I love the idea of being able to see ghosts. I wish I could, I mean, really see ghosts. Like the main character from that TV series “The Ghost Whisperer.” I like how she’s always calm, even after the most jolting vision. Blood, vomiting ghosts, ghosts who have half their brains falling out of their heads. None of it rankles her.
Me, I’d have my eyes shut most of the time. And yet, I still want to see ghosts. The closest I get is seeing a flash of something out of the corner of my eye. Or I feel something, a prickle of fear, a chill running past me.
Ever since high school I’ve been fascinated by ghosts and people who can see them. Patrick, for instance. He told us stories about a recurring dream he had about his grandmother dying. She did die, in the house, and most of what he dreamed was exactly how she died. His parents had set up a room for her in the house, and they had a nurse and maybe another attendant taking care of her. When she died, he happened to walk by her room and notice that his parents and the attendants were all fussing about her. He was a boy, maybe 8 or 9, maybe 10, but young enough that when someone noticed that he had stopped in the doorway and was looking in on the scene, one of them, maybe his mother, rushed to him and scooped him away.
But in the dream, when they notice that he’s standing at the door to the room watching all the chaos, instead of sweeping him out the room they all walk calmly to one side of his grandmother’s bed. His grandmother is dead but she slowly sits up, opens her eyes then turns toward Patrick. At that point in his dream he wakes up.
I remember him saying that whenever he woke up from this dream he smelled his grandmother’s powder, that kind of old-lady stuff that comes in a round container. Or he woke to the sound of her cane tap-tapping on the brick floors down the hallway.
We always wanted to hear more, and I remember he told us once that one day he went crazy trying to find the source of the powder smell. He dug through his grandmother’s old closet and under boxes and boxes of clothing and shoes and hats, until there he found it, one pink container with her powder. He told us about sitting in the bathtub once and having the water go completely cold, then the smell of old-lady powder.
He told us these stories after we’d graduated and would hang out together at night, already at the university yet not ready to let go of the friendships we’d had that defined who we were. I had just moved into a studio apartment that was haunted. All sorts of freaky things happened to me the short time I was there. A phone call in the middle of the night, a child’s voice on the other end asking for his mother. It sounded like a party in the background. The child wouldn’t answer me when I asked, Where are you? What’s your name?
And black dogs out the front door, this was right after the movie “The Omen” had come out. Black dogs were bad signs, and one afternoon, a rare cloudy New Mexico day I opened the door and there were two, the same exact kind from the movie. But the kicker was one night when my pillow rolled off the bed and onto the floor heater. I woke up choking, the room full of thick smoke.
When Patrick came the next morning to see if he felt ghosts at my place, he walked in and gasped as if he’d been punched in the chest. He looked at me and said, You’re getting out of here. He waited by the doorway while I packed a bag with enough stuff to last me a few nights. That next week we moved me out, but we only went to the house during the day. I never went back alone.
I still remember sitting up with Patrick, and my best friend Denise. I think I might have moved into an apartment with my friend Ellen. It was one of those nights when we all sat on my bed, all of us friends, and made Patrick tell us one scary story after another. We made ourselves so scared that no one left my place that night. We all slept on the bed like a litter of pups.
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