The Holy Spirit by Anonymous
The descriptions of the following events are, for the most part, truthful. It is safe to say that considering the circumstances: my age, mental state, etc., some of the details have been altered and perceived differently. Ideally each member of the shared experience would be here to recount their story, but sadly that isn’t the case. It’s funny how a singular event can taint an entire archive of memories—if funny is the right word. Now when I think of high school I think of Him; he always sneaks into each portrait hanging in my brain. My high school yearbooks are spilled in Hawaiian punch.
It was—shockingly enough—like any other normal day. It was the fall of my senior year; I was probably planning my Halloween costume, which if I remember correctly was a robber. This was the last warm day of the year. If it was 2:53, I was sitting on the marble lions that guarded good ol’ blessed St. Anthony’s, a catholic day school designed to bring you closer to God while almost always having the opposite effect. High up on Maple Hill, the gray mass was once a hotel; a giant white cross was attached to the front archway and now it is a school. The hotel was known as a haven for swingers, though the school still denies it. From the outside, the windows seem plentiful. Attractions include The Haunted Bathroom (and the less popular: Haunted Water Fountain) St. Anthony’s was my fluorescent lit home for 4 years and is still bruising knees today.
I was probably fresh out of Theology or Catholic Ethics (Catholethics) they were always the last course of the day. At 2:54 I was sitting, sleeves rolled up, tie unloosened, blazer a distant memory, planning the afternoon, slowly being joined by other kids of families: Addams, Manson, and Osmond. The girls wore their plaid skirts pulled up so high; miles and miles of tan thigh separated the knee socks.
My friends were nice. Andie was the Mom and drove, Hannah brought back chokers for a month and paid for my meals a lot, and Zooey (Arnold) in addition to being on the headmasters list (not the good kind) was currently dating Hannah and was the newest addition to our friend group. At this time, I had a girlfriend—her name was something like Alice or Brittany—but I was hooking up with the hottest guy at school, James, who was also in a highly publicized relationship. His brown hair had a small white patch in the middle, he spoke with a hint of an Irish accent, and smiled crooked. It wasn’t cool, but I didn’t care back then.
We had made our way to the parking lot, slinging backpacks and tucking books, discussing angel gender roles and celebrity hair, when the clouds noticeably rolled in close enough to pop on the giant white cross. Andie’s car was snuggled in between two trucks sporting bumper stickers about starving artists and veganism (they were probably starving too). She drove a once shockingly yellow, now reduced to an experienced flem, 1975 Volkswagen Beetle, which is more spacious on the inside than one would think. One time we fit ten people in that car, not comfortably, but we did it. Interesting fact: Andie and I used to go to the same baby sitter as a child—the one who was eventually arrested. What started as friends by association of tragedy, bloomed into a genuine friendship built around cigarettes and atheism. Packed into the front seat, I put my sneaker-clad feet back on her dashboard into the skid marks I had been working on. A sticker of Elvis swinging a mic was in the left corner of the dashboard. I watched the school disappear in the rearview mirror.
Our afternoons became routine. After 3 o’clock we fell into a haze only distinguishable in the future by the seasons. Today was more or less normal, a cloudy headache, dry mouth, smoke stuck on my fingers and in my hair, the hiss of air freshener and the sting of it in my lungs. Mary Jane and psychedelics were fun too for a bit. When I was with this group, we were more into smoking but if something will remove you further from responsibilities, college, God, and my science teacher, then it was a match made in heaven—or Oz. When I was a freshman, in The Haunted Bathroom I was first introduced to a “St. Anthony’s Sandwich”. It is not actually a grilled cheese with tomato and eggplant. In one bite, I had my afterschool routine changed forever.
I could make a great sandwich, though Andie was probably the best, because she learned first. Whether we were in “The Pussy Wagon” as we referred to Andie’s car (named for her affection for cats—kinda) or a forest, she could roll one up fast, usually on someone’s back or more popularly, a Bible. The smoke would get in my eye, we’d all try to blow rings, and I would get too into my head. The sandwiches were nice but still something was missing. I commonly spent this time questioning myself.
