You guys, I seriously believe that my neighborhood is haunted. And last Friday, two other people witnessed enough to make them start to believe it, too.
This will probably be long, and Alex will make fun of me for my long-windedness, but I can’t help it; I think the details go a long way to making a story good.
Until I tell you that we’re speculating, what I write is 100% true.
Alex and Francesca (two of my bestest buds who happen to date each other) came over last Friday and the three of us got sushi at a restaurant around the corner from my apartment. The apartment where I had the sleep paralysis, remember? Good.
Our waitress was not the brightest bulb in the tool box, or whatever the saying is. She had trouble understanding what we wanted when we said the exact words that were on the menu. It wasn’t a language barrier; she was just not too quick on the uptake. It also took us about half an hour to get our check, in a restaurant with eight tables that’s the size of about my living room. Alex was not pleased, and our tips reflected our feelings about the service. (Note: We did tip her. She’s fine. She can still pay for rent.)
We left to go to Walgreens in the hopes of finding some sparkling apple cider. I had told them that it was fine for them to drink even if I was going to abstain, but as good friends, they said they didn’t need to. Alex lit a cigarette, and we started to walk past this restored Victorian house that we’d been speculating about from the restaurant. It looks like the gingerbread house from Hansel and Gretel, and we had joked about who would get the tower room if we all lived in it like a giant fairy-tale family.
From behind Alex, all of a sudden, we hear a woman’s voice say, “Excuse me?” Now, Alex is a tall dude. I couldn’t see who was behind him, and we were only about 100 feet from the restaurant, so my immediate thought was that it was our waitress about to yell at him for his tip. It turned out to be a different woman.
“Sorry to bother you, but can I buy a cigarette off of you?”
I started laughing (partly from relief), and Alex happily gave her a cigarette in exchange for a dollar. She asked to use his lighter, and he handed it to her. We were walking away when she came back, apologetic, saying that the lighter hadn’t worked, and Alex bent down to light her cigarette. And on we continued to Walgreens.
They didn’t have sparkling cider. They did have flu shots, so at 9pm on a Friday, my super-cool friends got injected with influenza vaccines. We picked up some Diet Coke and Alex went to pay for it. He reached into his pants pocket, and then drew out his hand, puzzled. He tried his other pocket.
“Hold on, I must have put my wallet somewhere,” he said. Earlier, he’d been showing off his new, compact wallet–no folds, just slots for cards on either side of a small leather rectangle. He reached into his coat pockets, outer and inner, convinced that he’d slipped it in there somewhere, or that it had slipped into the lining of his coat from a pocket since it was so little.
Alex didn’t find it in his coat, so he started to look into his bag. Now, I love this man dearly, but he does tend to misplace things, especially car keys, so I wasn’t too concerned. We’d come a total of three blocks from where he’d last used his wallet, so I figured that even if he couldn’t find it on his person, it couldn’t have gone far. Alex dug through his bag, getting more flustered, and I offered to buy the soda so that he could go check the pharmacy area.
Pharmacy was a bust. He’d checked his bag and all pockets several times. We concluded that he must have left it at the restaurant, so he called them up as we began to walk back over. As luck would have it, he got the same waitress on the phone, and even with descriptions of us and of the table we’d been sitting at, she didn’t know what was going on. Finally Alex just said, “You know, it’s fine, we’re actually almost there, I’ll just come look.” Meanwhile, Francesca and I scanned the ground for a dropped wallet.
We didn’t see anything, so when we got to the restaurant, Alex went over with a different waiter to the table we’d been at and politely asked the current diners if he could look under the table. They got up and helped him look. The waitress we had undertipped was acting as hostess, so Francesca and I stood at the front in, as you can imagine, no awkwardness at all. Alex returned, shaking his head. Nothing. The waitress/hostess looked completely blank when we asked if it could have been on a plate that got carried off or stuck in the check billfold. It was the other waiter who answered that they unfold the check carriers immediately and that they would have found anything inside.
Alex was bummed. Luckily for him, there hadn’t been any cash in the wallet, but his work ID card was in there, along with his debit and credit cards, and he wasn’t looking forward to canceling and replacing all of them. Trying to cheer him up with dark humor, Francesca and I started to speculate about whether or not the seemingly-dumb waitress were actually a master thief, or if the woman who’d asked for a cigarette had been a pickpocket. We didn’t seriously think she had been; Alex and she had never actually gotten too physically close, and his peacoat had been covering his pants pockets, where he’d remembered putting the wallet.
