Monday, April 27, 2015

The Dead Crowd

Some time last October or November, exactly the right time of year, someone put up an Internet article about old-fashioned family portraits where at least one of the people in the picture was dead. Being as morbidly curious as the next person, I immediately clicked through the slide show (all 17 or so pictures) and played "spot-the-dead-person" in each of the pictures. That's not necessarily as easy as it sounds, by the way. For one thing, the dead person frequently had his or her eyes open. Also, the article went on to explain how the photographers at that time used any variety of braces and supports so that the deceased person could be posed in a sitting or even standing position. They even showed some behind-the-scenes shots of a no-longer-living person being propped up in a brace before the portrait was taken. YIKES! TMI! TMI! my brain was screaming.

But I kept on reading and looking anyway.

And being maybe more morbid than the next person, I finished the article and bookmarked it. I even went back to it a few times to look at the pictures. I mean, by this time, everyone in those pictures is dead and gone, but gazing on the face of the one who had already departed at the time of the photo shoot was fascinating to me. I have no idea why.

It wasn't until I decided to share the article with Jim that it began to bother me. Now, my husband has a master's degree in structural engineering. This is a man who LIVES applied physics and converses knowledgeably and unfailingly about things like shear loads and core borings with the use of free-body diagrams and all sorts of views and elevations. In other words, he spends probably most of his waking hours in a world of hard-core science. Also, he just thinks like that. I mean, who else would  bother to tell his date how much actual money she spent on each individual Lifesaver in the roll she just purchased? I didn't ask, he just volunteered that off the cuff in case I wanted to know the price I had paid per unit. 

So about a week after I had bookmarked that article and told him about it, probably ad nauseum, I finally dragged him into my office and showed him what I was talking about. And my husband, man of science, looked at the first three pictures and said "I don't want to see anymore." And clicked out of the article.

I did not see that coming. "Really?" I asked. "This is bothering you? Why?" I was totally surprised by his reaction.

He really didn't get any further than telling me that the whole thing was basically weirding him out. 

About two days later, I began to wish I had never showed the pictures to him. I know I have a hyperactive imagination. It's part of my mental make-up and also necessary to my profession. But a couple of days after my husband's unexpected reaction, I began to feel those dead people in my office. Now, I know how silly that may sound, but when I would be home alone, even during the day, and at the opposite end of our little ranch house, --for instance standing in the kitchen in front of the refrigerator-- I would feel them reaching out to me from my office. I could feel them reaching out to me, looking for me, maybe just short of coming for me.

I tried to ignore that, of course. Just being silly, I'd think. Just my imagination working overtime, and not in a good way (which is often the case.)  But I began to dread entering my own office to get any work done. When I did, I felt like there was a crowd of them around me. I began to think about deleting the bookmark, but also felt like they really didn't want me to do that.

So for about a week, I had this little cloud, maybe all in my head, maybe not?, hanging around me. And with it came a confusion of possible choices: delete the article? Keep it? Stay out of my office? Work with that crowd hovering around me? Worst of all, random images of some of the pictures kept popping into my head at odd moments. (Like now, while I'm writing this, for instance.) After having my own private, little freak-out about it, I finally found it in me to open my list of bookmarks, highlight the article, and punch the delete key. And almost immediately my office lightened up.

I shared the story with my nephew the following Thanksgiving (the nephew who recommends movies like The Conjuring or The Taking of Deborah Logan: you know, cheerful things like that) and he just nodded his head and remarked how he could see that happening.

The whole event left me more than unsettled. I won't soon forget those pictures; those dead faces.

And I'll bet neither will Cassie Valentine when something along this line happens to her. Stay tuned!

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