When I was a child, my friend Patty told me a story that changed my life forever.
Pigtailed and bracefaced, I sat there with my gaping maw hanging open enough to catch one of the many passing flies as she spun the tale of the young revolutionary war soldier that was now a ghost who wandered the grounds of her impressive home, threw shit around her bedroom and slammed doors when annoyed. To further cement my sidewalk of unspeakable terror she brought in her mother to corroborate the long list of paranormal happenings as I sat wide-eyed while marinating in the puddle of urine that now soaked my underoos.
What kind of parent was this? It’s completely unfathomable to me as an adult that a grown woman would sit there and compound the terror of two small idiots grasping for some sort of normal, reasonable intervention. “Now girls, you know there’s no such thing as ghosts!” as opposed to “Yes, and he likes to wrap the chains that bound his hands together for eternity around the necks of young children.” If I had been Patty I would have demanded to be handed over to social services immediately.
Compounding the difficulty of being friends with a person who came with an angry ghost and a haunted house was the fact that I was the only person in the entire school who she wanted to sleepover her home on a weekly basis. She once sat in a tree and cried, refusing to come down until I agreed to spend the night the following Friday.
“But Patty..” I’d protested ” I’m scared of haunted houses and your sister tried to force me to drink Drano the last time I was there!”
Tears streaked her dirty face as she yelled between sobs, “I’m not coming down until you say YES!”
The expectant crowd that had gathered to watch her potentially break a limb if she decided to jump became hushed as it waited for my answer.
Hanging my head to fight the fear, I managed to mumble “okay.” Completely defeated, I failed to recognize this as a class A act of emotional blackmail. All I knew was that I felt screwed and guilty all at once.
Every built-in mechanism that exists for the sake of self-preservation was vibrating at full tilt while I packed my bags to spend the evening with a ghostly spectre that was as freshly pissed off about the revolutionary war as he had been the day he last fought it, and my very clingy & manipulative friend.
That night was not one I’d soon forget. Nor would I be able to erase the year and a half of sleepovers that followed. Thursday would come around and my stomach would curl into painful knots in anticipation of whatever bizarre shenanigans Patty would dream up for getting me to hang out. Weekends felt like the end of the world.
Finally, after one spectacularly disastrous evening where I stayed up all night because I was convinced I heard heavy military style boots dragging down the stone pathway that ran outside the long line of picture windows in Patty’s bedroom, I’d had enough. The following morning, delirious from lack of sleep and after a particularly bad round of Space Invaders played on her own private entertainment system, I put my foot down. It was one of those conversations I would only have in my head but it didn’t matter. Patty, my passive aggressive tormentor, was dead to me.
I didn’t fuck around. Patty smelled trouble the moment she stepped out of her Dad’s Lincoln and began chasing me down trying to sniff out the root of the problem. What she couldn’t have known was that she had ceased to exist. As far as she was concerned, it was something that could be remedied with gifts or bribery.
“Hey, how about Broadway tickets?”
“What do you think of ice skating?”
” I’M NOT COMING OUT OF THIS TREE UNTIL YOU COME OVER!”
Sadly, the legacy of Patty and the disgruntled revolutionary war ghost didn’t end when I cast her off into the gutter of discarded friends. For years afterward I’d wake up, in my bed, covered in sweat, worried that the restless spirits surrounding my own two hundred year old farm-house were plotting my demise by way of knocking over a carelessly left candle or misplacing an ember from the eternally burning fireplaces.
Even in adulthood, when asked to return to the place I grew up to house sit for a week and watch the dog, I slept under my bed with a fire extinguisher, my faithful canine and one of the industrial staple guns my mom used to upholster old furniture.
So the legacy of Patty lives on……