“Things have got so bad that I decide to go home – home home, Mum and Dad home … It was waking up in the middle of the night and wondering where I belonged that did it: I don’t belong at home, and I don’t want to belong at home, but at least home is somewhere I know.” -Nick Hornby, High Fidelity.
I’m living with my mom in Phoenix for a couple weeks, which, aside from the potentially devastating psychological blow, has always had an eerieness to it that’s hard to put my finger on. Freud called it “The Uncanny,” which is the unsettling feeling of something that is simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar. This is argued in academia as the basis of most post-Victorian gothic fiction. That which is inside of us that we feel we understand, but truly do not, is what scares us more than anything. Think zombies dressed in their sunday best, or poltergeists haunting a suburban home. Home has much more potential for horror than a cemetary.
Logistically, I rather like staying with mom. She lives alone now, with joint custody of my 14-year-old sister. The time spent here would be portrayed as a montage if my life were a movie (a very dull movie). I read a lot, get some exercise, sit by the pool. But there is that weird, uncanniness that lingers. It’s really a haunted feeling, with me being the ghost. Though I’m not dead, the incarnation of myself that used to call this home is certainly dead, and that leaves me the ghost of the teenage Chair, haunting my mom’s house in Mesa, Arizona.
Meanwhile, my mother has a life. Every household has a rhythm. Her’s is no exception. I’m not a part of that rhythm any longer, and so it sort of happens around me like I’m not even really here. It’s best explained in little things: I get a roll of toilet paper out and put it on the sink. Soon after, the roll is mounted. I brew a pot of coffee, have a cup or two, and the next thing I know it’s poured out and drying in the sink. I fix a cup of water and it’s gone, in the dishwasher. My things rearrange themselves. I move the furniture slightly, and I find the next morning it’s moved back. It’s like being in a house of Poltergeists. But just like that Nicole Kidman movie The Others (spoiler alert!), I’m the ghost haunting my mother’s house, moving things around the way they aren’t supposed to be.
A similar thing happens when I attempt to have influence on the household. Instead of saying typical ghost things like, “Booooo, avenge my deathhhh,” or “Haaave you seeeen my baby?” I say things like: “Mom, how can you eat farmed salmon everyday? It’s full of chemicals,” or “Mom, granola is not a meal,” or “Oprah is trying to tell you how to live your life!” It gets the same response as when I tried to convince her that voting for Bush was wrong: not a whole lot, other than well meaning acknowledgment. In other words, it passes right through.
I’m not trying to complain, or give my mom a hard time. I love my mom, and she lives a great life considering some of the junk she’s been through. She’s 50 and she dates, no, she has suitors. She works at a school for underpriviledged deaf children, and makes a difference in a lot of lives. She reads a lot, although they aren’t the books I’d recommend. She goes to see movies like Sin City, although she walked out of it and liked The Punisher much better (The Punisher is one of her favorite movies. The Punisher and Chocolat!?). In other words, I am a friendly ghost. That’s a lot more than most people have when they go home-home. Many are a malevolent presence when they haunt their parents homes, resulting in things hurled against walls or people getting sucked into the television.