I’ve been thinking about blogging this for weeks, but I’ve been so busy at both work and home that many things fall through the cracks. Then yesterday, lizziebelle posted an eery story that prompted me to get on with it.
This all started months ago. I was driving home from work southbound on Pacific Avenue in Venice. It’s the last major north-south street before the beach. Past Venice Blvd. there’s a long stretch with no cross streets, just alley entrances on the western (beach) side, all bearing names like “28th Place.” Pedestrians on this western side have to walk on the actual street because the houses and apartments crowd right up to the street edge, and parking is tight. Usually the traffic moves swiftly, people rushing to the Marina Peninsula or Washington Blvd. Sometimes when there’s good beach weather, the traffic slows to a crawl, but even then it usually keeps moving. However, one night some months back it got seriously backed up, so much so that I actually had to come to a stop and sat there for several minutes.
Now, there is one piece of property along the western side which doesn’t have structures at street’s edge. One place, a series of ancient, dark-colored joined cottages, is recessed back from the street with a dirt lot for parking cars along Pacific. The lot is also crowded on the southern side by old trees. As it happens, this odd-man-out piece of property is the one I stopped beside. I did what one does when sitting in traffic, looked around and registered things I usually speed by, and as I turned my head west I saw that I was aligned with a walkway running behind those cottages. It’s was as clear as day back there, though it was evening. A woman sat on the small stoop behind the first cottage, her legs stretched in front of her, elbows resting on knees, head down and staring at the ground between her feet. Such an aura of despondency hovered about her that I kept looking, fascinated. She had dark, wavy hair worn down past her shoulders and a dark, rather shapeless dress. It hit her mid-calf and I saw that her feet and legs were bare. The dress could have belonged to any era from 1920 onward, even further back in time if it actually went to the ground and she’d hitched it up to air our her calves.
As I stared and wondered why she was so sad, I guess she sensed me looking. Her head came up suddenly. Our eyes met. I was embarrassed to be caught, but such a look came over her face… The sorrow remained, but a spark had been added of something like defiance or anger or… I don’t know. Something old and negative and about me…but I thought not strictly about me, either. I just happened to be there to receive it.
Well, then I was really embarrassed. She had every right to be angry with me for staring and intruding upon her despondency, so I hunkered my head between my shoulder blades and quickly shifted my eyes back to the road. Thankfully, the traffic moved not long after. I stole another look before passing the property. She still stared my way with…whatever that negative surge was. I thought about her for the rest of the drive home, but—as these things go—promptly forgot about it when I got home and had chores and what all to do. Occasionally as I whizzed by that property each night, I’d think about her fleetingly, getting embarrassed all over again, or puzzled and wondering what had been up with her. I might even have stolen a glance that way, but usually couldn’t make anything out. It was quick, you know? I usually passed that place in seconds, in a hurry to get home.
Then one night several weeks back, I was maybe not driving as fast, or the traffic slowed (but didn’t stop), or—I’m not sure. This time as I drove by I took a good look towards that walkway. And I realized I couldn’t see it. Not just that it was too dark or that a car stood in the way (there were no cars in the dirt lot), I mean I couldn’t see it. Something blocked it. I was past by the time that registered, and that part of Pacific isn’t friendly to people stopping and backing up. Too much traffic, not enough parking to pull over, and besides, I wanted to get home. I decided that I’d try to remember to give it a better look the next night.
I’m easily distracted these days and it was actually several days before I looked again. There was definitely a gate blocking the view of the walkway, but it didn’t look like a new gate. I thought, “Well, it must have been open when I stopped here that time.” I hadn’t remembered seeing a gate, but you know, it had to have been there. So the next time I remembered, I slowed down, risking irate honks from the cars behind me, when I got to the place where I’d been stopped before in direct alignment with the walkway. I recognized quite well the angle I’d been looking from.
Remember those trees on the south side of the dirt lot I mentioned? That night I realized that I not only could not have seen a walkway from that position, I couldn’t even see the gate. To see the gate I had to be ten, fifteen, twenty feet north of there and looking at an angle. There was no visibility of the gate or walkway dead on.
Dead on. Dead on. I looked dead on that night, but I still have no idea how I saw. Or who. Or what.