b Papa Dog's Blog: The One About My Haunted Window

Papa Dog's Blog

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Monday, November 22, 2004

The One About My Haunted Window

When I lived in the apartment on 41st Street, I had a lovely set of Bay windows in my room. I had the head of the bed set right up against the bay, and I’d drift off to sleep at night listening to the station announcements at the BART platform across 40th and the lulling hum of the freeway. On hot nights I’d fling all the windows open and a soothing cool breeze would make the brutal night suddenly tolerable.

One day I came home from work and found one of the bay windows open. It gave me pause. I’m fanatical about closing and locking behind me. I lock the door behind me as I come home, not just as I leave. I couldn’t believe I left the house without securing the window. I asked Bernardo if he’d opened the window and he said no. I had no reason to disbelieve him. Nothing else seemed to be disturbed. It was a mystery.

This happened again, and then again. I would make a point of double-checking the window before I left, and when I came home it would be open. Bernardo swore he had nothing to do with it. Even if I had suspected him, his innocence was borne out later when the window opened itself while I was alone in the house. I left my room with the window closed. I hung out in the living room and watched TV. When I went back to my room, the window was open.

As I saw it, there were two explanations for the self-opening window. One explanation was that the latch was pretty weak and that it just took a little breeze to crack it open; once it was cracked, the wind easily pushed it the rest of the way. The other explanation was that my room was haunted. Since I am a rational secular humanist with absolutely no belief in the supernatural or the otherworldly, I quickly concluded that the culprit had to be the poltergeist.

People will react to things in different ways, and a haunting is no exception. Some will panic. Some will seek aid from religious authorities. Some will curse their realtor for not mentioning the Indian burial ground. Some will do as I did: shrug and go on with their lives. My ghost seemed thoroughly benign, manifesting itself only by opening the window, and always being discreet enough to do it when I wasn’t around to get freaked out. So it wanted a little fresh air while I was at work. Is that so bad? Moreover, if it was indeed a ghost, then it must have taken up residence before I signed the lease, so who was I to object? I was intruding on its space, not it on mine. I started to think of the window-opening ghost as a very low-key extra roommate. I was not long out of my first marriage and missed sharing a room with someone, after all. I found the thought of an invisible presence in my room strangely comforting. I would say goodbye to the ghost every morning when I left for work, and wish it a good day. I would be obscurely disappointed on days when I returned home to find the window still securely latched.

Somewhere around this time I went out on a date. I haven’t gone on many actual dates in my life, and I’m not very good at it – I’m loads better at being married. In fact, I think this – at the age of 25 with one marriage mostly behind me – was probably the first date I ever went on. In a very high school kind of scenario, I had heard from a friend that the gorgeous Irish girl in accounting liked me, and I somehow summoned all available courage to ask her out. It didn’t go very well. It hadn’t occurred to me that I should plan somewhere to go or something to do, so there was a bit of hopeless floundering before we ended up at a bar of her acquaintance. I didn’t drink yet, so the dynamic was immediately even more awkward as she had a beer and I sipped a Coke. If I had only known that alcohol would make it possible for me to talk in a relaxed manner in any social situation, I would have knocked back a Jägermeister, but how was I to know? Why aren’t there public service announcements about that? It was a miserable experience, me looking blankly at anything but her, grasping hopelessly for things to say, breaking out in tropical flop sweat.

Finally, I hit on what I thought was the amusing story of my haunted room and – hey, what do you know? – against all odds, all by myself, I did something that a panel of international experts on dating failure working round the clock at a five-day Romantic Disaster Symposium probably couldn’t have done: I made that dismal evening worse. I horrified her. I frightened her. She begged me not to talk about ghosts. In the pub in Ireland that her family owned, there was a ghost of an old lady that had scared her out of her wits as a child. I riffled frantically through my banter index, looking for a way to extricate myself and make things better. The best I could come up with was “Uh…oh. Sorry.” She finished her beer. I saw her off at the MUNI station. I managed to cadge a quick peck goodbye, but I knew I’d probably not have the chance to even shake her hand after that. I went home to my lonely bed by the bay window and listened to the freeway and said good night to the ghost because really, it wasn’t its fault at all.


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