If there is anything I dislike most about growing older, it is the hauntings.

That seems to be the best word for it today, hauntings. It is those reoccurring dreams that are facsimiles of memories, which were never very trustworthy in their storytelling as you watched the reel-to-reel turn around in your head (yes, I am old enough to remember a reel-to-reel tape-deck outside of movies and television). Even as you remember recordings while they are still recent, you suspected there was some lossy compression going on, and as time goes by, I doubt the quality of those memories.

Now I can see some of the flaws, some of the places where I edited out my negative role only to find it years later on the cutting room floor. Remorse? No. I did the best I could do at the time, though I often like to tell myself I could have done better*. Regrets? Well, that’s a different creature and I am full of regret — overflowing some days.

But that’s all superfluous avoidance of what I meant by “hauntings”.

It usually starts off with a dream.

Dreams are telling. Dreams tell no lies. Dreams reach down into the darkest recesses of the inner you and stir up the sediment and silt, sending up clouds of your past and present, churning it up and laying your inner self bare. Just because the truth is confusing, that obfuscation alone does not make it untrue. Dreams don’t embrace mendacity, they murder it with sharp little knives.

I’ve made it no secret to anyone that most of my dreams would be considered nightmares by most people. What does that say about me? I dunno, don’t much care.

Some are full of monsters, all shapes and sizes and types. Some are simple horrors of trying to find an unoccupied bathroom-like apparatus to take a piss. Some are bloody and graphically violent (and, before anyone chimes in, they were always so, even before I started watching graphically violent movies, shows and games). Sometimes there are demons hidden in the foul true basements of houses and buildings, behind hidden panels leading to crumbling stairs that spiral downward, down down down (these are some of the worst, because my sense of smell gets triggered and the abodes and demons are truly foul smelling — and no, not like farts).

But the absolute worst nightmares don’t seem like nightmares, but are what I call hauntings all the same. They are the ghosts of people past, both living and dead. And they want to make a point about how I am to blame for everything that ever happened to drive a wedge between us. They want me to suffer.

For example, I lately have had several about my first wife. Without going into the details about our divorce, as I don’t know that I can give her a fair shake in the matter, considering some of my biases — I also decided to no longer include her in my life after events that occurred several years after our divorce. The last time I spoke with her, she acted somewhat paranoid and neared on verbal abuse although I only did what she asked me to do, which was give her a call soon. We hadn’t spoken for quite a few months at the time and she purposefully went to a concert to initiate contact with me (she never much cared for the band while we were married and she noted at the time that she knew she’d find me there), asking me to give her a call.

When I followed up with her, as per her request, she was dodgy whenever I asked questions like most people would ask: What are you doing for a living now? Where do you live now that you’ve moved back home? How’s life treating you? What’s on your mind? I mean, you told me to call you, so one might assume you have something on your mind…

I only got an answer about her job. Every other question she dodged, as if I might stalk her though it had been five or so years since the divorce and I hadn’t bothered to keep tabs on her for the past year or two, as she changed phone numbers several times and would have to call me if she wanted to maintain contact.

She acted so strange during that call that, when I hung up, I decided that I was done with whatever game she was playing. Her answer to the last question about what was on her mind? “Nothing, I don’t even know why you are calling me.” Umm — you asked me to. “Well, I don’t have anything to say, please don’t call me anytime soon.” Then she made some excuses and hung up.

I never tried again. Especially after she started telling people tall tales about me now that she was “back home” and I lost a few more friends who believed her absurd lies. And, I mean, they were WAY out there by the time they got back to me.

Well, her persona did a bit of larking around in my dreams last night. I hate it when that happens, because her avatar tries to pretend nothing happened while mine sits there, incredulous, wondering what kind of mindfuck she is trying on me this time. In these dreams, I keep explaining I have a wife and three kids, but she laughs it off and ignores me. I tell her she is no longer part of my life and she laughs at that too, like I am a foolish young man with a wild imagination.

Then her avatar starts to erase my life.

Suddenly, no one remembers my wife, she either adopts one of the kids, or they are kidnapped. I can’t find my home. I can’t find my car. I am trapped, with no way out, living in a home, a neighborhood that is not mine. I become a zombie, shuffling through life while she laughs.

And I hate it.

I have more nightmares than most people. I don’t mind. I just wish my psyche would stick to the demons in the subbasement of dank houses that smell like death. These hauntings… they really suck.

* To clarify about my lack of remorse:

I think remorse to be constrained to intended malicious acts. While I am not entirely innocent of being a mean bastard once in a while, there is usually an element of revenge involved in those cases, cases where I was wronged by the other person before I was mean back. I’ve rarely gone out of my way to hurt other people intentionally, therefore I put most cases into the regret bucket when I’ve hurt someone when that was not the goal in my actions.

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