My Home Away From Life

This installation of the Franklin Stove Blog is a departure from the usual format.

It’s fictional, based on accounts of actual events.

It might even be considered a ghost writ post.

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental.

My old home is gone. It imploded. After I committed suicide in 1968, I’d been haunting the halls of Tutwiler Hall at the University of Alabama. I’d actually committed suicide in my parent’s bedroom on Christmas day. But I’d returned to the University where my earthly torment had ultimately driven me to put a bullet in my head.

Now Tutwiler has been reduced to a pile of bricks. On July 4th, 2022, the building was demolished by the University. A new version of Tutwiler had replaced it. The fiery hubbub had even been livestreamed by the University.

As a student, I’d lived on the eleventh floor of Tutwiler. In 1968, the building which housed only female students was brand new. Over the years I’ve seen at least fifty thousand co-eds move into Tutwiler. Most never were aware that I was “living” in their midst, just as I had not been aware of any other spirits who were also “haunting” the place.

Of course, there have always been stories about students who were residing in Tutwiler having had the sensation that they were being watched or having heard strange noises. The building was even written up in a blog that was dedicated to the supernatural. The blog post “The Ghosts of Dixie” had erroneously said that a female student committed suicide on a floor in Tutwiler Hall. No. It was actually in my parent’s bedroom that I blew my brains out.

Over the years, other than the gossip by girls in the hall, I’d kept track of things by reading the University’s student newspaper. Copies of the Crimson White were easily found at Tutwiler. I remember a couple of articles about suicide rates being higher at the University than in “average statistics.” The University had even double the national suicide rate.

A Crimson White story in 2011 reported that there had been four suspected suicides at the University. Interviews with students and even an evangelical Christian pastor expressed the grief over the deaths. Over the years doubtlessly there had been a countless number of suicides.

I’d heard a lot about another female student at the University of Alabama who in 2016 had committed suicide in her parent’s house after having been raped in Tuscaloosa. A Crimson White reporter had written “It was a story about education, Southern culture, mental health, friendship, power and how all of those things come together.” There had been a story in the Crimson White that the University in had settled on its portion of a wrongful death lawsuit in 2018. The civil case against the man accused of rape had been settled in 2021.

The University co-ed who had been the subject of the case hadn’t been a Tutwiler resident. I don’t know if her spirit, like mine, came back to the University, but I truly hope that she’s in some sort of other celestial abode now.

I’d heard gossip about a sorority girl being gang raped by fraternity members and then being deposited naked in her sorority’s yard. Stories of professors at the University having had sex with students were common enough. Gossip came and went at Tutwiler. Sometimes I felt that other students had a better reason for suicide than I had.

I was a sophomore at the University when I took my life. I’d felt an overwhelming sense of being out of place. I had experienced an alienation from society. Things just didn’t make any sense. I know that some male students had remained in school just to avoid the military draft. I had always considered the male students not even worthy of my contempt. The war in Vietnam and riots in ghettos throughout the country were hardly things I even thought about. One of my professors had taught about an “existential angst.” Maybe that was what I was feeling? Why did I feel so out of place?

I had accidentally discovered my Dad’s handgun in a dresser drawer on that Christmas Day. I simply pointed it at my head and pulled the trigger. I hadn’t even even thought that it was loaded. It was just a gesture of dispair. I don’t think my parents had a clue about how unhappy I’d been.

But, somehow, in death I was pulled back to Tutwiler Hall. I’d somehow grown to think of it as “home,” more so than even my place of birth. Instead of seeing any kind of heavenly light at the end of a tunnel when I died, I only saw the eleventh floor hallway of Tutwiler Hall. Residents scurried to and fro in a steady rhythm of life. Their constant chatter and activity seemed to me like an ocean of comfort. In life I had been vaguely annoyed by the presence of my fellow co-eds. But in my disembodied state I swam eagerly through the living. My angst dissolved. I had finally found a home.

Then in a fiery combustion my home was destroyed in July of 2022. My very essence seemed to be scattered into the sky for a moment. I looked around for somewhere to go. Then I saw the football stadium that had been so central to the University’s life. I knew then that Bryant Denny stadium would be my new home away from life.

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