First we went to a true to its name, babbling brook. Under the shading of the pine trees, Andie mentioned something about a serial killer who was known for writing/etching into the bodies of his victims as a way to further leave his mark—as if killing them wasn’t enough. Forcibly, in my mind I pictured James’s dead, naked body, white, lifeless, on the ground; written in his back was something small, dark, and intricate about me. Andie always thought it would be easy to pull off a murder if you really cared enough. I figured she’d tell someone her plan before she could even begin to try and execute it, but maybe that’s just me. We probably planned countless murders that afternoon. I loved how no matter what, they were always down for a hypothetical murder plot. Zooey didn’t last long in our group.
On my lips, was a thin second hand coating of cherry lip-gloss from an impromptu make out session in the band room. Later that night I had plans to go over to James’s house. The artificial cherry reminded me of Renee (it was definitely Renee not Alice), and a conversation we had earlier about a ring she had stolen the night before. Fucking catholic kids, man. She just seemed so excited about this petty theft; it was weird. I lit up another cigarette picturing her beaming face and the maddening salesclerk. We spent the rest of the time brook brooding, occasionally saying something about a kid at school we hated.
An hour or so passed, along with a brief rainstorm, and we were back loaded into Andie’s car. The rain pulled the few remaining leaves to the ground and had created a steam around us, cut with the light from the new sun. Andie suggested we take the long way back to town around the lake. We took the top down on the beetle, a celebration of the sun gods, and laughed when Hannah lost her sunglasses in the commotion of wind. Andie knew her way around, and must have been feeling adventurous because the roads became increasingly more obscure. The pine trees were dotted with hand carved wooden signs for roads like Pine Forest Drive and Black Cove Road. The sun was setting and stained the surface of the water an orange color and created twisty shadows with the trees. This tiger striped scene marked by our tangling wind hair, soaked in muffled synth, and the final glimmer of water bottle ashtrays, is my favorite portrait of high school.
After some time, the route Andie had chosen took us even further into the woods. The lake eventually disappeared, possibly into darkness; the orange glow of my cigarette illuminated a cut on my finger. I got concerned when I heard Andie lose the words “where the fuck are we?” I turned to look out the window and watched as the forest grew shadows and hidden monsters.
The cold stung and I felt Zooey’s knees in the back of my seat. He had long legs—not as long as mine—but he didn’t need to be this excessive. This was a month before Hannah lost her virginity to him, an act committed in my house. I forgave him eventually and I must have eventually gotten even with her. Zooey died our junior year of college and we reunited at his funeral. The scene, us in black, surrounded by countless mourners and rememberers plagued by concealed squeals of excitement and memories; we felt bad. Andie made a U turn on the narrow dirt road and started back the way we came. The false hope of the warm October day turned inevitably to cold. You could feel it in the darkness. It always seemed like something strange would happen. The towering trees rattled their skeleton branches in the wind. The light from Andie’s headlights illuminated the true horror of the woods. The light exposed and in turn, made things look more haunting, more cavernous. Goosebumps appeared, when Andie skidded to a stop.
In the darkness, a man was standing in the middle of the road. I’ll never forget seeing him just being there, clear as day, facing away from us, his spindle fingers at his side. Andie stopped 20 feet or so away from him, framing him in her headlights. He was dressed in faded colors and had long hair that reached his shoulders. Right away, we were all scared. He was just standing there. We all waited with mild horror and anticipation for him to move out of the way. After a few seconds and he hadn’t even flinched, Andie honked her horn.
She honked again.
No response. Andie will later say she saw him flinch.
There were whispers from Hannah and Zooey to us about going around him, and Andie must have tried. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He seemed too real. The top of the car was down. We were out there with him. Andie turned the steering wheel slowly to the left to try and get around him.
The stranger slinked over to the left.
