My house is haunted. Not in the usual sense; there’s no poltergeist breaking dishes, no spirits moving furniture around or making spectral noises in the middle of the night. It’s a more benign haunting, but harrowing nonetheless. There’s a ghost, though, and I don’t know how to exorcise it.
I’ll wake up at 3am and think he’s there next to me, sleeping soundly as if he never left me, and as I gently place my arm on his body, I’m greeted by the soft plush of my spare pillow instead. I move the couch to sweep under it for the first time in a year and I gasp when I see his slippers there, as if a form of him just appeared to remind me of how he used to be here, used to be a solid presence attached to those slippers, but now they are just empty, dusty, unused. I throw the slippers out, but it does not rid me of the ghost.
I hear his voice in my head and while I’m edging on forgetting exactly how he sounded, his words still come back, still ring in my ears when I’m doing something I know he’d disapprove of. I sometimes will think I hear him whispering good night. When the dog jumps on my bed after I’ve fallen asleep, I think it’s him still and slide over to make room for him.
We only had this house for four years before we went our separate ways, but in those four years he managed to fill the house with his laughter, his singing, his shouts at the tv as he played a video game. All of that lingers, it all echoes across the rooms as if he is hidden somewhere, calling to me, a ghost who really doesn’t want to be there, just a remnant of someone who left and forgot to take his presence with him.
He’s there in the pictures that hang on the wall, art he picked out and hung. He’s there in the furniture he bought, in the plants he groomed. There’s a ghost in my house and no amount of divine intervention will banish it. I feel like it will be there forever, making a home with me, settling in for good.
I can take down the pictures and put up art of my own choosing. I can rearrange the furniture and change the dynamic of the room. But that doesn’t stop the haunting, doesn’t make the voice of this ghost any less loud. I have to learn to live with it, to coexist with the specter of him, this intruder who won’t leave.
I know that this haunting is my fault, that I invite the ghost in by the sheer power of my emotions and I cannot do anything to stop it. I will always hear his voice, even if it gets quieter over time. I will always hear his laughter reverberating throughout the living room, I will always sense his presence every time I find another piece of paper with his name on it, every time I watch a tv show he used to love. It’s the hazard of hanging on, of not letting go. I don’t know how to let go, so the ghost will always be there, a permanent residence of my home and my mind.
He doesn’t know he haunts me. He doesn’t know he’s become a ghost to me. He goes about his life, not giving a thought to the things he left behind, including me. I allow his ghost to take shape in my home because it’s easier than letting go, easier than saying goodbye to everything we had together. For now, I keep company with the ghost. I don’t sleep much, not like I used to. I listen for voices. I listen for footsteps. I listen to everything but the part of me that tells me to release the hold this ghost has on me. Some day. Some day the echoes of his laughter will be gone, and I’ll be free.