The closet in the back bedroom of my parent’s old condominium held many bygone treasures that were waylaid from their past. Someplace that I had refrained to mightily disturb when I became sole master of the last material evidence of their earthly presence. Over the years incrementally examining and sort out and adding to the cache items of past significant but essentially keeping the space off limits from too much tampering. One item that was past by was a Terrycloth robe of former vintage that I if my memory served me correctly I myself had purchased for that other many who had everything. And now in his wake, having it deposed back down to me, it contained the remnants of his passing in the form of small traces of bloodstains on the cuff of one sleeve come at the end of those final afflictions that had accompanied his end. Something that had made me hesitant to adopt it into my own wardrobe. Yet something that as a defining mark that had been placed upon this artifact I had been hesitant to wash away. But like all things over time something that like all the other items within the inventory of that closet were becoming burdensome to store without some hope of functional utility. The list of garments hanging horizontally now finally culled after nine years from left to right, a decision on my part pressing to be made as to whether to launder or simply depose. A mental causation tumbling about in the back of my mind should I wear it or not.
It was obvious that it had never been laundered before as like so many gifts received it had been ignored by the recipient right up until the end. And then perhaps only employed for barely a single season. Still there was a mental taboo, the shadow of which fell across how much it would be changed by a thorough washing. I opted for the most extreme. There is something about close proximity to the dead, even your own that projects a grim gravity that one dare not tamper with. And here i was despoiling the temple. The gauntlet of wash and spin cycle having given way to the dryer on hot, the garment was rescued from containment noticeably changed but not destroyed. It’s combination of burgundy and beige still reasonably colorfast. Those sacred stains of the previous owner erased from view and the robe fully exorcised from the taint of any previous ownership. There was a certain perverse pleasure in contemplating the wearing of a type of clothing that was totally foreign to my accustomed mode of experience. The notion of being socially acceptable with covered only by this single item brought to mind so many romantic moments or sexually challenging scenes in cinematic dramas. One of which viewed this night had focused upon the exact same sort of scenario. My only audience for this form of mental play being my own sense of stoic continuity which passed judgment on such frivolous moments of meaningless play. Still I removed my accustomed habit and replaced it with this newly reconditioned acquisition for the balance of the evening. The evening passed into the approach of midnight retiring under the covers still encumbered within its warmth.
But then I awoke feeling very strange. Now in the back bedroom of the back bedroom of the house that my parents had once owned some fifty years previous, the room once my own but now completely empty. My body encased in an electric feeling galvanized in the near paralysis of fearful urgency. A condition suggesting some stern forewarning that a boundary had been irrevocably violated. My consciousness now locked within the cocoon of a vivid series of intense but bearable dreams perking my terror yet encouraging my curiosity. That abject horror that I should have felt being secondary to an inner desire to follow through to the reveal of the next appalling tableau being short circuited almost as if by the perversity of my own will. Only my own better judgment marshaling those inherent instincts for animal survival still present to compel me to abandon the center of the bedroom and seek shelter upon the long shelf of an oaken cabinet. The act of concealment followed up almost immediately by a dark procession of malevolent shadowy forms. A corpse walked back. First one, then another, and another! Their appearance accompanied by an odor of decay so pervasive that it seemed to strip the oxygen from the air. Rather than bid them go away, I restrained the impulse wanting to see how far this would go? My view through the open cabinet doors revealing a collection of highly decomposed corpses slowly plodding into the room, packing it solid, then dropping down instantly to the floor into a quickly composting pile of rotting human flesh. Some having dragged companions to far gone now housed in garbage bags and rudely dropped. The entire floor now filled with heaps of detestable offal. My own dilemma now being how I might find a way to escape before suffocating from the noxiousness without plunging barefooted into the festering remnants of former humanity. The sensation of that moment being one of hopelessness of some villain having been cast into the pit as fair recompense for challenging the order of the universe by not showing a rightful degree of fear as demanded from all those as mere mortals.
Here I was trapped in a small coffin size space cut off and wondering how was I going to content with this displaced cemetery now disgorged before me? At a certain point before morning, one by one, they all got up and walked away down the hall and back outside from whence they came. How very strange a sight to see all these former people, some maybe directly from my own past, that had all been long gone reappear for that one evening. A sort of day of the dead except for the fact that it had been presented in such abbreviated but directly shocking fashion. A bit later, laying in my bed still wearing the robe, mind drifting, entering the proscenium of a different set of dream. This time ones not so macabre but unique in their way. One’s recounting episodes of former home and family and how strange things are to change your perspective.
It was that day of the minty when the coffins were brought out at the diocese nursing home in the chapel. And I had gone to see another old family friend to offer a last goodbye. But when I walked in there I was shocked to find that they had for economy’s sake dumped a couple more bodies into the same caskets. In one case, a Negro was toppled over what appeared to be the body of my friend. It’s great mass counter posed so that his shoes rested across the face of the man I once knew. I went towards another box resting upon two sawhorses to find what appeared to be an old woman buried below another Negro, her head then her hand stirring as if revived attempting to pull out from under that weight. And I wondered if someone had mistakenly been put in there before their time. The old woman in the babushka trying to silently leverage herself out. The whole scene was terrible! And the visage of my dead mother, who happened to be there, talked to another phantom saying, “How could they put ‘those people’ on top of regular people like that?” A quip that might have sounded racist but was more likely an expression of outrage and anger that such a thing could have happened at all. And then in another room a discussion was being carried on where someone was talking about how they had been a teacher while showing a journal inscribed with his own handwritten notes detailing certain exceptional experiences encountered during that time. One by one pointing out some of the students that he recalled. One in particular of an eighty-three year old woman that was taking a degree in writing. The room holding an old crowd to be certain. All clinging on to life as if life was a commodity that was never ending. In another corner several people were gather around dark skinned female that was wearing a pair of shackles on her wrists as if testing out their strange ability to determine guilt. Someone joking to reminding her to, “You don’t need to take those manacles off so as to stay here overnight!” She being their house cook and needing to be promptly at work the next morning so that all might enjoy their breakfast. The unrelenting specter of so much ugly guilt in its many forms casting a shadow upon that which one would have wished to have hope might be recalled as an unencumbered but now long dead past.