Another small story from life here at BB--
One of the ongoing conversations here is about ghosts. Pablo the chef and Franco the guide lived together at first. Each morning, Pablo walks in recounting how sleepless the night had been for him. I look to Franco for confirmation and he shrugs his shoulders affirming how it was all true. Franco has experience with the supernatural. He explains even in his first nights here, the electricity would go out at midnight, and as he walked back with the light of the stars he began to feel the heaviness of spirits around him. While Franco may be hypersensitive to these occurrences, it does not seem to bother him. It is just how it is.
I am up to my elbows in flour as Pablo is talking a mile a minute. I press my knuckles further into the risen dough, and listen. He lists the many spooky events of the night before—“tac tac tacs” at the window, “pah pah pahs on the metal door,” and” thup thup thups” up to his bedroom door…a long pause, and then withdrawing steps. His eyes widen as he warns me it all starts right when the lights go out. The poor guy hasn’t slept in days. If anyone, it is the guy in charge of our food that I want to sleep well.
Pablo speaks with Matias, and decides he will move. He now resides in the room next to Sybil and me. I hope the ghosts won’t follow him. Franco and Adrian catch us up on the history of this place. When it served as home to a seaweed-harvesting community, the population was 75% men and nearly all were recently released convicts. Adrian raises his eyebrows—our imaginations figure out the rest. Franco adds, “yeah there were fights and killings all time and it wasn’t like they buried people.” Franco is matter of fact with his accounts. He describes what he hears and tells us he believes it is ghosts. Sybil eggs Franco on--she assumes her natural position…the opposite. Franco remains unphased. “Okay then, come stay a night, you will see who is laughing the next morning.”
I jump at the invitation. This is a new thing for me, but I love the adventure and adrenaline ghost-seeking offers. Thanks Jack, Connor, and Poulin for going with me on our quest for Lydia. “Of course, Franco, we will come tonight!” Sybil gives me the “you are silly…but let’s do it” look and Franco’s grin widens.
For the rest of the day, everyone is talking about how “the girls are staying in Pablo’s room with the ghosts.” Pablo shakes his head—incredulous at how we would choose to sleep in his old haunted room.
After dinner, we sit watching River (Adrian and Franco’s team) play Libertad. With each half hour, people begin to call it a night and head to sleep. Franco begins to discuss the agenda for the evening. He takes this seriously. “Do you want me to walk you to the house? Do you know which house is mine?” Strong, independent Sybil denies all attempts at chivalry. Of course we can find the house. Internally, my heart is already pumping with the adrenaline rush of “what ifs.”
I tuck my trusty, ancient, ¾ size, blue Thermarest under my arm and my sleeping bag under the other. Thankfully, Franco is both stubborn and thoughtful. He has finished his after-dinner smoke and is waiting to accompany us on the 200 meter (meters…I am in Argentina ya know!?) walk to his house. We walk in and check absolutely everything out—every window, door, and light fixture. Sybil wants to be able to pinpoint the origin of every sound. All I am thinking is “oh please, my imagination does not need any more help.”
I unroll my thermarest and situate my bedding. Sybil won’t have it. “You ahr going to zleep on zhat tiny fhing?” Franco stands in the doorway laughing at our antics. I explain how if we hear things I do not want to go outside and back to our room. Sybil interrupts—but the noises come from inside! Franco assures me that if we wake up in the middle of the night he will walk us home. He heads back to watch the game, and promises to announce himself upon reentry.
Sybil launches into every ghost story she knows. A half hour passes, and Franco with his hood up ducks his head in—“soy yo” he declares. He swears off any jokes from now onward. One hand on the bathroom door, he asks if we think we will use the bathroom in the middle of the night. Sybil can’t help herself. With her sarcastic smile she says “yes, I think it is a possibility.” I turn the pages of Wake Forest Magazine (the very best! Homegrown Harmonies was a homerun, no?). All I can think about is the moment when the electricity shuts off—the moment Pablo has explained to me again and again—the moment of the first bang.
From the other room we hear: “If you hear loud snoring, it is not ghosts, it is me.”
Sybil ropes me into another lofty before bed conversation. I reach for the odds and ends of my Spanish vocabulary trying to explain something of the academic structure of Wake and then….all of the sudden...the light sputters and coughs off. I stop midsentence. Even unbelieving Sybil takes in a breath. Conversation is out of the question now. I am caught in between two motives. Do I rush myself to sleep and avoid the terror or do I submit to the tantalizing possibility of a visit from the supernatural? If you have ever tried to rush to sleep, you know how few my options truly were. A loud clang echoes through the house right after the lights went. I write it off as coincidence…could have been a stray dog. I cannot tell if it’s been minutes or more, but Sybil’s breath lengthens and grows heavy. I strain my ears…shoot, Franco snores sound from the room next door. I am the only one awake. The wind storms off the steppe and careens its way around this tiny house. We are enveloped in its wild howling and shrieking. The door to Pablo’s room does not fully shut. There is this tiny crack of possibility that is left open. I imagine a nearly headless man peeking through, still searching this earth for revenge.
I lift my head off my warm sweatshirt and the room is light. Finally. I check my watch…last time it was 4:37am…the time before that it was 3:13am…the time before that… It is now 8:15am. I rouse Sybil and we walk back to grab a few crackers and swig down our coffee. I look over at her to check if our nights match. “Nada.” She says simply.
I walk into the kitchen with an apologetic smile. I didn’t hear anything. Pablo does not care. He slept great for the first time in weeks. Franco walks in and bids me good morning. I look at him hoping to garner a hint to what he is thinking—how he diagnoses the evening. Without missing a beat he answers, “the ghosts were calm last night.”
Home is in North Carolina. But, I take seriously Wendell Berry's imperative, "Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction."