I was still a teenager, maybe 18, when I was living in San Francisco in a large Victorian flat on the third floor. My roommates were all adults in their 30’s and all except one were lesbians that were cool and powerful and fixed their motorbikes on the sidewalk downstairs. I was very intimidated by them and just stayed tucked into my room when I got home from my kitchen job or skateboarding. They were not my friends but they were nice and sisterly to me. I had a big beautiful room off of the kitchen on the far side of the flat away from all the other bedrooms. It was painted an airy light blue and its giant curved old fashioned windows let light in all day.
My older sister Shell, lived a few blocks away and I would visit her often for a meal or moral support. One evening after dinner, I went to use the bathroom before I left. I was washing my hands when a toothbrush shot off of the shelf, flipped and landed on the floor.
“Shell!” I called. My sister popped her head in the doorway. “Ya?”
“Your toothbrush just flew off this shelf, flipped and landed on the floor.”
“Oh ya, that’s the ghost that lives here.” I rolled my eyes. She introduced me to the ghost and then I got my sweatshirt and skated home.
The next morning objects around my apartment started moving. First it was cassette tapes that were stacked on a shelf that began to, one by one from top to bottom, fly off their stack, flipping once and landing on the floor. Then some pastels on my desk that I was drawing with did the same thing.
I called my sister. “Um, hey, you know that ghost from last night?” “Ya?” “Is it still at your apartment do you think? Like, has anything been moving around lately over there?”
She thought a minute. “Um, I haven’t noticed anything…why? Is it with you??”
“Well, I mean, is that possible? Like all these things are like flipping off of shelves and I’m nowhere near them.”
“Sunde,” she said, “What if it followed you home?”
“Well I don’t want it, come back and get it.”
“It’s fine, I swear, it seems friendly. I’m sure it’ll just disappear one day, just ignore it.”
I told my semi mystical roommate MiMi and she told me the same thing. “It’s probably just an old spirit. Spirits are fine, bad ghosts are just in movies. Just embrace it, it’s cool.”
So for days I tried to adjust my attitude and embrace having a ghost. But to me it did not seem like such a cool ghost. I would get the chills on the back of my neck right before it arrived to start flipping things. It felt dark and oppressive, I couldn’t shake it. It made me feel tired and disoriented, like I was walking around with an otherworldly anchor. I felt like it was a pervert, following me into the shower, always hovering over me. I became scared to sleep at night after I woke up from a nightmare feeling like there was a weight on me, my limbs heavy like they were being held down.
I could not escape it by leaving the apartment either, it would just follow me where ever I went. I could not out run it on my skateboard and it would just board the 33 bus with me when I went to work. At the restaurant I worked at as a dishwasher I told Ken the line cook about the ghost. He just raised his eyebrows and nodded.
“No, I swear, it’s following me everywhere. I can’t sleep. ..” Chills ran down my neck. “Ken, it’s here right now I can feel it.”
He laughed. “Hello ghostie! Show yourself!”
“Jesus Ken, stop it! It’s not good!”
He looked at me still laughing until the sandwich bread stacked neatly above his prep station began to, one by one, flip out of the shelf.
We looked at each other. “I told you!”
He gripped my arm as the ghost made quite a display of himself, showing off his super natural powers in all corners of the kitchen. Once all the bread was on the ground we turned to see the lids of giant Tupperware buckets full of cut vegetables flipping off and flying into the air. We heard something clanging and turned to see all the pans hanging above the grill begin to slowly swing back and forth in unison. Tiny swings at first and then bigger and bigger until they began hitting each other, screwing up their unison.
“Oh my god.” Said Ken. “What do you do about this?”
I threw my hands up. “I have no idea! It’s following me everywhere! Shell and MiMi told me it was a good ghost and to not worry about it but it’s like, harassing me and following me everywhere and watching me in the shower. It’s like a perverted male ghost that won’t leave me alone!”
“Holy shit, girl. Do you want to drop some acid? Maybe it’ll help you forget about it.”
“Jesus, dude, that’s gonna make everything worse!”
Just then Sherrie the waitress walked in with some orders and the ghost was forgotten for a couple of hours during the rush.
The next morning I went to a psychic lady in a metaphysical shop on Valencia. There was a sign outside advertising psychic readings with a big evil eye painted on it. I told her sheepishly that there was a ghost following me around.
She raised her eyebrows and looked impressed. “Really? What’s happening?” She asked.
I told her everything about the perverted male ghost.
“How old are you?” She asked.
“Eighteen” I told her.
“Okay,” she said “It sounds like it’s a poltergeist.”
“Like the movie?” I asked.
“Well, sort of. Children and teenagers can attract poltergeists because they aren’t fully formed yet –mentally, psychically or spiritually. People around your age are especially vulnerable because you are in transition from childhood to adulthood and your auras or force fields, if you will, can have openings in them that the spirits wandering around from the other world can creep through. They feed off your youth, your energy. They are still on earth because they regret not being alive anymore. Your energy gives them energy.”
“Oh my gosh, I’ve been feeling so exhausted. I’ve been feeling like he’s been trying to pull me down with him.”
She nodded. “Yep, ya…that can happen, they will sap your energy. They are parasites, feeding off of you psychically.”
“What can I do?” I whined to her, “I can’t stand it anymore.”
She put her face near mine and whispered, “You tell him to leave, honey. He does not get to stay if you don’t allow it to be there.”
“Huh? How do I tell a ghost to leave though?”
“Well honey, the fact is is that you are in charge here. He’s just a spirit, a ghost. You tell him loudly and firmly. ‘You are not welcome here. You must leave now.’ And you have to mean it. Close your eyes and picture him leaving , feel him all around you and then be mean, demand that he leaves and never come back and he will go.”
She walked around the counter and took a bundle of dried weeds from a basket. “After you demand he leaves, and you feel like his energy is gone, light this until it begins smoking and walk through your house, cleansing every room.”
“What is it?”
“It’s sage, honey. It clears bad energy. It will cleanse your home, allow you to start fresh.”
I headed off to work, mentally trying to create a force field to guard against the ghost.
“Leave me alone. Leave me alone.” I whispered to myself over and over again at the bus stop.
When I got home that night after my dishwashing shift, I approached my apartment with dread. I felt like the ghost’s power was strongest there. It was dark, no one was home. Chills ran up my neck. I looked around and cleared my throat.
“You. Are. Not. Welcome. Here.” I said to him quietly. I raised my arms accusingly into the corners of the living room where sometimes he seemed to be lurking.
I said it again, but louder and stronger. All the weeks of exhaustion and fear he had made me experience over the past few weeks flooded over me in a sudden rage.
“You are not welcome here!” I shouted and began walking through the apartment, suddenly empowered. How dare he try to take over my life, terrorize me? I thought to myself. Fuck him.
“Fuck you!” I shouted at the apartment. “You get outta here! Now! Out, out out!” I went on and on, stomping through every room cursing at the pervert ghost. I found my backpack and rustled through it until I found the sage. I didn’t have a match so I lit it on the stove top and grabbed a saucer to catch the ash. I walked through every room, letting the smoke float and curl into every nook and cranny in the apartment until there was nothing left in my hand.
I opened the windows to air out the smoke, laid down in my bed and had the first peaceful sleep I’d had in weeks. I woke up to a sunny morning, rested and without any chills on my neck. The ghost was gone.
“I am in charge here.” I said to myself and went back to sleep.