I woke up this morning when Joanna brought Alfie downstairs at 6am. I gave up the couch and shuffled up the stairs to Alfie's bed to sleep for a few more hours. I woke up again, just barely, to two people standing over me. My eyes half opened, I thought Joanna must need something, a diaper for Alfie, but I didn't say a word. They must have come back up to get it, I thought. The third time I woke, I went downstairs and asked Joanna if she and Alfie had been looking at me while I slept. "No," she said, "We weren't up there."
"Oh, great," I said, "GHOSTS."
I'm fine with the idea of ghosts and when I think they're around. I say "Hello!" and "You're welcome here!" because I want them to be comfortable and not fuck with me. I just don't want them toflicker the lights, bang cupboards or STAND BEHIND ME IN THE MIRROR SO THAT WHEN I'M BRUSHING MY TEETH AND LOOK UP, I SEE A FACE OVER MY SHOULDER. That's actually a huge fear of mine or anything.
I lived in the Good Shepherd Center in Seattle, a place ripe for haunting since it was a hundred-year-old former home for "wayward" girls.
The Sisters of the Good Shepherd, the nuns who took them in, belonged to a Catholic order who rehabilitated "girls of dissolute habits" (see: loose, indifferent to norms of morality, and possibly a lot of fun to hang out with). And I think the word rehabilitated is being used vaguely in this context. Did they rehabilitate the girls with long chats, cups or tea, or did they whack them with rulers and lock them in the attic?
By the time I got to the Good Shepherd Center in 2001, the building had long been converted to non-profit offices, an elementary school, art spaces, and a park. I lived rent free with Liz in one of the deceased nun's apartments on the top floor and we took turns doing caretaker shifts with a few other tenants. The nights I was caretaking, I hung out in the first floor office, writing.
At 10 pm, I grabbed the flashlight and ring of keys and did rounds, through each floor, the empty school hallways, the stairwells, and past the gardens in the back. I memorized light switches and locks, clicking them off and locking them up. I wore sneakers because shoes clicking down the cavernous hallways screamed HORROR MOVIE OPENING, CUE VICTIM. I avoided looking in the bathroom mirrors and tried to forget every scene from The Shining. I imagined what stories could be told about the building and the people who lived there but I never did meet a ghost who came back to tell me that story. Strangely, after all that avoidance on my part, I'm disappointed.
This morning Joanna told me that the people who lived in their house before she and Jon felt a presence in what is now Alfie's room. They felt it was happy. "That's fine," I said, "As long as it's just impersonating you two, but if it starts showing up in a period costume-"
"With a severed head under its arm." Jon added.
"Yeah," I said. "I am NOT going to be happy."