To settle any confusion regarding my six sense, I figured it would make sense to explain what happened to me when I was eighteen.
If you believe in God, then you believe in the existence of ghosts. You could try to argue that statement, but I hold this to be true. I believed, and still do believe, in God. I went to church with my grandparents every Sunday. I had communion, I had confirmation and I listen to every word that priest said as old and irritating as his voice was. But, up until the night I saw my already dead mother wearing that familiar summer dress in the chilly New York air, I never encountered a spirit.
Nobody but my grandparents believed that what I saw was real. Which didn’t prevent me from getting admitted, as neither of them would admit to the police that it was a great possibility that I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t bitter. It was understandable. My grandmother knew what I was going through and she knew that if they were to side with me it would have made things worse. So, they played the role of the concerned grandparents who were gravely concerned about their quote on quote suicidal granddaughter.
Of course I did not know why grandparents believed me at first. Once I was released from the hospital my grandmother felt it necessary to tell me about a rare family trait. It’s a trait that my grandmother has tried so hard to repress within herself and has succeeded. My mother apparently was not gifted with it. So naturally when it came to me, my grandmother was not worried. She had hoped that the trait died with her. As a child I never had any visions or felt any presence of something that was not there. I suppose I was a late bloomer.
However it was clear to my grandmother that she could not keep our family secret from me. When I came home from the hospital she must have apologized to me a thousand times for not telling me sooner. Over a couple of bowls of her delicious sanchoco, a meal I favored when I was feeling sick, she told me her story.
My grandmother came from a family of five brothers, all whom worked to support their widow mother in rural Puerto Rico. From birth she sparked an energy which filled the house with curiosity and fear. They named her Luz, but after one month my great grandmother thought it would be best to change her name to Maria, after her father Mario. Mario was murdered shortly after my grandmother’s birth. All the early stories of my grandmother experiences with the paranormal were told to her by her mother and five brothers.
The first incident happened when she was only a week old, this was a famous family story my grandmother’s family loved to tell around the holidays.
My grandmother was placed down to sleep in her basinet by her mother. Seconds after her mother walked away from the basinet, my grandmother began to cry. Frustrated my great grandmother rushed to leave the room, but the door had locked itself. She pounded and twisted the doorknob but to no avail. With the increasing cries of my grandmother, my great grandmother caved in and headed back to the basinet to pick up her infant. Then a click was heard. My great grandmother walked to the door of room and found it was unlocked. It was speculated that this was the doing of Mario my grandmother’s father.
The second incident happened when my grandmother was two years old. One of her oldest brothers were watching her while her mother was out. My grandmother was playing with wooden letters. She began to spell out the last name Sanchez. Stunned, her brother quickly wrote down the name before my grandmother could move the letters around. Then, as told to my grandmother by her brother, my grandmother went into a trance. Her small eyes were closed as she spelled another name. “Carolina” was the next name she spelled. Her brother wrote that name down too. When my Great Grandmother came home from work her son greeted her with the names my grandmother wrote down.
Why was this so shocking to my grandmother’s family? Well apparently, Carolina Sanchez was the name of a woman who’s husband owned a market in their local town. My great-grandfather delivered fruits from the family farm to this market frequently. This is something my grandmother especially at the tender age of two years old, would not have known. Just like she would not have known that her father died as a result of being gunned down late at night while he was drinking around the town. The police at the time had a reputation of being corrupt. For a while after it was suspected that a rich American tourist murdered Mario and then bribed the police to keep the crime quiet. But, now the market owner’s wife was thrown under suspicion from the family. Now everyone was convinced that somehow Carolina Sanchez was involved. Even with no real proof. The playful actions of a two-year-old was enough for them to go straight to the local police.
My great-grandmother begged that they talk to Carolina Sanchez. However, by the time the police complied with her pleas, the market owner’s wife already gone. The market owner Mr. Sanchez stated that his wife fled the country with another man. The police did not investigate further and that was the end of that. Until, one day Carolina Sanchez badly decomposed body was found by a couple of drunken teenagers skinny dipping in a lake, Mr. Sanchez was nowhere to be found. No one has heard from him again. His business was abandoned. Many neighborhood people came forward to my grandmother’s family to inform them that there was an affair going on between Mario and this woman Carolina. Something my great grandmother already has suspected.
