I refused to go all the way in the house.
“Kate, honey, let’s bring this stuff to the freezer,” my mom said as I stood by the front door, behind a paper Kroger bag of our food, slithering out of its ices, crying to be saved.
The tornado had spared us and most of the town, but the power on the west side of the street had been out for 8 hours and most of our food would be lost if we didn't bring it somewhere. It must be nice to chalk $200 up to a loss, but if we didn’t salvage it, we couldn’t replace it. My jelly sandals glued themselves to the dark green carpet of the corner house on our street, proffering some cans of juice and ground turkey without sound.
My mom returned from the depths of the kitchen, retrieved the bag herself. Our food made friends and we scooted out the door.
“What was that about,” she said in a hush as we walked the 62 steps back home.
“I didn’t feel good,” I said.
“You felt fine before.”
“No, in the house. I felt sick. It was bad in there.”
It was bad in there.
One of my Chicago apartments had broken heat for an entire winter. I would call the handyman, he would tell me nothing was wrong, and as soon as he left, it would stop running. As soon as he got there it would start. The shower would cut out for no reason too, and the bedroom door would slam shut with all the windows closed. The doorknob popped out one time without any screws missing.
It was an old building, and sometimes you press a weird button on the heat settings, and who counts the screws in a doorknob you never use? But you can’t mistake that feeling. The pressure of a human sitting on the edge of your bed.
The night I woke up, choking, scratching at some green light above my face and shoving it off, I decided I had to move.
From ages four to six, I had recurring nightmares of a group of witches and assorted shadowy figures who would kidnap me. That was really all there was to the dream. They didn’t seem to know what to do with me and most of the dream was me trying to eavesdrop on their council meeting.
Every time, the dream was cut short by this feeling that something was sitting on the end of my bed. A whole, adult-sized person. I would pull the covers over my face and breathe in the shallow ways of the dying until it passed.
There had been one night it was too bright to sleep. When ambulance lights danced on the walls in swooping circles. It got better after that.
My mom and I took steps 60 and 61 onto our front porch, next to my bedroom window.
“Do you feel better now?”
“I just can’t go back in there.”
“Hmm,” my mom said, “You know, Mr. Gage, who owned it when we moved here? He died in that house.”