After the best part of three weeks living in my flat I am gradually getting used to the different sounds that are heard in a new place. Living in a block with five different neighbours and on a fairly busy street in the centre of town there are a variety of noises being made through any given day and it isn’t always easy to identify what they are or where they are coming from. There is a creaking upstairs – at least presumably from upstairs, as I am on the ground floor – and a sort of groaning from the small cupboard in the kitchen housing the boiler. The door in the close opens and it sounds as though someone has hammered seventeen nails into the bottom of it as it scrapes across the concrete. Something clatters somewhere and it cannot be put into words. I’m lying in bed at night, a street light shining through the curtains onto my white 200 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets like a spotlight – although the stage is empty and there hasn’t been a performance for some time – and I hear a muffled voice. For a moment I wonder if it’s coming from the bathroom and I chastise myself for turning off the light. Then I remember that I am alone and that it probably came from a passer-by on the street outside my window.
The bathroom door is the only one in my flat which behaves in the manner a functioning door ought to: opening fully and closing tightly behind. My building was constructed in the late 1890s and often it seems like that could be the last time the doors in the property were able to be closed firmly shut. This has never troubled me in the time I have been living there since most of the doors were closing far enough to create the appearance of being completely shut.
I went to bed on Tuesday night – in much the same way as I do every night – with each of the doors pulled as far into the frame as they could go. After around an hour of vague restlessness I got out of bed for a glass of water or some other reason – perhaps to reassure myself that I hadn’t turned out the light on a guest in the bathroom – and found the bedroom door to be ajar by approximately five inches. It seemed a little curious to me, but I shrugged it off and got my glass of water and reminded myself that I was definitely alone in the flat before returning to bed and successfully falling asleep.
I woke up through the night – at probably something like three o’clock, though it is difficult to read the digits on my clock without my glasses – with the feeling that the glass of water was threatening to pass through me, and I got up to use the toilet. Once again the bedroom door was open by around five to six inches and this time I was a little more perturbed by the discovery. I lay amongst my cool bed sheets and considered how the door could have come to be open to such a degree. I stared through the darkness at where I knew the door would be if I could see it and I wondered if it was still closed, or had it somehow crept open again. The night air was calm on Tuesday and there was little or no breeze, while every other door in the flat remained in its nearly closed state. Only the bedroom door was unclosed, and when I got up in the morning to see that it was once again sitting some distance from the latch there was only one conclusion I could logically reach: my flat might be haunted.
I have no experience of ghosts or of establishing their sex, age or intentions, but it seemed certain to me that, on account of the fact that I got through the night unmolested and from the frequent opening of the bedroom door in an apparent attempt by a being to leave, this was a female spirit.
In the kitchen I made myself a fresh cup of coffee as I tried to process the realisation that I could be living with a ghost. I sliced a mango into bitesize chunks – because despite now probably cohabiting it seems I still have to take care of the mundane tasks – and happened to notice that the corkboard by the breakfast bar was hanging squint. I knew that I had suspended the board exactly as any other capable person would have and so naturally suspected that this was the work of a paranormal prankster. The same reasoning should surely also be applied to my ongoing experience of finding knives in the spoon compartment of the cutlery drawer.
The more I thought about these strange and unexplained occurences the more convinced I became that my flat is home to a spirit other than the six bottles of Jack Daniels in my kitchen cupboard. I considered the leaves which keep appearing on corners of my wooden flooring and wondered if a ghostly presence had been responsible all along, some kind of demon dendrophiliac. I pondered whether it would make me feel better knowing that the dry, rustic nuisances had been brought into my home by a ghost rather than not being at all sure of where they came from or how they got there. And if a ghost is indeed present in my flat and bringing in leaves and tilting my corkboard off centre and leaving my bedroom door slightly open, how would I feel about living with a phantom? If cinema and television have taught me one thing it would be that the supernatural is not to be trusted, and yet I could do with the company.
Wednesday progressed and I was becoming used to the idea of residing with an ethereal being. I began to think of things I could do to make the experience more pleasant for this, until now, secretive specter and considered that I had probably angered her with my tendency to play classic rock all night and burn exceptionally fragrant incense. It might be worthwhile attempting to seduce the benevolent beauty out of the shadows with some soothing soul music, maybe ease up on the herbed blends and perhaps even dress myself with the lights off, for no-one – dead or alive – needs to be subjected to the ordeal of witnessing me bend and stretch as I try to coax my feet into a pair of pink socks that don’t quite match my light coral pink tie.
As part of my effort to be a more considerate housemate to this haunting presence I decided that I would finally do something about scatter cushions. I have never understood the need or use for additional cushions on the bed. They don’t assist in the act of sleeping – which is the primary function of any bed – and whenever I have encountered them in hotel rooms it is usually the first thing I do to discard the scatter cushions onto the floor. I have a friend who has recently been extolling the virtues of using scatter cushions and a matching throw rug to give a bedroom more character and make a bed appear more welcoming, and I always scoffed at such an idea. But I have been developing a flair and a liking for home decor in my new flat and this seemed like an ideal opportunity to appease my apparition. What better way to make this spook feel less spooked in my bedroom than to adorn the bed with a warm charcoal grey throw and similarly styled scatter cushions?
I have little hesitation in admitting that I felt a great sense of satisfaction the first time I stood back and gazed at my bed dressed in its white 200 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets with charcoal grey throw rug and scatter cushions. It looks very much like a bed that has been made to look like a comfortable place to sleep. My feeling of satisfaction was curbed somewhat when I arrived home from the bar in the early hours of Saturday morning, my senses dulled by a heady intake of beer, Jameson and Jack Daniels, and I experienced deep confusion when encountered by the scatter cushions on my bed. I undressed from my brown tweed suit – in the dark – and collapsed onto my duvet in a disoriented and drunken heap and couldn’t fathom why there were cushions on my bed or where my pillows were. Whose idea was it to put these cushions in front of my pillows? I tried to push them aside, but they were in a strange formation and much bulkier than I remembered and didn’t go very far. I flopped from the bed onto the floor and considered if it might be less hassle if I slept on the sheepskin rug, but somehow the idea felt disturbing. I decided to tackle the scatter cushions one at a time, tossing them in all directions with all of the energy I could muster in my inebriation.
I awoke at some time on Saturday morning, my head in a fuzz and my eyes refusing to acknowledge the daylight streaming through the white curtains. I looked around the room and saw scatter cushions in three different locations, a charcoal grey throw rug twisted into an unusual shape at the foot of my bed and the door sitting open by approximately six inches. I sensed that the ghost could not have been happy.