the cleaning or the noise, carefully scheduled cooking times in the kitchen and subdivided the fridge. The chore chart will always be chaos but the disrepair is a livable kind. Until it isn’t.

Then, there is a crack. You steel yourself, ready for, if not comfortable with, this final, anticipated breaking. But nothing comes. 

You realize: the home that you are was only ever one you yourself lived in. This isn’t the last breaking after all. 

It’s merely, finally, agonizingly, the end of the first.