give up your summer dress, pull it over your head and take it off for me now

I thought I was given a present. A moment of communication to bring me up from the crazy house stairs, picking me up like a chemical reaction. Pressed keys tearing little holes in my mis-apprehension, killing time a joke again. This is worth it. This is a present, this is the present. This will start becoming better. Phase three, the reunion. The players beat the boards with simple feet, twisted motives playing out a dance with knives and their simple tongues. Equilibrium lost in the toss and roar of the audience painted on the inside of my head. It’s a gambling house, Vienna, fourteenth century. The spell of gilt and seawater. It’s the closest thing to blood a human can have. I thought I was handed a high, a card with a face value. There was to be no more standing in cold.

I flipped the thing over.

Swallowed bitterness. This tastes like oak, like philosophers.

Now it’s the next day and I’m waiting to be let out. There’s two hours left. I feel like when we were children and we would huddle in the cloakroom with our coats and bags, waiting for the bell to ring. We, meaning you and I, you who is bothering to read this. I am assuming that there are common denominators, that you too had a jacket, not a coat, when it was spring, that your eraser in class was a peculiar dry gummy pink and you drew on it in pen. Last night Sophie, Andrew, Michael and I were talking about this sort of thing. I brought up Bloody Mary and I was surprised to hear that she apparently doesn’t exist on the east coast. We live on an incredibly homogenized continent, not having enough time yet to build much culture, how is it that she didn’t travel from east to west in her haunting of the fur trappers children?

For those not in the know, Bloody Mary is a Bravery/Fear Game for children ages five to fifteen influenced strongly by that classic fascination with reflections and ghosts. Bloody Mary is a killer of children and her ghost may be summoned easily by the vulnerable young. Players, for lack of a better term, stand in front of a mirror in the dark, usually a bathroom with the door shut and the lights off, and say her name three times. The maiden, the mother, the crone – it’s incredibly European. Sometimes the players are to spin around three times as well, adding to the disorienting affect of being in the dark. (As if mirrors glimmering in the dark aren’t bad enough). Summoning her successfully is said to have turned people’s hair white and all reports tell of something terrible appearing.

I’ve never looked into it, but I assume the ghost is based somehow off of Queen Mary I of England who was named Bloody Mary for her violent executionary attitude toward Protestants. The child killer aspect may stem from either her many miscarriages or her predilection for burning people at the stake. If I recall correctly, she burned more people in her five year time on the throne than had been torched on the preceding century. I can well imagine small children being told “be good else Bloody Mary will get you.” and they passing it on to their younger siblings. Eventually divination likely got strung in, the embellishment with the mirror. If you dare look into this glass at midnight, you’ll see the face of either your true love or death.

So now I’m curious. Where are you and have you Bloody Mary? Is this a Canadian thing only or is it international?

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