Someone exhaled a “fuck”. Andie clenched the red steering wheel cover. She punched the horn and held it for 5 loud seconds, echoing in the bones of the woods. He was unaffected. He just stood there glowing in the brilliant light from the high beams. The whimpering radio turned to static. My eyes hadn’t left his shadowy frame this whole time. I remember at Zooey’s funeral, feeling uncomfortable. Uncomfortable with myself for thinking the entire time we were sitting, watching crying, that I couldn’t wait to have a cigarette with the old gang. I felt uncomfortable because I felt Him every time I looked at Andie and Hannah, their eyes gorgeous as always but somehow sunk. Too many events had blended. The casket was a shiny black with red roses around it.
Finally, I watched him move. The most vivid, horrific portrait: he steps with his left foot away from us. His right foot lifts off the ground and he has already left us in the emptiness of the night, away into the atmosphere. He was gone.
The car was silent. I could feel the hair on my neck spring to life. He fucking disappeared. After hours of seconds, Andie let out a breath of confusion and disbelief. She—bravely—fumbled for her seatbelt, got out of the car, and looked around. There was no sign of him anywhere, only the skeleton trees and their long fingers filled with the silence of the New England woods. It was like he had never been here. She would later say that she felt watched—whether that is true is a mystery. She silently retreated, kicked the car into action and ran away. We looked for him expectantly in the woods. It was too dark even if he had been there. When we were a safe distance away from the scene of the crime, I got out of the car to help put the top back on. It was so quiet. I felt him on my back every second I was out there. Deep, deep back in the woods amidst an owl’s hoot, a branch snapped. I slammed the door once back inside the safety of the yellow nest. In my head swirled ideas and conclusions I still can name currently. My head filled with sinister shouts and happenings from campfire stories. Andie drove the rest of the way in silence.
When I was finally safe in bed, James called me out to his house. Initially reluctant as usual, I agreed—as usual. I hooded myself, grabbed my keys and walked there. My window was near a very climbable tree. As long as I was home before my parents were up, they never knew a thing. I had to leave the window open, which in the winter was problematic, but it was fine because it aired out my room, so silver lining. The street was littered with leaves and the trees publicly grieved their loss. Privett Lane was long and stretched for a bit, before making a right onto what would turn into James’s street, Sheeran Heights, where the streetlights ended. My hands were deep in my pockets as I slapped my sneakers on the pavement creating more noise than I wanted. That’s when I saw Him, standing against a tree. He was wearing the night but it was Him, no question. My blood turned cold and I became aware of my heart. I saw Him in sidewalk cracks and in inflatable ghosts. I heard only wind and the rustling of leaves, enough space to get filled up by my thoughts and his melancholy laugh. I saw Him in me. But I kept walking, thinking of James’s lips. I watched James Dean turn into Jeffrey Dahmer. It wasn’t until I felt the Etch-a-Sketch man on my neck that I ran home half a block from James’s house. The nights were never the same. It wasn’t until Zooey’s funeral, when I looked in the casket, that I saw Him for real. Zooey’s long hair was buzzed and his beard was shaved. He looked like an old Christmas decoration lost in my attic. The faceless man in the road became Zooey. It still doesn’t make sense to me either.
The next day at school we acted like things were normal. I mean, things weren’t really any different. I always thought when I saw something like that I would freak out and discuss it with everyone. It’s too real to discuss with someone; they wont believe you, so we didn’t talk about it. But I thought about it everyday: the way his face remains a mystery to me, the act of turning to mist, my place in it all. Every now and then it would be alluded to and one of us would raise our eyebrows in solidarity, or muster a breathy laugh, but you could always see Him in their eyes. I guess it hit me the hardest but it was years before I would legitimately discuss the events that night with someone openly. The Haunted Water Fountain was funny and during Halloween was unusable due to popular demand, but no one took it seriously. Why would they? So it remained a mystery, pondered over each day and shivered at night, only useful around Halloween. At Zooey’s funeral, upon my questioning, Hannah mentioned she still thought He was a result of a bad sandwich. When I pushed her on the ridiculousness of that statement, she asked me about college. Even now, I choose to believe my truth about Him.