The House of Blue Light
Dreamed 1994/4/3 by Chris Wayan
Grandma's tests came back. She's dying. Lung cancer. No pain, just fatigue. They give her weeks not months. I'm nearly in tears even though I knew it was likely. The letter I sent her, "If these tests identify the problem maybe you'll be better off than the last few months..." seems ironic now.
Farmer's Market with Roxana. Windy and cold, but at first, it's fun. I keep seeing this sexy Russian girl who looks like a teen though she's towing a child and a weird-looking boyfriend--where in the world is HE from, where do they grow people like that? Run into Tamora. Then Ellen and Joe, who want to go on a beach walk later.
Suddenly a wave of fatigue paralyzes me. Look for Roxana, but I can barely even walk. Make it to the car, sit in the back till she shows up. Go to her house for tea. But despite rest and ginseng, half an hour passes, then an hour, and I'm still drained and strange, reluctant even to drive home. Roxana asks "Are you upset about something?" "No! I don't know what it is. Just feel... bizarre. I better just go home. Don't feel up to a beach walk."
Stay achy and breathless... when I climb into my car, find I'm reluctant to drive, even home. Pull over on a little street near 24th and Church. A beautiful girl is selling antiques in her driveway. Want to talk to her, but walk away like a pulled puppet. Screaming inside "I don't want books, I don't want tapes, I don't want antiques. I want a girlfriend!" Not allowed. Walk, resigned, bitter, still heavy as lead, to Phoenix Books. Big sale. Tamora told me. She's there. I look at tapes and books. And girls. I buy a few tapes at last. Manage to drive home on back streets, slowly.
At home, the phone rings. My parents. Grandma died! They were there. She read my letter, visited with them, unable to speak so short of breath, her condition drastically worse. They left, paused in the hall, and she had a heart attack. I start crying. My mother does too.
She wants me to come to their house and cry with her. The last thing I want to do in this state is travel more! Say no, and pace around aimlessly a long time, crying on and off.
Eat at last--famished. Just fruit. Even that gives me severe gas pains. Lie down and just hurt.
Steve from NY comes by. Talks for a little while. Supremely sensible as always--given his normal body. But for me his advice is useless. Not even healthy enough to grieve; it makes me worse. I just get in bed and turn out the light.
As I fall asleep, think "That's Gramma. Always decisive." Once you know you're dying, why waste time?
Hide in my room all day and all night. Don't answer the phone.
My mother left a message that both my sisters are coming up to her house Tuesday, maybe I can come then. I uneasily feel myself being argued into it...
I'm walking through a Peninsula housing tract. Little neat postwar houses built on mudflats. Close-clipped lawns. One's for sale. Would I want to live here?
A corner lot near the train tracks has one flaw in the neatness: a single weed stalk laid under a bush. Someone walks by and says "Oh, you saw what the madman left, huh?"
"Yeah, this street person laid that stem there with a note tied to it. Said it was a message for a guy named Chris who didn't know he needed the information."
A guy named Chris. I feel a chill. I kneel and look under the bush. Yes--a tiny note attached. "You don't remember it, but this house matters to you."
This house? I never lived here...
Lived here? His note didn't say I'd lived here. Where'd that idea come from?
The house should be blue. There should be a blue light all through it. And the mess, the old junked cars and the laundry...
I lived here.
I grew up here.
It was the House Of Blue Light. The Peninsula center for the underground slave trade in children. Little girls mostly. Disguised as a foster home, but everyone knew. The city and county tried a hundred times but never could shut my folks down. At least they said they were my folks. I didn't question it. I didn't want to be trouble. I didn't want to get downgraded to merchandise.
The county didn't really want to take the place over, because what would they do with all those problem children? It'd bust their budget. They had a caseworker "monitor the situation", that was as much as they'd do for us. Andy, his name was. I remember him now. Our protector. He was willing to take on the cases no one else would. He never said why, but we knew. Andy was an alcoholic. The house slavemistress, who trained us to be good little girls and let the grownups do what they liked, the mistress always met him on the porch with a pitcher full of rum cooler or a mint julep. And they sat and drank and he asked "Any problems with the adoptions? You getting placements for everyone?" and she said "No problem, Andy."
And at last, when it all blew up, and the county was forced to clear the house and we were tossed into aseptic institutions, and therapy of course, years too late... They tried to clean me up and make me marketable. And I grew up and put it behind me like they told me to.
And now the county has cleaned the house, too, and has it up for sale to make back some of their losses.
And no doubt someone will buy it.
A nice little house on the corner.
Tell my housemate Lily the dream. By asking for details, she discovers things I hadn't noticed: the street was near California Avenue in Palo Alto. The corner was an elbow, not an intersection--rare, and could help me locate the house. When I was two we did live in a house on a bend in East Palo Alto... Maybe the house next door was a whorehouse or abusive foster home or baby mill... and I was a psychic kid! Who knows what I picked up?
Most important of all, my foster-mother, the Mistress of the House, looked like my grandmother.
Was I witnessing why my mother always feared her mom a bit? Emotional bullying!
Two weeks later, in hypnotherapy, a dragon suddenly speaks up through my throat. A deep husky voice, not my own. So weird. This scaly guardian angel (with a sense of humor: she nicknames herself "Puff") has a message about the House of Blue Light. "That was largely about your mother's emotional abuse by her mother, not about your early childhood. You're not the only one who lived in Palo Alto--your mom did too, when she went to Stanford. And your grandmother did too, decades earlier."
It's true, that house madam had my grandma's cheerful ruthlessness. Do what you must to survive, to make a living.
My mother once told me that once when she was angry, Grandma told her "You don't feel angry. You're HAPPY." Not a statement. An order!
I'm sick over my grandma's death, but she could be a bully, even a tyrant. Under that picket-fence smile.
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