My house – number 6 – is a house of ghosts.
I know because when I turn around the old lady is standing there, right behind me.
“This is my house now.” I tell her firmly. “It’s time for you to go.”
I don’t want to be unkind but it’s very disconcerting to have someone, however insubstantial, wafting around, appearing when you least expect or want it. In the kitchen, when I’m experimenting with a complicated new recipe. In the bathtub, soaking in the fragrant foam. Changing a light bulb, teetering at the top of the stepladder, the little screws between my teeth, about to drop the glass cover.
Sometimes her husband comes with her. I assume he’s her husband. He’s a little more wizened, a little more stooped than her. He stays behind her, his shadowy body averted as though he’s embarrassed to be inconveniencing me like this. He’s showing me by his stance that he’s apologizing for this intrusion. I feel he wants me to know that she’s doing this against his advice, that it’s not his idea.
At least he has boundaries. He never appears when I’m in the bath. That really would be the limit. And he never appears alone. I suspect he is one of those shy, hen-pecked husbands.
I tried closing doors behind me, but still they follow.
I tried addressing the ghosts in what I consider my most persuasive voice. “Isn’t it time you found somewhere else to…hang out? This is my house now. It’s time to let go…. Time to go….” I waved the wooden spoon with which I was stirring my curried lentil soup. “Go…yonder…you know, where you folk are supposed to go after you, you know…”
I don’t think I am being selfish in wanting them to leave. I know they aren’t eating me out of house and home and of course they aren’t taking up space, but – well, I had so looked forward to having my own house after all those years of sharing with people who didn’t clean the bath after they used it, who never took out the trash.
I try blocking the keyholes but it’s useless. My shadow ghosts are masters at sighing their way through minute chinks of space.
I can’t go to bed. Even if I pull the covers up over my head (and it’s far too hot for that tonight), she creeps in to lie beside me.
I feel myself turning into night air with her shadowy body a mere breath away from mine.
He doesn’t join us in bed, thank heavens. I have the feeling that is her decision rather than his, that she is making a point of coming between him and me. Fine with me, although I’d rather both of them were gone. The nights are the worst times.
I get out of bed and turn on the lights, all of them. My house on this hot humid summer’s night is ablaze with lights.
He’s drifting nearby, in case she needs him for the final scene.
Final scene! Final scene! What am I babbling about here? As though they have a plan! There is no plan, no final scene. This is a summer’s night like any other.
I know that’s not true. Tonight is the night it will be decided. It’s going to be her. Or me.
I sit straight in my chair, every nerve end alert. It’s going to be me – not her – because this is my house.
I scream. The sound surprises and terrifies me. I realize, as the shrill noise stops ringing around my head, that I’ve startled her too, maybe even scared her. She’s retreated. She’s shriveled a little.
Is this her Achilles heel? Can she not tolerate noise? Are her tender shadow ears too delicate?
I scream again. She cowers, shrinks into herself. I race downstairs and turn the radio on full volume, then the T.V. I dash into the kitchen and pull out pots and pans and saucepan lids. I crash and smash them together. I throw them, and kick them clattering into the air, against the cupboards, against each other.
She’s in the corner now, huddled in a heap. I fill all the space with my manic shrieking, even the most hidden and secret nooks and crannies.
At last I stop, panting, my chest heaving. Where is she? I strain to feel her.
Peace, ah blessed peace at last in my house. She’s gone. I sit on the sofa in the living room, breathing peace.
A shadow hand slips into mine. The he-ghost. His cold breathy whisper curls up my arm, lingers on the back of my neck.
I rush to the front door, to throw it open, fling myself out into the night air.
Who has thrown the bolt across on the outside? Who?
A cold wispy finger trails across my navel.
So there was a plan – but it was not the plan of my she-ghost. It was his plan.
Thank you for stopping by and reading this week’s Thursday Blurt. It was inspired by The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Numbers …
…and by Norm’s Thursday Doors.
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