Memoir is hard. Reliving the past, reasoning with it, acknowledging truths, and attempting to put events into words is challenging, upsetting even.
Speculative memoir is not a subversion of the truth, but an aid in voicing our deepest pain.
Speculative memoir uses supernatural elements, ghosts, fairies; it uses metaphors, imaginative scenarios – whatever it takes to further the truth.
When I wrote Ghost in her Room (printed below) it felt right, good. It said what I needed it to say. But was it memoir? Uncertain how to label it, I sent it out with explanations. Explanations which were not needed as it was accepted immediately.
THE GHOST IN HER ROOM – Noreen Lace
I stand in the hall at midnight. The oak floor is cold, even through my socked feet. The night light from the bathroom filters the darkness as I glance toward the pale pink haze at the other end of the corridor. I hear the small creaks on the floor, feel something just on the other side of that door. It’s menacing, waiting, daring me to enter. Tonight, though, I decline. I’m not strong enough. I’m tired, and I’m chilled.
It’s been raining for days. The house shivers in anger, the wood popping and cracking in the shadows behind me. It’s shrinking. We all are. I turn and go to bed, shutter the passage to whatever lies outside my room.
I lie there drifting between alpha and theta; rainbows swirl inside my closed eyes before a child calls my name right next to my bed, next to my ear, and then giggles. I spring awake but remain still. There is no child, so I don’t search. If there’s anything in here, it’s a ghost and looking won’t help me see.
Years ago, I heard footsteps on the cheap linoleum of the kitchen. I wrote it off to an old house groaning with age in a succession of weakening boards under the plinth. That stopped when I had the floors redone; ceramic doesn’t cede. That was long before I was alone here in the house.
In the bright light of day, I sense nothing behind that door. It’s quiet, empty, needs to be cleaned. I have my coffee, toast, and go on.
Sometimes I find myself home in the middle of the day. I’ve forgotten something or took a wrong turn and ended up in my own driveway; I go in. There’s a light on in the kitchen. A picture’s fallen from the wall. A forgotten towel slung aside the wooden chair. “Is someone here?” There’s no answer, not even my echo calling back to me.
In the shadowed hall, I stare at the pale pink gate. Pause. I will it to chirr or clack, shimmy slightly in the weight of my presence. The light from the window seeps around the threshold and stretches past strands of dust toward my shoes, but the door doesn’t give.
I don’t know if there is magic in this world. I don’t know if people can see things or if they know things. I used to think I would know if she was in trouble.
Some days I ignore the door completely, disregard the space, discount the whirrs or whines.
I’m sitting at the dining table. Haven’t passed or gone in for some time. My house has one less room. But then, suddenly, the hall creaks, a shadow moves; someone, something is standing there watching me, waiting for me, challenging me to look up.
I turn and it’s gone.
Later, I glance at the door, not quite closed, an inch or so ajar. Inside I click the switch. The light is hazy; a bulb burns out.
I stand, fists to my hips, in the center of the room. “Move one thing,” I tell myself. “Just pick up one thing and fold it or move it or throw it away.” But I back out. There’s no menacing figure now, just overwhelming emptiness.
I consider nailing it shut. Losing it. There’s nothing I need, not the four corners of square footage, not the admonition of what is not there, and not that ghost reminding me of all I don’t have.
Before bed, I stand in the hall; that dark presence has grown and I feel it breathing just beyond her door. A not so gentle sweep of chilled air in, warm air out, hanging on to the sound of my footsteps, egging me on. I back down. Turn to my own sallow room.
When I fall into a deep sleep, my father puts his hands on my shoulders. I haven’t seen him in ten years, but he looks good. “You’ve got to let it go,” he implores. It’s the nicest thing he’s ever said to me. But not today.
The ghost in her room was once small and indelible. It grows greater every day. It fills the gloom, spills into the corners, and bends back upon itself, towering over the entryway. If I challenge it, maybe it’ll shrink, fade into nothingness. But, at night, as I hear it mooring toward my room, the creak in the floor, a rap on the wall, the quiet whisper at my door, maybe that’s enough to get me through another day.