I am a shopper by nature, but not by profession, and I try to curb this tendency, because it does get expensive over time. Although I have fine, fine taste in everything, there are things I have acquired that I didn’t want, almost as soon as I had purchased them, and I’ve had to unload them quickly, not selling them, as I have little patience for that, but just giving them or throwing them away. There are items that were exciting and exhilarating to have in the bright light of day, that at night grew ominous and unspeakable and unwanted. I feel brave, I feel ‘indie’, I feel ‘punk rock’, but I am afraid of the dark. I really cannot even stand one minute of a ghost story told by someone with a flashlight illuminating their chin. Don’t come up behind me. Don’t try to make me go into the wax museum, especially not the chamber of horrors. I am not going on that haunted hayride. I am not brave enough for any of that. I spend a lot of my time waiting outside, covering my eyes and ears, a scaredy cat. Yellow line on my back. Scared scared scared.
I will tell you about one object I bought on ebay that subsequently made me cancel my account because it was so fucking scary I thought it had somehow cursed my username. It was a dredging hook supposedly from the turn of the century that had been used to pull decomposing human bodies from the depths of their mysterious watery graves, and maybe it was real, and maybe it wasn’t, but the thing was old, and had a strange power to it, like it was alive. Like it had something sinister vibrating within whatever makes up metal, whatever makes metal cold and hard and eternal. It was rusted and ancient and cost nearly nothing and the seller claimed it was haunted and just wanted it out of his life and practically paid you to take it off his hands. I chose the “buy it now” option because I didn’t/couldn’t/wanted to believe it, and it wouldn’t have mattered anyhow as no one else bid on it.
The package came almost instantly, as if it had been teleported, and it felt heavier than expected, and the hook part of it, the part that would ostensibly go into the dead body was dangerously sharp despite the obvious patina of age. It smelled of mildew and chaos and there was a strange motivation for my husband and I to fight irrationally when we were in the presence of the hook. The hook lived above our fireplace for a time, and when I was in the same room as the hook I was nervous. It was a guest that was invited, in fact one I had paid to come live with us, but the hook wasn’t friendly. The hook wasn’t trusted with the keys. I watched the hook and the hook watched me and I wouldn’t have been surprised if the hook dragged itself off the mantel and then across the floor and then into my bedroom and then into bed with me. I imagined the cold kiss of the hook on my leg when I lay in bed at night and didn’t sleep for most of the hook’s residency. When I would walk into the room where the hook was staying, the air tasted metallic, an iron/copper component, like death, like blood, like evil and also what I think a tilted steel embalming table at a funeral home would taste like. It was chillingly cold to the touch (although I tried to avoid touching it) always, as if we kept the hook in the refrigerator, but we didn’t. The house and everything in it is usually warm. There was no reason for that hook to be cold, other than the fact that there was something else going on, something we didn’t understand, and something we didn’t want to know about.
Soon after we had been living with the strange hook awhile, a friend was starting a business, dealing with macabre and offbeat antiques and ephemera and as soon as I heard of this, the hook was hastily shoved into a thick Whole Foods paper bag with handles and sent as a fortuitous offering, a symbol of good fortune, a wish for good luck in business, and I was glad. The hook was out of my house, out of my life. The new owner loved the hook and welcomed the hook and all was good. Everyone was happy, including the hook, I suppose. But then almost instantly the new store went out of business. That hook wanted revenge I guess. I haven’t thought about the hook again until just now, this cold morning, when I came into my living room, which the hook once called its own room and I thought, just for a second, I could taste it.