By the time my grandmother was twenty-four she had several other visions.
It was a rainy day, my grandmother was walking down to take the bus into the city. She noticed a man standing in the rain. The man as she recalls was barefooted with no umbrella. He wore a plain white sleeveless shirt and dressy pants. My grandmother naturally was curious. It was pouring so heavily yet the man’s hair and clothes seemed dry. She already realized what she was looking at. As she strolled towards the man, she recited a prayer to Saint Mary and made sure nobody was around to see her trying to communicate with the apparition.
The man seemed did not notice her standing next to him and he continued to stare across the street. My grandmother whispered, “Who are you looking for”.
She knew the ghost was there for a reason. The man did not respond. My grandmother whispered again.
“Who are you looking for, why are you here” the man again stood silent but raised a finger. My grandmother turned into the direction he was pointing too. There was a young man walking slowly, almost slumping. It was my grandfather Guillermo. My grandmother thought the young man was drunk, but as she turned to the ghost again, the ghost’s face had changed into a skull with snake crawling through the eye sockets and mouth.
“Oh my god” my grandmother screamed. She realized what that meant and ran across the street passing by speeding cars. My grandfather collapsed as she caught up with him. She carried him to a local hospital nearby and told the staff that my grandfather was poisoned by a snake bite. An antidote was given, saving my grandfather’s life.
The police arrived at the hospital, they were called by the nurses who were suspicious. My grandmother was interrogated by them, one of them was an officer who had recognized my grandmother because she shared a strong resemblance to her father, who’s murder this officer investigated years ago along with the murder of Carolina Sanchez. This officer knew the backstory of my grandmother and how her mother pleaded with police to speak to Carolina after my grandmother spelled her name out with her toy letters.
“The nurses tell me that you told them exactly what type of snake this man was bitten by, where you with him when it happened, was he talking when you found him” The officer asked.
“No I wasn’t, and no he wasn’t, I just guessed” My grandmother replied. The officer chuckled and released my grandmother from further questioning. She would then describe the man who’s ghost she saw to my grandfather in his hospital bed. It was his older brother who had died a month earlier. My grandfather admitted to allowing the snake to bite him. He was raised by his brother, he had no other family. After his brother’s passing my grandfather went into a deep depression.
Since then my grandmother Maria and grandfather Guillermo were inseparable. She would often see my grandfather’s brother still hanging around and smiling. However she would ignore his presence until he would no longer visit. In fact the visions stopped altogether after that.
A ghost brought my grandparents together just as a ghost brought Andrew and I together. In this generation however, people are more skeptical and hesitant to believe in the supernatural. Any stories of the paranormal kind are often immediately dismissed with a logical explanation. I wish I have that same mentality.
“Can 5 o’clock get here already” I was compulsively looking at time on my computer. All my work was done about a half hour ago. There were no events scheduled for tonight and I was finally available to accept Joseph’s invitation to go out for some drinks with a couple of coworkers.
Lately things at the facility have been quiet. However, I thought it was best to document each event as they come. My grandmother used to tell me that it was important to remember what happens when I have a vision, it could be a sign, or an omen. Someone could be trying to tell me something. Not that I wanted to play detective, but I had a couple minutes to the end of the day. I figured it couldn’t hurt to call my grandmother and let her know what was going on. It’s been while since I have spoken to her.
I use my office phone to dial.
After several rings someone answered the phone.
“Hello” My grandmother said sternly.
“Grandma it’s me Tina”
“Oh” She begins to laugh.
“I did not recognize the number, I thought you were a telemarketer, I was ready to scream and hang up” My grandmother chuckles, she was not one for calls of solicitations”
“How are you doing Mija”
“I am doing okay”
“How’s the new job, Andrew told me the other day you were going out tonight with some Coworkers” She asked, I was hoping Andrew had not told her the other things that were going on.
