copyright © 2006 by Adam Hahn

Haunted House
by Adam Hahn

Lights to 75%

On the hot concrete of my driveway, I watch the clouds erase the stars. Waiting for you, I consider certain inevitabilities: the eventual death of every star, black hole implosions and supernova fireworks, the collapse of the haunted house.

The haunted house stands today because it is brick, not like houses today wear a shell of brick around pine two-by-fours, but like houses built decades ago actually were brick. Fire resistant brick. Water resistant brick. Brick that doesn't rot or warp after abandonment.

It's not a haunted house in the sense that it's full of ghosts or that we know of anyone who died there. It's the haunted house in the sense that what the hell else are kids going to call an abandoned house in the woods.

The haunted house is out of earshot of everything, and you have to walk ten minutes from the road to get there. Visible from hole four of the golf course, it's just conspicuous enough to guarantee discovery by generation after generation of adolescent boys.

Lights Begin Slow Fade to 50%

My friends and I visited the haunted house. First during the daytime; then we dared each other at night. We came in daylight again to actually enter the haunted house. Daylight meant we didn't have to attract attention to ourselves with flashlights, we could walk more easily on broken floorboards, and we would have a much easier time fleeing the country club greenskeeper through the woods if necessary.

My friends and I understood the inevitability of the haunted house' collapse, but, as adolescent males, our entry to the forbidden made our ascent of the steps that weren't missing to the second floor equally inevitable. The second stairway shook—it was past the point of creaking—as we climbed to the attic. We sat with out feet dangling through holes in the attic floor and second story ceiling. Like generations of adolescent boys before and since, we came to discuss differences of opinion between ourselves and our parents, girls willing and unwilling to speak to us, and pornography. Once we brought a Ouija Board to commune with dead celebrities. Twice, we ducked through the attic windows and left dusty footprints on what was once a very nice copper roof.

Like generations of adolescent boys before and since, it was inevitable that we would lose interest in this place and find less time for each other and more time for the girls willing to speak to us.

I haven't been to the haunted house in two years.

I never know which nights you'll visit me during the summer. When you don't, I call before I go to bed and find some completely lame way of telling you I want to play with your breasts. Such is my teenage attempt at romance.

At random intervals never exceeding four days, your home life becomes intolerable. We spend hours in your car pretending to have a destination. I'm thinking about your car and the inevitable failures it contains—aging battery, weakening belts, hundreds if not thousands of poorly lubricated and rusting metal parts—when you arrive on foot.

I don't ask if it's your father or your brother. I know why you have to come here, and I can tell tonight is worse than usual by the way you breathe, even after the three mile walk.

Lights Begin Slow Fade to 25%, Adam Has a flashlight

You tell me you need to keep moving, and ten minutes later we're in front of the haunted house.

Fat drops of rain hit the trees and our bare arms.

In the dark, in the rain, in the woods, our path inward and upward is not something we decide but something we obey. Guided by my flashlight, you step where I step on the remaining stairs to the second floor and to the attic.

Lights Begin Slow Fade to Black

I touch your hair now wet from the rain whipping through the window holes and what was once a very nice skylight. The storm grows angry.

I consider certain inevitabilities: your father drunk, tears on your cheeks, your brother in the back of a police car, your father angry, your car overheating, me looking into your eyes and telling you I love you as much as any horny fifteen-year-old boy can love anything, your car dead on a cold morning, your father dead on the floor, you with a scholarship or a plane ticket or a bus ticket or a good pair of shoes or whatever it takes to get you out of this town, you in any other town where you can lose touch with everyone here who loves you as much as they can love anything.

I consider the floor where we stand rotting through, giving in, falling down. I consider the eternal brick of the haunted house cracking or shifting on its uneasy foundation or separating from its mortar just enough for the entire structure to surrender, to reduce to a small and unmowably jagged hill in the woods.

I consider my race to know you, to love you, to bed you, to own you before you leave, before I die alone. I consider your naked body, something I still haven't seen after four eternal months, wet from a shower or a thunderstorm, morning fresh or grimy with rust and rotting wood.

The flashlight barely makes your eyes visible before I tell you I love you. The floor sags a little further every time we shift our weight.

Flashlight Goes Out

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