The house where I spent my childhood is empty now. Nobody has lived there for maybe a decade.
About two years ago, there were catastrophic floods in my state and my best mate drove up to make sure I was okay. While she was up here, we drove out to have a ‘spy’ on my old home.
Part of growing up seems to be making up stories about the spooky, overgrown ‘haunted’ house in your neighborhood. These stories made camping trips and sleepovers so much fun, formed the basis for your imagined suburban history, and kept you wide eyed and ready to flee every time you had to walk past it.
The house where I grew up is now ‘that’ house. That creepy, overgrown, abandoned home.
It’s so thicketed with weeds that you have to fight to step anywhere once you get inside the gate – which is even more rotted than it used to be. The weeds are taller than a man, all tangled together with vines and legitimate plants and hiding obstacles underfoot that threaten to lame.
The house itself, when you get there, is cold and dark and quiet. It holds so many secrets, but speaks of none. Through the windows I see that someone has tacked gyprock roughly over the worst of the exposed walls and ceilings, covering the wires, pipes, nests and plants growing inside. It’s cleaner than I’ve ever seen it in the nearly 17 years I lived there. The floors are dry concrete rather than a muddy mess. There isn’t a muddy swamp outside either. There’s no reason for my mother to let the water run endlessly any more. Dad isn’t alive to pay the excess water fines and bills.
When you drop a vase, tiny shards will scatter away, never to be found again, no matter how closely you hunt for them. That’s me. Every time something shattered me, part of me was lost, to stay there forever and ever, haunting the scene of the trauma, just as much as the traumas haunt me to this day.
I still see the wooden floorboards upstairs in my mind. The room my brother and I shared. The holes he kicked and punched in the walls. The sliding door that was behind my bed head is curtained over with the same striped curtains that used to house funnelweb spiders in it’s folds.
Outside, the old trampoline rusts and rots. The wooden slippery slide my dad made me when I was very very little, when he was still around here, is now a pile of sticks. I suddenly don’t want to explore further. I wonder how the neighbors put up with this overgrown jungle of weeds and vermin bordered by their neatly mowed yards.
My friend has become alarmed – there’s a loud buzzing, and we realise that the side of the roof houses the hugest makeshift bee’s hive I’ve ever seen. They are swarming everywhere! And then I notice it, because they are up against where the electricity wire should go – it looks strange.
I crash through the undergrowth until I come to where the property pole should have been – it’s no longer there. I didn’t even notice. Our house was so far from the road, we had to have our own pole halfway for the electricity wire. I’m so puzzled, and I’m searching around me for it everywhere. Then I realise – it’s at my feet. It’s fallen over long long ago – rotted, most likely. Kicking it gently flakes off big pieces of rotting timber.
Where is the electric wire, then? I find it – all around us. It’s come down with the pole and is tangled up completely with the weeds and the trees and the junk. We have been walking literally centimetres from the downed wires.
Thinking of that home always makes me shudder. Makes me feel sick. My mother still owns it. She hoards things – people, houses, junk. It sits there, carrying those secrets, keeping them forever. The weeds around it make it seem like the earth itself is trying to grow over it and perhaps one day, obliterate it, but in the meantime, I still feel like part of me haunts that place.
If I could only bulldoze it, I would.