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an icy embrace

A couple of weeks ago at the jail, there was a new-to-me CO, B--, at the programs desk. I was heading into the room I've been using for my tutoring when he said, "You know there's a ghost up here, right?"

Usually when people tell me things like this--in any circumstance, not just at the jail--I just go along with it amiably until I can get my bearings and figure out how I'm expected to react, but this time, I couldn't help it: I said, "This jail is only ten years old, and you're telling me there's a ghost?" (I could also have said, "I've been volunteering here for more than five years, and I'm only just now hearing about a ghost?")

"They think it's maybe a child, looking for love," he said.

Even at the time, and more so now as I'm writing this down, it struck me that if you didn't think of a ghost as the spirit of someone dead but rather as a coalescing of intense feelings connected with longed-for people, that sure: there could very well be something like that hanging about. Wakanomori suggested that it could be like Lady Rokujo, whose spirit leaves her body while she sleeps and haunts Genji's lovers, only in this case, children deprived of their parents, haunting the locus of their deprivation.

Anyway, I think I said something noncommittal like "Thanks for the heads up" or "I'll keep my eyes open."

Then this past Friday B-- was there again, along with M--, one of the first COs I ever talked to, a woman I like a lot. I mentioned to her that B-- had told me about the ghost, and he said, "Oh, M-- knows all about the ghost; she's had an encounter with it."

M-- nodded emphatically.

"What was it like?" I asked.

"Well, I had just had a drink of water from my bottle," she said, nodding toward her largish clear plastic water bottle, which was on the desk, "and I felt something really cold right at my waist. I thought maybe I'd spilled some of the water on myself, but when I touched the area, it was dry. Then it started tingling. I jumped away from the desk--I just had to walk away from there. It was like a little icy arm around my waist."

"It probably knew you were a mother," said B--. "It was probably looking for comfort."

I thought about how my imagination runs in different directions: If that had happened to me, I would have been as freaked out, but it would have been because I imagined I'd gotten sudden-onset neuropathy, or worse.

Or maybe not. I'm only there for one afternoon a week. The COs are there for 40 hours a week, and the inmates are there 24-7. Ten years is young for a building, but it's a long time to collect misery. Even I've seen a thing or two, in the slivers of time I'm there. Maybe if I was in M--'s shoes, I would have intuited it the way she did.

This entry was originally posted at http://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/847495.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

Comments

( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
chanphenglew
Apr. 18th, 2017 07:16 am (UTC)
Interesting story. In Lao, ghosts emerge if construction or some other occurrence has disturbed a cemetery nearby. Or maybe it was the anniversary of the child's death - in Lao, people organize ceremonies and offerings to feed the spirits of those who died, as well as cleaning the graves at new year. If this isn't done, the ghost (which is the animal essence of the body which has not gone on to rebirth) may start to wander. In the world view of animism and Buddhism, this appearance of this ghost would make sense.
asakiyume
Apr. 18th, 2017 10:36 am (UTC)
That's a good point: I had overlooked that possible interpretation, which not only is possible, but is one we talk about in American culture too.
pigshitpoet
Apr. 18th, 2017 07:39 am (UTC)
i think this statement is profound..

Even at the time, and more so now as I'm writing this down, it struck me that if you didn't think of a ghost as the spirit of someone dead but rather as a coalescing of intense feelings connected with longed-for people, that sure: there could very well be something like that hanging about.

i'm reading annie died-le-veut reclaiming sovereignty which speaks of our ancestral spirits able to be accessed through the land. it is our connection with nature in that context, not so much the human entity that pervades. i think we sometimes get so human centric when there is a whole universe also to account for..

anyway, interesting writing
asakiyume
Apr. 18th, 2017 10:38 am (UTC)
i think we sometimes get so human centric when there is a whole universe also to account for..


This is so very true: in our stories and imagination, everything has to do do with us, when in fact, things can go on that have nothing at all to do with us.
pigshitpoet
Apr. 18th, 2017 04:22 pm (UTC)
yes
as without, so within..

?
mallorys_camera
Apr. 18th, 2017 10:36 am (UTC)
Interesting.

The ghosts I've seen look just like real people. Only nobody could see them but me. :-)

(Maybe they were just hallucinations? I don't rightly know.)

They were singularly bereft of the woo-woo-woo factor you read about in literary accounts or in folk tales. The fictional representation that gets them closet (again! Maybe just me) is Alison DuBois's ghosts on the TV show Medium.
asakiyume
Apr. 18th, 2017 10:43 am (UTC)
The one time I might have seen a ghost was very human seeming too: the odd thing was the person/ghost's stillness (described, briefly here).

