Our possessions, the things we choose to own, are signifiers of our selves, external reflections that remind us of who we are, or want to be. We pick objects to represent us, to be our wordless emissaries. We display certain possessions to impress others, or to tell our story for us. Our stuff becomes a shorthand, a way to share who we are with an audience without revealing our history or hearts.
Sometimes being possessive is a feature in a romantic relationship. We say that person is “ours” we feel we “belong” to that person, we can’t function without them, without them we will die, our hearts, we feel, will break. As though they are an object without which our reason to be will cease to exist. Sometimes love itself makes us feel as though we are possessed, by a desire stronger than our will, by a need that is larger than our sense of self.
My partner is a cinephile, a horror movie fan in particular. There are a number of well-worn tropes in horror films and one of them is possession; a character whose body is inhabited by an Other. The Other is usually a demon or ghost, who possesses the body of a human in order to either right a wrong or wreak havoc. The body moves, speaks, acts without the will of its original inhabitant and it is often the mission of the protagonist in the film to drive out the Other.
To be possessed is a terrible thing. It means we are no longer in control of our body, our actions, our lives. Because the Other possessing us uses our skin we, who are now only passengers, are reviled and held accountable for things beyond our control.
I struggle with mental illness, depression in particular, and so I often feel a deep empathy with a character in a story who is possessed by something or someone else. Illness is like that. It drives you to the back of your own head. It holds your body under its own peculiar heavy weight. You say things you don’t mean, or only mean at the time, you are not your self, your usual self, you feel as though your life does not belong to you and that you are held hostage by illness. I think many illnesses are like that, your body is possessed by an imbalance that causes you to live a different kind of life other than the one you have chosen.
Sometimes, some illnesses cause you to believe and feel things that are untrue, and much like a character in a horror film, you struggle to drive out this Other that inhabits you, while desperately trying to communicate to everyone around you that you are still yourself, in there, deep inside, that you are still in there, somewhere.
Possession is a theme we can all relate to. We have all owned something, or felt as though we have belonged to a family, or group or another person. In this issue of Halfway Down the Stairs our contributors have come at the theme from an astounding number of angles, from romance to travel, to being possessed by ideas and love. We hope that you will be as taken with the work as we have been.
The theme for our next issue is Disappear and the submission deadline is August 1st. We look forward to reading all of your work.
Roxanna Bennett lives and works on the outskirts of Toronto as a freelance writer and artist educator. Her work has appeared in a long list of publications and has been rejected by an even longer list of publications. She shamelessly reads comic books and has lots of great ideas for changing the heroic policy of not killing villains. Roxanna cannot do math of any kind nor does she know the difference between Imperial and metric measurements. Being Canadian, she writes words with an excessive number of vowels that American word processors maddeningly refuse to recognize as correct. Her first book of poetry ‘The Uncertainty Principle’ is out now from Tightrope Books.
© 2014, Roxanna Bennett