I live in a very old house (by American standards, anyway). It’s from the mid-1800s, in an area of London that was settled around the 1200s. And my house is haunted.
From what I’ve learned about the building, it used to be priest quarters, and before that, a school for boys. It belonged to a psychologist at one point. It was divvied up into apartments in the 1980s, and poorly so; it’s easy to hear the lives of others through the whisper-thin walls and the time-worn floors.
But at night, my husband and I often hear the door to our downstairs bedroom open and close on its own. It happens a good two to three times per week. The floorboard in front of our master bedroom upstairs, that only creaks if you step on it, creaks in quiet of night as we’re lying in bed. Every now and then, we’ll get a cold draft across us when we’re watching TV. When I’m up late writing, I feel someone come into the room and watch me, and then drift away…
As if to say hello. (Maybe even ask, “are you done yet?”)
It’s not a scary feeling. It’s eerie, yes, but whoever’s ghost it is doesn’t mean us harm. My husband is Scandinavian and grew up in much older houses located in much older places at the top of the world. The idea of ghosts doesn’t really register or trouble him. City kid that I am, houses and the idea of ghosts always freaked me out until I moved away for college and started sharing houses with people. From then on, I’ve had many strange experiences in houses, but also learned to love them, and listen to them. The personality that can constitute a house used to be something totally alien to me. If anything, I was taught to distrust them. I blame it on the superstitions I learned from my parents. I blame it on movies I’ve watched too many times alone at night.
Throughout my thirties, I learned to appreciate houses a lot more. They do “talk”; they say what ails them in their creaks and groans, they can hum or sing when the wind is just right. Clouds, like thoughts, drift across them, and their window eyes can brighten and darken just like humans’ do. They learn words through our conversations. Their wood and paint can carry the scars of our moods, just like our flesh can. Things get lost in them, just like things can get lost in us, too.
I guess houses and ghosts are on my mind lately because sometimes, I feel like a ghost in my own house. I wander it daily. I’ve been unemployed for a long time, way before the virus hit, and it’s the photos of my pre-virus life on the walls that sustains my hope of better times to come. Framed by the past, like most ghosts tend to be.
I talk to digital ghosts all day; Zoom classes and video calls have reduced connection with my friends back in NY and elsewhere to talking heads that react to me when I say something. Eyes that cry, voices that shout or wail, or laugh with me at something stupid.
Footsteps that danced with me are gone. There’s just music, repeating. Reminding: one day, things will be fun again.
I go upstairs, I go downstairs. I clean, and I bathe, and I write, and I draw things. Ever the introvert, my husband enjoys his time downstairs with his gadgets, and upstairs we talk and try to find a show to get hooked on (and often failing), in need of distraction. And all the while, there’s that feeling of drifting around.
Waiting for something.
So many people are dying to get back to “normal,” whatever that may mean to them, but I am ready for something new. Ready to join the proverbial afterlife and start the next adventure in a different incarnation. I can only hope that doesn’t mean more waiting is in order. I want to keep traveling, and keep writing. The world should never fit inside of a screen.
Yes, sometimes, I feel like a ghost in my own house. Haunting myself with words. Knocking on your screen for attention. Wandering your inner floors in memory, when something I’ve said rings true.
Know that I miss you.
Wherever you are.