“Yea we are just going out to a bar for a couple of drinks”
“Well do not drink too much” My grandmother paused for a second.
“Andrew also told me something else. He told me that woman Alma called you” My grandmother’s tone changed.
Oh shit I forgot about my father.
“Yes she did, my father is dying and I guess they were hoping that I give my last respects”
It has been a stressful time, I never got back to my father’s sister, I didn’t know when I would.
“Well, you know grandpa and I support you in whatever you choose to do. I just do not want you to feel stressed about it” My grandmother said, she did not hate my father, she just strongly disliked him. She wasn’t one for holding grudges, but I know she isn’t going to patronize me with any bull shit forgiveness speech either.
“I have not decided yet grandma, to be honest it’s been pretty hectic here lately.” I said
“I can tell you haven’t called us” My grandmother now sounded concerned.
“I know, I’m sorry. There was a something I wanted to talk to you about” I prepared to share my experience with her, hoping for some feedback.
“Grandma, I have been having visions again, I mean since the time I worked here.” There was instant relief as I poured out what was happening.
“The day of my interview, the elevator got stuck on the basement floor. Smoke surrounded me, and I fainted. Then I received a strange call late at night from someone in the building, and I mean it was late, nobody from here would have called me at that time. Then the other day I got locked in the storage room, and a shadow of a girl appeared out of nowhere before I ended up having an asthma attack.” I was now whispering, my voice quickened as I recalled the events.
“What, you had an asthma attack, have you been using your inhaler” My grandmother gasped.
“That’s all you got from what I just said” This was typical of my grandma.
“Tina, I know that you were sure the first time you saw your mother, but you haven’t had a vision since then. Also are your taking those pills that the doctor prescribed you, maybe they can help”
“Grandma please” This was unbelievable, she was so afraid of me having a mental breakdown that she thinks I can be prescribed a solution to this.
“Mija, I’m sorry I just don’t you going down a certain path, I was able to rid of it at an early age, I know you can too” She pleaded.
“I think someone is trying to tell me something, I don’t know what but there are some very wired people here and I am not talking about the patients.”- Before I could finish there was knock on my door.
“I got to grandma, I promise I’ll call you guys later. I love you” I abruptly hung up the phone.
“Come in” A couple of seconds later Evelyn comes through the door.
“Hey, sorry are you almost ready” She asked. Evelyn was my ride to the bar.”
“Yes, I am just waiting on that clock to turn” I laughed.
“Okay we’ll I’m done for the day I’ll be out smoking” Evelyn closed the door behind her, and I proceeded to pack my things into my purse and log out my computer.
We arrived at the bar. It was large and loud. The music was sort of alternative rock and can be heard from the outside. When Evelyn and I walked in Evelyn spotted a familiar face.
“Hey” She waved at a very well-dressed man with slick back hair. I almost didn’t recognize him at first but it was Joseph, and right beside him was Larry, who, not surprisingly looks the same as he does in his janitor uniform. Joseph goes to the bar and orders two shots, we walk over to him through the crowd.
“Look who finally decided to show up” Joseph hands me what appears to be whiskey.
“These shots are on me” Joseph takes another one from the bartender
“Is this place always crowded” I take my shot while observing the crowd.
“Yea it’s happy hour now, so pretty much” Joseph turns around and grabs the hand of another man and pulls him towards us.
“Ladies I would like you to meet Leon, he’s my agent and my baby” Joseph plants a big kiss on Leon’s cheek to my surprise.
“Oh he’s your boyfriend” I ask, I felt stupid for stating the obvious.
“Did he forget to mention that he was gay” Leon responds. His demeanor is stoic, he didn’t seem as relaxed as Joseph was.
“No I guess I never thought to ask” My face turned red, I tried to laugh off my embarrassment.
“Honey it’s okay” Leon shakes my hand and then Evelyn.
“So you’re also his agent” I asked, curious as to what Leon needed an agent for.