Did you interact with the ghosts you saw?
mallorys_camera
Apr. 18th, 2017 11:39 am (UTC)
Didn't interact with them, no.

Yes, there was a palpable sense of stillness as if all the birds in the universe had ceased to chirp and all machinery had come unplugged. :-) Although all of the ghosts were moving.

My most dramatic sighting was what I think now must have been an old blind priest or monk in the Ely Cathedral. At the time I saw him, I had absolutely no interest in anything medieval, so I didn't pay as close attention as I should have.

I remarked to my companion, "Huh! Look at that weird old guy!"

And my companion said, "I don't see any old weird guy."

But I could see him very distinctly. Go figure. He tapped his way to the altar along the 14th century paving stones (clearly marked, "Do not touch"!) and disappeared when he got to the altar.

I was very aware of how all the sounds inside the Cathedral seemed to stop. (Cathedrals, you know, are echoey places that amplify small noises.)

But it didn't dawn on me until a few years later that I might have seen a ghost. He was just so unlike what I'd been taught that ghosts were like.
asakiyume
Apr. 18th, 2017 12:47 pm (UTC)
What an amazing experience! Maybe he was from the same period as those paving stones.
sartorias
Apr. 18th, 2017 02:15 pm (UTC)
As you say, considering all the intense emotions concentrated there, it is possible that something is caught, or lingering.
asakiyume
Apr. 18th, 2017 02:16 pm (UTC)
If so, I hope the need can be answered and the binding released ....
lizziebelle
Apr. 18th, 2017 09:34 pm (UTC)
That's an interesting theory. My personal belief is that ghosts aren't actually people, as in souls caught on this plane, but that they're memories, psychic impressions. Which is why not everyone can see/feel them. If a memory is intense enough, I can imagine it would manifest that way.
asakiyume
Apr. 18th, 2017 09:44 pm (UTC)
I've heard that idea, and it has merit. I don't have a theory, myself, but the various different ones I've been exposed to have various strengths when it comes to explaining what people experience, for sure.
heliopausa
Apr. 19th, 2017 11:41 pm (UTC)
This is all pretty fascinating. Things are so much wider and less settled that materialist/rationalist thinking imagines.
asakiyume
Apr. 20th, 2017 11:15 am (UTC)
I agree with you about the less-settled part. That materialist/rationalist lens is very adequate for most purposes, but it overlooks things, fails to recognize things, and distorts things, too, and it's only one way of looking at the world.
amaebi
Apr. 21st, 2017 12:00 am (UTC)
Ah, Horatio!
asakiyume
Apr. 21st, 2017 12:21 am (UTC)
He has a very limiting philosophy ;-)
slobbit
Apr. 20th, 2017 01:41 am (UTC)
Ah, but don't you remember what was there before the jail? What they had to relocate to build it?

The animal control shelter.
asakiyume
Apr. 20th, 2017 11:16 am (UTC)
I didn't. Thank you for adding this to the story--I'll put it in the entry. It definitely adds a compelling component to the who-might-be-lingering aspect.
browngirl
Apr. 20th, 2017 04:29 am (UTC)
This is a quiver some ghost story indeed.
asakiyume
Apr. 20th, 2017 11:17 am (UTC)
I totally agree.
amaebi
Apr. 20th, 2017 01:10 pm (UTC)
I've read a lot of literary and traditional and true-account ghost stories, and emotional pressure, along with habit, seem to be the precipitating factors in hauntings.

I don't see why collective longing, or fear, or anger couldn't make a ghost. It may just be superstition on my part, but I think those things have made gods.
asakiyume
Apr. 20th, 2017 01:46 pm (UTC)
It may just be superstition on my part, but I think those things have made gods.

I agree.
dudeshoes
Apr. 23rd, 2017 11:46 am (UTC)
I find it somehow reassuring that the COs have enough empathy for the prisoners and their families that they can feel the sorrow of children as a tangible thing. I wonder if they might be allowed to hug the children that come in.
asakiyume
Apr. 23rd, 2017 11:53 am (UTC)
We know from reporting on places like Rikers that there are some truly abusive COs out there, and even here, there are some who have much less sympathy and who seem more brittle, for lack of a better word, than others, but many of the COs seem empathetic--many come from similar backgrounds. I think it's the structure that makes for horribleness People--most people--don't want to be horrible to one another.
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

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