Fran and I began to walk faster than Alex, eager to get back to my apartment so we could conduct a thorough search of Alex’s bag and coat. We were both fairly confident that doing so would make this wallet turn up. Alex lagged behind, in front of the fairy tale house where we’d met the desperate smoker, and as he told us later, his only thought was a prayer (an atheist’s prayer) to find this wallet.
Then, from behind us, Francesca and I heard Alex shout, “GUYS!”
We turned around, and he was holding his wallet out like it was the torch from the Statue of Liberty.
I jogged back to him. “Awesome! Where did you find it?”
As I approached Alex, I realized that he had the most shocked look on his face that I have ever seen there. I’ve known this guy for six years. He is one of the people closest to me in the world. I have never seen confident Alex so shaken.
“It hit my leg,” he said.
“…okay,” I said. “So it slipped out of your pocket and tapped you behind the knee?”
He was shaking his head. “No, it hit me in the leg like it had been thrown. Like a Frisbee,” he said. “It hit me so hard that it bounced to like three feet away.”
We looked around. There was no one anywhere near us. You could easily see around the corner–no one there. No one had been there. There aren’t a lot of people hanging out on my street at 9:15pm on a Friday. The house had some little bushes, but at this point in the season you could see right through them. The open grounds in front of the house were empty. We were at least a half a block away from the restaurant, and no one had opened their door.
“Right,” I said. I proceeded to essentially frisk him. I was pretty sure that this wallet had just been in one of his pockets and that his pocket had a hole in it, and the wallet had hit him at a weird angle.
One pocket, and only one, had a hole in it. It was the coat pocket on the right side. Alex had been hit in the left leg, and although the pocket of his coat had a hole, the lining did not. Meaning that even if the wallet had slipped into that hole (which was not big enough for it anyway), it would have remained trapped in the lining of his coat. His bag was securely sealed with no holes in it.
This is where both my face and Francesca’s started to look a lot like Alex’s.
Somehow, my friend’s missing wallet hit him in the back of the leg, as hard as if it had been thrown, a substantial distance away from any other people and with very few plausible explanations accounting for it having fallen off his person.
In front of a witch’s fairy-tale house by which we had done a mysterious stranger a favor, around the corner from an apartment in which I had several episodes of sleep paralysis for the first time in my life.
We high-tailed it home, Alex saying, despite his prayers, “Well, I still don’t believe in God.”
So here’s Francesca’s theory: We walked into a Russian folk tale.
Why Russian? Eh, who knows. It just feels right.
Anyway, here’s what she thinks happened, tongue firmly placed in cheek: Alex had already lost his wallet by the time we first passed this house. We happened to run into a stranger, who was actually a spirit. The spirit asked for three things (to buy a cigarette, and for two lights), and Alex supplied them. This earned him a boon, but he was already passing out of her territory. When he re-entered her territory thinking fervently about one thing–one simple thing–that he wanted, the spirit heard and obliged. Boom! Wallet returned.
We spent a good deal of our night reading up on (and then laughing at) angelology, just in case, and shaking our heads. Alex admitted that this was “the craziest thing that’s happened to me this year,” and then amended it to, “this month.” Fran and I call B.S. Definitely this is the weirdest thing all year. We’ve been here too, bro.
What I didn’t tell them until yesterday was that, when I came home from vacation, I found one picture frame in my room askew. It’s the screenprint directly above my bed. It depicts the Tarot card of “The Lovers,” printed over a dictionary page, and it hangs with its lefthand edge flush against raised molding that forms a rectangle in the structure of my wall. As in, it’s up against a flat surface on one side. Even though I hadn’t touched it, even though when I sit up in bed my head is too low to reach the bottom edge of the frame, even though Harrison swears he did not enter my room (and he left before me and came home after me), the picture was tilted at a 45-degree angle, propped against that same strip of molding. I can’t even replicate the way it was doing it, now that I’ve straightened it.
If it’s another spirit, I hope I’ve done whatever it wanted from me.
I could use a new laptop.