It’s 1:30 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. I’m laying in a double bed next to my seven-year-old daughter, who is snoring away. The bedroom of the house we are in is located between the kitchen and the living room where my wife and ten-year-old daughter are sleeping on an air mattress on the floor. Everyone’s sound asleep, but me.

We left Charlotte for this 700 square-foot home in Charleston early Tuesday afternoon and arrived in downtown as the locals were leaving. Thanks to google street view, we knew it was going to be a small house, but there’s no way to prepare for this kind of small. Which is to say, our own house is small, as far as houses go (ours was built in the 1940s), but we’ve managed pretty well with our limited space. This place, however, is like a house from the Revolutionary War. You know how when you visit historic places and walk through the sleeping quarters and wonder how the hell anyone actually lived there? That’s how this place feels. The walls are layered stucco, and the floors ancient wooden planks covered in an innocuous layer of fine black dirt that has probably been recycled in this area for centuries. I’d guess that the property is worth something since it’s located near the hospital and medial school – but honestly, a shipping container probably has as much living space.

The house belongs to one of my wife’s friends who stays here with his wife and child fairly often. And while this kind of lifestyle works for some people, it doesn’t for me. It’s not that I think I’m better than living like this – I’m just not comfortable with it. This is like urban camping. And I have never had the urge to sleep outside on the ground away from plumbing and electricity. Living in this space is for kids who are stopping off for a couple days while skipping a semester at NYU to backpack down the east coast – not people in their 40s schlepping over from Charlotte with two kids, a dog, three orthopedic pillows and a Keurig coffee maker.

No, we didn’t come here to hang in the house. We came for the beach, the aquarium and to take in Charleston for the first time. And we’re really grateful for my wife’s friend letting us stay here. Besides, the house is simply a place to crash for the next few days. It’s just this trip is not really anything like a ‘vacation.’ There will be no unwinding, I’m pretty sure. Yet, in the end it will be a great trip. It always is. My wife is amazing like that, and we’re the kind of family that loves to simply be away together. However for now, I’m worried that the walls of this place might open up and swallow us as we sleep. That is, if I can find any.

It’s 2:00 a.m. – I think I just saw a fucking ghost. Lights out.


Jim Mitchem


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Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.

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