“I never told you I’m a part time model and my baby work hard at getting me gigs” As Joseph gloats about his boyfriend, Leon cracks a small smile.
Seeing Joseph in a setting outside the job, it made sense now that he would have some interest in the fashion world. In the work place, he is always in his janitor’s uniform. But inside the bar Joseph was dressed very well, his hair was perfectly in place and I noticed more of his strong facial features. Leon was not unattractive either, but he definitely looked like the agent type.
A couple of drinks later we were all sitting at a table, each of us was discussing our stresses. Joseph was describing his struggles in the modeling business and hiding his sexuality from his parents. Evelyn talked about going back to school and quitting smoking for good. Even Larry, who barely says two words to me, decided to tell a couple of stories about the building the Clifton institute is located in.
“I have been with the building a long time, I’m old” Larry chuckles as he takes off his glasses, his eyes were a little red and you could tell he was already feeling the beers he had.
“Didn’t think when Dr. Clifton rented out the place that he would keep me on board, but he did but boy I’ve seen a lot of stuff,” Larry shook his head as he spoke, there was something he wanted to say but I could feel he was holding back.
“Like what” I asked.
“Well like the fire that occurred in the basement a couple of years ago” Larry chugs down the rest of his beer.
“I heard about that fire, weren’t the security guards there as well, Donald and Dennis” Evelyn stated.
“Ugh can we not mention those two” Joseph quickly says.
“It’s bad enough that I have to deal with Dennis trying to fuck me” Joseph continues to rant.
“Wait he what” Evelyn now directed her attention to Joseph.
“That’s the reason he hates me, he’s gay, he found I was and then tries to ask me out, I shoot him down, next thing you know him and his little pig Don corner me and threatened to have me fired for sexual harassment” Joseph and Evelyn have a good laugh, Leon does not seem amused. I still wanted to know more about the fire.
“Weren’t you and Joseph there for the fire, what exactly happened?” I probe Larry for more information.
“No Joseph was there for the second fire, that was just a prank by some kids who decided it would be funny to set of the fire alarm on the anniversary of Rachel’s death. I was here for the first fire”
“Wait who’s Rachel” This was the first time I heard this name. Joseph and Evelyn were still talking about Don and Dennis and not at all paying attention to Larry’s story. Larry takes a large gulp of his beer before continuing.
“Well I can’t say much, but before there was a rehabilitation center for adolescents, the building was used as a psych ward. It was called Sister Catherine Psychiatric Center. We had a patient, her name was Rachel. Two years she was admitted to Sister Catherine’s. She had a habit of lighting fires when she was scared”
I leaned in toward Larry to wanting to hear every bit of this story. There was no way this was a coincidence. Fire and basements were the key term for me.
“Anyways she was also pistol, she often picked on others and purposely pissed people off. One of those people was Donald. She used to tell fat jokes and made fun of him good. One day he was working, and Rachel noticed an engagement ring on him, she dragged him through the mud. Asking how much he paid for his mail order bride. Donald was livid, didn’t think he was so sensitive. Anyways two days later a fire broke out in the basement in the old storage room, the fire department was called but by the time they came, Rachel was already dead from smoke inhalation. Her body suffered great burns. They suspected that she ran down to the basement and locked herself on the storage unit accidently. The room was dark, so the police suspected that she lit a fire to lighten up the room. The electricity was always shoddy down there.
The family of Rachel was outraged, Donald quit, and Sister Catherine shut down. When Dr. Clifton came in and created the Clinton Institute somehow Donald got in touch with him and got his old job back. I will never forget when I first saw him. I couldn’t believe it.” Larry exhaled a sigh of relief, like a weight was lifted off his shoulders.
All of us at the table were silent. Evelyn, Joseph and Leon got the end of Larry’s story.
“Well, that was a buzz killer” Evelyn finally said, breaking the silence.
There was so much more I wanted to ask of Larry, but it was clear that he kept the events of that day a secret for a reason.
Things were definitely getting weird.