Strange Encounter in Venice

Thin Places, Time Distortions



I’m not really sure how to classify this and there’s a bit of preamble before the weirdness (but it all factors into the experience). I was driving home from work on a street I drove almost every work day: southbound on Pacific Avenue in Venice, California (a section of Los Angeles). There’s a long stretch there with no cross streets, just walk streets on the western (beach) side, all bearing names like “28th Place.” Houses and apartments crowd right to the street edge, and parking is tight.

Usually the traffic moves swiftly, but sometimes when there’s good beach weather, it slows to a crawl. On this night it got seriously backed up and I came to a stop and sat there for several minutes. I was next to the one piece of property which doesn’t have structures at street’s edge. There’s a dirt lot streetside for parking cars with trees crowded on the southern side.

As I turned my head west I saw that I was aligned with a walkway running behind a series of linked cottages. It was as clear as day back there, even though it was evening. A woman sat on the small stoop behind the first cottage, her legs stretched in front of her, elbows resting on knees, head down and staring at the ground between her feet. Such an aura of despondency hovered about her that I kept looking, fascinated.

She was somewhat plump and middle-aged, and she had dark brown, wavy hair worn down past her shoulders and a dark, rather shapeless dress. It hit her mid-calf and I saw that her feet and legs were bare. The dress could have belonged to any era from the late 19th century onward, even further back, I guess, if it actually went to the ground and she’d hitched it up.

As I stared and wondered why she was so sad, I guess she sensed me looking. Her head came up and our eyes met. I was embarrassed to be caught. Her sorrow remained, but with a spark of something like defiance or anger or something. It felt old and negative and about me rather than her, but also not strictly about me, either. I felt that I just happened to be there to receive it. It had a very surreal quality to it.

Then I was really embarrassed. She had every right to be angry with me for staring and intruding upon her despondency, so I quickly shifted my eyes back to the road. Thankfully, the traffic moved not long after. I stole another look before passing the property. She still stared my way with whatever that negative surge was. I thought about her for the rest of the drive home, but—as these things go—promptly forgot about it when I got home and had chores and what all to do. Occasionally as I speeded by that property each night coming home from work, I’d think about her fleetingly, getting embarrassed all over again, or puzzled and wondering what had been up with her. I might even have stolen a glance that way, but usually couldn’t make anything out because I usually passed that place in seconds.

Then one night several weeks later the traffic slowed and I took a good look towards that walkway. And I realized I couldn’t see it. Not just that it was too dark or that a car stood in the way (there were no cars in the dirt lot), I mean I couldn’t *see* it. Something blocked it. I had driven past the property by the time that registered, and that part of Pacific isn’t friendly to people stopping and backing up. Too much traffic, not enough parking to pull over, and besides, I needed to get home. I decided that I’d try to remember to give it a better look the next night, but it was actually several days before I looked again. There was definitely a gate blocking the view of the walkway, but it didn’t look like a new gate. I thought, “Well, it must have been open when I stopped here that time.”

I hadn’t remembered seeing a gate, but you know, it had to have been there. So the next time I remembered, I slowed down, risking irate honks from the cars behind me, and stopped when I got to the place where I’d been stopped before in direct alignment with the walkway. I recognized quite well the angle I’d been looking from by referencing the structures on the east side of the road. The thing is, there *were no linked cottages there,* just a single house. And from that angle the trees on the south side of the lot blocked the view of the gate. To see the gate I had to be 15-20 feet north and looking at an angle. There was *no* visibility of the gate or a possible walkway when looking dead on. What I’d seen and the way I’d seen it could not possibly have existed. My initial experience happened in early summer of 2011 and in September 2011 I wrote up a blog post about it. Two days after that post my mother had a massive stroke and I became her caregiver, thus changing my life radically. Probably a coincidence, but I’ve wondered since if the initial experience and my writing about it was some kind of weird precursor/premonition/who knows what.

Submitted by Anonymous