Memoir by Anne-Marie Yerks
The things you don’t know about a house when you buy it: The leaks, the bugs, the dark and cold corners and warped walls. A stove that refuses to hit the right temperature, the driveway that isn’t shaped right, the too-loud clank of the mailbox door, a backyard too shady to grow vegetables. But the good things too: The porch with tall windows, the wood around the windows, the deep sills where the cat sleeps. Watching people stroll the sidewalk ? there are the dog-walkers, the power walkers, bottle deposit seekers, partiers, the carless, the insane. They go by as we look on from the enclosed porch of our ninety-four year old house of mysteries, the most compelling of which happened less than five years ago. A woman died here, and we don’t know why.
I don’t know why, but I know when. And I know who she was. Her name was Renee Galinyan, and she was 37 years old on her last day of life. She was in love with the man we bought the house from, and she liked belly dancing, comedy clubs, Renaissance festivals, and dogs. She was overweight, pretty and sparkly, with straight dark-brown hair and optimism shining from her brown eyes. An Armenian church prayed for her the week before she died, and a group of people from a medical lab donated $81.31 to the church in lieu of flowers for her memorial. Other people donated thousands. She had a tattoo on her shoulder ¾ one I didn’t look at closely because I dislike tattoos ¾ and, interestingly, an active account on MySpace. She had a brother not much older or younger than her, handsome in the way she was pretty, and a mother who liked the man she loved. All of this I learned from an Internet session of many hours. I combed search engines and Facebook profiles and photo albums, typing and retyping keywords into different combinations to learn more. Eventually, I had enough information that I could like Renee instead of fear her, but nowhere did I learn why she died. The final days, what were they like? Did she know it was coming, or was she still hoping for recovery?
With this question, the ghost made itself.
The Electric Discharge Corona won first place in the Fiction Attic Creative Nonfiction Contest and will appear in our forthcoming anthology, Modern American Essays. This is only an excerpt.
Also published on Medium.