and a memory of my friend
Was it October of 1968? Possibly. I remember that it was cold outside as we were wearing our winter coats already. Damp, cold winds were blowing, but no snow yet. They blew with a force along the south side streets of this mill town, making it hard to climb the steep incline to my best friend’s house tucked into the hillside. Hers was one of many row houses where Union laborers, and their housewives lived alongside the campus of an elite, all-boys university where only the privileged could afford an education.
We were teenagers. Some people thought we looked alike but this was only because we were both short, with short hair, and olive skin tones. Frannie was the prettier one with her deep-brown, Portuguese eyes and softly-curved lips. We were at the age when a haunting can appear, or so we thought. I think it had something to do with high hormones and virginity; we had both, as good Catholic school girls should.
On this, autumn evening with the wind to our backs, we opened the kitchen door with a force, waved “hello” to her parents, and raced up to the third floor of her house. Inside a small room used for storage, we cleared away boxes to sit on the soft pine floorboards. Using a half-empty box for a table we slowly opened up Frannie’s new Ouija board, lit a votive candle, and hunkered down for our very first communion with the spirits. With fingertips placed ever so slightly on the triangle, we began to ask questions. Silly adolescent questions that only teenage girls in the throws of infatuation could ask. Answers came. I don’t remember either- the exact questions or the answers. It is all a blur now; so long ago.
Frannie looked up toward me but not at me, with her eyes widening like searchlights, she whispered,“There is a shadow behind you.” We screamed, also as teenage girls do sometimes, and clamored through the doorway oblivious to the glowing candlelight. Forgotten in our fear, we were lucky not to burn down the house.
One year later, not so lucky, Frannie was dead.