I believe it was, perhaps, about the time I was peering into the kitchen sink filled with a pea soup-like effluvia when warnings from both my landlord and a friend’s toddler popped back into my memory.
November 2, 2012, 11am: Move onto houseboat.
November 2, 2012, 11.22am: Landlord: “Bret Harte, Jack London, historic houseboat, blah blah blah, ghosts.”
February 11, 2013, 7.31pm: Friend’s toddler: “I’m going to go walk around the boat, Daddy, and I’ll go to the outside and see the birds and then I’m gonna go down the stairs to the downstairs and and and — Oh … ghosts!”
Ohhh-kay. Still, ignoring it. I mean, ghosts, you know? Who believes in ghosts?
A few months later, there I was, living on a four-bedroom houseboat once owned by Jack London. My houseboat had a hot tub, sauna, wood-burning stove, barbecue on the back deck overlooking Mt Tam, and every modern amenity known to rental-property-kind. And I. Could. Not. Find. A. Renter. Before my friend and then boyfriend arrived, I was living in 1543 square feet by myself. Well, by my corporeal self.
In my one attempt to rent the room out on Airbnb, the entire houseboat pretty much disintegrated. The hot tub broke. The downstairs plumbing backed up. The upstairs plumbing backed up. The garbage disposal broke, leaving the contents of the kitchen sink looking like the aforementioned pea soup. Three days later, back in my North Carolina loft, that garbage disposal broke.
I started to consider whether my friend’s toddler and landlord knew something I didn’t. I consulted my most Ghostly Knowledgeable Friend (Steve was an extra in The Exorcist, Yvonne created a documentary about the afterlife; I’ll let them duke it out one day as to which one wins the GKF title). A friend did a remote energy reading and reported I did, in fact, have several entities living aboard with me, at least one of which was sumo wrestler size. They weren’t unfriendly, she reported, just took up a lot of space.
Here’s what it feels like to have several large spectral entities (allegedly) living with you — alone — on a houseboat: Scary, especially at night. Kind of fascinating. Frustrating.
I never saw any apparitions or felt any spectral presence. It did kinda feel like my houseboat had … an echo, maybe? An intention, perhaps.
I can’t believe I’m about to use this word, but it really did feel like I had a constant stream of … omens. (Yes, I said it.) Almost like warnings or coincidences that were coming so fast and furious, I was meant to pay attention.
It felt kinda like waking up from one of those sweat-inducing dreams you just know meant something deep and meaningful, but you just can’t decipher it. I still don’t know whether or not I believe in ghosts, but I do believe in our brain’s ability to use our subconscious (which doesn’t speak English, or any language) to tell us something in imagery and archetypes. I read Tarot cards, not for any supernatural wisdom, but because they help me gain access to those iconographic far reaches of my brain.
Here’s what a conversation with my ghost felt/sounded like:
Me: Maybe I should turn on the heat. My houseboat feels kind of cold. And something’s just not quite right …
Ghost: Oh, hello!
Me: Ghost? Is that you?
Me: I should have known by the telltale eerieness.
Ghost: Well, I have something I want to tell you! (Waves ghost wand of creepiness around.)
Me: What? What?! Seriously, this is getting freaky. The stopped-up sink, everything breaking, finding coins all over my house … Just tell me!
Ghost: You need to know that … Boo!!
Me: Fuck! Stop doing that!
Ghost: Teehee. Seriously, it’s boring up here. Throw me a ghost-bone, man.
Me: Okay, I’m all ears. I mean, just *tell* me.
Ghost: I want to tell you that mphwffwwmmph ggrllplmmph and be sure you don’t mmprhmphew. BoooOooooOoooo!
Me: Jesus! Can you be a little more obscure? Is this some sort of weird ghost test?
Me: You can be a real asshat sometimes, Ghost, you know that?
Ghost: You do realize I can haunt you for the rest of your life?
Me: Sigh. Yes, yes, you’re in charge.
Ghost: Now that’s what I’m talking about! I’ve given you enough ghost hints; now it’s up to you to figure out what to do.
I could be inventing all of this in my head. Ghosts or ghostly intentions don’t exist. (Right?) Like in a dream, I’m sure I’m just looking for the signs I most want to see. Coins all over my house all of a sudden (including a five pence coin from the UK)? Bad omens on the way to work every single Monday morning? (Like, really bad omens — my uncle dying, my tooth breaking in half and costing me $1628, my Franciscan tau cross from Assisi falling off my rearview mirror for the first time in seven years.)
You know what? I don’t really give a crap. There’s not enough magic in adult life; I like that I got to experience (even pretend-experience) some firsthand. That’s the thing about magic: the best kind of magic is when its realness is debatable.
Now that I’ve, ahem, passed on from the houseboat, I miss my ghosts sometimes. I hope they’re doing well, and that they’re at peace and happy. I wish I’d been able to speak Ghost better, and that I could have heard them out. Sometimes I wonder if I would have quit that job and moved to England if not for all of the omens and signs while I was on the houseboat. But I’m here now. I’m in a brand-new building with no ancient walls in which my ghosts could settle in. I’m thankful, and I’m happy. I hope they’re equally at peace.