I often used to dream of my grandmother's house.
It was an odd house--a double house--the kind with two front doors leading into two separate living rooms with two sets of stairs climbing upwards and upwards until finally ending at two imposing attic doors. A small portal in that old, confused attic served as the only connection between the two halves. A curious place for the sole passageway, don't you think?
But that wasn't the strange part. No one had lived on the other side of my grandmother's house for over 30 years.
My grandmother owned the whole house, so that wasn't the problem. My great aunt and uncle had lived there last, and when they had moved, it was good riddance, I suppose. That's when time froze in the emptiness, then decayed. The furnace sat waiting for coal (chutes still opened down into stone-lined holding rooms in the basement), the paint started peeling, and the plaster started to fall.
By the time I came along, the transformation was complete: moldering furniture, faded wallpaper, and dusty cardboard laid to protect ruined floors. It was used for storage, but most of what was stored there had also withered into junk. My grandmother simply called it "the other side," and I looked for any excuse to go over there. The old-fashioned skeleton keys opened countless mysteries and secrets. Since little had changed since the 1930's, the rooms and halls were small pockets of living past. But fear also lived there, especially in the dank basements within basements. The meager light from the back window barely cut into that blackness. Furthest in, the floor reeked of moldy dirt, like an entrance into one of the countless mines that dotted the surrounding mountains.
While trying to fall asleep in my grandmother's half of the house, I used to stare at the common wall as long as I dared. So many ghosts lay a handful of feet away. And the high door to the attic loomed behind me. One of those ghosts need only sweep up into their side of the attic, pass through the portal, and glide silently down the rickety stairs to the room where my sleeping bag lay. No wonder I dreamed about that house for so many years. Eyes squeezed closed and a cover thrown over my head could never shut it all out of my brain.
Sometimes in my sleep so many years later, I sit in that chair you see above, that chair by the front window overlooking the peonies. Or sometimes a nameless person sits in that chair, and I watch her.
The dreams will still come, especially now that I've remembered. The dreams will still come, even though the chair, and the other side, have long since gone.